ScepticWatch

April 2, 2017

2017

Free Market of Ideas





June

Posts John Howard: A Generous Open-Hearted People
Franklin Roosevelt: Economic Slavery
Herbert Spencer: The Survival of the Fittest
Mark Blyth: Milton's Great Vacation
Donald Trump: The Most Powerful Man in the Universe
Greg Bear: All Flesh is Grass
Robert Manne: Culture War — Historical Denialism and the Stolen Generations
Vannevar Bush: As We May Think
Links Brahma Challaney: Saudi Arabia — State Sponsor of Terrorism
Jane Mayer: In the Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, the Koch Brothers’ Campaign Becomes Overt
Peter Singer: How Can We Be More Effective Altruists?
Abigail Marsh: Are We Wired To Be Altruistic?
Joseph Carens: The moral maze of refugees and migration
Alain de Botton: What's A Kinder Way To Frame Success?

May

Posts Yuval Harari: Homo Deus — Divine Man
Yuval Harari: Homo Sapiens — Wise Man
Michel de Montaigne: My local witches
Michel de Montaigne: On being
Michel de Montaigne: Death is a scene with one character
Les Murray: An Ode to Pauline Hanson
Simon Marginson: The New Gilded Age
Rear Vision: Perfecting the White Race
Links David Marr: Making Australia White Again
Robert Manne: Breeding out the colour
Matt Bevan: Trump gives himself an 80% tax cut
Matt Bevan: Trump and Putin
Science Friction: The Global War on Science
The Money: Populate and Perish
Yuval Harari: Why Did Humans Become The Most Successful Species On Earth?
Elizabeth Lesser: Why Is It So Hard To Ask For — And Offer — Forgiveness?
Anne Manne: Rape among the lamingtons
Nick Hanauer: Beyond the dreams of avarice

April

Posts Milton Friedman: My God is Freedom
Ronald Reagan: Creeping Socialism
Edward Gibbon: Of Jews and Christians
John Galbraith: The Next Bubble
Cultural Total War: The Global War on Political Correctness
Waleed Aly: The Enemy Within
PBS American Experience: Human Capital
Rosalie Crestani: Rise Up Australia!
James McPhersen: Freedom is not possible without slavery
Peace and Long Life: Cosmological Fine Tuning
High Mackay: The state of the nation starts in your street
Cosmos: Carbon Capture and Storage
Four Corners: Please Explain
John van Tiggelen: After Sorry
Links Bob Inglis: Political climate changing?
Ann Pettifor: How to Break the Power of the Banks
Svend Brinkmann: How to Resist the Self-Improvement Craze
Rutger Bregman: Utopia for Realists

March

Posts John Rasko: Trump's Pharmaceutical Plan
Love is a Warm Gun: Sandy Hook
Malcolm Turnbull: Coal is King
Thomas Piketty: A Recipe for Right Wing Revolt
Thomas Piketty: How Much Does the Richest Woman in History Pay in Taxes?
William Gibson: Idoru
Dylan Thomas: Under Milkwood
Michel de Montaigne: On fleeing from pleasures at the cost of one's life
Bertrand Russell: Contempt for Happiness
Four Corners: Alternative Medicine
Peace and Long Life: Freedom (of Action) Without (Freedom of) Will
Live Long and Prosper: Society Versus Community
Links Naomi Oreskes: Why Should We Believe In Science?
Maz Jobrani: Can Comedy Break Stereotypes?
Paul Bloom: Why Do We Create Stereotypes?
Satyajit Das: Consuming our future
Tim Berners-Lee: How Did The World Wide Web Start?
Clay Shirky: Can Open Source Be Traced To The 17th-Century?
Clay Shirky: How cognitive surplus will change the world

February

Posts Alistair Cooke: Saving Capitalism
Martin King: Free at Last
John Quiggin: An Epidemic of Laziness
George Orwell: The Lion and the Unicorn
David Biello: China leads the way on climate change
Tom Switzer: Against Public Broadcasting
Links Dorothy Roberts: What's Race Got to Do with Medicine?
Laurence Cockroft & Anne-Christine Wegener: On Corruption
Mark Blyth: Global Trumpism
Thomas Frank: Why Hillary Lost
William Perry: Nuclear Insecurity in the 21st Century
BBC World Service: Eugenics in America

January

Posts Tom Switzer: The Wrong Side of History
John Kennedy: The Common Enemies of Mankind
Martin Luther: On the Jews and Their Lies
Donald Trump: Ignorance is Strength
Links Scientific American: Trump's 5 Most “Anti-Science” Moves
Discovery: The Future of the Paris Climate Deal under Donald Trump
Suzanne Barakat: After A Horrible Hate Crime, How Do You Not Hate Back?
Earshot: The Seven Ages of Woman
Andrew Solomon: Is There A Healthy Way To Think About Depression?

