A Philosopher's Blog

Taxes & Profits

Posted in Business, Ethics, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on September 30, 2013
Thief (soundtrack)

Thief (soundtrack) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the rather useful aspects of philosophy is that it trains a person to examine underlying principles rather than merely going with what appears on the surface. Such examinations often show that superficially consistent views turn out to actually be inconsistent once the underlying principle is considered. One example of this is the matter of taxes and profits.

One of the stock talking points in regards to taxes is that taxes are a form of theft. The rhetoric usually goes something like this: taxes on the successful/rich/job creators is taking the money they have earned and giving it to people who have not earned it so they can get things for free, like food stamps, student financial aid and unemployment benefits.

Under the rhetoric seems to be the principle that taking the money a person has earned and giving it to those who have not earned it is theft and thus wrong. This principle does have considerable appeal.

This principle, obviously enough, rests on the notion that earning money entitles the person to that money and that not earning the money means that a person is not entitled to it. Simple enough.

A second stock talking point in regards to wages for workers, especially the minimum wage, is that the employers are morally entitled to (attempt to) make a profit and this justifies them in paying workers less than the value of their work.

Not surprisingly, those accept the first talking point also accept the second. On the face of it, they do seem consistent: the first says that taxes are theft and the second says that employers have a right to make a profit. However, these two views are actually inconsistent.

To see this, consider the principle that justifies the claim that taxing people to give stuff to others is theft:   taking the money a person has earned and giving it to those who have not earned it is theft and thus wrong.

In the case of the employer, to pay the worker less than the value of his work is to take money the worker has earned and to give it to those who have not earned it. As such, it would also be theft and thus wrong.

At this point, it might be objected that I am claiming that an employer making a living is theft, but this is not the case. The employer is, like the worker, entitled to the value of the value she contributes. If she, for example, provides equipment, leadership, organization, advertising, and so on, then she is entitled to the value of these contributions.

Profit, then, is essentially the same thing as taxing a person to take their money and give it to those who have not earned it. As such, it should be no surprise that I favor justice in regards to both taxes and wages.

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17 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on September 30, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I claim that it is impossible to define the value of an employee’s work. Even in the case of the lemonade stand, you were unable to refute my claim.

    Since it is impossible to define the value of an employee’s work, any intellectual superstructure built on this foundation is uninhabitable.

    • magus71 said, on September 30, 2013 at 9:11 am

      Payment for work is mostly based on the bidding system. The work goes to the lowest bidder. If two people came to Mike, offering to paint his house, one for $5000, and the other for $10000, Mike would hire the one who cost less, assuming that they both have equal reputations as painters.

      Job wages hold to the laws of supply and demand, just as do other products.

      • magus71 said, on September 30, 2013 at 9:19 am

        One more thing. If Mike says he will hire the more expensive painter because that is the fairer wage, then 1) He just left the guy who will do it for cheaper out in the cold 2) The man who will only do it for the higher wage should ask for even more money

        • WTP said, on September 30, 2013 at 10:44 am

          Mike’s gonna come back and say he’d do it himself. That’s what you guys used to do and thus it is the most reasonable cop-out.

          But to be fair to Mike, that’s his ideal world. The minimum anyone could do such work would require those of us who work at high paying jobs to pay $10K for such a painting job. As the work is not worth that much, we would end up just doing it ourselves. Then Mike and his wise philosopher friends who would be running the world would tax us high earners for the unemployment, food stamps, etc. to pay unemployed painters. Thus the painters would be able to keep their “dignity” of not working for such low pay. Any painters who attempted to work for less than the approved rate would be fined and/or jailed for doing unlicensed work. Because, hey, those in the criminal justice system, the lawyers, the judges, the cops, the prison guards, they all gotta eat. Plus it creates “jobs” for them. Thus even higher taxes (or just borrow from future generations) would be required to pay for all of that.

          Just wanted to be fair to Mike.

          • magus71 said, on September 30, 2013 at 10:57 am

            Probably. But like Obama reminded us, we can’t do everything ourselves.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 30, 2013 at 12:09 pm

              Things I cannot do myself, I hire someone to do. I do look at the price, quality, reliability and so on. So, when I have work done I go with the person I know who will ask a fair price, will show up and will do good work. I’ll pay more for greater quality and I reward reliability. I usually go with independent contractors-the guys who do the work. I’d rather pay the guy swinging the hammer than some guys sitting in an office who pay the guys swinging the hammers a fraction of what they are taking in.

            • WTP said, on October 1, 2013 at 11:07 am

              I usually go with independent contractors-the guys who do the work. I’d rather pay the guy swinging the hammer than some guys sitting in an office

              Yet Mike and his fellow travelers are partly responsible for the excessive regulation that makes running a small business such a pain that you pretty much have to have an office manager, accountant, lawyer on retainer, etc. and all this requires overhead and thus work that has little to do with the work involved. And any painter/owner of a business MUST, according to Mike et al, pay the most unskilled laborer a specific wage determined by Mike and friends and not by the worker/owner.

              “Swinging the hammer”. What populist BS. Like putting up a building or house could be accomplished by the proletariat alone. Clueless.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 30, 2013 at 12:05 pm

        I’d paint my house myself-I’m the cheapest bidder. Plus I know I’m reliable.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 30, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      Interesting approach. If you are right, this would seem to entail that we have no possibility of judging the value of anyone’s work and thus it would seem to suggest that all wage income is arbitrary and ungrounded. So, no one can claim that they earn their pay and no one can say they do not.

      However, I think we can probably get some rough estimates of the value of work.

