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Paradise Papers: New leak from offshore finance firm (icij.org)
647 points by martgnz on Nov 5, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 432 comments



Since there are no top level comments putting this out for probably obvious reasons, here is a supportive comment for the article.

This is what people feel in their guts when they drive out on tattered roads and avoid going to the hospital even though they are sick, when they don't have a real increase in wages but are working longer hours. They have the sense that something isn't right, that there are two sets of rules and they got the shaft when it comes to that. Where police forces are cashstrapped and turn to civil forfeitures and ticket quotas while they see famous celebrities and politicians get off for things magnitudes more illegal than what they've done, whether it's smoking a joint or driving while black.

People already have a sense that things aren't fair. There's a reason why tax reform is polling so poorly. There's a reason why most of the country thinks taxes should be higher on the wealthy and corporations. They have a feeling that they are not seeing the rise of productivity in their own life, and they want justice.

My SO lives in SG. She is lower middle class (going to school, father works in a factory) and I asked her about income inequality, for there it's quite extreme. She says it's not that bad because people there have a reasonable standard of living; they can go to school, they can go to the doctor, they have access to affordable food, etc. Income inequality I think isn't a bad thing as long as the poorest among us have some basic level of livelihood. The problem is that in the US, that isn't true, and so, people clamor for justice.


>People already have a sense that things aren't fair. There's a reason why tax reform is polling so poorly. There's a reason why most of the country thinks taxes should be higher on the wealthy and corporations. They have a feeling that they are not seeing the rise of productivity in their own life, and they want justice.

There's also just the sheer sense of stagnation. I get mildly enraged every time I look at America's idea of a middle-school and high-school curriculum, then compare it to what people learn abroad. How is it that "everyone else" has more leisure, suffers less stress, and still winds up doing harder things than Americans more easily? America has started thinking like a less developed country, that productivity arises from suffering.


> and still winds up doing harder things than Americans more easily

Can you elaborate?


I was in the thread about "lessons from MIT", and thinking of a degree curriculum I looked at from the UK one day.

It basically expected that students (who were going to learn PL theory) start off with a higher level of math knowledge (right out of secondary school) than most American CS students have in sophomore year. AFAIK, their students don't suffer as much stress or depression as the cohort of Americans who've done "sophomore-level" math in high school.

But for another example, well, every other country seems to have an easier time running a working train system than America does, including those who are running top-of-the-line high-speed rail. Or, to take another, the French have one of the highest per-hour productivity rates on Earth, but take four to six weeks of vacation each year. Likewise, the Germans have one of the most productive economies on the planet, but work some of the shortest hours.

Again and again, we find a principle that efficient, productive, intelligently-arranged systems deliver greater results with less sturm und drang.


The difference in educational levels is economic. If you correct for the income & wealth levels of the international district and match them to american districts with similar levels, you have similar academic results. There's no gap.

The issue occurs with taking averages. The United States is a rich country or a developing country depending on where you look. Few other modern industrialized nations are run this way.

Indeed, if you want the best education in the world, many people come to the American universities (public and private). These American Universities which you can name, sit like jewels surrounded by the serfdom education many Americans experience.

It is the same with primary and secondary education.


> The difference in educational levels is economic. If you correct for the income & wealth levels of the international district and match them to american districts with similar levels, you have similar academic results. There's no gap.

So you do learn two extra languages in high school?

> The issue occurs with taking averages. The United States is a rich country or a developing country depending on where you look. Few other modern industrialized nations are run this way.

That's because it's nothing to be proud of. Your country will be judged by how you treat the lowest, worst-off people. Having a couple of "rich" parts[0] doesn't make it look better.

Indeed there is no sense taking averages for these issues. Some people think they're doing better with the median, but that still hides the poor long tail. If (for purposes of central planning etc) you really do need a single number and the minimum isn't useful because it's zero, there is one statistic and it's called modal income.

> Indeed, if you want the best education in the world, many people come to the American universities (public and private). These American Universities which you can name, sit like jewels

Well, people all over the world used to. Like you say they have the name. Give it ten years. Less if you elect Trump again.

[0] where the homeless (and mentally ill) are either cleaned out, hidden, or simply ignored. It's not like the rich parts of the US suddenly take care of them. A real rich country needs to deal with this too, can't just scrub them from the statistics and hope the unavoidable poor people will move to the next country over because they can't afford living here any more.


>If you correct for the income & wealth levels of the international district and match them to american districts with similar levels, you have similar academic results. There's no gap.

Most well-off American school districts do not teach even their honors students integral calculus and linear algebra by the end of high school. Valedictorians in those districts haven't usually learned that much.

Most of those kids in Palo Alto with anxiety problems over academic competition will not learn that much math in high school. It's just not done in formal school curricula. Some people might get it through taking college courses early or joining "math clubs", but no large mass of students will get it through their curriculum -- let alone the full population capable of it.

Money is being left on the table here because Americans think that real rigor comes from suffering, and anyone inadequate for the extreme suffering and boredom of secondary-school level "slow" learning is obviously inadequate to go ahead and do real work.


Weird... I went to regular HS in Texas (there weren't magnet schools yet) in the 80s and they taught integral calculus, analytic geometry, and linear algebra for everyone. Standard algebra was taught in 8th grade. Several of us finished all of the math by junior year and took college classes.

I guess public school just went down hill from there? Certainly, private schools teach those classes now.


I went to school in New York, and my wife did in Massachusetts, both in the 2003-2008 sorta range. I'm not sure if any linear algebra was taught (it was new to her when she took it in college, and much of it that you don't see in games-programming books was new to me too). The highest math classes in the school were AP Calculus A and AP Calculus AB, corresponding to Calculus 1 and Calculus 1+2; they were meant to be taken as seniors if you were one year fast and as juniors if two years fast. Analytic geometry as in coordinate systems and such definitely got taught.

I can't name a curriculum I know for the 2000s or 2010s where the first three semesters (Calc 1, Calc 2, Lin Alg) of university-level math got fit into high school for anyone, let alone for everyone, let alone making it the first four semesters by including multivariable calculus.


The same is true of our healthcare system. We have some of the best hospitals in the world, if you can afford the ever-increasing cost of care. Meanwhile tens of millions of Americans are skipping regular checkups due to cost, and a significant number of them will get very sick or possibly die as a result.


> But for another example, well, every other country seems to have an easier time running a working train system than America does

Going somewhat OT, but in contrast, America seems to have an easier time running a working freight train system than most other countries.


But ironically to most business types, freight rail is one of the more heavily regulated and unionized industries in the US.


It's important to note that, in the US, worker __compensation__ has increased steadily. However, __wages__ have not.

A lot of this has to do with employer provided health insurance and ballooning healthcare costs, which are fairly specific problems to the US.

Housing and education costs have also increased much faster than overall worker compensation.


Couldn't you argue that an increase in compensation driven by 'ballooning healthcare costs' wouldn't actually improve the standard of living of workers? Comparing wages (rather than total compensation) to cost of living would seem more pertinent in this regard.


He's pointing out how there are many facets to the problems we see in America. Healthcare, education, and housing in many areas take massive chunks out of people's livelihood.

I hear a lot about the politics of the poor and the rich, but not about how to actually solve these problems we see in our economic system today.

There's something rotten in Denmark.


I didn't say people are better off.

We need awareness on where the problem stems from if we want to advocate for effective solution (instead of appealing solutions that won't do much).


This may be an unpopular opinion, but new medications for difficult to treat diseases do raise the quality of life for those populations, despite being incredibly expensive. I'm certainly not saying they shouldn't be less expensive, mind you. :)


The overwhelming evidence is that 1) this is not the case and 2) that it's been improvements to access rather than intensity of medical care that have had the biggest impacts.

This is a major component of Robert J. Gordon's The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Effectively, medical progress in the U.S. halted roughly in the 1960s and 1970s, with a very small number of exceptions.

If you go back to the bigger picture, virtually all improvements in healthcare outcomes were made prior to 1920, and those largely constituted public health, sanitation, and nutritional improvements. Laurie Garrett attributes 85% of the improvements in lifespan to public health, rather than acute medical treatments.

Improved pre-natal, natal, and childhood circumstances (medical, nutrition, nurturing, nutrition, and safety), overall safety improvements, environmental regulation, and reductions in high-risk behaviours (smoking, drinking, indiscriminate and unprotected sex, injected drugs) have all had major impacts.

Joel Mokyr notes that the truly effective medical advances are tremendously underreported in GDP statistics as the measurement basis is cost rather than benefit.

Sorry, but this turns out to be a tremendous and highly-repeated canard.


That’s true, but it costs dramatically less in places like Ireland, Singapore, or Japan to benefit from those drugs as compared to the US.


I agree with your point, but are you also implying that 'new medications for difficult to treat diseases' are a primary driver of 'ballooning healthcare costs'? I don't think healthcare costs are increasing as quickly in other developed countries while they do benefit from constant medical advances.


Which "developed" (hopefully we can develop some more) country is creating these medical advances? One might guess the US, but I don't really know. Any good studies I could read?


Well, if we are talking about recent great medical advances, i think Spain and France are leading right now with the discovery of CRISPR. And i'm pretty happy about this, if it were discovered by an american pharmaceutical company, no other laboratory would have even heard of this before a patented product hit the market, and every research on the subject would be subject to a patent too.


Most of them. It kind of comes with having a good healthcare system. And education.


David Ricardo. Rent vs. Wages.

(Rents win.)


A lot of that is largely fictitious. If an employer health insurer doubles their prices, supposedly my compensation has increased a lot, but in fact, I'm poorer, because my share of the health insurance premium has increased and my coverage has not. The only one getting richer is the insurer.

Are we going to argue then that worker compensation in all the many countries with universal government-paid health insurance is also going through the roof? But my health insurance is identical whether I work or not...


I don't disagree. The worker is worse off on average with this trend.

The point is in where to focus the solution. Yes unionizing (or other wage negotiation methods) will help in some areas, but the best economic bang for your buck is fixing incentives in health insurance.

Counterintuitively, slashing the tax cut on employer provided health insurance would be a step forward (especially if combined with other tax measures).


Worker productivity has been steadily increasing for the past century, but wages stopped growing in the 70s-80s. No amount of corporate compensation can compensate for that.


Assuming SG is Singapore, that is a really specific example, because it is a tiny Island of 4 million people with a lot of very unique attributes - it is a major shipping and airport hub, as well as a financial hub in a notoriously corrupt region.

The USA has similar areas - often much larger, usually with very similar outcomes. Look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_GDP_per... and compare it to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)... and you can see that if all the state where their own country, the USA would have the richest by GDP PP per capita (DC), as well as Mississippi, a state that would hover around Slovenian levels of wealth.

That's the thing that as an Australian I never understood. The USA - the United States of America - varies so greatly by state. We don't have that - most countries don't. Even when there is variance, UK with London, north and south of Spain and Italy, it is not quite so dramatic.

Back to the example of Singapore, I expect most everyone in Connecticut (GDP PPP per capita of $64,511, population 3.576 million) to have very similar results to Singapore. I don't expect South Carolinans (GDP PPP per capita $37,063, population 4.961 million) to have anywhere near the same results.

The angst in America is a uniquely MASSIVE country phenomenon - hits somewhere north of 100 million mark would be my guess - maybe even higher. People in Milan don't compare themselves and their outcomes to those in Berlin, even though they share an economic zone, but people in Idaho do compare their lot to Silicon Valley.

I don't have an answer BTW, just a vague notion that large countries have it tough - and that China will likely face similar issues in the very near term, as first world level economies like Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin are compared with the outcomes for Gansu (which has Ghanaian levels of GDP PPP per capita - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_administrative...).


>Even when there is variance, UK with London, north and south of Spain and Italy, it is not quite so dramatic.

I'd argue otherwise. Greater London had a GVA per capita of £42,666 in 2013. Several counties had a GVA per capita of less than £19,000, with the least productive (Northumberland) having a GVA per capita of less than £15,000. Excluding Washington DC (which isn't technically a state), that's a significantly greater disparity than between the most and least productive US states.

The UK has seen a huge rise in populism in recent years, I think overwhelmingly because of this stark inequality. Just as in the US, people from less prosperous areas feel marginalised and ignored.

America has Trump, we have Brexit - a decision by the electorate that has shocked the political establishment to the core. Few commentators saw it coming, the overwhelming majority of educated people think that it's a terrible idea, but it still happened. In both cases, the most reasonable interpretation is that a large part of the electorate have rejected the status quo outright, regardless of what the experts might say and regardless of the consequences.

