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Wikileaks To Name Swiss Bank Tax Evaders 783

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the oh-this-will-work-out-fine dept.
eldavojohn writes "The old cliche that the rich and corrupt hold all their money in Swiss bank accounts (to avoid taxation) may finally have a bit of transparency, as the news today is that Wikileaks has been handed a list of account holders tendered by Rudolf Elmer, former banker of Julius Baer. Julian Assange promises a 'full revelation' while Elmer cited his motivation as being: 'I want to let society know how this system works. It's damaging society.' This appears to be real, as Mr. Elmer is soon to appear before a Zurich regional court on charges of coercion as well as violations of Switzerland's strict banking secrecy laws. The public may soon find out that their favorite celebrity, politician or employer doesn't feel responsible to contribute financially to the commonwealth at the expense of privacy."
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Wikileaks To Name Swiss Bank Tax Evaders

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  • by matt007 (80854) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:14AM (#34904980)

    I do not understand why wikileaks is telling everyone what they will reveal later.
    Can't they just post it immediately ?

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:15AM (#34905008) Homepage
    It's also going to backfire because many of his supporters believe strongly in personal privacy (while oddly, wanting full transparency for everything else), and they will view this as WikiLeaks invading personal privacy. (it's not just the filthy rich that have "hidden" bank accounts).

    A lot of his supporters, especially on slashdot, also probably think it's a sign of virtue to evade paying your taxes.
  • Re:Hit them back (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:16AM (#34905032) Homepage

    FUD tactic or now, if the information is valid and real, this still carries numerous implications with it. For example, were certain wealthy politicians who rail against taxes found to be holding considerable sums of money in non-taxed accounts...

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:17AM (#34905044) Homepage Journal

    Just how long has world known that the Swiss are the bankers of choice for criminals, dictators, and the idle rich that do not want to pay their taxes?
    I mean really this is no shock to the world. I do have to wonder just how much blood money is in Swiss banks and how much of the wonderful Swiss lifestyle is paid for with the misery of the world.

  • by rojomojobojo (1844758) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:17AM (#34905048)
    Well, of course they need the media hype. What would the purpose of a media whore be, if they can't get all the hype?
  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:21AM (#34905088) Journal
    A lot of his supporters, especially on slashdot, also probably think it's a sign of virtue to evade paying your taxes.

    It's a sign of virtue for me to not pay taxes. It's disgraceful that anyone richer than me should avoid them. Other people hold similar views.
  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:23AM (#34905116)

    Actually it would work better the other way. People who are voting to raise taxes hiding money in no-taxed accounts is where the story is.

    Of course people who don't like taxes are trying to avoid them...

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tehcyder (746570) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:23AM (#34905118) Journal

    FUD tactic or now, if the information is valid and real, this still carries numerous implications with it. For example, were certain wealthy politicians who rail against taxes found to be holding considerable sums of money in non-taxed accounts...

    Wouldn't it be more damaging for politicians who supported high taxes to be holding considerable sums of money in non-taxed accounts?

  • There are more details here. [nytimes.com]

    It is indeed a better link and was one I found in my Google Reader this morning. However, I also have noticed continuously that New York Times links provide me headaches and disappointment when used in Slashdot's submission process. Here's a recent example, earlier this morning I submitted a story about video games and mental health problems [slashdot.org]. Now in that submission I referred to a well written New York Times article an used this URL:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/17/us/17gaming.html

    Every time I previewed it or edited it, it came out like that. But when I hit submit, it magically changed to this URL:

    http://www.nytimes.com/glogin?URI=http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/17/us/17gaming.html&OQ=_rQ3D4&OP=70b1f348Q2FQ5D-2yQ5DgoksPooZQ27Q5DQ27W33Q5DW3Q5D3VQ5DisQ5D3VdQ241Q26rdQ25OZ14

    What is going on? I've written to CmdrTaco about this and I thought he said they'd look at it ... like their system prefetches URLs or something? Makes adjustments to avoid TinyURL in the submission? Avoids redirects that might go to goatse? I don't know. What I do know is that if you go to the firehose and type in 'nytimes' as your search term you will find submission after submission with login/paywalled URLs exactly like the one above. Here's one [slashdot.org] and another [slashdot.org] and another [slashdot.org] ad infinitum.