Donald Trump

Blue Army: Persons of Interest

Truth for us nowadays is not what is, but what others can be brought to accept …
[Dissimulation has become] one of the most striking characteristics of our age. …
Our understanding is conducted solely by means of the word: anyone who falsifies it betrays public society.
It is the only tool by which we communicate our wishes and our thoughts; it is our soul's interpreter: if we lack that, we can no longer hold together; we can no longer know each other.
When words deceive us, it breaks all intercourse and loosens the bonds of our polity.


(On giving the lie, The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, 1580, M A Screech, Translator, Penguin, 1991, p 256-7, emphasis added)


George Orwell (1903 – 1950):
Totalitarianism has abolished freedom of thought to an extent unheard of in any previous age. …
The totalitarian state tries to control the thoughts and emotions of its subjects at least as completely as it controls their actions. …
It sets up unquestionable dogmas, and it alters them from day to day.
It needs the dogmas, because it needs absolute obedience from its subjects, but it cannot avoid changes, which are dictated by the needs of power politics.
It declares itself infallible, and at the same time it attacks the very concept of objective truth.
(Listener, 19 June 1941)

The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions —
  • racial pride,
  • leader-worship,
  • religious belief,
  • love of war
— which liberal intellectuals mechanically write off as anachronism, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action.
(Wells, Hitler and the World State, Horizon, August 1941)

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865):
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new Nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. …
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us,
  • that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion,
  • that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain,
  • that this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and
  • that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
(Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 19 November 1863)






(Michael Kirk, Trump's Divided States of America, PBS Frontline, Episode 2, WGBH, 2017)


Richard Nixon (1913 – 1994), 8 August 1971:
[As] president, I must put the interests of America first.
Therefore, I shall resign the presidency, effective noon tomorrow.
(The United States Vs Nixon, The Seventies, Episode 2, 2015)




Michael Kirk:
[The Taj Mahal casino was] the biggest deal of his lifetime …
[Trump] spent a billion dollars on the Taj. …
Burdened by debt, [it] would not turn a profit [and closed in October 2016.]
The Plaza Hotel — a financial disaster; the airline, Trump Shuttle, was bleeding money. …
Trump and his companies owed more the $3 billion, much of it to the banks …
[But as the bankers] stared into the Trump Organization's abyss, [they] came to believe that Trump's assets … were worth more with his name on them than in foreclosure. …
They sold the yacht and the airline; and they put Trump on a $450,000 allowance.
In exchange he would continue to promote the business.

Donald Trump had survived but his casinos were deeply in debt.
He was looking for a way out.
He found one: Wall Street. …
Trump paid himself $44 million for services … even as the stock price began to fall.
The company filed for bankruptcy 3 times, investors lost billions. …
Trump characteristically described his time in Atlantic City as a success.

For Trump — real estate was increasingly a side business — marketing his name, a full time job. …
For 14 seasons [of The Apprentice,] millions of Americans watched a carefully crafted Donald Trump. …
And for his political guru … the TV audience could become Trump voters.
Roger Stone (1952):
Now, I understand that the elites say:
Oh that's reality TV!
Voters don't see it that way.
Television news and television entertainment — it's all television.
Now he saw an issue he could turn into headlines … the birther issue …
(Michael Kirk, President Trump, PBS Frontline, WGBH, 2017)




Omarosa Manigault (1974) [Director of Communications for Donald Trump, September 2016]:
[If he wins, every] critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump.
[Everyone] who's ever doubted Donald, whoever disagreed, whoever challenged him.
It [would be] the ultimate revenge [for him] to become the most powerful man in the universe.
(Michael Kirk, President Trump, PBS Frontline, WGBH, 2017)

Donald Trump (1946):
I am your voice!

Nicolas de Caritat (1743–1794) [Marquis de Condorcet]:
If we cannot find voters who are sufficiently enlightened, we must avoid making a bad choice by accepting as candidates, only those men in whose competence we can trust.
(1785)

William King (1874 – 1950) [Prime Minister of Canada, 1921-26, 1926-30, 1935-48):
The extreme man is always more or less dangerous, but nowhere more so than in politics.
(Margaret MacMillan, History's People, Text, 2015, p 51)

Don Watson:
Noble and creative as it has often been, provider of an essential thread in the best of the American ideal and source of a rare grace one encounters only in the United States, American Christianity also disguises fear and feeds ignorance, paranoia and prejudice, along with a readiness to smite enemies with weapons of unspeakable destructive force.
(Enemy Within: American Politics in the Time of Trump, Quarterly Essay, Issue 63, 2016, p 23)

Alice Miranda Ollstein [Political Reporter]:
According to a book written by [Argentinian President] Macri’s father Franco, Trump threw a tantrum after losing a round of golf to Mauricio Macri and broke his friend’s golf clubs — one by one.
(There is a lot more to the Trump Argentina story, ThinkProgress, 23 November 2016)

Ying Ma [Deputy Director of a Trump Super PAC, The Committee for American Sovereignty]:
[We] know that in state-craft, every now and then, to be unpredictable is not such a bad thing in negotiations. …
One of the reasons Donald Trump won is that … he is able to simplify a lot of issues that the GOP have not been able to simplify for voters …
(The Trump victory, Between The Lines, ABC Radio National, 10 November 2016)

