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Yorick "Yozz" Cool
13 February 2010 @ 06:00 pm

Taxation is so widespread nowadays people just think anybody should think it is a good idea, irrespective of one’s specific beliefs. I hold this to be false, and suggest that belief in taxation (and it’s corollaries such as redistribution and governmental programs) actually relies on a few underlying assumptions people are not aware of. Most interestingly, if asked directly about these underlying beliefs, most people would disagree with them. Propaganda and brainwashing are very efficient…

Assumption n°1: Consequentialism

Taxation is theft. There’s no rational denying it. In fact, revenue taxation is literal slavery. Indeed, revenue generated by work performed by one person is directly taken by somebody else. And, let’s not forget, this is done under the threat of force – the risk of prison looms for whomever chooses not to pay taxes.

As such, taxation is appropriation of one’s property irrespective of one’s own willingness to give it. That’s theft in my book.

Of course, some will object that they are happy to pay taxes. Strangely, none of the people I have met professing such happiness have taken me up on my offer that they pay mine. I would argue they are just used to it and buy into tax justifications rather than actually being happy about paying taxes.

In any case, even if they are genuinely happy to pay taxes, there’s no changing the fact that they incur legal penalties, including being deprived of their freedom, if they were to not pay taxes. Which still makes that theft.

But, our happy tax payers have a key argument up their sleeve to justify why I should pay taxes despite being unhappy about it and, even better justify the way the government taxes people under threat.

That argument is all the wonderful things government does with my money. “Look, maybe taking your money by force isn’t cool, but it goes to poor people via redistribution”, their argument goes. The only way one can seriously defend this argument is by ascribing to consequentialism. Now, the funny thing about this, is that many happy taxpayers would feel insulted if you told them one of their core beliefs is “the end justifies the means”. But ultimately, that’s what consequentialism is all about.

I personally consider consequentialism a very dangerous form of ethic. And so do those people too, usually, but still…

Assumption n° 2: Materialism

Now, let’s imagine somebody who is fine with being labeled a consequentialist – after all this is a respected philosophy. This person is basically holding that infringing one person’s property rights is ok to materially help out somebody else. After all, all you can ever do with money is spend it. Whether it’s the government who spends it directly “for the common good” (whatever that is), or whether the government give it to somebody they deem worthy of receiving the boon and who will then spend it, all this money can ever do is enhance material wellbeing.

Well, look at that, these happy taxpayers definitely have a thing for money and all things material now don’t they? A very materialistic outlook I’d say.

Yet I’m the greedy materialist in their eyes. Because I care about stuff like a person’s rights and freedom. Go figure.

Assumption n° 3: Magical misanthropy

Now of course, the crux of the belief in taxation is that governments will spend the money well, for the general good, whereas people will only do evil, or at least useless stuff with money. Simply put, people cannot be trusted to care for others. But the government can.

Let me spell it out. The government is made of people. If you can’t trust people, you can’t trust the government. Period. Wiggle as you will, there’s no way around it. A government makes laws, and can amend the constitution (whether it actually takes the Parliament, the government, a mix of both or special majorities is totally irrelevant). So there are no intangible rules that will preclude these people from doing wrong. Just look at the evolution of the USA. A country founded by enlightened minds, with a very decent Constitution that purposefully included checks and balances to avoid powers overstepping.

This is the country that gave us Hiroshima. Guantanamo Bay. McCarthyism. And the list goes on.

Of course, other countries are no better. As a side-note, I am far from being anti-american, if anyone was having doubts – the failure of the US just hurts me more than the failure of other countries precisely because it is the one country that had the most promise at it’s inception.

But all the evidence of governments being full of only human people prone to all the errors mistakes and vices of humanity doesn’t stop our happy taxpayers to somehow believe that a government will do better than your average population.

People are bad, but somehow, governments will be good, despite evidence to the contrary. Magic time!

Assumption n°4: History teaches us nothing, and is probably not true

This one is necessary for assumption 3 to “hold”. See, the problem with history is that it is full of annoying things called facts which derail any attempt to argue in favor of governments. Taxes are necessary, say our happy taxpayers, because the government needs to do it’s job. The annoying thing about history is that it teaches that nothing – absolutely nothing – the government does was the government’s job in the first place. In other words, everything the government does was started out by the private sector. There is no single exception (except, arguably – you guessed, didn’t you? – taxation).