    So when you do this, people get upset they can't read the article and I heavily sympathize with them and generally consider my submission a failed attempt when that happens. So the solution? Don't link to the New York Times in submissions! I'll find some other site to send a billion Slashdot eyes at if they don't want their page views. It really is a shame because I love the New York Times and think they have some great writers but from the above it's evident the affection is asymmetrical.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrDoh! (71235) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:24AM (#34905144) Homepage Journal

    Either way, it's going to be hilarious.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:26AM (#34905170) Journal

    The problem is that the system is set up that only the rich can evade taxes. Factory line worker Joe Blow doesn't make enough to go put it all away in a secret swiss bank account, nor does he have enough to hire an accountant to manage some holding companies abroad, etc etc.

    Most people on Slashdot think evading taxes is immoral based on the fact that it's an exploit in the tax laws that only the rich can afford to do. If it were possible for anyone and everyone to avoid paying taxes, I don't think anyone would mind. We're all just pissed off that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and taxation is supposed to help balance that out.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:27AM (#34905184)
    They don't have to pay, they could move to another country. It's hardly theft for the government to make you pay for services you use. Why should I have to pay all my taxes when these jack asses are sending their money overseas to avoid having to pay taxes?

    But then again, I bet you're one of those people who wants your taxes cut, but wants somebody elses services to be cut or diminished to finance it. I think the term for that is "fiscal conservative."
  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icebraining (1313345) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:28AM (#34905194) Homepage

    Who cares about the motivations? We don't have to like Assange or Elmer to appreciate the disclosure of the info.

  • by whiteboy86 (1930018) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:28AM (#34905196)
    I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.
  • Re:Hit them back (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mark72005 (1233572) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:30AM (#34905222)
    What's the upside here?

    Some people get caught not paying taxes. The government just flushes money 5 million different ways every day.

    If you ask me, this is as close to a victimless crime as it gets.
  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xaxa (988988) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:32AM (#34905256)

    Other people have to pay more than their fair share in taxes to compensate.

  • by surgen (1145449) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:33AM (#34905272)

    During the Iraq war log leak someone at wikileaks, probably Assange, was interviewed on NPR where he said that just publishing something once they got it didn't garner the media attention on the documents that they wanted. It was only because of the fact they pussyfoot around with the media that they're interested in the information.

    When their goal is to get people to see the information they're publishing rather than just let it sit somewhere on a web server, it may be worth it for them to play the games they do. Yes its stupid that to get the attention they want they are forced to play "the game", but they've played it damn well.

  • by tehcyder (746570) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:34AM (#34905286) Journal

    Outing honest people whose only so-called "crime" is wanting to avoid the theft of their hard and presumably legitimately-earned dollars is completely and totally wrong

    Tax is not theft. Someone evading tax is not honest.

    Black is not white, whatever you libertarians might like to believe.

  • by stomv (80392) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:36AM (#34905306) Homepage

    then so is the use or reliance on roads, public schools or universities, police, firemen, zoning codes, enforcement of contracts, national defense, and so forth. Which is to say, taxation is not theft, and a civilized society is not free of financial cost.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:37AM (#34905320) Journal
    Not sure why you're a troll, this is a very common view. People poorer than me are lazy and should work harder, people richer than me should pay more taxes, and people exactly like me should pay no tax at all. You'll find people expressing more or less this view any time the public is polled about tax.
  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ice Tiger (10883) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:38AM (#34905340)

    Turning a blind eye sure worked out for Greece didn't it.

  • by travdaddy (527149) <travo AT linuxmail DOT org> on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:41AM (#34905384)
    Outing honest people whose only so-called "crime" is wanting to avoid the theft of their hard and presumably legitimately-earned dollars is completely and totally wrong, and negates much if not all of the good Wikileaks has done in exposing actual government and corporate wrongdoing. It also makes Wikileaks, directly or indirectly, an accomplice to the very real crimes of the state that it has spent so much of its time trying to expose.