I think that something needs to be done urgently about inequality, or things are going to get ugly. Too many people have lost all faith in the establishment. Too many people feel that they have nothing left to lose.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ceremonial_counties_in...


You could be right - it may affect smaller countries like the Uk as well. Probably Spain also. heck, even Italy has Lombardy separatist movement.

Maybe it is just an issue when a country has more than one city, and solid growth? Singapore is one big city, but so is Hong Kong. Now HK is part of China, that has caused issues as well, whereas SG has no direct comparison.

The massive country issue may be one that hits all multi-city first world countries eventually, as there is no way rural regions can match the GDP PPP of large cities and this variance within nation states would lead to a lot of issues.

How utterly depressing to think about!


Your expectations aren’t reality. If you have a solid middle class job like a policeman, corporate manager, or soldier, you will be fine in Mississippi or South Carolina. The major difference is that state protections will be weaker than in places like California or New York, and you may need to travel to a regional center to get specialized care in some situations.

If you are poor, however, forget about it. Those states are openly hostile to you and generally opt to find the minimum number or services allowed by law. They are so bad that many people establish false residency in states with better systems.

The way these programs are funded, it makes little difference to state balance sheets — it’s all about appealing to particular political bases, and keeping certain taxes (typically property taxes) low to keep the old money people happy.


> Your expectations aren’t reality

I think you miss my point. Even if the tax rates are the same, a state with a larger GDP - whether that state is South Carolina or Singapore - will have more money to spend on things like health, and government, actually, just everything - thats's why a higher GDP is so desirable.

An ambulance in Singapore can pretty much reach anyone. A hospital in SG can server anyone - that's how small it is. Who serves Idaho? The Mayo clinic? In a roundabout way yes, but not really.

Quoting US statistics and comparing them to SG is analogous to comparing the same statistics in the Bay Area and Miami.

And that all this gets wrapped up into one single country metric obfuscates the true state for most people, and leads to a lot of problems as one group struggles with a smaller, yet more visibly lacking, share.


"That's the thing that as an Australian I never understood. The USA - the United States of America - varies so greatly by state. We don't have that - most countries don't."

I'm curious about that. IIUC, Australia's wealth is concentrated in the cities on the coast, but all of Austrailia's states are made up of coastline and a big chunk of interior space.

What would happen GDP-wise if you divided Australia's states into interior/exterior areas?


US levels of wealth disparity are not entirely out of line with other very large countries or regions.

The US is better thought of as an empire. It is carved up into a large number of territories (states), 50, as compared with Australia's ... well, it's complicated, but let's look at the six principal states: NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territories, Queensland, and Tasmania.

Each major Australian state is comprised, largely, of a single principal city, and ... everything else. Australia has, unlike the United States, relatively little inland settlements: the land tends to be arid, there are no major river systems. The result is ... a rough parity between Australian states, though you'll find a tremendous variance within them.

If you consider other large countries: Russia, Canada, China, Brazil, Indonesia, or India, you'll find that there are in fact large variations in wealth across territory. Or the EU, if considered a single state, ranges from Germany and France to Portugal, Greece, and the Balkan states.


I'm somewhat surprised to see Singapore mentioned as a paragon of social equality. This is a rich country where maids are treated like slaves (locked in apartment and on call 24/7/365, sleep on the kitchen floor etc) and many elderly have no pensions at all, and are forced to work in menial jobs like cleaning bathrooms until they die.

It does show how bad things in the US have gotten though...


I asked her about income inequality, for there it's quite extreme. She says it's not that bad because people there have a reasonable standard of living

I think the point is not that Singapore is a paragon of equality, but rather that its rulers have had the sense to provide adequate comfort for their subjects, rather than trying to take absolutely everything.


Singapore isn't a paragon of social equality, not at all.

However, in spite of that, the PAP has done a very good job of ensuring there's just enough by way of public services and subsidies to keep enough people happy that the government continues to command the people's respect and the opposition will never quite have enough fuel to build a viable political movement.

...and it's still better in many ways than large parts of the US.


I didn't get "paragon of social equality" from what he said at all.


A society that values financial and individual success above all else will inevitably lead to an impoverished society with concentrated pockets of wealth that once concentrated are adept at perpetuating themselves.

Its obvious something fundamental in governance changed in the late 70s that has directly led us here.

While technology, progress, wealth are important the magic is always people and humanity that elevate life beyond the mundane and brings happiness into lives.

There is no point being wealthy if most around you are suffering and and in desperate conditions. This can't make anyone happy, except sociopaths. You have to care for other people and society beyond just your immediate interest and benefit.


They clamor for justice behind Donald Trump though. He’s used the mass’ frustrations to his own end, and they loved it enough to vote him into power.


To be fair a lot were clamoring behind Bernie Sanders. But Hillary bent the DNC to do some fairly corrupt shit and so you got Trump. The democrats are still trapped by this neolib-technocrat-west-wing fantasy-land where the best person at debating wins regardless of the fact they don’t actually stand for anything.


>they don’t actually stand for anything.

I've met lots of young women who adore Hillary and would beg to differ. The woman is a feminist icon.


Not to neglect that she actually did win the popular vote. The majority is being held to the beliefs of the minority.


Ok. Fair enough. But how does the blindness that feeds their bias any different than that which feeds say a Trump supporter.

I'm not sticking up for either. But to believe one side is less ignorant than the other is fairly naive.

The proles are the proles. Just because you side with one subset (because they match your beliefs) doesn't make them any less prole-y.


I agree with you but you'll rarely get anywhere on a public forum by framing 95% of the population as suckers. Which they are, but the truth hurts.


85% is more accurate. The 15% are the 1% plus their enablers/support/wannabes.

I agree, such statements are underappreciated. But I'm not running for office so popularity isn't really my concern. It also doesn't help to be silent when faced with the current status quo. Change is painful; saying what needs to be said even more so.

C'est la vie.


What corrupt shit? What specific action did the DNC do that caused Bernie to lose?


The specific actions the DNC took to cause Bernie to lose includes: 1) They chose to put the debate between Hillary and Bernie at MIDNIGHT so people wouldn't watch the debates. It was at the start of the primaries when people didn't know much about Bernie so the DNC decided that nobody watching the Democrat's primary debates helped Hillary

2) In the debates, they gave the questions to Hillary before the debates. The DNC controlled debates gave them to a CNN person who would give them to Hillary

3) The DNC owns the decision about Super delegates. Super delegates == ignoring one-citizen-one-vote

4) Arizona greatly reduced polling stations. With 3+ hour waits, people gave up. The DNC knew that Hillary voters voted at a higher ratio on mail-in-ballots, so it skewed to Hillary.

5) The California level had Bernie votes made in a way that they were all not counted:

In California 2016 election, "NPP" (Non-party voters) the election committee training pole workers to give them "provisional ballots". All of those NPP votes ("provisional ballots") were thrown away. The only NPP voters that could be counted were "Democratic cross-over ballots", but they they poll voters weren't trained that way. Bernie Sanders votes where thrown away. In California Bernie had 61% in polls against Clinton, but then lost. . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoGeDGHmwJU


This article is making it's rounds. It implies that Hillary had control of the DNC and "bailed it out": https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/02/clinton-b...


I saw some defenses of Hillary's actions (i.e. the 'bailout' was an ultimately good act, done to strengthen the DNC, proving her commitment to defeat Trump and protect progressivism etc.) which doubles as a cynical defense of Putin/Russian oligarch money in tech (it keeps Silicon Valley running and adding to US employment numbers)


They advertised her superdelegate lead before the voting even began. They leaked debate questions to her in advance of the event. They smeared Bernie with unfair accusations and labels. They worked directly with big media outlets to either deny or put out negative coverage of Bernie. The Washington Post put out 16 negative stories on Bernie in one day. There was unregistering of progressives in New York, and a botched delegate counting process in Nevada. They reduced the number of debates before the first primary by at least a third. DNC leads got caught actively cheating, leading to their resignations - Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Donna Brazile. They actually used the excuse in court that the Democratic party is private and has no legal obligation to run fair elections, and could select in a backroom smoking cigars if they wished. They actually said on national television that superdelegates served the purpose of preventing grassroots candidates from winning. I could go on and on. All of these things are easily verified. I can give you more if you'd like, with references.


I don't think you can point at a specific action, but the leaked (Podesta, I think) emails seemed to show that the DNC was working to help the Clinton campaign to the detriment of Sanders during the primary. This lead to the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz from the DNC chairman position.

Later, it turned out the Clinton campaign had essentially taken over the DNC far in advance of the primary results which is highly unusual, to the say the least. [1]

[1] https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/02/clinton-b...


Hillary won like every southern state, the Bernie folks are living in fantasy land if they think the DNC could control that outcome.


She won due to superdelegates and DNC corruption as well as media capture. The fact that Bernie did as well as he did in the face of this is a testament to how bad of a candidate she was.


Why should the superdelegates have flipped their votes against the popular vote? This makes no sense.

The only way Bernie would have won is if he convinced superdelegates from states that came out for Clinton to go against the popular vote in their state and erroneously vote for him. He still would have lost with no superdelegates, or if their votes were awarded to their state's primary winner.

Fantasy land.


Superdelegates shouldn't have existed in the first place. It's antidemocratic.

You are the epitomy of what happened during the election - bullying and deciding on how the election should go for others.

All the media and political establishment took Hillary's side. If they treated them equally he would have won.


Sanders would still have lost if there were no superdelegates.


Superdelegates weren't the only thing against him, as said in this exact thread.


I know Trump voters, the majority of whom don't like Trump at all.

Their reasoning: "Why delay the inevitable? How else to wake up the country but to elect a disaster? As things get worse we're ready as we'll ever be."

(FYI: I'm in Michigan where enough of us held back our Clinton vote to send a message that we need a progressive non-corporatist. Margin of victory for Trump was smaller than empty presidential sections. It's over in Michigan for the DNC.)


I hope they realize that their elected legislative representatives matter a lot more for this... The president is chief diplomat, chief military and legal executive, a veto holder. They also do a lot of appointing. Not much else, in reality. So we elected a bloviating racist to be our chief diplomat, because we don't like corporatist legislators? Ok...


>So we elected a bloviating racist to be our chief diplomat, because we don't like corporatist legislators? Ok...

Yes. I believe the phrase used to describe Trump was something along the lines of "a brick through the window of the establishment."


I'm sure that electing a regressive corporatist was a wonderful improvement.


I guess is harder to pretend that things are ok? Many people wanted change. I doubt the reality of how that changes is materializing is keeping up with what those who voted for Trump wanted


They clamor for justice behind anyone who will promise it to them, authoritatively, with or without merit. Trump is a symptom of the underlying problem.


But that's the beauty of the ruse isn't it? The Establishment (of both parties) has the masses believing Trump invented racism, sexism, income inequality, etc. That before Trump there were no such things. Trump is to blame for racism?

That would be funny if it wasn't so ridiculous.


>The Establishment (of both parties) has the masses believing Trump invented racism, sexism, income inequality, etc. That before Trump there were no such things. Trump is to blame for racism?

No, "the masses" have never believed that. Not even Trump's most rabid opponents believe that he invented racism, for instance, merely that he is more openly racist than his predecessors, and that he is more openly supported by racists than his predecessors.


So covert racism is okay? But open support is not?

The point is, the (white) "liberal" left has been sitting on it's hands, head in the sand, believing there has been sufficient progress. They did well to sell that (lie).

Now Trump shows up and suddening all hell is breaking lose? Nah. It's been there all along; swept under the rug. So rather than admit "yeah we underestimated the lack of progress" Trump & Co get the blame. This is fake history and it conpletely ignores real history.

Note: I'm not a Trump supporter. He's not my type of leadership. But we can't solve the right problems the right way if we are in complete denial about the root of those problems. The left's just-blame-Trump strategy is a great distraction. It's also, ultimately, a another step in the wrong direction.


The stupid ignorant masses don't appreciate their intellectual betters on HN. They ignored hollywood, silicon valley, the media, and voted for Trump (with Russia's help of course).


A friend of mine has been working on this same angle since Trump was elected.

Politico covered his work in August: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/20/trump-bombshells-ro...

His website is here: Weird money in, weird money out https://ragepath.org/weird-money-in-weird-money-out

And below is his working hypothesis:

We've documented Trump's relations with a variety of Soviet and Russian individuals and organizations in the attached bullet book. Financial crimes and money laundering explain a large part of Trump's wealth.