John Ashton (1956):
Our mainstream politics is less connected to the base of society than [it has been] for generations.
Into that gap scurry opportunists, attention-seekers, populists, pied pipers and demagogues, always good entertainers, peddling the illusion of simple solutions in a complex world.
We don’t feel close to our politicians, or trust them. …
We yearn for a real conversation about who were are and where we are going as a country, a vision for the future.
(Lifting the Lid on the Politics of Climate Change, RSA, 16 May 2013)

Franklin Roosevelt (1882 – 1945)


Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital — all undreamed of by the [founding] fathers — the whole structure of modern life [has been] impressed into [a new royal servitude. …]
It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, [should reach] out for control over Government itself.
They [have] created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. …
Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of Government. …

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business.
They granted that the Government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the Government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.
Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair.
If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place. …

Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales.
Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.

(Acceptance Speech for the Renomination for the Presidency, Democratic Convention, Philadelphia, 27 June 1936)


Kim Robinson (1952)


A presidential transition [is] a major thing, and there were famous cases of failed transitions [and] the dire consequences that ineptitude in this area could have on the subsequent fates of the presidents involved.
It was important to make a good running start, to craft the kind of "first hundred days" that had energized the incoming administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, setting the model for that most presidents since to try to emulate.
Critical appointments had to be made, bold new programs turned into law.
(p 29)

[After the assassination attempt, President Chase] started sending to Congress a new volley of legislation …
[He] was already getting a lot of things through: …
  • Fuel-mileage efficiency standards of seventy and eighty miles a gallon.
  • A doubling of the gas tax.
  • A return to progressive tax rates.
  • An end to all corporate loopholes and offshoring of profits.
  • Heavy financial support for the World Health Organization's population stabilization efforts.
  • AIDS and malaria eradication funds.
  • Gun control legislation to give the NRA nightmares. …
It became clear that his team had taken over the tactic called, ironically enough, flooding, which had been used to such effect by the criminals who had hijacked the presidency at the start of the century.
It was like a flurry in boxing, the hits just kept on coming, at a pace of three or four a week, so that in the scramble the opposition could not react adequately, not to any individual slaps nor to the general deluge.
Right-wing pundits were wondering if [he] had arranged to get shot to gain this advantage:
[Why] had the gunman [only] used a twenty-two?
[Where] was the evidence he had actually been shot anyway?
[Could] they stick a minicam down the hole?
No?
Wasn't that suspicious?
(p 347)

(Sixty Days and Counting, Bantam, 2007)


Populism in America


Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859)

General Jackson, whom the Americans have twice elected to the head of their Government, is a man of a violent temper and mediocre talents; no one circumstance in the whole course of his career ever proved that he is qualified to govern a free people, and indeed the majority of the enlightened classes of the Union has always been opposed to him. …
(p 335)

We have been told that … he is an energetic man, prone by nature and by habit to the use of force, covetous of power, and a despot by taste.
(p 479)

It is by perpetually flattering [the passions of the people] that he maintains his station and his popularity.
General Jackson is the slave of the majority:
  • he yields to its wishes, its propensities, and its demands;
  • say rather, that he anticipates and forestalls them. …

General Jackson stoops to gain the favor of the majority, but when he feels that his popularity is secure, he overthrows all obstacles in the pursuit
  • of the objects which the community approves, or
  • of those which it does not look upon with a jealous eye.
(p 480)

He is supported by a power with which his predecessors were unacquainted; and he tramples on his personal enemies whenever they cross his path with a facility which no former President [has] ever enjoyed …
(p 481)

(Democracy in America, Vol I, 1835, Bantam, 2011)

October 31, 2016

2016

Free Market of Ideas

December

Posts Scott Stephens: In Praise of Aristocracy
Mary Kissel: In Trump We Trust
CNN Politics: Exit Poll 2016
Judd Legum: Government of the People, by the President, for the President (and his family)
Nick Minchin: The Benefits of Smoking
Robert Nozick: Taxation = Slavery
Peace and Long Life: The Rage of the Powerless
Scott Stephens: An Orgy of Free Thinking
Background Briefing: Extreme Weather Events and Energy Security
The Science Show: Tackling air pollution in China
Links Rear Vision: Renewable energy and the national grid
Jonathan Haidt: Capitalism and Morality
Tim Buckley: Global energy futures
Science Advances: Accelerated modern human–induced species losses — Entering the sixth mass extinction
PNAS: Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought
Current Biology: The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World
Steve Inskeep: Donald Trump and the Legacy of Andrew Jackson

November

Posts Ministry of Plenty: Justice = Equality of Freedom
Richard Nixon: They're trying to destroy us
William Grey: Participatory Democracy and Majoritarian Tyranny
Innovation Nation: Catalyst Cancelled
Robert Taney: Property Rights Versus Human Rights
Bertrand Russell: Locke, Stalin and Hitler
Rachel Warren: Dangerous Interference With The Climate System
Links Matt Bai: President Narcissus
Reith Lectures: Mistaken Identities — Creed, Country, Colour, Culture
Thomas Frank: Plutocratic Progressivism
Four Corners: Deliberate Cruelty