    What sense does it make to out those crimes, but also at the same time sign what might as well be the death sentence for many, many honest people who were heroic and brave enough to, at great personal risk, try their best to avoid funding those crimes?


    Should I Monty Python you? It's so overdone though.

    Reg: They've bled us white, the bastards. They've taken everything we had, and not just from us, from our fathers, and from our fathers' fathers.
    Stan: And from our fathers' fathers' fathers!
    Reg: Yeah.
    Stan: And from our fathers' fathers' fathers' fathers!
    Reg: All right Stan, don't belabour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?!
    Man: The aqueduct?
    Reg: What?
    Man: The aqueduct.
    Reg: Oh yeah, yeah, that they've given us, yeah, that's true, yeah.
    Man: And the sanitation.
    Stan: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like.
    Reg: Yeah, all right, I grant you, the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things the Romans have done.
    Mathias: And the roads!
    Reg: Well, yeah, obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don't they! But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct and the roads...
    Man: Irrigation.
    Man: Medicine.
    Man: Education!
    Reg: Yeah, yeah, all right, fair enough.
    Man: And the wine.
    All: Yeah, yeah, the wine!
    Francis: Yeah! yeah, that's something we'd really miss, Reg, if the Romans left.
    Man: Public baths.
    Stan: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.
    Francis: Yeah, they certainly like to keep order. I suppose they're the only ones who could in a place like this!
    Reg: Yeah, all right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us!?
    Man: Brought peace.
    Reg: Oh, peace. Shut up!
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:42AM (#34905396) Journal
    There's a whole Slashdot article [slashdot.org] with people ripping apart Google for "double Irish" and "dutch sandwich" styles of tax evasion.

    The only reason that it should hurt your karma is that you confusingly singled out Google when your own article lists Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, etc. Why pick on Google when everybody plays the same screw-the-taxpayer game? They're all crooks avoiding taxes in ways that a single individual like myself that makes very small fractions can't enjoy.

    You'll lose karma when you spin it like this: "Apple Hurts Schoolchildren by Avoiding Taxes" and "Google Welcomes World Peace by Denying War Machine Its Pound of Flesh." See what I did wrong there?
  • Oh good lord (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mysteray (713473) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:42AM (#34905402) Homepage

    The public may soon find out that their favorite celebrity, politician or employer doesn't feel responsible to contribute financially to the commonwealth at the expense of privacy.

    Switzerland has great banks. In fact, there's at least one whole country where everybody puts there money there. There's no reason in the world not to put money in them. Having money in a Swiss bank is not a crime and it doesn't imply you're a criminal or a tax cheat. For example, maybe people are spooked by the circus surrounding US banks or something.

    The static from the US IRS got so bad that Swiss banks simply closed all accounts of "American persons". They completely kicked Americans out of their customer base. I find that pretty darn disappointing that my country is acting so obnoxiously that I personally can't do business on equal footing with the rest of the modern world.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:43AM (#34905404)

    someone here has a recognizable sig, to the effect of "I like paying taxes; with it I buy civilization" - or to that effect.

    or, is common roads, infrastructure and stuff like that too 'commie' for people like you?

    the fact that the gov mismanages our funds has nothing to do with the fact that the funds are NEEDED to 'run society'.

    you think roads and stuff come from nothing but sunshine and the love of jesus? we BUY those with our taxes, at least that was the initial idea.

    when you deny paying at least a reasonable amount of your fair share, you cheat us all. quite disgusting, really. yes, it should be punishable - at least in the court of public opinion.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert@slaSLACKWAR ... com minus distro> on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:50AM (#34905492) Homepage

    A reasonable amount is one thing...

    A disproportionate amount while the filthy rich pay virtually nothing?
    Or paying for the government to simply WASTE that money instead of building roads or other useful things?
    Or even worse, paying so that certain people within the government can embezzle the money...

    How much of what you pay in tax actually goes on things that benefit the taxpayers like roads, and how much gets wasted or used on things which are detrimental to the tax payers?

    Or more importantly, how much lower could the taxes be if waste/inefficiency was eliminated, and those who avoid taxes were made to pay?