Education? Invented by the Church. Roads? Invented by peasantry. Money? Invented by merchants. Transportation? Invented by, well, lots of people, but mostly merchants. Structurally helping the poor? Invented by the Church (helping the poor occasionally has always existed). Medical science? Invented by scientists. Insurance? Invented by banks, for merchants. Funding research? Invented by patrons of the arts. Justice? Well, that’s a debatable one, but there’s definitely a religious aspect to most early legal systems, and common law needs no government (elected judges anyone?), not to mention the instances of areas with no formal government which do have legal systems (tribal justice relying on elders who do not otherwise govern springs to mind). The list goes on.

Oops, yeah, you got me. There is one thing. Large scale war & conscription. That’s a pure government invention.

Funnily enough, some of the few things (not talking public services as I was in the paragraph above) the government happened to actually invent only started to take off and produce societal benefits once it started being out of the hands of governments. The interwebs obviously spring to mind .

Yet, for some reason, our happy taxpayers hold, as others would a sacred truth, that with no government, we would not know all these things, and that these services would not be produced. Hence, history teaches us nothing, and is probably not true.

In a nutshell

While I am routinely labeled immoral, an egoist, a dreamer, ignorant or a mix of any of those, I will from now on refer to happy taxpayers as consequentialist, misanthropic, ignorant materialists.

Or not. Quite a long label really. But still, you get my point.

Freely yours,

 
 
Yorick "Yozz" Cool
01 March 2007 @ 05:51 am
For various reasons, I’ve been thinking about the links and differences between conservatism and libertarianism. They are many, and the question is complex.

However, when it all comes down to it, it seems to me there is one very simple reason why conservatism and libertarianism conflict. The main tenet of conservatism is to try to change things as less as possible, lest you make things worse. Although it is rarely explicitly stated, this means conservatives are fairly content with the current situation. Oh, sure, they might have their grumbles about this or that, but for them, the overall score is good. Hence, refusal to change: they fear the unseen/unknown consequences of the chage will worsen things rather than improve them.

Although one can appreciate this necessary caution around political action and social tinkering, a libertarian can’t conform to this description for a very simple reason. The present day situation is totally unacceptable to the libertarian, and he sees precious little going well. Liberty is attacked from everywhere. State power is ever increasing, and individual freedom is becoming a joke. Nothing much to be “preserved” there for the libertarian. Nothing worth tolerating the permanent injustice and infringement of peopls’s rights anyway.

At the end of the day, it seems the conservative is more easily satisfied than the libertarian.

 
 
Current Mood: sicksick
 
 
Yorick "Yozz" Cool
25 February 2007 @ 09:41 pm
Ok, I’ve been wanting to come back for a little while, well here I am, with a trackback to my good friend Aristophane Triboulet’s blog, and to a specific post of utmost importance"...

I’m still laughing...

[EDIT]Crap, that was supposed to be a trackback, but semingly LJ doesn't support that.

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Current Mood: amusedamused
 
 
Yorick "Yozz" Cool
24 November 2006 @ 05:42 am
Here’s a European Constitution I would vote for. There are two sentences I’m not very excited about (will you guess which ones, smart reader?), but it’s quite good overall.

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Current Mood: bitchyradical
Current Music: Type O Negative - Blood and fire
 
 
Yorick "Yozz" Cool
23 November 2006 @ 06:00 am
We just saw The Woodsman, a 2004 movie by Nicole Kassell starring Kevin Bacon. It’s pretty dark, as it’s subject matter mandates: it’s the story of a pedophile who tries to get back to an ordinary life after having spent 12 years in jail.

I won’t go into too much detail about the plot in order not to give it away. But it is very subtle, and brilliantly told. The direction is pretty laid back, but nicely emphasizes the feelings and moods of the movie. It very aptly relates the evolutions of the characters and their feelings. The treatment of themes such as suspicion and self-doubt is really excellent.

