19A008 Whose Labor is it, Anyway? by Jim Davies, 2/19/2019    


Sometimes an Internet search goes wrong, because the clever algorithms on the other side of our keyboards don't quite understand what we requested. I use Ixquick (now renamed Startpage.com) because it promises privacy. It's pretty good. But the other day I was nosing around for something about tax, and it offered me an article headed No it's not your money: why taxation isn't theft. That, I just had to read!

Its author is Philip Goff, Professor of Philosophy at the Central European University - more on that below. He writes "There is no sense in which you have a right to your pre-tax income"! and makes two arguments, saying that there can be only two ways to address the matter: legal, and moral. Fair enough.

Legal: suppose I write Jim's Law, to say that half of your money belongs to me. On that premise, half your money does certainly belong to me; there can be no argument, it's a truism. It's the Law! You can read it, in black and white! But that undeniable fact adds nothing, alas, to our understanding of the subject, because Jim's Law has no teeth. In order for it to take practical effect, I need a gun, or other irresistible weapon. Hence, a general principle:

Law = nothing
Law plus force = everything.

Consequently the "Law" part is irrelevant, and can be removed from the equations. In the "legal" arena, only force matters. And by a most curious omission, when presenting his "legal" argument Professor Goff doesn't mention the word "force", or any synonym. Already, we might suspect he is just slightly less than objective and unbiased.

Moral: here's where Goff gets really interesting: he has the audacity to argue from a moral premise that what you earn is not your own! Fantastic! It goes like this: your earnings are whatever the market threw up, and since the market is obviously arbitrary and unfair, they must be corrected. Therefore, they aren't yours, not even the "pre-tax" earnings. He gives an example: a banker earns many times what an oncologist earns, so it's clearly wrong, immoral. Ha!

Take the second bit of that first: the use of the term "pre-tax earnings." Cleverly but correctly, Goff points out that his Rightist adversaries use the same term. However, doing so gives away the farm. If they concede that taxation rightfully exists, the only debate can be about its size; if it's 50% today it can be 75% or 100% tomorrow. This is the great weakness of the Conservatives' position; their dirty little secret is that they do actually want some government, and knowing full well that it could only be funded by compulsion, they therefore want some taxation. Less, perhaps, than their Socialist rivals, but some nonetheless. And so they abandon the high moral ground, and are lost.

Consider then the Professor's argument about the market and its fairness. He is assuming, falsely, that present-day earnings (of bankers, cancer doctors...) is set by the labor market. That's far from true; the market is heavily distorted by government intervention. Top-rank bankers, for example, are vitally important to government because of its fractional-reserve laws and its dependence on bank cooperation in funding the Feds' $21 trillion debt. In the coming zero government society, bankers will be warehouse managers and sometimes lenders; the latter will earn good money by making sound loan judgments, the former will make somewhat less because the skill of guarding safes is more readily available.

Even so, let's join him and suppose that earnings are, more or less, set by market forces. In that case, every wage and salary is perfectly optimized; for that is what markets do, by definition, and if Goff doesn't understand that he should have taken a short course in Economics before accepting his chair of Philosophy. All being voluntary, market transactions (eg job acceptances) occur only if equally satisfactory to both parties. Accordingly, everyone is satisfied with his pay. That doesn't preclude ambition; if a surgeon sees a better opportunity as a banker, he may hasten to brush up his banking skills and, after fulfilling his contractual obligations, leave his job and take the other; such transfers will be frequent and prices will adjust to balance supply and demand.

But at any one moment, to repeat: nobody is dissatisfied, that would be impossible. An "unfair market" is an oxymoron, it cannot happen. Prof. Goff's premise that the labor market produces unfairness is totally false. Indeed, a free market is the only way to produce fairness in the labor or any other market; for if a third party intervenes with force, one or the other of the only two parties concerned will be over-ruled, disappointed, frustrated. That's not fair.

Both the legal and moral reasonings Prof. Goff uses, therefore, fall flat. He is completely wrong, his position is wholly without merit. Why, we may wonder, would an apparently intelligent academic use them, when that guy with a bushy beard frenetically spewing falsehoods onto paper in a London garret has been dead for 135 years? A clue can be found in Goff's employer.

The Central European University is a recent foundation by one George Soros, located in his birthplace city of Budapest. Soros is a skilled financier who plays the currency markets, and once (in 1992) famously made a billion dollars by shorting the British Pound while that government was trying to prop up its value. He is one of the most influential socialists extant. How ironic, that he should gain such wealth because the UK government intervened to prevent the free operation of the currency market. It makes one wonder whether that whole episode was rigged, so as to transfer funds to one who would promote a failed and discredited philosophy.

So, is all of what you earn, rightfully yours to keep? - Of course, and in the ZGS you'll actually keep it. Earnings are by contract voluntarily exchanged for your labor, and your labor is an integral component of your self, and your self is absolutely yours by the self-ownership axiom. Any philosophy or economic or social theory not built on that foundation is bunk.

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