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Unordained (262962) <unordained_slash ... @pseudotheos.com> on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:50AM (#34905510) Homepage

    If you ask me, this is as close to a victimless crime as it gets.

    No. Tax-payers are supposed to pay taxes to the collective pool of money called the government, to fund the services that we collectively receive. These people don't contribute, but do receive. We are all victims, which is why the government goes after tax-evaders on our collective behalf. No only do we lose the money these people should have paid, and the rest of us (nominally) have to make up, but they add to the overall system waste by forcing us to pay investigators, prosecutors, judges, etc. to hunt down and collect on tax-evaders.

    There are plenty of real victimless crimes out there, and they need rectifying. I'll thank you not to make that fight harder by applying the same label to clearly victimful crimes.

  • Re:poor title (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:54AM (#34905568)

    Keep in mind, the U.S. taxes *income*, not *wealth*.

    Most wealth generates income on its own. And shoveling income into a hidden pot of wealth is a way to evade taxes.

  • by saleenS281 (859657) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:54AM (#34905576) Homepage
    An individual that seeks to minimize his tax obligations, without question. I've never seen a poor person trying to lower his taxes, and I've never seen a healthy nation without a high tax rate. Little to no taxation for the rich is the recipe for a third world country, and nothing else. We don't need to become the next Mexico, thank you very much.
  • Re:Well now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday January 17, 2011 @11:55AM (#34905588)

    you have it somewhat backwards.

    we are now seeing how out of control THE WORLD is.

    people running things knew this. 'we' didn't.

    this is what all the rukkus is about. exposure of the raw, uncut reality of how the world really world. no sugar coated disney movie view of things.

    peoples' view of reality are being challenged and those who lived on the lie are being caught.

    information revolution, to be sure. this is why its such a big deal. this IS a revolution; we're seeing it happen and unfold right now.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SomeKDEUser (1243392) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:01PM (#34905674)

    Surprisingly, not much lower. You hear a lot about waste/inefficiency, but although you can find any number of egregious examples of misapropriation, they amount to a small fraction of the total.

    You could even argue that asking for low salaries for civil servants/contracting to the lowest bidder does a lot more to make the process inefficient than actual waste. For example, if working for the agencies controlling the markets paid much better than working in those markets, do you think we would have the problems we have now? Would it not be better to have the greedy bastards working for us rather than against us?

    Also, what is "waste"? is funding fundamental science waste? is funding liberal arts waste? are the likes of the FDA waste? is paying for some dubious piece of art in your own town waste? is paying people to check for fraud waste, or is the fraud the largest cause of waste?

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:03PM (#34905708)

    There's a big difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance. Tax evasion is "I am not going to pay the taxes I owe". Tax avoidance is "I'm not going to pay a penny more than I have to".

    If a government, which has its fingers in every single revenue stream from sales and value added taxes, to income, to taxes for the business that make the products we buy, to death taxes, to estate taxes, to poperty taxes - is BANKRUPT, well fuck em. Put your own house in order before you come writing laws trying to steal my money.

    But as it is, it doesn't have to make new laws. All it has to do is keep printing money. Inflation will 1) destroy everyone's savings and 2) force everyone into higher tax brackets. It's magic. But we'll call it "quantitative easing".

  • by 2TecTom (311314) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:09PM (#34905802) Homepage Journal

    In my opinion, overly affluent people are the real problem with the world today. Capitalism actually means all the people have access to the world's capital, not just the few percent. We live in financial despotism and employees are just economic slaves in denial. If democracy is so great why aren't our companies more democratic? From what I can see, greed is the insatiable effect of the law of diminishing returns. If materialism could actually produce happiness, wouldn't rich people stop at some finite point? It never ends because they're addicts. The rich and powerful are in the process of running society into a brick wall and for all of our science, we can't do squat about it.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:10PM (#34905808)

    Wouldn't it be more damaging for politicians who supported high taxes to be holding considerable sums of money in non-taxed accounts?

    What, like when U2 moved out of Ireland [independent.ie] to the Netherlands to avoid paying tax?

    Bonus hypocrisy points to Bono for saying that we all need to pay more in tax to help the developing world...