The acting is very good, too. Kevin Bacon is magnificent as the central character. He’s very good at doing a brooding character fighting his demons, and depicts his feelings with few words and yet much expressiveness. The other actors are also quite good, but less impressive.

With such a subject matter, it would have been easy to go astray and overdo things, but it is very well treated. Also, although obviously not a light movie, it is not sickening. Mysterious skin, another 2004 movie about pedophilia was also very good, but was hands down the hardest film I ever saw (but I still recommend it). Not so here.

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Current Mood: sleepysleepy
 
 
 
Yorick "Yozz" Cool
19 November 2006 @ 07:00 pm

A discussion with a colleague made me come back to my views on
feminism and what should be done - or not - for women in today’s
world. Here are my conclusions - nothing really new actually, just a
synthesis of my positions.



Feminism has a funny history, and knowing a bit about it helps to
understand what is a good attitude to help women get the attention
they deserve - but not more.



Initially, feminism started out to restore lost equality between
genders. In a day when a woman was socially a nothing, and men were the
only ones that mattered, the idea was basically to say “hey, we matter
too, there’s no reason we should be left behind”. That was a very
legitimate aim, and one can only approve it.



In time, this aim was reached, albeit slowly. Political and legal
equality ensued. Women are, nowadays, equal to men, in rights. Which
is a good thing (tm).



But a second generation of feminism emerged, much more
confontational. Instead of just saying “we deserve to be treated like
men”, it started ranting on about how men were evil and were vile
women oppressors. Instead of wanting equality of rights, it started
aiming at erasing any difference between men and women. The trouble
began.



First, there is the absurdity of the statement “there is no difference
between men and women”. Of course there are, and thank god! On
average, men are stronger than women. So what? On average, women are
prettier than men. So what? There are differences, but there lies no
harm in them. Diversity is actually a good thing.



The main novelty of this modern feminism is it’s
methodology. Basically, it looks at statistics, and if there is a
discrepancy between men and women, it shrieks in horror. The problem
is that although next to nobody adheres to this modern feminism, it’s
methodological habits have entered many contemporary minds, especially
- but not only - women.



But this methodology is deeply flawed. The fact that, for instance, a
company’s list of top executives is mainly composed of men is not in
itself a problem. One should strive to understand why the situation is
such.



There can be several explanations to such a situation. The first is
plain old sexism. In this day and age, I consider it the least
believable one. The second is lifestyle choices. It may well be that
most women of the company were not willing to make the lifestyle
choices it takes to make it to top executive. More about that
later. The last reason is self defeating strategies whereby women
subconsciously refrain from competing for top jobs because they have
interiorised sexist clichés about who should be a top executive - or
about who should raise the kids. These days, I tend to believe that
this factor is more important than plain old sexism.



So, I hear you say, nothing should be done for women? Well, as far as
compulsory measures go, no. Sexism is being shunned these days, and is
on the way out. I believe that one day or another, most people are
going to be sex-blind, as far as professional matters go. Which is
great. And there is nothing compulsory to be done about women who do
not want to be top execs or who defeat themselves.



However, as rule, we as people, and companies as individual deciders,
can take some smart measures.



The first is of course to continue to advocate sex-blindness.



More importantly, I think it is good to remind women that they are
entitled to choose the lifestyle they want. There is no reason why a
woman shouldn’t be a top exec. There is no reason why a man couldn’t
be primary care-taker for children while his wife pursues a high
career. Most men I know are convinced of this. Oddly enough, not all
women are.



Also, it is important to remind them that there is nothing wrong in
choosing another lifestyle - such as primary care-taker for the
children. What people, and women in particular, should have in mind,
is that anyone is entitled to choose how to live his/her life/career,
regardless what people think.



We as people, and companies as individual decision-makers, can do this
job. What shall the results be? Nobody can tell. Individual
preferences will decide. Maybe there will be more women execs. Maybe
not. It doesn’t matter. What only matters is that everybody chooses a
life and career that they really want to pursue, not the statistical
repartition of men and women.



Yes, that’s right. The only thing that matters is freedom.