Trump's basic grift seems to be one that he learned from his father. A loan is just a tax-free transfer of cash. So don't pay yourself income when you can loan yourself cash instead. Whether it's embezzled FHA mortgages, Mitchell-Lama funds, NJHFA funds.... it doesn't matter. Borrow way more than you need, live off the borrowings, use the loan payments to offset gains from other legitimate sources of income.

40 Wall Street in NYC would be a great example of this. Trump bought the building for $1 million cash in the latter half of 1995 (a time of many highly suspicious cash transactions for a man who was allegedly $900 million in the red). He borrowed $35 million supposedly to renovate it (maybe). Let's imagine that it loses money, let's go wild and say it's losing $1 million a year (an overestimate) for 20 years. Overall, Trump's out of pocket by $56 million. But he's borrowed $160 million against the building. That means his net cash position is $104 million. And many of his deals are structured in a similar way.

This looks to us like a classic money-laundering scheme known as a "loan-back." Let's say Trump's brother Robert loans a company $500k which it then uses to open up a $5 million account offshore (Financial Performance Corporation) and another company affiliated with Robert (Management Technologies) spends nearly $13 million buying a shady group of international companies called Winter Partners... which Midland Associates (a Trump family partnership) then loans an unknown sum secured against all their future accounts receivable. Management Technologies would later write off its Winter Partners investment as a complete loss.

So we can show that Robert Trump was shoveling money overseas in 1995. And just when Trump needed it, investors from Hong Kong showed up and bought the mortgage on Riverside South, overing him insanely generous terms. When they sold the mortgage later for a billion dollar profit, Trump freaked out (even by his standards) - a reaction that makes more sense if you realize that the loan was originally Trump's money, and the Hong Kong investors were only supposed to act as nominees. After they cashed out their profit, they ended up selling their 70% stake, which found its way into the hands of Trump's friend at Vornado Realty, Steve Roth.

So that's the core of the insight we've had. It's an explanation that seems to hold up well when we examine individual deals that Trump's been involved in. So many of his ventures lose money because the loans themselves are just part of a money laundering show - a tax free way to legitimately receive a pile of cash you're not otherwise entitled to. And the lender has access to an offshore asset as security, so even if you eventually default, they'll be made whole. We're not sure how much of it is Trump's money.

Here's a quick dash through the overall timeline of Trump's life that we think we see:

1974-1987: Trump comes up in New York real estate rubbing elbows with various mobbed up figures (Cohn, Salerno, Tomasello, et al.) and working as a kind of front man for the Genovese, Gambino and Scarfo crime families. A lot of his early projects are just classic mob grifts. Borrow a bunch of money to build something, hire a bunch of mob contractors, pay too much... Trump's being taken care of but not enormously so

1988-1990: Trump borrows $3 billion in the course of 2 years, $650 million of which is mean to finish construction of the nearly completed Taj Mahal. Within two years the money is gone, despite the fact that many of the construction contractors hadn't been paid. So this is the period where we think Trump embezzled the money, got a cut, and had to hide it offshore until the statute of limitations had cleared.

1991-1995: Trump's laying low. The Soviet Union collapses. Tamir Sapir, Sam Kislin, Eduard Nakhamkin ... three (at least) Russian figures suddenly leap from working-class Russian immigrants to international financiers in control of huge sums of money. Our working theory is they were ex-KGB, after the Soviet Union's fall they began collaborating with American counter-intelligence officials at the FBI and CIA, and they used their positions in New York to help their former associates back home embezzle billions of dollars in state-owned assets out of the former Soviet Union.

1995-2005: Trump begins repatriating his own money in some of his most bizarre business deals. Trump perhaps realizes he can syndicate this model and also begins facilitating loan back schemes for Russian investors by putting his name on their buildings (the whole Bayrock period)

2006-2015: Most of Trump's money has come back to him by now, and he's basically running a money-laundering syndicate for Russian oligarchs (though there are still some Italians and Asians in the mix) - some of whom are in favor with Putin and the state, others who are decidedly not.

If we're right, it's an audacious scheme that he's managed to pull off right in front of our faces. He's managed it by exploiting our preconceptions about debt and net worth. All the fights over Trump's wealth have been about his net worth - what's the value minus the liabilities? And we look at a debt as a zero-sum transaction. But the Trump enterprise really seems to be operating on net cash flow.


"But he borrowed 160 mln against the building"

This is where your argument collapses. The building dramatically increased in value - that's why he was able to borrow so much against it. That's the real estate game - and it's legit.


I suppose it's here I should make the customary Georgist call for Land Value Tax.


The opposite, I think. Lvt does not tax the value of improvements. And while lots can be very valuable, they are not very valuable compared to the improvement if the improvement is a skyscraper.


Construct some building in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the Sahara desert or something, and see if it increases or decreases in value.

The structure itself will depreciate somewhat, and that's all.

...It's the location for a structure that is responsible for increases and decreases in real estate.


Yeah, but it wasn't plain land, there was a building on it.

the genius who downvoted this comment - please google how land value tax works.


Here's the evidence, Vasili:

Trump buys an office building in downtown Manhattan in 1995 - the year he allegedly lost $1 billion. All cash. He then borrows $145 million from a union pension fund to carry out a $35 million renovation. The previous owners, a Hong Kong company that may have been a front for Ferdinand Marcos, bought the building for $8 million two years before Trump and also renovated it. The building sits on top of land that is owned by a shady overseas partnership whose principals are unknown. Trump recently refinanced that mortgage after the building changed hands, receiving $160 million from Ladder Capital.

Fall, 1995: Donald Trump purchases 40 Wall Street for $1 million cash. “Donald Trump has hired Cushman & Wakefield as leasing agent for 40 Wall St., which he plans to rename The Trump Building at 40 Wall. Mr. Trump bought the 1.1 million-square-foot building last fall for $1 million in cash and is seeking office tenants. He has secured a loan commitment on the property.” (Crain’s New York Business, February 19, 1996)

Trump purchased the building from a company based in Hong Kong that had paid $8 million to acquire it two years earlier. “The real estate developer Donald J. Trump completed his purchase of 40 Wall Street yesterday, buying the distinguished 70-story office building, across the street from the New York Stock Exchange, for a price estimated at less than $8 million. Mr. Trump in July had disclosed an agreement to buy the building, which contains 1.1 million square feet of space, from Kinson Properties of Hong Kong. Kinson paid $8 million for it in 1993. While representatives of Mr. Trump declined to disclose the price he had paid, published reports said it was less than $8 million. In July, representatives of the developer said he planned to spend $100 million converting the building, which is 89 percent vacant, to more modern offices. The land on which the building stands is owned by the Hinenberg family of Germany.” (New York Times, December 7, 1995)

v Previous owners from Hong Kong made substantial renovations to the building, installing a $300,000 pool in the lobby. “But as more Chinese investors have come to the New York area, feng shui has become an increasingly familiar term to developers and designers. The former Gulf and Western Building on Columbus Circle, 40 Wall Street and the China Trust Bank in Flushing, Queens, are among projects in which developers called in feng shui experts to review the sites. […] Edmund Yu, president of Kinson Properties, which is renovating the 1.1-million-square-foot office building at 40 Wall Street, said that even though he was an avowed nonbeliever, he still commissioned the construction of a $300,000 pool in the building's lobby on the advice of a feng shui master. ‘It's like killing two birds with one stone,’ he said. ‘Other people will just see it as an attractive addition. But for the Chinese, when they see it, they will know.’” (New York Times, September 22, 1994)

v A financial reporter claimed that Trump had acquired the building from a front man for Ferdinand Marcos. “It is the possibility of loss now, when markets have performed so well for so long, that preoccupies James Grant, the author of "The Trouble With Prosperity." No one knows 20th-century financial history better than Mr. Grant, and it shows as he glides through eras when investors thought everything was wonderful, only to be stunned when something went wrong. The best part of the book is Mr. Grant's tale of a New York building, 40 Wall Street, conceived in the 1920's and now being renovated by Donald Trump, who got it after Citibank sold it for a fraction of the loan it had foolishly made to a front man for Ferdinand Marcos, the late Philippines dictator.” (New York Times, December 22, 1996)

Renovations of 40 Wall Street were financed by loans from a union pension fund. “Mr. Eichner had earlier persuaded the Union Labor Life Insurance Company (Ullico), a union fund manager that invests in projects that employ union labor, to commit $33 million in long-term loans for his almost-completed 25-story, 121-apartment condominium at 201 East 80th Street, called the Richmond. […]General Electric Pension is behind the joint venture that rebuilt Trump International Hotel and Tower at 1 Central Park West, formerly the Gulf & Western Building; the Ullico is financing Mr. Trump in his $35 million rehabili-tation of 40 Wall Street, which, he says, will have a completed lobby in three weeks.” (New York Times, January 26, 1997)

2015: Trump used the building as collateral for a $160 million from the hedge fund, Ladder Capital. “Currently, 14 entities with ties to Mr. Trump owe banks in excess of $315 million, according to the disclosures released by the Federal Election Commission. The actual amount of debt is not known and is higher -- presidential candidates are required to reveal only debt of $50 million or above, without further specificity. For instance, a Ladder Capital loan secured by a lease at 40 Wall Street is for $160 million.” (New York Times, May 24, 2016)

Trump pays a $1.6 million lease on the ground under the building to an unknown investment group with German ties: ““At 40 Wall Street in Manhattan, a limited liability company, or L.L.C., controlled by Mr. Trump holds the ground lease -- the lease for the land on which the building stands. […] The land is owned by two limited liability companies; Mr. Trump pays the two entities a total of $1.6 million a year for the ground lease, according to documents filed with the S.E.C. The majority owner, 40 Wall Street Holdings Corporation, owns 80 percent of the land; New Scandic Wall Limited Partnership owns the rest, according to public documents. New Scandic Wall Limited Partnership's chief executive is Joachim Ferdinand von Grumme-Douglas, a businessman based in Europe, according to these documents. The people behind 40 Wall Street Holdings are harder to identify. For years, Germany's Hinneberg family, which made its fortune in the shipping industry, controlled the property through a company called 40 Wall Limited Partnership. In late 2014, their interest in the land was transferred to a new company, 40 Wall Street Holdings. The Times was not able to identify the owner or owners of this company, and the Trump Organization declined to comment.” (New York Times, August 21, 2016)

v Trump has used 40 Wall Street as collateral to secure a $160 million loan from hedge fund Ladder Capital that includes a $26 million personal guarantee: ““In 2015, Mr. Trump borrowed $160 million from Ladder Capital, a small New York firm, using that long-term lease as collateral. On his financial disclosure form that debt is listed as valued at more than $50 million. […] Other instances in which Mr. Trump could be personally responsible can be found in public filings. He guaranteed as much as $26 million for the loan taken out against his land lease at 40 Wall Street, money the lender could take if certain things went wrong.” (New York Times, August 21, 2016)

40 Wall Street has lost money or barely eked out a profit for the past several years, but pays the Trump Organization a nearly $1 million management fee. “Another seeming cash cow, at least as far as the forms portray it, is 40 Wall Street, an office building Mr. Trump has spoken of as perhaps the greatest bargain he ever struck. ''I make approximately $20 million a year in rentals from 40 Wall Street and the building is now worth $500 million,'' Mr. Trump wrote in ''Trump Never Give Up,'' published in 2008. '[…] On his financial disclosure forms, Mr. Trump listed the income he derived from rents in the building in the highest category on the form -- more than $5 million. […] But the income and expense statement that he filed with the New York City Tax Commission to appeal his property taxes shows that after mortgage payments and other costs, the building produced a cash flow of about $104,000 in 2014. Over the previous three years, it had generated a negative cash flow of $5.5 million, as the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis took a toll on downtown office buildings. Last year, the building rebounded and turned a significant profit: Occupancy rose to 95 percent, according to securities filings. The building's cash flow after expenses was just under $3 million, still well below the more than $5 million that Mr. Trump reported on his disclosure forms. The building also paid the Trump Organization $966,000 last year in management fees. (New York Times, November 4, 2016)

10/23/05: Trump took out a $145 million mortgage on 40 Wall Street, spent $35 million acquiring and refurbishing it. “And Donald did scramble back to gain control of some other Manhattan buildings, including 40 Wall Street, which he spent about $35 million to buy and refurbish in 1996. The building has about $145 million in debt attached to it, and New York City tax assessors currently value the property at about $90 million. Donald values it at $400 million.” (New York Times, October 23, 2005)


I get it, you don't like Trump. I don't like him either. But the above doesn't seem like evidence of anything other than real estate dealings.


I won't argue it anymore. Apologies for the ad hominem attacks.


Apology accepted!