October

28 Post Robert Putnam: A World Without Trust
Link Nick O' Malley: Inside Team Trump
Four Corners: For Better or Worse
20 Post Scott Heron: Pause? What Pause?
Dean Ashenden: Who Killed Gonski?
Link Dean Ashenden: Fact checking school funding
19 Post Anne Case & Angus Deaton: Rising mortality among white middle-aged Americans in the 21st century
13 Post William Goetzmann: Debt and Deficit in 18th Century Britain
12 Post Fillette Uwase: Rice and Chips
11 Post George W Bush: Saving Lives
Erasmus Darwin: World Without End!
Link Ian Lowe: The Lucky Country?
7 Link Background Briefing: Agricultural Impacts of Climate Change
1 Link Paddy Manning: A Good Hard Look At The Greens
In Our Time: Zeno's Paradoxes

September

30 Post John Quiggin: Crisis? What Crisis?
30 Link John Quiggin: Innovation — the test is yet to come
John Quiggin: How New Zealand fell further behind
26 Post Robert Menzies: Lifters and Leaners
13 Post George Megalogenis: Tax Cuts for the Rich, Spending Cuts for the Poor
9 Link Michael Marmot: Advvancing Australia Fairly — Social Justice and the Health Gap

August

19 Post Roy Spencer: Christians For Carbon
13 Post Grattan Institute: Orange Book 2016 — Priorities for the next Commonwealth Government

July

27 Post Babbage and Lovelace
18 Post Malcolm Turnbull: The Pretty Face Of An Ugly Party
16 Link Andrew Solomon: Family
15 Link Madeline Gleeso: Offshore processing of asylum seekers
Bill Schneider: Donald Trump
Big Ideas: Grattan Institute's election policy
11 Post First Australians: There is No Other Law
9 Post Malcolm Turnbull: The Australian Gulag
6 Post John Stuart Mill: Culture Without Freedom
5 Post Alexis de Tocqueville: Materialism

June

27 Post Amanda Vanstone: Small Government Liberalism
21 Link John Veron: The End of Coral
17 Post Francis Fukuyama: Political Order and Decay
11 Post Larry Marshall: No profit in climate change research
3 Link Background Briefing: The Inconvenient Scientists

May

11 Link TED Radio Hour: How Do We Move Beyond The Darkest Moments In Our Lives?
9 Post Live Long and Prosper: The Needs of the Many

April

20 Link Rear Vision: Australia's Mining Boom — A Missed Opportunity
12 Post Scientific American: Population vs Religion
10 Link Melissa Fleming: More Children Overboard

March

28 Link The Science Show: Been there done that — CSIRO's attitude to climate science
16 Post Live Long and Prosper: Love is a Warm Gun

February

28 Post Tony Abbott: The Logic of Bigotry — Muslims, Terrorists, and Refugees
21 Post Isaiah Berlin: The bright and cloudless civilisation of the future
11 Link David Eagleman: The story of your brain
8 Link A History of Ideas: Ayn Rand and Selfishness
7 Link The Report: Iraq, 2003
5 Link The Infinite Monkey Cage: What is Race?
Seriously: Trump and the Politics of Paranoia
Costing The Earth: In Conversation with David Attenborough

January

Link Catalyst: World Fire
17 Post Rudyard Kipling: Mesopotamia
16 Post Karl Popper: Faith in Reason
13 Post David Hume: The Merit of Ignorance
10 Post Georg Hegel: The End of History

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Green Army: Research and Development



Caroline Ash, Elizabeth Culotta, Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink, David Malakoff, Jesse Smith, Andrew Sugden and Sacha Vignieri:
Anthropogenic climate change is now a part of our reality.
Even the most optimistic estimates of the effects of contemporary fossil fuel use suggest that mean global temperature will rise by a minimum of 2°C before the end of this century and that CO2 emissions will affect climate for tens of thousands of years. …
[Terrestrial ecosystems] will face rates of change unprecedented in the past 65 million years.
(Science, Vol 314, AAAS, 2 August 2013, p 473)

IPCC AR5 Working Group I:
The globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend, show a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C [3], over the period 1880–2012, when multiple independently produced datasets exist.
(Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis — Summary for Policymakers, 27 September 2013, p 4)

Alan Austin:
In [the fourth biennual] Global Green Economy Index released yesterday [by Dual Citizen, Australia fell 27 places to] 37th out of 60 countries on clean energy performance [and ranked] last on global leadership.
(Abbott takes Australia to last place on global climate change leadership, Independent Australia, 21 October 2014, emphasis added)