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MoonBuggy (611105) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:22PM (#34905958) Journal

    The one thing I haven't seen questioned about Wikileaks is the validity of the information. Sure, the accusations fly about bias, whether their goals are morally defensible, whether Assange's alleged sexual proclivities will damage their reputation, and so forth, but even the organisations affected seem to begrudgingly accept that the information is accurate - I'm expecting this release to be similar.

    Interestingly, it might even help to quell complaints about an anti-US bias. I've heard a lot of criticism about how they don't dare to say a word against powerful Russian billionaires - it seems that releasing Swiss bank data may well change that.

  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:25PM (#34905996)

    What would the use of releasing information nobody reads?

  • by shadowrat (1069614) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:27PM (#34906020)
    However, I want to know who these people are who owed the IRS 1 million dollars but only had to pay three thousand! i hate the IRS as much as the next guy, but those ads make me kind of mad!
  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adonoman (624929) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:29PM (#34906052)

    And I'm of above average intellegence, I'm in the top 20% of drivers, my parenting technique is clearly the best (and any issues my kids have is due to the schools screwing them up), and my religion is the correct one. If I had been given the same opportunities as Joe CEO, I'd be at least as wealthy, and do a better job running his company. If I had been subjected to the same difficulties as Sam HomeLessGuy, I would have "pulled myself up by the bootstraps" and got myself a real job. Given the opportunity my pet economic policy would simultaneously eliminate inflation, and guarantee ever-increasing profits for everyone (as well a unicorn and a fairy for every household).

    Polls basically just say that we all just selfish ego-centric bastards.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:30PM (#34906060)

    Assange isn't a fact-checker. He's a middle man that passes facts from ones disclosing to ones fact-checking.

    Fact checkers include big name newspapers like NYT. Assange's merits lie in setting up the system and agreeing to take the heat.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:34PM (#34906130) Journal

    How many of these people do you think have $10,000 USD sitting around?

    There are lots of people who live paycheck to paycheck, perhaps more than you realize. And it's not that they don't know how to save money, its that they are stuck working dead end jobs like Gas Station attendants or WalMart greeters, and about 80% of their income goes towards living expenses like rent, food, utilities, phone bills, etc. The rest is spent on the 1 dinner and a movie a month to keep their sanity, and then birthday and Christmas presents when they come around.

    For some people, saving up 10 thousand dollars would quite literally mean giving up everything you enjoy in life for over 2 years.

  • by Noughmad (1044096) <miha.cancula@gmail.com> on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:49PM (#34906344) Homepage

    I do have to wonder just how much blood money is in Swiss banks and how much of the wonderful Swiss lifestyle is paid for with the misery of the world.

    That's the point - now you won't have to wonder anymore.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Schadrach (1042952) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:50PM (#34906348)

    ...oddly enough, diminishing our military presence somewhat would dramatically reduce our deficit, and probably improve relations with more than a few foreign powers.

    As someone pointed out in a previous story, the GoP was pushing a "you suggest the cuts" to basic science research from the federal government, but ignoring that having one fewer aircraft carrier would save enough money to completely fund it and have some extra left over.

    Note: There is a difference between "scaling back our military somewhat" and "disbanding the military."

  • cactus net (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epine (68316) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:19PM (#34906808)

    Not one person here would voluntarily pay taxes if they didn't have to.

    You're a bit dim concerning the larger scheme of things if you think you can cast the net that wide without catching a cactus. The short answer is that any person who has ever chosen a lottery or a casino over a mutual fund is not half as tax averse as you make out.

    I was reading John Rawls "Justice as Fairness" not long ago. He has this concept of the "original position". The way I recall the idea, you get to choose how the world is constructed, but you don't know who you will be when you wake up in this world when it comes into creation. You could be anyone, with uniform probability.

    With no foreknowledge of personal privilege, do you choose a world with no tax system? Or a world with kinds of institutions that have evolved in society as we know it? Some worlds will combine spectacular opportunity with spectacular inequity. The bottom of the pyramid is fat, so your odds of showing up as a burger flipper are relatively high; or with small probability, you could be the patriarch of Galt's Gulch.