Hi Vasili - I don't think you understand. He bought an office building on Wall Street in the mid-1990s for $1 million. That's a price so low that it's shady. As usual with Trump, he buys real estate at prices that don't make sense unless you assume there's another half to the trade. Then he borrows money against the building's supposed increase in value and uses that debt as income without an income tax. His deals are all funny numbers.

I see you're also an apologist for Facebook's approach to Russian ads during the election.


You've stooped to the kind of personal attack that is most unwelcome in HN threads, especially partisan/political flamewars that we don't want on HN in the first place.

We ban users that do this, so please (re-)read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and clean up your act if you want to keep commenting here.


do you have any evidence that buying an office building on wall street for 1 million in the 90s is a shady price that doesn't make sense? also, how in the world did you bring facebook into this conversation?


It’s not just “an office building”, it’s a 71 story skyscraper. Even setting aside its highly desirable location a $1M price makes no sense.

The thing is, though, that the only source I can find for the $1M purchase price is Trump’s own mouth, while bragging about its real value (hundreds of millions), and we know he lies and exaggerates all the time.


Ok, so either way my point stands. There is no evidence whatsoever that something illegal is taking place ? The op posted this article

http://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/07/business/40-wall-street-is...

So apparently he bought it roughly for market price ?


>There is no evidence whatsoever that something illegal is taking place ?

Why would you want evidence that something illegal was taking place if something illegal was taking place? Sure in the absence of evidence I do believe we cannot declare anyone guilty, but the presumption of innocence doesn't mean we can't cast suspicion.


How is 1/8th of the price "market price"? Quite the opposite. You seem to have trouble addressing facts here.

EDIT: Responding to your answer below. You are materially misreporting the substance of the NYT article, which I find to be telling. It says that the building was sold for $8 million two years before, and that Trump paid "less than" that.


Did you read the article you posted ? Where does it say he bought it for 1/8th the price ? It doesn't say that anywhere in your article


Bloomberg claims Trump bought the right to lease the building for the next 60 years or so. Trump does not own the property at 40 Wall Street. He is paying something like $1.5 million per year in rent. He bought the rights to lease the building from someone who previously bought those rights for the mostly empty building for $8 million but were having trouble getting tenants. It isn't clear if Trump bought all of the same rights or if they retained some.

The people who previously had the rights to lease out the building paid $8 million, but along with that came the responsibility of paying rent to the landowner. If they hadn't been able to make progress in two years, it doesn't seem outlandish that they would be willing to sell for much less than they paid. Their big expense wasn't going to be the cost of the rights to lease the tower, but the actual cost of leasing the tower (or maybe it is better to say the land the tower sits on) over time.

Further, they may have retained some rights that they found valuable so I wouldn't assume that what they bought for $8 million was the same thing Trump says he bought for $1 million.

So was the deal "shady"? Not from any information presented in this thread nor from anything that is readily available from a quick search. It could be of course, but the actual facts that are available don't appear to support such a claim.


He bought it for 1/8th of the price it sold for two years earlier. During those two years, the US economy was on an upswing.

http://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/07/business/40-wall-street-is...

And the building looks like this: https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2016-trump-40-wall-street...

It's a shady price, and a shady building, because he now rents it out to crooks like himself. (See Bloomberg piece.)

In the future, do your own research. It's just a Google away.

I bring up your Facebook comment because this is the second time you've come down on the side of the Kremlin and the conman they helped plant in the White House. It's an interesting pattern.

Edit: Responding to your comment below due to limits on nested comments on HN.

40 Wall is a well known center of criminal activity.

"Since Donald Trump took over 40 Wall St. in 1995, prosecutors have filed criminal charges against at least 29 people connected to 12 alleged scams tied to the building. Nine other firms have faced serious regulatory claims. Authorities prevailed in most but not all of the cases."

Trump also housed Trump University there, as well as Trump Mortgage, which shuttered the year before the 2008 crash. Trump paid $25 million to settle charges of fraud against Trump U.

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/03/trump-university-sett...

This isn't the only Trump property associated with large-scale crime. Trump's Taj Mahal casino was fined a record amount in 2015 for violations of anti-money laundering regulations, because it claimed to have lost records of all transactions for years.

http://fortune.com/2015/02/11/trump-taj-mahal-casino-settles...

Trump has effectively led and profited from an international money-laundering syndicate for years. He is the leader of an organized crime family. He became president of the US with the help of dirty money and dirty tricks. Much coming from Russia.


It's very shady looking into anyone's comment history and bring up other supposed dirt and use it like that.

Smear tactic. Now you don't look so good either.


Disagree. There's nothing wrong with looking at somebody else's previous comments, nor anything wrong with pointing out to the reader that there might (rightly or wrongly) be something of interest there. Comments are public, and a user's comment history is public too.


I agree. It's just dumb to bring in irrelevant comments and even dumber to call someone a kremlin troll for defending Facebook.


I would say it's not shady, it's just kinda dumb because it's irrelevant


DELETED based on moderator feedback.


This breaks both the HN guideline against personal attacks ('be civil') and the one against insinuations of astroturfing and shillage without evidence. Someone having an opposing opinion is not evidence. Please don't do this again.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

The rest of the internet may be losing its mind; that doesn't mean we need to. Commenters here can do better than this.


Ad hominem attacks do not change the fact that your original point turned out to be false


You are changing the argument. I'm not defending trump and I am not saying he is or isn't a crook. I'm saying your original statement and argument is false.


And yet the comment you just replied to gives evidence that you are the one actually incorrect, as it backs up his original statement and strongly counters your assertion.

To paraphrase for you:

vonnik: $1m purchase price is shady

vasilipupkin: No its not it is the real estate game, unless you can show me $1m in mid 90's is shady for a 71 story office building in premium location on Wall Street

vonnik: OK here is source: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/07/business/40-wall-street-is...

vasilipupkin: <comment I am replying to>

My advice is it would help to have evidence, instead of seeding conversations with comments that cast doubt with very little evidence.


I'm not changing the argument. I answered your question precisely, and added new information about criminal activity at the building in question. You have not given a satisfactory explanation of the discrepancy between what the market pays, and what Trump pays. Lacking subpoenas, it's unlikely that we can know what the other side of the trade was. But Mueller's team surely knows. That's why Mueller hired a team of financial crimes experts with Enron experience. They were able to nail Paul Manafort for money laundering, tax evasion and failure to report his status as a foreign agent. Trump is guilt of all that by 100x. The coming months will bring it all out.


Where did you get the number that he paid 1/8th the market price ? You provided zero evidence to this effect. If he did pay 1/8th the market price, I'll concede that something shady was taking place


8 million dollars in 1993. 1 million dollars when Trump purchased it.

1 million / 8 million = 1/8.


your whataboutism is a classic kremlin maneuver. What about this and what about that ? The fact that I defended Facebook's handling of Russian ads in an unrelated online discussion has nothing to do with the fact that your specific argument about details of a specific deal is bullshit.

You said he bought it for 1 million and he bought it for 8. Apparently the same price as previous buyer paid ? So we can dispense with this line of reasoning ?


>We've documented Trump's relations with a variety of Soviet and Russian individuals and organizations

a telling hypothesis, now we know who to blame Mr Trump on. I am sorry to tell you but your friend is doing it on the dime of someone pushing the current hysterical Russophobia. Either that or he is delusional.


>someone who believes in things I don't agree on is either working on some hysterical dime or delusional


Tiny note:

it's been many decades of the same issue, people work, people share, things go weird, they get angry (and rightly so).

let me blame the victims slightly (barely at all, it's mental exercise). Isn't the problem in the tax -> action function ? it's a big black box. That's always the case when people get angry about anything, it's because they have to deal with an unpredictable and costly black box.

Solution: no more big, no more black. We need a more tractable and open system that can be more efficient.

More questions: should people be able to see all what their money does ? or would it backfire into micromanagement and critics ?


budgets are public, no? FOIA works pretty well, no?

people don't look, don't have time to understand it, and usually don't think, they just demand.


That's is also true. But I firmly believe that the solution is not to make two systems fight but rather to find a middle ground.

- Make a system that is slightly clearer and smaller

- Entice people to be more educated


It’s interesting. In other third world countries like Tunisia (my mother’s homeland) income inequality is even worse, yet the lower classes are content with where they are. In America it seems like everyone is crawling to “make it.”


SG = Singapore?


SG is the ISO code for Singapore.


Southern Georgia? Slovenian Georgetown? Sicilian Goosefeathers? Saucy Gobstoppers?


Sorry, I'm so used to writing SG in for singapore that I do it without thinking.


I empathize with your condition and your thoughts.

However, the problem is not the rich. This is a classic case of [tall poppy syndrome](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tall_poppy_syndrome).

There indeed are a two sets (or multiple striated on your lobbying power) of rules. The rich lobby to get exceptions, we don't 'cause we can't (afford it).

TL;DR It's the government which is to blame here for the rich stashing their wealth in tax havens rather than deploying them productively in the economy.

Details:

- The rich don't like stashing their wealth in tax havens. I'm not rich myself to have first hand experience, but let's logically think this through.

  - If you've capital, you want it deployed and earning money for you. And you'll choose the best risk adjusted ROI you can get (you'll be especially rational about this if you have the means to hire consultants like the rich do).

  - Therefore, we can reach the poignant conclusion that stashing it away in tax havens, which in fact costs money to do, is the best option you've. There is a lot of cost involved even if you want to re-route money to invest it via tax havens - 1) Risk of government(s) confiscating your money 2) Cost of setting up and operating complicated corporate structures.
- Taxation is theft. Pretty radical, but please humor me and read through. This is not even an original idea, this is a common notion in libertarian circles (eg: https://mises.org/blog/taxation-isnt-only-theft-its-destruct...). Let me share a few points why:

  - Why #1: Government is a bad monopoly. The ditches on the road you referenced, is because you can't stop paying govt for doing a bad job on roads and enlist an alternative vendor. The reason why it's _bad_ is because it's forced upon you - you cannot stop paying taxes to enlist someone else to make your roads better, you'll be put in jail. Google is a good monopoly, because we all voluntarily use google. If something better comes around, you can use it and google wouldn't (shouldn't) force you to use theirs. They can persuade, but not force.

  - Why #2: Government (policy makers) are humans. They put their self interest above yours (just like you do) and make bad public policy as a result. Paying them money (tax) blindly is silly.

  - Why #3: Government (policy makers) don't understand (or  perhaps deliberately mislead everyone on) economics. We still think public roads are good, public healthcare is good, public police, public (fiat) money, rent control, import tariffs, export controls and more are all good. They are all patently bad for reasons which you can google out. This distortion is a wealth destroyer and distorts & cripples the economy. Paying them money (tax) when the policies don't benefit you is insane.
## Conclusion: There is an alternative system to government which works - privatize everything a.k.a Free Markets. This is also known by the rather dire name "Anarcho Capitalism" (please don't go by the bad connotations of the name). Why use free markets:

  - Why #1: They're ethically, morally superior to government. All transactions in an economy are voluntary and involve no force. Force is immoral, and unethical. Every action that government does implies force - if you don't pay taxes, you get jailed => force; etc.

  - Why #2: Good monopolies. Everyone competes to be a monopoly by providing the best service at the lowest cost, which is a benefit to society, if they don't, you can choose an alternative. Note: Monopoly here rarely means the strict definition of just one compnay providing a good, there are usually alternatives.
Edit

- formatting


[flagged]


It's always disappointing to find people on the web who don't believe in basic human rights.

Don't we all have the right to a basic level of livelihood? Why should the family I was born to determine wether I have clean water to drink or not, for example?


Rights only exist in the context of a system that enforces or supports them.


I don't agree. Some rights are fundamental - the people who had their lives stolen by trans Atlantic slaving had their lives stolen. Their rights were violated. The fact that the social and political system of the time conspired to facilitate that doesn't make it less true.


I think the parent commenter was trying to say that rights only exist as a productive concept when other people agree with them.

You can argue that certain rights are fundamental, but it doesn’t mean anything if most people disagree with you. Whether or not rights are “fundamental” (i.e. exist outside of an enforcement structure) not a useful distinction, because it’s meaningless - whether or not you get to exercise that right has nothing to do with your claim being correct, it has to do with other people agreeing and sanctioning your behavior.

Like most normative claims, personal rights do not really exist coherently if you don’t first define them in the context of a relationship. This is demonstrably the case because the idea of a right would be redundant or meaningless if it were not for an adversary threatening that right in the first place.


They had their lives stolen before that - they were already slaves by the time the Western slave traders bought them from their local, African slave owners.


> Why should the family I was born to determine wether I have clean water to drink or not, for example?