Dangerous Interference With The Climate System


Rachel Warren: Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Based on peer-reviewed literature, climate change impacts on the earth system, human systems and ecosystems are summarised for different amounts of annual global mean temperature change (ΔT) relative to pre-industrial times. …
  • At ΔT = 1°C world oceans and Arctic ecosystems are damaged.
  • At ΔT = 1.5°C [irreversible] Greenland Ice Sheet melting begins.
  • At ΔT = 2°C agricultural yields fall,
    • billions experience increased water stress,
    • additional hundreds of millions may go hungry,
    • sea level rise displaces millions from coasts,
    • malaria risks spread,
    • Arctic ecosystems collapse and
    • extinctions take off as regional ecosystems disappear.
    Serious human implications exist in Peru and Mahgreb.
  • At ΔT = 2–3°C the Amazon and other forests and grasslands collapse.
    • At ΔT = 3°C millions [are] at risk [of] water stress,
    • flood, hunger and dengue and malaria increase and
    • few ecosystems can adapt.
The thermohaline circulation could collapse in the range ΔT = 1–5°C, whilst the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may commence melting and Antarctic ecosystems may collapse.
Increases in extreme weather are expected.

("Impacts Of Global Climate Change At Different Annual Mean Global Temperature Increases" in Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change; Editor in Chief Hans Joachim Schellnhuber; Co-editors Wolfgang Cramer, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Tom Wigley, Gary Yohe; Cambridge University Press, 2006, p 92)


State of the Climate 2015: Record Heat and Weather Extremes


World Meteorological Organization

The [combined] global average [land and sea] near-surface temperature for 2015 was the warmest on record by a clear margin …
The global average temperature for the year was … approximately 1 °C above the 1850–1900 average.


Figure 1.
Global annual average temperature anomalies (relative to 1961–1990) for 1850–2015.
The black line and grey shading are from the HadCRUT4 analysis produced by the Met Office Hadley Centre in collaboration with the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
The grey shading indicates the 95% confidence interval of the estimates.
The orange line is the NOAAGlobalTemp dataset produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Information (NOAA NCEI).
The blue line is the GISTEMP dataset produced by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA GISS).
(Source: Met Office Hadley Centre, United Kingdom, and Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom)
(p 5)


Figure 6
Global annual average temperature anomalies (difference from the 1961–1990 average) based on an average of the three global temperature datasets.
Coloured bars indicate years that were influenced by El Niño (red) and La Niña (blue), and the years without a strong influence (grey).
The pale red bar indicates 2015.
(Source: Met Office Hadley Centre, United Kingdom, and Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom)
(p 8)


Australia had its warmest October on record.
The anomaly for October was also the highest anomaly for any month since records began. …
[For Australia, it] was the fifth-warmest year on record as a whole.
(p 17)

(WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2015, WMO-No 1167, 2016)


Rising Global Mean Temperature


World Bank

[Correction of the observational data for sources of short-term variability (El Nino/Southern Oscillation, volcanic aerosols and solar variability) reveals the underlying trend:]




Business As Usual


Climate Action Tracker

In a world first for climate policy, the Australian Government repealed core elements of Clean Energy Future Plan, effectively abolishing the carbon pricing mechanism, sought to reduce the Australian renewable target, and block other clean energy and climate policy measures in Australia.
The carbon pricing mechanism introduced had been working effectively, with emissions from the electricity and other covered sectors reducing by about 7% per annum.

Up until the time of repeal, the implemented climate policy was effective and was projected to have been sufficient to meet Australia’s unconditional Copenhagen pledge for a 5% reduction from 2000 levels by 2020.
Our new, post-repeal assessment shows, however, that this target is no longer in reach and the currently proposed new legislation will result in emissions increasing by 49-57% above 1990 levels.

(11 December 2014)


Climate Equity Reference Calculator




Given a Strong 2℃ pathway target, the global mitigation requirement in 2020 is 19.8 gigatonnes.

Australia’s fair share of this 2020 global mitigation requirement is 1.7%, which is 342 million tonnes.
Australia’s 2020 unconditional mitigation pledge (150 tonnes) falls short of its fair share of the global effort by 192 million tonnes.

In per-capita terms, Australia’s fair share of the 2020 global mitigation requirement comes to 13.5 tonnes.
Its reduction pledge, however, is only 5.9 tonnes per person, which falls short of its fair share by 7.6 tonnes per person.
Its score is therefore -7.6. …

Australia’s fair share can be expressed as … 34% reduction below national 1990 emissions. …
A country’s fair share is a function of both its capacity and its responsibility.
Australia is projected in 2020 to have 1.9% of global capacity and 1.5% of global responsibility.

(Accessed 1 January 2015)

Would you like to know more?