    I didn't think the concept of choosing before coming into being was all that philosophically brilliant, but some people can't get their minds around the difference between choosing a *system* you can live with, or choosing your place within it, and that needed to be addressed. So I give Rawls his due.

    In a fictitious world where the no-tax fairy arrives and asks you if you would like a lifetime tax exemption, not many people would turn the offer down. But that's fantasy, not insight.

    If the Libertarian-transporter fairy arrived, and offered to poof you into a society organized on Libertarian ideals, with nothing resembling a tax system, I'd be terrified about what kind of society I might get poofed into. It's hard to pay for each service required individually, that would be a treadmill from hell, so I guess there has to be some kind of group organization, I can only imagine many of the groups once formed resemble condo associations. Ugh. But it's voluntary, so the coffee tastes great.

    There's a perception in world aid circles that when a country with a weak civic infrastructure discovers vast resource wealth (diamonds, oil, tantalum) that the country is just as likely to tip into civil war as to become an affluent society. And even if the society does become affluent in the short term, when the resource is exhausted, the country usually declines, and often ends up worse off than their neighbours, who didn't stub their toe on a giant diamond mine, and had to build their social capital the hard way. Countries with strong social institutions, like Canada, tend to benefit the most from resource wealth. Some countries with little resource wealth but cohesive institutions manage OK, because they don't have much choice, other than to work hard and row together.

    We're still learning that human nature is not as intrinsically wealth maximizing as many economists would portray it. I always think of one of the original theories of fluid dynamics, which perfectly described the behaviour of water, neglecting surface tension. Great, someone remarked, we now have the complete theory of water that isn't wet.

    It's the surface tension term in human nature that leads to cohesive social institutions. Sapolsky studied some non-human primates where self-interest is a lot more raw (the animals behave like impulsive two-year-olds). It was pretty clear they weren't able to stop bickering long enough to stack one stone on top of another, much less bake a mud brick. Libertarian to the last hairy armpit. What in economic theory distinguishes us from them? Our greed is more nuanced and restrained.

    One thing you can say in favour of Libertarianism is that it serves as an intellectual flu shot against certain kinds of really terrible thinking about how society could be better ordered, by the same kinds of people who destroyed Africa (out of kindness).

    Personally, there's no social structure I understa

  • by copponex (13876) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:19PM (#34906820) Homepage

    It's not as if the rich are paying their fair share of taxes, and they haven't really since 1980. The United States has the same tax collection rate as Romania. [wikipedia.org] So, you would expect it to have social services on par with Romania.

    Once you get to the actual civilized world, like England and France and Germany, you see the rate in the high 30s or low 40s, because that's what it costs to build and maintain a civilization that takes care of the elderly, the disabled, and the mentally ill.

    If you want to live in a place like Romania or Moldova, where the disabled and elderly are helped to die or filed away at the edge of town languishing until they are dead, that's fine. That's the road America has chosen right now. The wealthy have spent billions convincing the middle class that low taxes are great, but now we are seeing the results of that policy. They (the top 1% [taxfoundation.org]) have lowered their own tax rate from 34% to 23% between 1980 and now.

    But they're not willing to budge on the military they use to forcefully open markets. They're not willing to allow the middle class to have a public option to lower the cost of health care. They're not willing to improve free access to education to make our economy stronger and our population more employable.

    They want to keep depriving the US government of money until it breaks down, and then accept a much lower standard of government service so they can go for the 10 million dollar yacht instead of settling on the 7 million dollar model.

    They are worthless fucks who don't care about their countrymen, and I'd rather them emigrate to Romania before they rob America of the rest of it's wealth. Not after.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Knightmare+1 (660327) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:29PM (#34906994)

    Why? what is wrong with voting?

    What is wrong with voting is that you can't make your own choices, you have to go with the majority.

    we all use/need the collective services in the same way.

    No we don't all need the same services in the same way.

    If it makes you happy, think of voting as a market operation. But remember: it is not freedom to individually decide on a globally suboptimal solution that we then all need to collectively live with. It is stupidity.

    You might argue that it is stupid or not optimal (I would disagree with that), but it certainly is freedom to individually decide.