Because of this thing called reality.

If the circumstances of your birth are unfortunate, that's sad, but it does not have to be other people's problem.


So here's the basic problem with your attitude: it proceeds from comprehending only your half of a fundamental equation. You feel no responsibility toward those less fortunate than yourself, but at the same time you expect them to feel a general responsibility to respect your property rights. Why should they? Because it's in the Bible or written in law books? In the wild there are no property rights, no individual freedoms. What keeps the poor from your door when they realize that the responsibility is one-sided?


> In the wild there are no property rights

In the wild there is ownership (or possession), and animals defend it with brute force. Property rights regulate this and tend to enforce the concept of ownership in a civilized way.

Without property rights, we'd be back to defending ownership with violence, even on the individual level. Few people want that, and I'm not one of them.


No, there is no "ownership" in the wild. Posession is not ownership. Ownership is a concept. Posession is a physical fact. Any connection between the two is based on ideas in your head.

By the way, we are not at risk of going back to defending ownership with violence, for the simple reason that we haven't left that situation. Property is defended with violence and the threat of violence every day in the most civilized of countries. That's what police and prisons are: violence.


> By the way, we are not at risk of going back to defending ownership with violence, for the simple reason that we haven't left that situation. Property is defended with violence and the threat of violence every day in the most civilized of countries. That's what police and prisons are: violence.

True. That's why I added "even on the individual level". It's difficult to explain what is different about the way say a lion defends his territory by attacking any intruder and the way a man defends his house by calling the cops when burglars show up, but I'm sure there is a difference, and I believe it makes sense to say that one of the method is civilized when the other is not.


What a repellent atitude. "Fuck you got mine" in all its glory.


I'd rather sum it as "live and let die"


I wonder, does the suffering of your fellow man mean nothing to you? Make you feel bad? How do you manage to feel such callous disregard for the agony of others? I'm really curious about how one can be so coldly and consciously cruel.


"suffering", "agony". It's not like we're talking about people being tortured.


Right, even torture has some legal limits. One cannot deprive someone from sleep, food, or clean water for longer than certain reasonable periods during torture, poverty on the other hand has much less certainty.


Oh, so edgy. I bet you'll howl the minute you think your property rights are being infringed, though.


Again, disappointed. This attitude is the source of so many of the world's problems.


The only thing stopping someone stronger than you taking all your stuff are the rules society makes up. That's reality.


Those rules are enforced with an even stronger force than any individual can muster.


Fair point. I guess Reality is what we make of it, so I stand corrected.


> Don't we all have the right to a basic level of livelihood?

You have the right to it, but you're not entitled to it.

To me, having the right to do something means you can't be prosecuted for doing it. It doesn't mean that society must help you.


Ok, let's set aside for a moment your personal politics, since compassion is clearly not a concept you're likely to grasp right now.

As a practical matter, what do you think happens to any society that suffers a class divide severe enough that (a) the majority of the citizenry ends up in the underclass and (b) being in the underclass sucks badly enough to really piss people off?

Societies need to take care of their citizens and ensure they receive, if nothing else, fair treatment under law and approximately equal opportunity. Otherwise, you get behavior like this: https://youtu.be/HL45pVdsRvE?t=60

What a lot of people on both sides don't seem to be getting is that Trump getting elected was an expression of bipartisan anger and frustration on the part of voters. Their anger and frustration may have created an even worse result, depending on whether you think Trump is going to ease or worsen inequality in this country, but guess what? Stupid things are exactly the result of festering anger and resentment.

There are a bunch of folks out there -- maybe you're one of them, maybe not, I dunno -- who kind of wish for some kind of implosion of American society. They think they'll come out ahead, because they've got guns or they live in the middle of nowhere. But, they won't come out ahead, they'll lose. Everyone will lose.

So you can pontificate about the ideological merits of extreme Libertarianism all you want, but in practice it works exactly as well as extreme socialism.


"As a practical matter, what do you think happens to any society that suffers a class divide severe enough that (a) the majority of the citizenry ends up in the underclass and (b) being in the underclass sucks badly enough to really piss people off?"

It has a violent revolution. But your question contains an unstated assumption: that capitalism leads to "the majority of the citizenry [ending] up in the underclass". Feudal societies saw most people living in poverty. Communist societies saw most people living in poverty. Properly functioning capitalist societies have a healthy middle class, and a tolerable standard of living even for people at the bottom.

"So you can pontificate about the ideological merits of extreme Libertarianism all you want, but in practice it works exactly as well as extreme socialism."

The society that came closest to "extreme Libertarianism" was the United States in the 19th century. (Especially after the civil war). That was the century of the industrial revolution, huge advances in technology and wealth production, and an unprecedented rise in the standard of living.


> But your question contains an unstated assumption: that capitalism leads to "the majority of the citizenry [ending] up in the underclass".

No, not capitalism specifically, and that's not a claim I made. (Unless of course you believe that capitalism necessarily leads to the exploitation of the poor.)

> That was the century of the industrial revolution, huge advances in technology and wealth production, and an unprecedented rise in the standard of living.

Even if I agreed with your premise, is it your argument here that those things happened because of libertarianism? Because (a) historians would disagree with you, and (b), you're still stuck with the same problem as every other libertarian: where are all of the 21st century libertarian utopias then? Is it in Galt's Gulch, Chile (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bn53b3/atlas-mugged-922-v...)? Is it somewhere in Antarctica, one of few (barely) habitable places on Earth with no government? Is it Mauritius? Liberia? Colorado Springs (https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/06/30/colorado-...)?


> Societies need to take care of their citizens and ensure they receive, if nothing else, fair treatment under law and approximately equal opportunity.

I'm not sure what you mean by "approximately equal opportunity", since the circumstances of life are so different it seems delusional to me to hope for equal opportunities for everyone.

But I do agree on the concept of fair treatment under law, and I believe it's a fundamental basis for the notion of justice.

I just don't believe poverty necessarily results from any unfair treatment, and that as such its prevention or mitigation is not society's duty.


This is still dodging the point that societies don't survive long with large numbers of poor, unhappy citizens.

But anyway, your belief doesn't agree with reality:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSH9_IWeSK4

"Terry Bossert, Range’s vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs, told a Pennsylvania Bar Institute gathering in Harrisburg earlier this month, that the company tries to avoid siting its shale gas wells near “big houses” where residents might have the financial resources to challenge the industrial-type developments." http://www.post-gazette.com/powersource/latest-oil-and-gas/2...

"I’m a public defender. It’s impossible for me to do a good job representing my clients." https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/our-public-defender-...

"How companies make millions off lead-poisoned, poor blacks" https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/how-compa...

"I make a lot of poor financial decisions. None of them matter, in the long term. I will never not be poor, so what does it matter if I don’t pay a thing and a half this week instead of just one thing?" https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/your-br...

"How municipalities in St. Louis County, Mo., profit from poverty" https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/09/03/...

"As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price" http://www.npr.org/2014/05/19/312158516/increasing-court-fee...

I have 5,233 carefully-organized bookmarks in Pinboard. I can keep doing this for a while.

The fact of the matter is that poverty by itself is unfair treatment. Those living in poverty automatically have fewer judicial options in legal disputes, bear an unfair proportion of costs in legal matters, have their communities unfairly targeted by exploitative businesses that know the citizens don't have the resources to fight back, and are subjected to poorer nutrition and harmful living environments which virtually guarantee that those people born into poverty will also die in it -- and of it.


Wait, wha??? You have the right to it, but you are not entitled to it? I don't know if you are American, but let's assume you are. The Declaration Of Independence enshrines three "unalienable rights" that governments are "created to protect".

Let's take them one at a time.

1. Life - so one has the right to life, yet is not entitled to it? If I take your life and don't get prosecuted for it, then everything is cool?

2. Liberty - if your skin color was black in the Antebellum south, you had the right to libery, you just weren't be entitled to it?

3. Pursuit of Happiness - you have the right to say, be able to read, which I think most would agree is pretty essential to pursuing your happiest self. But you are not entitled to any basic education, and the onus should be on you?

This is one of the most cynical viewpoints I can think of.

Edits: premature eclickulation


If Law itself can't prevent you to exercise your rights, it usually also means it should prevent other people from preventing you to exercise your rights. Thus murder (someone preventing you from exercising your right to live) is a crime and so is slavery (someone preventing you to exercise your freedom).

Your third example is interesting because indeed, I personally believe that education should be a service like any other, one that society is not supposed to provide, at least not by law. On the other hand, law should not prevent your from getting one, nor should it allow anyone to prevent someone from having one. Hopefully you can see the difference.

It's like say owning a car. You have the right to own one. If someone steals it, it's a crime and society must punish it. But society does not have to provide you one if you don't have any.


>If Law itself can't prevent you to exercise your rights, it usually also means it should prevent other people from preventing you to exercise your rights. Thus murder (someone preventing you from exercising your right to live) is a crime and so is slavery (someone preventing you to exercise your freedom).

You are part of a lynch mob in the 30's. Your crime of murder is swept under the rug.

You live in Alabama in 1836. A man frees your slave, and you had to shoot him as he runs away. You are now out one slave (no murder, right?) and the man who freed him is in prison.

Laws change. Rights are inalienable.


Well, I may have oversimplified when I wrote that rights were what you can't be prosecuted for. I'm no constitutionalist. But you can't just shrug on the idea that there is a difference between rights and entitlements. I suppose you can though, since it fits your political view. Still a quick search for "rights vs entitlements" returns ample documentation, including quotes from Law professors, like this one:

"America was founded on the idea that human beings are born with natural rights, such as the rights to life, liberty and property. A person who holds this view of rights makes no demands on others except that they respect those rights. Today, however, many Americans talk about rights to a college education, state of the art medical care and even birth control pills. These are rights understood as entitlements and a person who holds this view of rights, far from making no demands on other people, is making claims on other people’s money and resources. This understanding of rights not only sets citizens against each other, but it undermines the whole idea of natural rights."

http://blog.hillsdale.edu/online-courses/natural-rights-vs.-...

I like especially the "it undermines the whole idea of natural rights". Clearly people like me are the result of this undermining.


Then you're using "right" in a very different way from what we expect around here.


It seems so. Regardless of our opinion about it, it'd be nice if people could agree on using two different terms for both concepts.

https://fee.org/articles/rights-versus-entitlements/


Maybe it would be, but it's generally considered folly to ignore community norms. Based on your response, clearly you know what people actually mean here, but it sounds like you're arguing out of some desire for pedantry, which is not something that goes over well here.


How is this charity? Isn't "the poorest among us have some basic level of livelihood" exactly justice, and exactly the job of a government?

Please don't use this kind of argument to turn HN into reddit.


In my humble opinion, the job of the government is absolutely not to give money to the poorest people, not even to maintain a "basic level of livelyhood".

I'm also fairly certain this has nothing to do with the concept of justice.


"Justice" means upholding laws?

Most of the world has signed conventions that makes basic livelihood a right -- and puts it on the state to ensure this.

Perhaps you don't agree with these laws and conventions. But please consider that the very concept of "ownership" and "property" is also something that is only upheld by laws.

Also on a pragmatic level, why should those without property acknowledge and support a state which doesn't look out for their basic livelihood? A state that does not at least try to make sure everyone has a livelihood is a sure path to social unrest / revolutions that causes problems for rich people as well.

You should turn around and ask: Why should people support the notion of property?

Property is part of the social contract in much the same way that human rights (everyone having a livelihood) is part of the social contract.


> to social unrest / revolutions that causes problems for rich people as well.

Some problems for sure, but it's probably manageable. Poverty is not and should never be an excuse for crime. Rich people can build as many prisons as necessary.


This did not work out well in France in 1793.

Or Russia in 1917.

Things were close in the US in 1932 - hence the new deal.

Poverty isn't an excuse for a crime, but people with children to feed can be used as a tool by revolutionaries very easily. One revolution often leads to another (France and Russia also Germany saw this) as the faction in power loses it's grievance and acquires shiny things.

The problem is that this precipitates economic collapse and therefore more poor people.

"Managing" the problems isn't cheap either; thugs, cameras, guns, torture, prisons and PR are not free. There are a variety of costs, including the personal ones when the children of the rich discover that Daddy or Mummy spends half their weeks chainsawing people's arms off.

And Jesus, what's the point? I mean, isn't it just better to have a world where you can go out for a latte or buy a pair of pants in a store without being afraid ?

Technically we can say that equilibrium is that the rich support a welfare state and the poor do not use the rich to decorate lamp posts. Some players have forgotten this, they are irrational, but that doesn't change the game and in future iterations it will return to it's balanced state.