October 15, 2016

Robert Putnam

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Lucius Seneca (~4 BCE – 65 CE):
Poverty amongst riches is the most grievous form of want.
(Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, LXXIV, 4, adapted)

John Kennedy (1917 – 1963):
If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
(Quoted by Chris Matthews, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Simon & Schuster, 2011, Reader's Digest, 2013, p 129)

Amartya Sen (1933) [Swedish National Bank's Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, 1998]:
Black men between the ages of 35 and 54 are 1.8 times more likely to die than are white men of the same age.
And black women in this group are almost three times more likely to die than are white women of the same age. …
The survival chances of the average African-American are … unfavorable when compared with … those of the citizens of China and Kerala, who have much lower incomes.
(The Economics of Life and Death, Scientific American, May 1993, p 44-5)

George Gilder (1939):
In order to succeed … the poor need, most of all, the spur of their poverty. …
(Wealth and Poverty, 1981)

Mark Blyth (1967):
72% of the working population [in the US live from] paycheck to paycheck, have few if any savings, and would have trouble raising $2000 on short notice.
(Austerity, Oxford University Press, 2013, p 48)

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826):
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man.
The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that:
  • the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs;
  • nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.
(Letter to Roger C Weightman, 24 June 1826)

Mary Kissel (1976) [Editorial Board Member, Wall Street Journal]:
[By expanding] the entitlement state [Barack Obama has] hooked a lot of lower income Americans on welfare programs — 1 in 7 Americans on food stamps, for instance.
(The Trump victory, Between The Lines, ABC Radio National, 10 November 2016)

Donald Regan (1918 – 2003) [Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan, 1981 – 1985]:
I've read an awful lot about how we're really going to hurt the poor … with our cuts.
That is absolutely not what we're going to do.
(The Reagan Revolution, The Eighties, Episode 5, 2016)

John Galbraith (1908 – 2006):
[Under Ronald Reagan, along with tax cuts for the rich,] there was the attack … on economic support to the poorest of the population — on welfare payments, food stamps and aid to families with dependent children.
(The Affluent Society, 4th Ed, Penguin, 1984, p xvii)

David Ricardo (1772 – 1823):
Like all other contracts, wages should be left to the fair and free competition of the market, and should never be controlled by the interference of the legislature.
(Letter to Malthus, Vol I, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Piero Sraffa, Editor, Cambridge University Press, 1951, p 105)

The natural price of labour is that price which is necessary to enable the labourers … to subsist and to perpetuate their race, without either increase or diminution.
(Chapter V, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 3rd Ed, 1821, p 52)

Adam Smith (1723 – 1790):
For every rich man, you must have 500 poor.
And that rich man must live every time in fear because of the jealousy of others.
And if it is not for the firm hand of the magistrate … he would not be able to keep his capital safe. …

[Civil government,] in so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense
  • of the rich against the poor, or
  • of those who have some property against those who have none at all. …
(The Wealth of Nations, 1779)

Kim Robinson (1952):
There were of course very powerful forces on Earth adamantly opposed to … creating full employment …
Full employment, if enacted, would remove “wage pressure” — which phrase had always meant fear struck into the hearts of the poor, also into the hearts of anyone who feared becoming poor, which meant almost everyone on Earth.
This fear was a major tool of social control, indeed the prop that held up the current order despite its obvious failures.
Even though it was a system so bad that everyone in it lived in fear, either of starvation or the guillotine, still they clutched to it harder than ever.
(2312, Orbit, 2012, p 373-4)

Ridley Scott (1937):
Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it?
That's what it is to be a slave.
(Blade Runner, 1982)

Garrett Hardin (1915 – 2003):
World food banks move food to the people, hastening the exhaustion of the environment of the poor countries.
Unrestricted immigration, on the other hand, moves people to the food, thus speeding up the destruction of the environment of the rich countries. …
We are all the descendants of thieves, and the world's resources are inequitably distributed.
[However, we] cannot remake the past.
We cannot safely divide the wealth equitably among all peoples so long as people reproduce at different rates.
To do so would [only] guarantee that future generations would have … a ruined world to inhabit.
(Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor, Psychology Today, 1974)

Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797):
The laws of commerce are the laws of nature, and therefore the laws of God.
(Thoughts and Details on Scarcity, 1800)

John Rockefeller, Jr (1874 – 1960):
The growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest …
The American Beauty rose can be produced in the splendor and fragrance which bring cheer to its beholder only by sacrificing the early buds which grow around it.
This is not an evil tendency in business.
It is merely the working out of a law of nature and a law of God.

William Sumner (1840 – 1910):
The law of the survival of the fittest was not made by man.
We can only by interfering with it produce the survival of the unfittest.
(Essays in Political and Social Science, Henry Holt, 1885, p 85)

Milton & Rose Friedman:
Life is not fair.
It is tempting to believe that government can rectify what nature has spawned.
(Free to Choose, 1980)

Robert Putnam:
The dominant public ideology of the Gilded Age had been social Darwinism.
Its advocates had argued that social progress required the survival of the fittest — with little or no interference by government with the “natural laws of the marketplace.”
In a society so organized, the ablest would succeed, the feckless would fail, and the unhindered process of elimination would ensure social progress.
In important respects this [late 19th century] philosophy foreshadowed the libertarian worship of the unconstrained market that has once again become popular in [late 20th century] America.
(Bowling Alone, 2001, p 378)

