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Expanding the conversation of Dr. Vandana Shivas' presentation in Missoula

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The topic of tax dollars recently came up in Evans' article where he wrote an eloquent synopsis of Dr. Shivas speeches.

Venturing into this topic I intend to tread lightly, take no sides, with the interest of understanding.

I feel obligated to pay taxes, I think that for a nation to move together cohesively the tax money collected needs to go to paying for things that are worthwhile and valuable to the individuals of the nation who are paying for them.

I think that simply doing away with something leaves a void which inevitably is filled with something else, the something else should probably be figured out prior to doing away with the current thing.

Taking a bit of a guess here (clarification welcomed) I think that many, perhaps most, probably not all, who would propose a cessation of paying taxes are thinking about this option as a result of their disagreement with how their elected officials have chosen to distribute tax dollars.

Would I be incorrect in thinking that the majority of these people would be willing to pay taxes if they agreed with what their money was funding?

Which brings me to a question I've been mulling over for some time now, do we have any realistic programs to bring before our elected for funding?
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Josh Huorn wrote:
Which brings me to a question I've been mulling over for some time now, do we have any realistic programs to bring before our elected for funding?

Can you explain more what you mean by "realistic programs"? Thanks.

Josh Huorn
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That sure got me thinking, great question. It seems to me that many people are looking for a place to spend money to solve a problem. This community is awesome at solutions! Whatever is proposed to decision makers to solve a "problem" would probably do well to answer all the W's; Who, What, Where, Why, When, Why should I care, and hoW.

Realistic programs might contain clearly stated goals, intent, purpose, and project requirements. It could provide a roadmap of how those goals are going to be achieved along with tests to be used to measure results at regular intervals, and also be able to answer all the W's; Who, What, Where, Why, When, Why should I care, and hoW.

Putting the right people around the table for rational discussions might be a piece
Lab Ant
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Thanks for calling my summary of my notes "eloquent," Josh, but I feel compelled to mention that Vandana Shiva talked about so much more, and what I wrote was just what resonated particularly well with me at the time. As such, it was significantly colored by my own biases and subjective perception, and shouldn't be taken as representing her views or opinions, (not implying that you were saying it was, either, just clarifying.) I can speak for no one but myself.

On the subject of taxes, I find taxation unconscionable both as a means and in terms of the historical, ongoing, and likely future ends it achieves.

As a means, taxation, insofar as it is involuntary and therefore rooted in coercion, is unethical by my standards because it violates the autonomy and agency of an individual over her own life. Taxation demands, in essence, that an individual submit her own will to that of another or else be subject to violence. In this way, an individual is forced to pay, not only for goods and services that she may need or desire, but for goods and services for which she has no use, and also for bads and disservices which actively harm her and others' health and well-being. Significantly, even in the case of goods and services for which she would voluntarily pay, she has no say regarding how much or how little of the good or service she needs, and she is given no choice amongst alternative providers, leaving her at the mercy of a monopolist who has no incentive not to raise prices and lower quality.

Historically, taxation has been used to fund wars of aggression and to enrich a privileged few at the expense of the vast majority. It is not the only means used to do so, (legal tender laws coupled with inflationary central banking are another big one,) but it is part of an interlocking and self-reinforcing system that redistributes wealth from the producing classes into the hands of a parasitic class. (I wish here to differentiate my position from that of vulgar libertarians who rail against impoverished "welfare queens;" the primary beneficiaries of statist redistribution are not the unemployed inner-city poor, but the already obscenely rich upper echelons of the military industrial complex.)

I advocate individual freedom, mutual aid networks, and peaceful voluntary association as alternatives to the aggressive coercion of states and taxes. Perhaps, in the future, forms of "states" or "taxes" may arise that don't violate my conscience, but in their current forms I cannot support them.

I am in agreement with Henry David Thoreau when he said, "If a thousand [citizens] were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood."
evan l pierce
Lab Ant
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Tax strikes aside, I'd like to focus on something else alluded to by Dr. Shiva: the twin structural irrationalities of artificial abundance and artificial scarcity. These are not necessarily the terms she used, but they found their way into my notes and subsequent summary because during her lecture I was reminded of works I'd read recently by other authors.

Michael Bauwens, of the Foundation for Peer-to-peer Alternatives, writes of these two phenomena:

1. The current political economy is based on a false idea of material
abundance. We call it pseudo-abundance. It is based on a
commitment to permanent growth, the infinite accumulation of capital
and debt-driven dynamics through compound interest. This is
unsustainable, of course, because infinite growth is logically and
physically impossible in any physically constrained, finite system.
2. The current political economy is based on a false idea of
“immaterial scarcity.” It believes that an exaggerated set of
intellectual property monopolies -- for copyrights, trademarks and
patents -- should restrain the sharing of scientific, social and economic
innovations. Hence the system discourages human cooperation,
excludes many people from benefiting from innovation and slows the
collective learning of humanity. In an age of grave global challenges,
the political economy keeps many practical alternatives sequestered
behind private firewalls or unfunded if they cannot generate adequate