>Poverty is not and should never be an excuse for crime.

If I'm starving to death and you're hogging the bread, I'm taking it from you. The law is not morality. At some point (I don't think we're there yet today, but we're heading in that direction) I think crime - stealing in particular - is more excusable when the rich have stacked the deck.


How can you possibly believe that a society where a large percent of people are in prison is a healthy society?


If they committed crime, they should be in prison, regardless of how numerous they are.


You keep defining crime as it suits you.

You want to define one set of laws you agree with "justice" and another you disagree with "charity". That is namecalling and intellectually lazy.

The same state and body of laws that define property also defines taxation.

Without a social contract, there is no property. Property isn't obvious! My viking ancestors considered it good and noble to pillage Englishmen.

The social contract you live in happens to define property, but also define taxes and redistribution to the poor. It gives the poor rights. Not charity.

You seem to consider property more "natural" or God-given or such than taxation and everyones right to eat. Why?


How is that even remotely the point? If you have a huge prison population, your society is unhealthy. Full stop. Even if those people "deserve" to be in prison. If they do, that's the society's failing in successfully educating and raising people to be productive members of that society. It's rotten to the core.


To be clear, would you morally condemn someone for stealing if they would otherwise starve?

It seems like you think the right to "property" is somehow above the right to life. In most of the world BOTH of those are guaranteed by the same laws and the same social contract.


>Some problems for sure, but it's probably manageable. Poverty is not and should never be an excuse for crime. Rich people can build as many prisons as necessary.

You are one of the people for whom they build gulags.


More correctly, he builds the gulag for the rich.


That went pretty well in venezuela.


Ah then you must also believe that the government should not be giving money to corporations, and special breaks to the rich; breaks that make it so the poor have a harder time escaping poverty??

They do, because the laws are bought by the rich.


The way to fix this is by design: to have a government small enough that buying it wouldn’t bring you advantages comparable to succeeding in the free market.

Most people disagree with that and seem to think it’s possible to have angels from heaven running the government machine. The thing is that even if you manage that, it’s bound to go wrong at some future election.


The problem will always be that the profit motive is an engine that chews up the weak and the helpless, and as a moral society we want to limit these kind of behaviors, both by local gangs, and by massive corporations. Government is one way to do this. I agree that government should be more limited in some way. I think that the solution will be to empower local government, and the yoke the power of the federal fiat currency to local authority.


Not believing in basic human rights isn't exactly what I would call a "humble" opinion. Words have meanings.


You could argue rights as being in the welfare category. But in all reality this centers on first agreeing to basic definitions of terms. Words do have meanings, but the most frustrating thing about our "post truth" world is everyone wants to define words in a personal level. It makes any sort of debate or discussion next to impossible.


What's so bad about needing help? And what's so bad about society helping it's neediest maintain a basic level of existence?


Overwhelmingly large number of people in society are selfish. They say that social welfare is good, but when time comes to increase taxes to fund it, either they oppose, or build in clever loopholes to work around it (the rich do anyway). What's left is the middle to lower class getting the burden, and that causes them to also reject tax increases.


Two things: it relieves me to see that you are in the minority with that kind of repellent thought. Second, I'm almost 100% sure that you would sing a very different tune if you had drawn the short stick in the birth lottery.


Then what is the role of government, in your opinion?


Probably anything that is needed to ensure and maintain his status, such as property laws and protection against bodily harm, and not any thing else.


I can't help but think of the GOP's tax "reform" that is a hot topic in the US right now. I say "reform" because there's absolutely no reform about it. It's a tax cut for billionaires bought and paid for by the GOP donor class. The paranoia of religious conservatives certainly elected the GOP but make no mistake: they don't give a shit about anyone but the donor class, often personified by the Koch brothers.

The carried interest tax credit is noticeably absent from the House plan.

The problem with any kind of true reform is that every exception and rule benefits someone and they'll lobby hard to defend it.

As for the corporate tax cut, I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to it if it came with enforcement against the offshoring (via transfer pricing) of profits in low tax regimes. But of course it doesn't.

Bringing this back to the Paradise Papers and other similar leaks, the problem I have is there's increasingly an ultra-rich class who benefitted greatly by the political stability in places like the developed world but have somehow convinced themselves that they shouldn't have to pay for it.

There was a time in my life when I was against the estate tax on philosophical grounds. That time is long gone. It really is a silver spoon tax. If anything it should be higher.

I really wish I understood why someone with $5b thought themselves above paying for schools, roads, hospitals and police. What really is the practical difference between having $5b or $10b?

Luckily the House plan is pretty much DOA in the Senate.


> It's a tax cut for billionaires bought and paid for by the GOP donor class

I am a small business owner setup as a LLC single member company and the new cap will be a positive for me. It will reduce my tax burden allowing me to buy more software from companies, hire, expand, increase advertising spending, etc. I am a very real case, and there are lots of other small business owners like me who are certainly not billionaires. In fact most bay area tech company employees make more than I do. I find it somewhat hypocritical that employees at Google and Facebook that are making 200K+ are complaining about tax reform.


There is nothing hypocritical about opposing a tax 'reform' plan that adds $1.5 TRILLION to the deficit, doubly so if this bill raises my taxes. If my tax burden goes up to pay for government programs, than I am generally (but not unconditionally) okay with that. But if my tax burden goes up so that billionaires and corporations can get a tax cut while also negatively impacting the financial health of our country, than it would be absurd not to strongly oppose the reform bill.

Instead of supporting this irresponsible piece of legislation, how about getting in touch with your local representatives and let them know that you believe that the tax burden on small businesses needs to be addressed, but that this particular piece of legislation is not the way to do it.


Money that you spend on buying software, hiring etc isn’t generally taxable anyway. A business is generally taxed on income, not revenue.

You also have to ask, where is the money coming from? In this case, it would appear to be through radically increasing the deficit. There will ultimately be consequences to that (for instance, in a few years, as the US’s credit rating comes under pressure, increased repayments may have to be met with increases on income tax, which you will pay).


> Money that you spend on buying software, hiring etc isn’t generally taxable anyway. A business is generally taxed on income, not revenue.

But reducing my quarterly and annual tax liabilies allows me to spend more on these things because there is more cash for the business at the end of the day.


This assumes that you need to take out a constant amount of after-tax profit, which may be the case for some types of small business. However, it would be possible, and perhaps more appropriate, to introduce some form of tax credit to deal with that; this would be far, far cheaper.

It’s hard to overemphasise how expensive the proposed plans are. You’re looking at adding over a trillion to the deficit. Bush’s tax cuts are estimated to have cost about 1.5 trillion... for his entire term (plus a trillion or so make in Obama’s term when he was forced to extend most of them).


If you're growing your company based on cash-flow you're slowly strangling your company to death.

If it's profitable, leverage it. You don't have to go nuts and borrow millions, but if you can generate a better return on debt than the interest rate, which shouldn't be too hard given today's interest rates, you can build your business faster.

If you're aggressively expanding your company you'll be channelling any profits back into it, so you're going to barely break-even from a tax perspective and your tax payments will be negligible.

If you're doing this and not seeing the right tax benefits already, get a better accountant.


I've seen this "get a better accountant" argument posted on HN quite a bit. But, aren't liberals outraged about the tax loopholes for the "weathly"? We shouldn't need the loopholes, just reduce the rates.


No, not in this case. It’s very deliberate that companies pay tax on profit, not revenue; it’s not really a loophole. This gives the company an incentive to put the money into growth rather than taking profit and paying dividends, especially when it’s smallish.

You could theoretically have a system where companies pay tax on revenue, but realistically it’d cause massive upheaval and greatly disincentivise starting new businesses and growing current ones.


No. Hiring competent accountants to help you run your company more efficiently is good. What people have an issue with is when the ultra-rich hire accountants who specialize in tax avoidance.


You should pay your fair share of tax. You shouldn't pay way more tax than you need to just because you're doing your own accounting badly or because your accountant is a moron.

A good accountant will do a lot more than deal with taxes. They'll point out how you can better finance your operation, how you can capitalize on assets you have to save on interest costs.

Managing cash-flow, expenses and accounts receivable is a very important job. If nobody's paying attention to this you can run your company aground without even knowing it.

So what I mean is if your accountant can't handle basic tax code, your accountant needs to be fired and replaced because you're probably getting killed in other departments as well.


Interestingly this was the premise behind Brownback's tax plan in Kansas:

Small businesses were being held back by their tax burden. They wanted to invest more capital in their businesses, to scale up and hire more people. They had untapped opportunities in the market that they could not pursue because they didn't have the money that they would have if their taxes were lower.

Here's how that worked out: http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/336684-kansas-legisl...

  Ratings agencies downgraded Kansas's bonds, forcing the 
  state to pay more in borrowing costs. Funding for state 
  school programs fell, and the Kansas Supreme Court ruled 
  the state government was not adequately funding schools. 
  Earlier this year, legislators grappled with a budget 
  deficit of almost $900 million.

  In 2016, voters kicked out a handful of anti-tax 
  Republicans, in favor of challengers who backed higher 
  taxes, despite Brownback's opposition.


> Small businesses were being held back by their tax burden.

It's never taxes on profits that holds small businesses back. It's all the annoying things you need to do to employ people[1]. Best thing the government could do for small businesses is provide healthcare and decent pensions for workers. Which would be two fewer things for a business owner to worry about. Having the state employment agency handle payroll would also really really help. (For a small business payroll is a big headache always)

[1] Also important is lack of access to capital and uneven income.


>Best thing the government could do for small businesses is provide healthcare and decent pensions for workers.

The lack of these things is a competitive advantage for larger companies with the resources to negotiate these benefits in behalf of their employees


What would be really great is if there were no income or payroll taxes. If you want to work for someone or hire someone you, just exchange money for labor. It would be so liberating. Maybe start income tax at $1 million like the old days and just let us lower income people get to work.


Maybe, but by the way, if you live in a state that provides state services using state taxes, your state-and-local taxes will no longer be deductible.

So the GOP bill comes off as a "fuck you" to a lot of us, since they kinda want to double-tax us for which state we live in.


Coincidentally those states often vote blue.


The GOP is beyond corrupt -- would you agree the focus should be on improving the Democratic Party to be formidable again?


Honestly the Democrats aren't much better. I can point the finger in many directions here:

1. The Clinton stranglehold (first Bill then Hilary) on the DNC was absolute to the point with Hilary off the stage there's a vacuum and no real leadership contenders. That I think was largely by design. Hilary didn't want a repeat of the 2008 nomination;

2. Obama seemed to either not care of was ineffective in shaping the party. After eight years in office it was still Clinton's party;

3. The Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is really the Democratic senator from Wall Street and is one of the biggest defenders of the carried interest tax credit for hedge fund managers.

4. The Democrats have an ageing and increasingly out-of-touch ruling class. As just one example, Diane Feinstein has announced plans to seek reelection... at age 85. This means she'd be 91 at the end of her term.

5. I'm still ot sure the Democrats fully appreciate the anti-establishment wave that swept Trump into office and almost swept Sanders into the Democratic nomination.


I think one could make the case that the Republicans are not corrupt because what you get when you elect them is exactly what it says on the tin. Their arguments may be lies, but their loyalties are not hidden.

It's corruption when you claim to be the party of fairness, the party of making sure average Americans get a good deal, but in the end you're doing the bidding of a slightly different set of billionaires.


No, they are just the definition of corruption.


Wait, are you suggesting that Trump is conning the good citizens of Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, and other red states into subsidizing Russian oligarchs? Say it ain't so...


It's the wrong angle. One should not look at corporations as the moral saviours. As Supreme Court Judge Learned Hand once said:

"Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing 851*851 sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant."[1]

Rather, it is the governments of the world we should be going at if we want this behaviour to change. But then again, it is always easier to find a fat scapegoat with a shiny appearance.

[1]https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=628482160657957... (last paragraph)


> It's the wrong angle. One should not look at corporations as the moral saviours. [...] Rather, it is the governments of the world we should be going at if we want this behaviour to change.

Let us pretend that corporations have no influence over laws and governments, and merely play a game they had no hand in designing.


So the corporation is still the symptom.

What we should be doing is insulating the government from outside influence.


Let us try something impossible in order to avoid questioning our faith in corporations.

In reality, it's impossible to build a thriving society on the expectation that no one should act morally. We should definitely hold our corporations accountable for being dodgy and exploit rather than report perceived problems.


> we should be doing is insulating the government from outside influence.

We should be insulating it from the influence of money, not of voters. The influence of voters is the foundation of democracy and legitimate government.