American Political Science Association Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy:
Today, the voices of American citizens are raised and heard unequally.
The privileged participate more than others and are increasingly well organized to press their demands on government.
Public officials, in turn, are much more responsive to the privileged than to average citizens and the least affluent.
Citizens with lower or moderate incomes speak with a whisper that is lost on the ears of inattentive government officials, while the advantaged roar with a clarity and consistency that policy-makers readily hear and routinely follow.
(American Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality, Perspectives on Politics, December 2004, p 651)

Don Watson (1949):
[The US minimum wage has fallen by a third since 1968.]
More than 20% of children in the United States live in poverty, more than twice the rate of any European country.
[The Australian child poverty rate is 17.4%.]
With a quarter of totalitarian China's population, democratic America has about the same number of people in jail.
(Enemy Within: American Politics in the Time of Trump, Issue 63, 2016, p 34)

Julie Willems Van Dijk [Population Health Institute, University of Wisconsin]:
Research is now showing that many health effects once attribute to racial differences are actually tied to educational and economic disparities.
(Deborah Franklin, Scientific American, January 2012, p 18)

Sean Reardon [Sociologist, Stanford University]:
The achievement gap [in education] between children from high- and low- income families is roughly 30–40% larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier.
(The Widening Academic Achievement Gap Between the Rich and the Poor: New Evidence and Possible Explanations, in Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances, Greg J Duncan and Richard M Murnane (Eds), Russell Sage Foundation, 2011)

Andrew Cherlin:
The wages of men without college degrees have fallen since the early 1970s, and the wages of women without college degrees have failed to grow.
(Demographic Trends in the United States: A Review of Research in the 2000s, Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, June 2010, p 404)

Milton Friedman (1912 – 2006):
[In] a free choice [educational] system, you would have more heterogeneous schools [and] far less segregation by social and economic class than you now have. …
I went to a state school, Rutger's university.
I went on a state scholarship.
The poor suckers in the state of New Jersey paid for my going to college.
I personally think that was a good thing. ….
I don't see any reason whatsoever, why I shouldn't have been required to pay back that money.
(What's Wrong With Our Schools, Free to Choose, Episode 6, PBS, 1980)

Robert Putnam (1941)


Freedom and Justice for All

In the quarter century between 1979 and 2005, average after-tax income (adjusted for inflation) grew
  • by $900 a year for the bottom fifth of American households,
  • by $8,700 a year for the middle fifth, and
  • by $745,000 a year for the top 1% of households. …
(p 35)

From 2009 to 2012, the real incomes of the top 1% of American families rose 31%, while the real incomes of the bottom 99% barely budged (up less than half a percentage point).
(p 36)

In terms of average wages, a college degree was worth 50% more than a regular high school degree in 1980, but by 2008 the college degree was worth 95% more.
(p 184)

[The] net worth of college-educated American households with children rose by 47% between 1989 and 2013, whereas among high school-educated households net worth actually fell by 17% during that quarter century.
(p 36, emphasis added)

[The] growing access by poor kids to college does not mean growing access to selective colleges and universities.
Increasingly, poor kids who go on to college are concentrated in community colleges …
Community colleges can play a valuable role as a ladder out of poverty …
[However, in] terms of entry into more selective institutions, which … offer the best prospects for success in America, the class gap has actually widened in recent years. …
By 2004, in the nation’s “most competitive” colleges and universities … kids from the top quartile of the socioeconomic scale outnumbered kids from the bottom quartile by about 14 to one.
(p 185)

[Furthermore, much] of the recent growth in enrollment in postsecondary institutions by low-income students has been concentrated in the rapidly expanding for-profit sector …
In 2013 this sector attracted 13% of all full-time undergraduates, compared to 2% in 1991.
These students are disproportionately from low-income backgrounds (as well as older and ethnic minorities).
Giving a leg up to such students could narrow the opportunity gap …
[However,] for-profit institutions are twice as expensive for students as public universities — and have much worse records in terms of
  • graduation rates,
  • employment rates, and
  • earnings.
Not surprisingly, therefore, students at for-profit institutions have
  • much higher debt burdens (especially government-backed loans) and
  • much higher default rates.
(p 186)

David J Deming, Claudia Goldin, and Lawrence F Katz, “The For-Profit Postsecondary School Sector: Nimble Critters or Agile Predators?,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 26 (Winter 2012): 139–64, show that the outcomes from for-profit institutions are worse, even holding constant the students’ background characteristics.
(Note 78, p 338)

The class gap in college completion, which was already substantial 30 to 40 years ago, has steadily expanded.
This matters hugely, because completing college is much more important than entering college on all sorts of levels:
  • socioeconomic success,
  • physical and mental health,
  • longevity,
  • life satisfaction, and more. …
(p 187, emphasis added)

Kids from low-income backgrounds … are working more or less diligently to improve their prospects in life, but no matter how talented and hardworking they are, at best they are improving their play at checkers, while upper-class kids are widening their lead at three-dimensional chess. …