      • WTP said, on September 30, 2013 at 12:21 pm

        However, I think we can probably get some rough estimates of the value of work.
        Yes, this is done via the market. Which exists whether or not you wish to recognize it.

        From Ace of Spades:
        California sets controls on the price of labor, and will shortly discover the inevitable result of price controls: the good or service does not become more affordable, but simply disappears entirely because it is no longer cost-effective to produce. When applied to labor, it means the disappearance of low-end jobs (and a growth of the “gray” economy). This also speaks to a clumsy, backhanded effort to ameliorate the state’s spiraling cost of living.


        And the relevant link at the beginning of the quoted section:

  2. magus71 said, on October 1, 2013 at 6:50 pm


    You posted this a couple years back. Mike thinks he’ll escape what seems to inevitably follow the socialist state. Good ol George Bernard Shaw; yet another Marxist who made money from published books….

    • WTP said, on October 1, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      Hey, omletes/eggs, right?

      You’ll note how Mike jokes about signing his emails “Comrade LaBossiere”. Think well ever see a “Zeig Hiel”, you know, for balance? After all, both ostensibly claim solidarity with those who swing the hammers over those whose lives cannot be justified by the philosophers.

  3. T. J. Babson said, on October 1, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    I think it is time for a balanced budget amendment. The only time the government should be able to run a deficit is when Congress declares war.

  4. T. J. Babson said, on October 1, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    This one is for Magus:

    20 Obama Quotes About Islam Contrasted With 20 Obama Quotes About Christianity

    20 Quotes By Barack Obama About Islam

    #1 “The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam”

    #2 “The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer”

    #3 “We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.”

    #4 “As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.”

    #5 “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.”

    #6 “Islam has always been part of America”

    #7 “we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities”

    #8 “These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”

    #9 “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

    #10 “I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam.”

    #11 “Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.”

    #12 “So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed”

    #13 “In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.”

    #14 “throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

    #15 “Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality”

    #16 “The Holy Koran tells us, ‘O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’”

    #17 “I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.”

    #18 “We’ve seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants – farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities, the Muslim innovators who helped build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped unlock the secrets of our universe.”

    #19 “That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

    #20 “I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”

    20 Quotes By Barack Obama About Christianity

    #1 “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation”

    #2 “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”

    #3 “Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?”

    #4 “Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.”

    #5 “The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.”

    #6 From Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope: “I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights on such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex—nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.”

    #7 Obama’s response when asked what his definition of sin is: “Being out of alignment with my values.”

    #8 “If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn’t have to keep coming to church, would they.”

    #9 “This is something that I’m sure I’d have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell.”

    #10 “I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup.”

    #11 “I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.”

    #12 “I’ve said this before, and I know this raises questions in the minds of some evangelicals. I do not believe that my mother, who never formally embraced Christianity as far as I know … I do not believe she went to hell.”

    #13 “Those opposed to abortion cannot simply invoke God’s will–they have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths.”

    #14 On his support for civil unions for gay couples: “If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount.”

    #15 “You got into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

    #16 “In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology”

    #17 “On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.”

    #18 “we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own”

    #19 “All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra — (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)”

    #20 “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”


    • magus71 said, on October 2, 2013 at 4:40 am

      What is stunning to me is not that Obama may have hidden agendas, it’s the fact that those agendas are so poorly hidden and he has aggressively pursued them, published books admitting that all of the central people in his life throughout college were Marxists, yet people still won’t admit what he’s about. At times he’s even used the exact verbiage of classic Marxists, a slip of the tongue. And oddly, some like Mike may say, “Ah, that’s just a young kid in college.” Are we then admitting that everything about our college years is absurdly irrelevant, that it has little impact on who we become? If so, give me my money back.

      He seems angry at the world, and must remake it in his image. That which is classically American must be destroyed. This is exactly what Frank Marshall Davis would have taught him. Mike absurdly argues to the effect that because Obama has not formed a Red Guard, and storm the Senate floor, that he is not a Marxist.

      Obama’s views on Christianity are the default views of Leftist academics. And just as with his Marxist views, that are dismissed with a hand wave. He attended Jeremiah Wright’s congregation for 20 years, yet knew nothing of Wright’s virulence? Mike never explained this lie, one of many that Obama has been caught in.

      Just like Dr. Stanley Kurtz states in the Uncommon Knowledge vid I posted in Mike’s recent Obamacare post, I believe Obama violated the rule of full disclosure in a Democratic election, the unwritten rule of fair play, that the people should know the fundamental values which an elected official possesses; even though Obama has been surprisingly frank, he cleverly skips around direct questions. Mike of course makes fun of the hidden agenda accusation. But what other president in history has come under this suspicion? We have had presidents, incompetent and great, but never before has there been a generalized suspicion that the president believes the American people just don’t know what’s god for them, and Hope and Change must be brought to them surreptitiously.

      • WTP said, on October 2, 2013 at 9:02 am

        Mike constantly argues absurdly. Mike is further to the left than Obama is publicly and he’s right in lock step with Obama’s (presumed) private views. Obama’s views on Christianity are the default views of Leftist academics. Seen any leftist academics around here? But such is the case for a large swath of academia. Probably most. Definitely most in the “humanities”. The problem isn’t Obama and what he believes, it’s the gullibility of most of our citizens. Think what the election margins would be if the truly lazy bothered to vote. How does a population, one with all the advantages of the greatest, wealthiest civilization to ever inhabit this planet, get this stupid? They have to be taught such. And who is teaching them?

  5. magus71 said, on October 2, 2013 at 5:44 am

    Mike needs to watch this and try to understand it: WF Buckley plays Devil’s Advocate with Hayek.

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