This seems impossible as long as people love money it will be a powerful tool that can exert influence over politicians one way or another.


Of course we can't do it perfectly. We can't eliminate murder either. But we can greatly reduce it.


A government insulated from outside influence no longer governs.


Just because politicians stop creating opportunities for mega-corps and wealthy individuals to gain unfair advantages in the economy doesn't stop them from writing all legislation.

Corporations/wealthy individuals can't exploit power which doesn't exist. Adding more complexity and protections to prevent this has repeatedly failed and usually just creates more loopholes, the solution is simplification of new laws and reduction of old poorly written laws (adding more complexity has historically been a one way street in modern government: https://i.imgur.com/pe64eNd.png).

And if lawmakers can't write regulations, legislation, or tax policy which doesn't give particular people/organizations an advantage, by side effect or directly, then they shouldn't write them at all - or just accept that there will be people who sidestep it.

But it's ridiculous to say this will prevent politicians from governing. Yes, it will limit the types of legislation and force them to consider the full implications, but that's a good thing.

This is why people support things like basic income and flat tax. Removing complexity, bureaucracy, and direct government involvement in picking winners/losers. Everyone knows the devil is in the details when you're trying to circumvent a system or take advantage of it.


Tangential: interesting how, through using a weird vertical scale, the image you linked to weakens its own point. I suppose if the Y axis was consistent, it wouldn't look as if tax law expansion slowed down significantly in recent times.


Agreed, I hate logarithmic graphs, as they can be highly manipulative, but this one was even worse as it would be more persuasive if it didn't oddly divide the years. I did in fact look for a better one before I linked to it but I couldn't find one. I should make my own version one day...


Yes. I would call that the textbook definition of tyranny.

For all the problems special interest lobbying brings, it's far better than the alternative.


It's not that representatives should isolated from all influence, just influence aside the electorate's.


I don't understand. What do you mean by this?


That would be any dictatorship government. How are they doing?


Bingo. This a million Times.


What exactly did land of opportunity mean to you?

Some people are playing by a more effective set of rules. You were sold a moral paradigm to stuff government coffers and bought it without even questioning how public services could be funded. Others see the moral relativity and aspire to adapt and do.


Oh, but you weren't sold a moral paradigm to stuff corporate coffers? Your argument rests on the premise that you're a free thinker and everyone else is brainwashed. This conceit seems to be very common among libertarians.


Governments are bound by the international market of other governments. They have to balance their taxation morality claims with incentivizing investment to have anything to tax at all.

They’ve missed that balance by a long shot. Oops.

Some places have attractive laws that attract investment. Some people lobbied for those specific laws and wrote them themselves. Think about how that happens. I would do the same as soon as some area breaks away into a new sovereign territory, separatists are too emotional to think about corporate income tax rates, ask for 0% and you’ll get it.


Napoleon says "no". You do that and then one day 300000 people show up with guns. The lesson of modernity is that citizen armies beat all other forces hands down every time; contractors may be incredibly skilled but at the end of the day they are not fighting for the future. This was what the Prussians found and the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Taxation isn't about morality, it's about functionality. It's about economic efficiency and social management.


and when the masses come to expropriate the wealth of the rich and form their own sets of governances, they'll still only get to get what is on shore.


If we decide corporations have no obligation to be moral or decent, they naturally will behave as we expect. If we expect and demand (and punish the absence of) more, we can get more. Corporations are made up of people, and people are fully capable of not committing rampant constant fraud.

Spending thousands of dollars to avoid their moral tax obligations instead of paying is in my view fraud and corruption; the fact that it is possible with an army of accountants and massive resources dedicated to tiny loopholes is really of no importance when we weight the ethical or moral judgements of these actions: if you spend millions on lawyers to devise a clever loophole that lets you murder someone legally you are still a murderer. There's a (bad) argument to be made that for consistency's sake we cannot prosecute you under the current laws, but there's no argument that you're not a monster.

Refusing to pay taxes is stealing from the poor (and the general public) who rely on government services; you are destroying the roads, parks, annihilating schools and universities, preventing people from getting healthcare they need to survive, stealing from children, the homeless, the elderly and the disabled, helping criminals by defunding the police and helping burn people and property by defunding fire departments.

If your job is to find tax loopholes for corporations, you are committing fraud even if our current legal system is written by people who think fraud is okay so long as it's a CPA on behalf of a massive corporation doing it. The fact that some judges have decided this is okay does not mean that it actually is.


Do you leave the standard deduction on the table? Because this is what you’re asking corporations to do: not take the opportunities to reduce tax liability that we provide them.

How about let’s raise taxes instead.


Both. Simpler (potentially higher, but just more enforcable) tax would be good. On the other hand it's not about standard deductions - if an accountant comes to the corp with "we figured out this crazy loophole, we'll call it double Irish with a Dutch sandwich", then yeah, I think the corp should step back. (and the tax office should charge them for taking a piss)


Refusing to pay taxes is stealing?! I am afraid you have this backwards: taxes are simple robbery.


Taxes are the rent you pay to live in the society you live in.


Do I have a choice? If not, then I am robbed.

I don’t disagree with the idea of taxes, just with the way they are stolen from me and with most of the purposes they are used for.


You do. You can choose to not live in society. Go live in the jungle, or buy a raft and jump onto the sea; no one will follow you to tax you.

Of course, you won't do this, cause you like living with people. You like living in cities but cities cannot run without roads, piers, planning, etc. And you like being safe, knowing if people hurt you or take your stuff they'll be punished, if your house catches on fire it'll be turned off, and if you're out late at night the sidewalk will be lit so you can find your way back home.

You have the choice, it just doesn't seem like one because not living in society is just not worth it.


That is the choice of giving up my money, or dying - during a robbery.

I am talking about the choice I have in any free marked: where to spend my money and what to get in exchange. I have none of that when it comes to over half of my revenue: my taxes.


You have a huge amount of choice in your taxes; you can vote, run for office, and advocate for political positions. You have zero choice in your economic situation (if you are 99% of people) since most financial choices are made for you by large companies that you have zero stake in or control over.

Is there a difference between someone pointing a gun at your head and saying 'your money or your life' and a company that buys all the water in your region and withholds it saying 'your money or your life'? No.


Have you voted? How much did your vote count? Did you run for office? How much change did you manage to bring?

In a company you can also buy shares, vote at board meeting or get a job in and change it from the inside.

But that is not the freedom of choice I am talking about. That is a fake choice since it is too difficult, requiring you to change your entire life.

What I am talking about is the simple choice of free market: choosing who to give your money and for what services.

I do not intend to give up the government services, I just want to be able to transparently select the provider and not have to buy them in bulk, bundled together.


>But that is not the freedom of choice I am talking about. That is a fake choice since it is too difficult, requiring you to change your entire life. What I am talking about is the simple choice of free market: choosing who to give your money and for what services.

Sure -- but at the same time, I bought a product at walmart five years ago, then I decided not to buy there anymore. Why hasn't walmart changed its business practices? I think you're right to say my vote means nearly nothing, but you are missing the point that my purchase means even less. Votes are at least distributed one vote one person; if you accept the financial scheme for decision making you are literally just giving all the power to people who are currently wealthy explicitly.

>What I am talking about is the simple choice of free market: choosing who to give your money and for what services.

This is a meaningless choice that only the wealthy can make in the first place.

>I do not intend to give up the government services, I just want to be able to transparently select the provider and not have to buy them in bulk, bundled together.

I'm not sure what you mean here -- you want government services, but you also want to transparently select the provider. For government services, the government is the provider.


> That is a fake choice since it is too difficult, requiring you to change your entire life.

Yeah, the government and the entire social system can change much more easily!


You can also move somewhere with lower taxes; say Mongolia. It's a 10% flat rate there iirc.

My guess is you like living where you do -- and it great part it's thanks to the taxes you pay.


You guess wrong. My country is crappy run by a corrupt, inept government. My tax money have the worst ROI of all my spendings.

Have you actually tried to change citizenship? I did it once (and then back). It is a long, gruesome process where you change a monopoly with another. It takes years and it's not always an option. Try giving this "advice" to the people of Cuba, Venezuela or N Korea.


>>That is the choice of giving up my money, or dying - during a robbery.

Why do you believe living in the jungle will result in dying? Our ancestors did it, and many people manage to do it today.

It wouldn't be easy of course, especially if you're so used to your creature comforts that you lack basic survival skills, but it's definitely not a death sentence.


There are no jungles around where I live. Just forests. And they all belong to the government.

My grad parents tried living off their land, but during a time when the government raised the taxes to impossible levels they couldn’t pay and the government came down on them - hard. They lost it all but survived. Others weren’t so lucky.


>>There are no jungles around where I live. Just forests. And they all belong to the government.

You can live on government land. You just have to move at least 25 miles every 14 days. So basically a nomadic lifestyle. It's doable. People have done it and still do it today.


move to a country/region with no taxes.

If you want the benefits of a country that has decided to charge people to live there, then you have to pay - same if you want the benefits of membership of a club.


I don’t know of any place without taxes, do you? Through force, governments carved up the planet and each became a local monopoly in its own region.

Totally unlike a club, where you have the benefit of choice. Free market vs monopoly, you know.


Move to Antarctica. I doubt anyone will notice. Live on a boat in the ocean.

Move to a Caribbean island like Anguilla or Cayman, or the gulf like Kuwait or Dubai or Qatar

Hong Kong, Syria, Paraguay have low tax too


All those places have taxes. Low taxes, but they have them.

What you don't seem to understand is that I am not arguing against taxes themselves. Or even high taxes. Of course I would pay lots of money to partake in civilized society and its services.

What I want is free market competition for how my taxes are spent and those services received. Because with the current monopoly the government has no reason to improve in any way and instead it takes my taxes and uses them as they see fit - mostly to ensure their reelection.

It takes tremendous amounts of money and gives me horrid services. And they have the gall to tell me that this is the only way and I don't need or deserve any other choice! That, in my book, is stealing.

Imagine please that there was a smartphone tax. You'd pay a certain amount a year and you'd get a single, government issued smartphone. Compare that with the current free-market solution. Which one is better, which one would you prefer?

Now apply that thinking to all other government services. That is my whole point.


Antactica or boat on ocean is zero tax. Places like Dubai, Kuwait, etc all report zero direct personal taxes. There are 190 countries, and far more sub-country areas with differing tax policies (including in the US). That's an enormous choice.

I'm with BT for my ISP. I have a free market, I can move to providers from A&A to Zen. I don't have the ability to change what BT provide.

Lets take your smartphone example. I don't like what Apple have done in recent IOS versions (or mac laptops), so I can use an android phone or a lenovo laptop, just as I can move to Dubai, or Antarctica.

I have more choice in where to live than in ISPs or Phones.


So what about those natural monopolies? Or you want competition between sewage providers?

It seems like you are not accepting the simple observation that free market cannot be applied to everything. Nothing is universal magic bullet ...


What you are asking for is vigiliantism and extralegal actions against corporate persons and the people that make up these corporations. There's a lot of reasons why those things are considered pretty bad.

I also find it interesting that you say:

"Corporations are made up of people, and people are fully capable of not committing rampant constant fraud."

What are our local, state, and federal governments made up of, then - the same organizations that don't close loopholes and set tax code properly to serve the greater interest? Are these organizations not made of people?


>What are our local, state, and federal governments made up of, then - the same organizations that don't close loopholes and set tax code properly to serve the greater interest? Are these organizations not made of people?

Yes, they are. But going out of your way to hire thousands of attorneys to find loopholes is obvious explicit fraud. Writing a tax code and possibly missing something is a natural human error. "Corporate persons" do not exist -- they are a legal fiction invented to shield corporate criminals from liability.

Also, why do you think I have low expectations of my government? I expect them to try their best to prevent fraud just as I expect corporations to do their best to avoid committing it.


GP made no such call to extralegal action. Don't make false allegations like that please.


I suppose it's easier to pressure governments to change what's going on when we have journalists willing to tell us what's going on.

When it comes to reporting information obtained from "secrecy jurisdictions", I think a standard of "if it's not illegal to report, it's OK to report" is reasonable.

After all, that's the same standard you're advocating for managing your tax affairs.


Wasn’t the reporter behind the Panama Papers killed by a car bomb?



There is a misunderstanding: Daphne Caruana Galizia was the leading journalist on the Panama Papers in Malta.

The main source for the PP revelations was the Süddeutsche Zeitung (same guys as this time) and lot of other people were involved all over the world; Caruana Galizia was only one of them, not "the" person.