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Current Mood: calmcalm
Current Music: David Bowie - Suffragette city
 
 
Yorick "Yozz" Cool
15 November 2006 @ 06:00 pm
Here’s an interesting take on Al Gore’s film about global warming. Apparently, inconsistencies and fallacies abound. Nothing new about propaganda movies...

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Current Mood: amusedamused
 
 
Yorick "Yozz" Cool
12 November 2006 @ 09:12 pm
Well, we just saw Perfume: The story of a murder, the adaptation of Patrick Suskind’s novel. Having seen it, I am amazed to learn that it got negative reviews.

It’s really a good movie, especially when you know the book. You see, the book revolves around the sense of smell, which made it a potentially very difficult one to adapt to the movies. Yet Tykwer managed to do it very well. I wouldn’t go so far as to say you can actually smell the smells “off the screen”, but it’s close. The way it’s filmed really emphasizes the smells alot and does justice to the book.

So does the acting. Ben Whishaw makes an excellent Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, disturbingly strange, as should be. Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman are magnificent as usual.

As to the plot, it is very well respected, and it’s tricky parts - for there are very tricky parts in the book - are very well rendered.

I was partial to the book, and yet not at all disappointed by the movie. It is really to the book, and actually makes a couple of things clearer than the book did, in my opinion.

All in all, it’s a very good movie, and I really recommend it, whether you’ve read the book or not.

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Current Mood: happyhappy
Current Music: The Pipettes - We are the pipettes
 
 
Yorick "Yozz" Cool
I like Free software. I hate DRM and software patents. Do I think that Free software should be at the forefront of the fight against DRM and software patents? Not necessarily. Here’s why.

First, let’s be sure I’m understood. It is entirely logical that free software advocates oppose DRM and software patents. It also makes sense that Free software shouldn’t use DRM and software patents.

But I don’t think everything should be bundled in a “take-it-or-leave-it” deal. That seems to be what the FSF is heading for, and I believe that would be a mistake. Basically, my argument is that all three issues are different, and lumping them together is actually restrictive.

It’s a communication issue really. In this day and age, alot of people are warming to Free software, but still support software patents to an extent. It’s a pity in a way. But we should be supportive of their warming to Free software, and not putting them down because they support software patents. Sure, explaining that software patents are bad is fine, but don’t pressure them too hard when they are already moving forward.

Some will say I am unnecessarily compromising. I don’t think so. I just believe that people that warm to one of the three issues I am discussing will necessarily evolve in time to support Free software, and reject software patents and DRM. Oh, it might take time. But it will happen.

Importantly enough, it can happen in various ways. People might come because they support Free software, or because they oppose DRM. But not being ready for the whole package, forcing it all on them at once might scare them off when all they need is time.

And at the end of the day, they are different matters. Mixing them all makes for an unclear discussion and is sloppy. Free software, software patents and DRM are all heavy subjects in their own right. They deserve to be discussed separately, and not as part of bargain package. And if they’re bought separately, so be it.

 
 
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
 
 
Yorick "Yozz" Cool
06 November 2006 @ 08:35 pm
A few months ago, we saw The graduate, the 1967 movie where Dustin Hoffman made his breakthrough but most importantly, a great monument of counter-culture. It is a definitive must-see movie.

Everything is fantastic about it. The actors are great, the directing is somptuous, lighting is very noticeable due to cool light effects. Then there’s the music. The Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack is absolutely wonderful. Sound of silence, Mrs Robinson, April come she will, Scarborough Fair, only extraordinary songs.

But what has definetely made the film a classic for nearly forty years is it’s plot. I’m not going to spoil anything by saying that it’s about a young graduate’s life getting very difficult when he starts an unhealthy romantic relationship with an older woman. The themes developed are very strong: sense of alienation, the difficulty of being young and not knowing what one wants to do with one’s life, the tricky distinction between true and false love, facing society’s disapproval, and leading one’s own life. All masterfully treated, and further enhanced by the great acting/directing/music of the film.

It has very simply become one of our all-time favourites, a true masterpiece.

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Current Mood: artisticartistic
Current Music: Simon and Garfunkel - Mrs Robinson