    And BTW, yes, people can decide for you. They do, all the time: doctors decide what you have, engineers decide on your car's design, coders on how your programs are made, cell phones companies on their pricing schemes, the shop owner on the products that are on his shelves, the traffic authority the circulation plan of your neighbourhood, other countries the rules for access to their territories, the central banks decide on the value of your bank account, designers decide on the look of your garments.

    But they don't decide which car I buy, which programs I use, what cell phone scheme I buy or if I even buy one of those. Imagine if we had to vote on what cell phone plans we wanted and then everyone would get what the majority decided. What if I didn't want a cellphone, or I wanted a cheaper plan or a more expensive one? I would have no choice but to accept what the majority decided for me. Even worse, we rarely vote on direct issues like that. We only vote for who is going to decide for us, leaving us with even less choice on how to run our own lives.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LetterRip (30937) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:30PM (#34907016)

    But in the US, the "rich" - to be specific, let's say the top 1% - earned 25% of the wealth and paid 38% of the income taxes. That doesn't sound like "virtually nothing".

    You, like many others, have confused wealth with income. The wealthy 1% have over 50% of wealth (top 20% have over 84% of wealth).

    http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/norton%20ariely%20in%20press.pdf [hbs.edu]

    Also income taxes are not total taxes paid (they are 1/3 of the total US tax base) and the proper measure is total taxes (after transfers) as a percentage of total wealth.

    http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/ [usgovernmentrevenue.com]

    On that basis the poor and middle class are massively overtaxed, and the wealthy are drastically undertaxed. Essentially the middle class and lower class are drastically subsidizing the wealthy.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tmosley (996283) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:48PM (#34907278)
    Is funding a worldwide entifada against brown people a waste? Is stationing military personnel in nearly every country on the face of the Earth a waste? Is the creation of perverse incentives that "require" big government solutions a waste?

    For more than half of the history of this country, government spending was limited to around 2% of GDP, where today it is 40%. What is different between then and now? Only that our government is now a repression machine that dominates most of the planet, whereas back then it was "quaint". Hell, we didn't even have a standing army until WWI. Now the president can't even walk down the street without a hoard of secret service members clearing it a week in advance. This is the behavior of an unpopular dictator. Of course, our military empire has stomped on a lot more toes than the US did back when we were free.
  • Re:Hit them back (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:53PM (#34907366)

    For more than half of the history of this country, government spending was limited to around 2% of GDP, where today it is 40%.

    That doesn't jive with any set of credible numbers I've seen, so I'd appreciate if you could cite a source on that.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wikdwarlock (570969) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:58PM (#34907428) Homepage
    Ok, I stopped reading when you wrote this:

    It's not helpful that government at the federal and state levels also limits supply of health care (professional licensing, regulation on who can do what, and the opening of new health care facilities)

    I shudder to think what kind of horrors would be inflicted on people, sick and healthy, if it were not for licensing and regulation. Even hundreds of years ago, people went to professional leeching practitioners because they knew the value of experience and some level of "the community has agreed this person probably won't kill me". Do you propose no licenses or regulations, but 50 free Rx pads printable at prescribenow.com and shiny new surgery kit deals on amazon?

    Seriously.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:2, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:13PM (#34907660)

    Ok, I stopped reading when you wrote this

    Well, when you get past the unthinking response, maybe we'll have something to talk about.

    I shudder to think what kind of horrors would be inflicted on people, sick and healthy, if it were not for licensing and regulation.

    It's always been illegal to kill or injure people by negligence or on purpose. The courts provide an avenue for correction of and restitution for such behavior. Licensing and regulation are but limited improvement on that. They're much more effective for restricting markets and creating rent-seeking opportunities, for which they've been very effective in the medical world.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SnarfQuest (469614) on Monday January 17, 2011 @03:21PM (#34908506)

    You realize that the government pays medical schools to NOT teach medical students. Just like they pay farmers to not grow food, they also want to limit trained medical professionals.

    Also, such "medical" professions as chiropractic, herbal remedies, homeopathy, etc are not under government controls. So "real" medicine is under strict government limits, while "alternative" medicine is unlimited, as long as they don't kill too many people.

The world is no nursery. - Sigmund Freud

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