As far as I know, no reporter from the SZ, the Guardian and other ICIJ members was harmed after the PP revelations. Malta is a very shady place, very close to Southern Italy for political culture.


s/the/a/

Panama Papers and the ICIJ are a very large effort. But yes, a Maltese reporter, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who worked on Panama Papers (about 80 reporters in total) was assassinated by car bomb in Malta last month.

ICIJ are now over 200 journalists.

https://www.icij.org/blog/2017/10/investigative-malta-journa...


> It's the wrong angle. One should not look at corporations as the moral saviours.

It's too late. You're arguing a return to the past, "money is just money, corporations are just doing what's in their self interest."

That's still the dominant ideology, but it's on the wane.

It will be replaced when cash is replaced. Cash will be replaced by bonds. I won't pay McDonalds in cash for a burger, I will pay them in a bond specifically to be disbursed according to how I want the money to be disbursed. Yes more burgers. Yes advertise all you want. No, this money may not be spent on rainforest destruction. If they misuse funds, the bond will be broken and they'll be subject to penalties. Intentionality will reach forward and back across the disbursement boundary. Cash will die.

Capitalists have always talked about cash as if it had the color of a bond, "vote with your dollars" and that kind of thing. And repeat purchases do start to act like a bond. If I'm a large repeat customer and I complain, the business is likely to respond.

But that setup, where the bond is just implicit in the revenue stream, inevitably caters to the wealthy. If you're a big fish, your cash is treated as a bond. If you're a small fish, it's treated as cash.

Digital currencies will allow us to actually pay for small transactions with microbonds, giving much more power to small purchasers.


Interesting idea. You have resources talking about this in more detail?


Ethereum and the idea of smart contracts can be an initiative towards this end.


Ethereum doesn't control the rainforest. Pure information can't


How are you going to persuade large vendors to accept your microbonds? It's an interesting take, but we've had competitive currencies in the past and they have their own problems. I'd like to persuaded of this, links are fine too.


McDonald's doesn't want to deal with your nonsense. If you don't have proper fiat currency to give them they'll tell you to go buy your food somewhere else.


"wrong angle"? :) sure, maybe we should focus on why only 0.001% of the population can play this pay-less-taxes-with-a-shell-corporation-in-a-tax-haven game...


Well, it's simple: the more effort you put at it, the better your results in this game. Effort == money (through using services of specialists), and so the more money you can spend on it, the more you can avoid taxes.

Sounds unfixable in general; the only thing you can adjust is severity of the phenomenon (e.g. less complexity in tax laws == less loopholes to exploit == cost/benefit curve on tax evasion grows slower).


But corporations do like to paint themselves as moral and fighting for you! Another thing is why people believe in it...

All in all, there are many things that are not illegal to do, but definitely immoral. Such tax schemes sure are immoral in my eyes, I'm a hard-core capitalist, but no way your average Joe stands a chance at "optimizing" taxes. People need to call out these companies more, but it's easy to deceive the people. Apple felt the clock has shifted and its beneficial to them and say supportive things of LGBT issues and people truly believe they are fighting for the average man.


> Such tax schemes sure are immoral in my eyes, I'm a hard-core capitalist, but no way your average Joe stands a chance at "optimizing" taxes.

This rather shows that the tax system is far too complicated, so that only really rich people can "afford" (i.e. pay the necessary apparatus of lawyers, tax experts etc.) to use the loopholes. Rather tell your government to radically simplify it with the long-term goal that one even can formulate "correctness proofs" that some kinds of loopholes simply do not exist etc.


You invoked morality. The moral calculus is pretty clear to me: I’ll take the gay loving advancer of technology over governments stealing money to use it to blow up people any day.

Apple has the moral high ground, and that ground is higher the less taxes they pay.

Remember military spending is far more than roads.


Between the strip mining to supply the factories, and the factory conditions in China that are Apple in everthing but name, Apple may still be able to claim a moral high ground over the government that keeps Guantanamo Bay still open, but that's not a very high bar.


Apple only exists because taxes - yes, including military spending - allows them to exist. You don't have high-tech corporations in failed states. Stable society, highly-educated people, solid economy - all of this is enabled and secured by a well-functioning state.


You say it as if Russian oligarchs don't kill people, or corporations don't kill people. They have and do.


Military spending got you the Internet, GPS, jet engines, microwave ovens and a million more things that you take for granted ...


And the roads the parent commenter speaks of... remember Eisenhower's highway system was built as part of national defense.

And without military conflict over the last 1 million years, human evolution would not be something to be admired. But when we have in front of us the longest military conflict in US history being against loosely organized foot soldiers living in tents, something is clearly wrong.

If we look at how great thinkers had to tease out right answers from wrong--Tesla for example had a lot of wrong ideas and bad experiments, but eventually he came across brilliance.

The benefits we see here from military conflict all came from real competition, and the troubles we can see here come from a consolidation of power under a global plutocracy that is consolidating power across the globe.


No, government spending got us super expensive connections between a handful of universities. Free markets took that and brought it as the internet to our doors.

Military invented expensive microwave radar. Free markets turned it into $100 kitchen appliances.

The government put satellites on orbit at tremendous cost for military positioning system. Free markets put Waze driving directions on my phone.

Yes, we have a bunch of expensive things due to government spending. Imagine how many more we would've had and how much cheaper if free markets were allowed to create them...


Internet? Everybody with 2 or more computers tried to connect them together. Without the internet we'd have BIX, FidoNet, Compuserve, Prodigy, MCImail, RBBS, or any of innumerable other schemes to network computers.

Jet engines? Governments refused to fund jet engine development until they were confronted with FLYING jet aircraft. This happened in both England and Germany. The US government ordered Lockheed to stop working on jet engines and concentrate on piston engines.


You might want to think about what it was that, in a highly-competitive landscape of networking options, lead to TCP/IP and BGP succeeding where other options didn't.

I've just unearthed my copy of The Matrix, John S. Quarterman's exploration of "computer networks and conferencing systems worldwide". It was published in 1990, just on the cusp of the breakout of the Internet (there's a late 1990s revised edition I've not seen).

It covers a lot of ground. Not of much practical use at this point, but a phenomenal historical document: Layers & protocols, management protocols, administration. And the networks!

AQ, HEPnet, PHYSNET, BITNET, USENET, UUCP, FidoNet, Ean, VNETT, XEROX Internet, EASYnet, Tandem, HP Internet, UUNET, DASnet, CUNYVM, CERN, EUnet, FNET, ARISTOTE, SMARTIX, REUNIR, Minitel, Dnet, DFN, AGFNET, BELWU, ARIADNE, HEANET, INFNET, SURFnet, Enet, JANET, UKnet, GreeNet, COSMOS, NORDUnet, DENet, DKnet, ....

(Nothing about WWW or Gopher though. Al Gore is mentioned.)

On the one hand, one network would have had to emerge. But on the other, why the Internet?


> why the Internet?

You could also ask why (privately developed) Ethernet, instead of the other LAN protocols like Token Ring. One possible answer is government is an elephant and has the power to push their standards - perhaps due to algore.

That's an interesting question, but is beside my point. My point is to counter the notion that without government funding, we wouldn't have a global network, that nobody would have connected computers together.


And I'll suggest that your response above points strongly at a probable explanation: the U.S. government as a single "consumer" in this case, was able to force standards adoption.

Hardly the first time that's happened. Look to the establishment of the US Bureau of Standards (by Herbert Hoover, as Secretary of Commerce), the standardisation of fasteners, plumbing, railroads, electrical components, and transmissions, among other elements. The US Navy's transport needs in Vietnam resulted in the marine shipping industry standardising on the "20 foot equivalent" standard cargo container (the concept itself had been kicked around for decades).

There are numerous other document, data, signage, fabrication, materials, commodity, etc., standards established by the US Federal (and at times, state) governments.

It's a very powerful role. One that seems lacking of the past two decades or so.


Internet? Everybody with 2 or more computers tried to connect them together.

Those computers developed from the code-breaking machinery in WW2 you mean?


The thing is, in total war the military uses all resources—people, money, ideas. Without the World Wars, who knows how technology would've progresses on it's own—since we can't compare it's disingenuous to say it's only because of these wars.


But we know that many different networks were created. The idea we would not have a global network without the internet is false by inspection (FidoNet was global).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FidoNet


The code breaking machinery was not the internet. Besides, the code breaking machinery relied on tubes (and later, transistors) both developed by the free market.


Anyone with less than half the money the militars spend should had "got" me all those things.

Militars have that awful economic drag building expensive things just to blow them in some far away place without any return.


Anyone with less than half the money the militars spend should had "got" me all those things.

But they didn't. As the old saying goes, the Swiss had peace for 500 years and all they invented was the cuckoo clock.


The quote:

"You know what the fellow said—in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, and they had 500 years of democracy and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

The Third Man (1949)


The terms "capitalism" and for that matter "communism" are labels that have lost almost all meaning. The USSR was a dictatorship as is Russia today. "Capitalism" was a term coined by Karl Marx as a critique of 19th century industrial England. Calling yourself a "capitalist" is like calling yourself a "alienist". It's an archaic term and imprecise at best.


Don’t do that. We know exactly what capitalism is and what communism is. Some of us lived under both.

And the fact that communism is the favorite system of dictatorship is no coincidence: communism itself is an autocracy.


I believe you are misinformed. You're describing "communist dictatorship". There are other forms of Communism in the world. From the Israeli Kibbutz to the Mondragón Corporation, the gamut of communism as implemented is wide.


Is there any other form of communism than dictatorial?

Dictate number 0 of communism is: you cannot leave. Cause of you could, all productive people would flee instantly.

That, in my book, makes is a dictatorship.


History says that there is (at least) one counter example : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Catalonia

In fact, people flocked to it.


> Is there any other form of communism than dictatorial?

He just gave you two examples.


The USSR loved to use communist slogans but the implementation was pure autocracy.


If you truly understand communism you see that is can only be implemented as an autocracy...


Are you even listening to what people are telling you here?


All forms of government, historically, lead to autocracy.


Terms and their meanings evolve over time to match usage.


When the general usage gets dumber and dumber, the terms should be avoided to retain precision in discussion.


Whether they're enforced exactions of voluntary contributions is not the Court's call to make. Some people are happy to pay their taxes, recognizing them as the perfectly reasonable cost of living in a functioning civil society (which, not coincidentally, is seen as the basis of their security and prosperity).

Others, for whom this connection may not be so clear, take a more exploitative view of the public sphere, in which their own role is all take and no give. They may see taxation as forced extraction, but that view is hardly shared by everyone. Moreover, were they allowed to act on this view freely, the public sphere would surely collapse - which a clear majority clearly recognizes.

In this regard, tax law is no different from laws against, say, murder. Most people are internally resistant to the thought of killing others. But the law still exists because "most" isn't "all". In cases of extreme anti-social behavior, the few - if allowed to run riot - really can secure tyrannical domination of the many (classic example: the mob in Sicily).


Learned Hand was surprisingly never a Supreme Court justice. He's been quoted by the Supreme Court justices more than any other lower-level judge, however. He served mostly in federal appeals court.


Which is more likely to "go after" the queen of England? The UK government, or the UK people?

I would say the latter, which is why it's the correct angle in this case.


The fact that she put money in an offshore investment fund doesn't mean she's avoiding UK tax. The same investment could be structured through a UK structure with the same tax outcome.


Let me be extremely critical here: there is moral judgement in the quote while it argues against that. That taxes would be enforced exactions, in lieu of laws, goes counter to the common moniker to follow the spirit of the law. To follow the law by the letter might be a bare necessity eventually, that can't support the moral argument. The essence of the quote is a warning of false analogy that's pretty much in line with a liberal capitalism, and also from analogy in law in general. But it's not inline with a liberal rule reading, especially as unforseen cases were meant to be covered in hindsight.

Tax law is terribly verbose to not miss a cases, which is a good thing for the intention of giving everyone a fair warning so to speak, and it is frequently changed to cover it's bases.

If the comment really amounts to an attack on case law, I fully agree. And it's an understandable thought insofar he's in the position to have to sift through it the most, or at least a lot, I guess.

edit: only if the frequency of changes is not enough or not exact, for whichever reason, that might introduce impedance mismatch here and there.


on the other hand, because a judicial corrective can happen quicker with fewer peole involved, it has upsides, too.


Can we just bury this facile argument? Corporations spend a fortune on lobbying and enjoy huge asymmetrical advances. These facts are hardly obscure, and to wax pious without acknowledging their existence borders on bad faith.


Aka "don't hate the player, hate the game"


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