Kevin Carson, of the Center for a Stateless Society, follows up and elaborates on these ideas, even favorably mentioning permaculture:

These structural contradictions have always made for reduced efficiency
and irrationality. But in recent decades they have resulted in increasingly
chronic crisis tendencies, which amount to a terminal crisis of capitalism as
a system. Both artificial abundance and artificial scarcity have been integral
to capitalism since its beginnings five centuries or so ago, and absolutely
essential for the extraction of profit. But capitalism is becoming increasingly
dependent on both artificial abundance and artificial scarcity for its survival
at the very same time that the state's ability to provide them is reaching its
limits and going into decline. Hence a crisis of sustainability.
Capitalism has pursued a model of growth based on the extensive addition
of artificially cheap inputs. This has been possible either because the
colonial conquest of the world outside Europe has given the extractive
industries privileged access to mineral deposits, fossil fuels and other
natural resources, or because capitalist states have subsidized important
material inputs to the corporate economy like transportation infrastructure
and the reproduction of trained labor-power, at the expense of the general
Western states have engaged in constant wars, not only directly intervening
with military force and maintaining military and naval forces all over the
world, but backing death squads and terrorist dictators like Suharto, Mobutu
and Pinochet, to guarantee continued global corporate control of local land
and natural resources. The main role of the US Navy is to keep the major
sea lanes open at general taxpayer expense to subsidize the transportation
of oil and other looted natural resources from the Global South, and to
provide secure shipping lanes for container ships hauling offshored
production back to the shelves of Walmart.
The problem is that when a particular factor input is subsidized and
artificially cheap, a business will consume increasing amounts of it as it
substitutes it for other factors. And at the same time, capitalism has been
beset by a long-term tendency, since the depressions of the late 19th
century, towards crises of overinvestment and excess capacity, demand
shortfalls and declining organic rates of profit.
This means that an ever growing amount of state subsidies, and ever larger
inputs of subsidized material inputs, are necessary just
to keep the corporate economy running artificially in the black. In the words of James
O'Connor, in Fiscal Crisis of the State, the state must subsidize a
perpetually increasing share of the operating costs of capital to keep the
economy out of depression.
The result is two forms of input crisis. First (in the words of O'Connor's title)
the "fiscal crisis of the state," as the state must run increasingly large
deficits, and incur increasingly large debt, in order to meet the constantly
increasing demands for subsidized education, transportation infrastructure,
and foreign imperial wars. Of course the growing deficits are necessary in
their own right, in order to stimulate aggregate demand and counter the
chronic crisis of excess capacity. And the growing debt, which is sold to the
rentier classes, soaks up trillions in surplus investment capital that would
otherwise lack a profitable outlet.
Capitalism -- like every other class society in history -- has likewise
depended since the beginning on artificial scarcities. Such scarcities include
all forms of artificial property rights that erect barriers between labor and
natural productive opportunities, so that producers can be forced to work
harder than necessary in order support privileged classes in addition to
themselves. Capitalism inherited the artificial property rights in land of
earlier systems of exploitation, by which vacant and unimproved land is
engrossed and held out of use on a continuing basis, such engrossed land is
made available to cultivators only on condition of paying tribute to the
engrosser, or a landed oligarchy is superimposed on existing cultivators.
Other forms of artificial scarcity are regulatory entry barriers that impose
unnecessary capital outlays for undertaking production or limit the number
of producers, regulations that impose artificial floors under the cost of
subsistence, restraints on competition between producers that facilitate
administered pricing, and restraints on competition in the issuance of credit
and currency that enable those engaged in that function to charge usurious
prices for it. Perhaps the most important form of artificial scarcity today is
so-called "intellectual property," which is a legal monopoly on the right to
perform certain tasks or use certain knowledge, rather than engrossment of
the means of production themselves.
Artificial scarcity, like artificial abundance, is becoming increasingly
unsustainable. Copyright is rapidly becoming unenforceable, as the
proprietary content industries are learning to their dismay. And the
implosion of necessary capital outlays for manufacturing and of the feasible
scale for micro-manufacturing, coupled with the ease of sharing digital
CAD/CAM files, is raising the transaction costs of enforcing industrial
patents to unsustainable levels. Intensive growing techniques like
Permaculture are far more efficient in terms of output per acre than factory-
farming, thus reducing the necessity and value of engrossed land for people
to feed themselves. And the explosion in vernacular building technologies,
coupled with the fiscal exhaustion of states that enforce zoning regulations
and building codes and the like, means that the imposition of artificial costs
of comfortable subsistence is likewise becoming unsustainable.

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I agree with most of what is said here, and would like to add that Thomas Piketty's analysis and history of modern capitalism, since it's inception around 1700 with the establishment of the Bank of England, comes to the inescapable conclusion that democracy will die at it's hands, (isn't it obvious in today's US politics?) as capitalism's basic tenets inexorably result in more and more of a nation's wealth being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. ("Capital in the 21st Century")
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