[Changes in family] structure, parenting, childhood development, peer groups, [and] extracurricular opportunities [have all] contributed to the widening gap in college graduation rates in recent decades, along with the neighborhood and community influences …
(p 188)

The burdens on the poor kids have been gathering weight since they were very young.
Rising tuition costs and student debt are the final straw, not the main load. …




(Michael Sandel, Justice: What's A Fair Start?, February 2011)


As the twenty-first century opened, a family’s socioeconomic status had become even more important than test scores in predicting which eighth graders would graduate from college. …
[Most shockingly,] high-scoring poor kids are now slightly less likely (29%) to get a college degree than low-scoring rich kids (30%).
(p 190, emphasis added)

[Social] capital can protect privileged kids from the ordinary risks of adolescence.
Studies during the past 40 years have consistently shown that, if anything, drug usage and binge drinking are more common among privileged teenagers than among their less affluent peers.
What is different, however, are the family and community “air bags” that deploy to minimize the negative consequences of drugs and other misadventures among rich kids. …
To be sure, social capital is not the only advantage that privileged kids have in confronting unexpected risks; … financial capital [also provides significant protection from the potentially catastrophic consequences of wayward behavior.]
(p 210)

[Class] segregation across America has been growing for decades, so fewer affluent kids live in poor neighborhoods, and fewer poor kids live in rich neighborhoods.
(p 217)

The pervasive growth of neighborhood economic segregation [first became evident shortly] after the rise in nationwide economic inequality in the 1970s.
The onset and aftermath of the Great Recession in 2008 only accelerated these disparities.
Given the manifold ways in which neighborhood economic differences affect the lives and opportunities open to young people, it is hardly surprising that neighborhood inequality across metropolitan areas is associated with less equality of opportunity.
[Unlike in the mixed neighborhoods of the past:]
  • the benefits of neighborhood affluence are [now] concentrated on rich kids [while]
  • the costs of neighborhood poverty are concentrated on poor kids.
The greater the inequality across neighborhoods,
  • the lower the rate of upward social mobility and
  • the greater the opportunity gap.
[Social] context (even apart from families and schools) powerfully conditions our kids’ chances of success in life.
(p 223, emphasis added)

{This is not the first time in our national history that widening socioeconomic gaps have threatened our economy, our democracy, and our values.}
It took many decades for public high schools to become nearly universal in America, but the High School movement that made America a world leader in economic productivity and social mobility began in earnest in local communities across the nation a century ago.
The essence of that reform was a willingness of better-off Americans to pay for schools that would mainly benefit other people’s kids. …
The specific responses we have pursued to successfully overcome these challenges and restore opportunity have varied in detail, but underlying them all was a commitment to invest in other people’s children.
And underlying that commitment was a deeper sense that those kids, too, were our kids.
(pp 260-1)

Throughout [US] history, a pendulum has slowly swung between the poles of individualism and community, both
  • in our public philosophy and
  • in our daily lives.
In the past half century we have witnessed … a giant swing toward the individualist (or libertarian) pole in our culture, society, and politics.
At the same time, researchers have steadily piled up evidence of how important social context, social institutions, and social networks — in short, our communities — remain for our well-being, and [for] our kids’ opportunities.
(p 206)

(Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, 2015)


A half century [of] increased competition in the global marketplace, improved information technology, greater focus on short-term financial returns, and new management techniques have combined to make virtually all jobs more "contingent". …
One consequence of these changes has been increased employee anxiety, but there have been winners as well as losers.
More independence from the firm, flatter hierarchies, less paternalism, and more reward for merit and creativity rather than seniority and loyalty have been good for many firms and their employees.
Even when corporate morale and employee commitment have been badly damaged, as they typically are, research often finds that corporate productivity has improved.
[Nevertheless, in terms of] their impact on trust and social connectedness in the workplace … the balance sheet is negative.

(Bowling Alone, Touchstone, 2001, p 88)


A World Without Trust

I've told you about my granddaughter, Miriam …
Mary Sue and Miriam are exactly the same age.
They are both granddaughters of Port Clinton [Ohio] in the 1950s. …
I'm just going to read to you, the field notes from [our meeting with Mary Sue:]
Mary Sue tells a harrowing tale of loneliness, distrust and isolation.
Her parents split up when she was 5.
And her mother turned to stripping and left her alone and hungry for days.
Her dad hooked up with another woman who hit her, refused to feed her, and confined her to room with baby-gates.
Caught trafficking marihuana at 16, Mary Sue … spent several months in a juvenile detention center, failed out of high school and got a "diploma" online.

[Mary Sue's] experiences have left her with a deep seated mistrust of anyone and everyone embodied in the scars on her arms (which we saw) where her boyfriend had burned her in the middle of the night, just a few days earlier.
Mary Sue wistfully recalls her stillborn baby, born when she was 13.
Since breaking up with the baby's dad, who left her for someone else, and with a second fiance who cheated on her after his release from prison, Mary Sue is currently dating an older man with two infants born two months apart to two other women.
And to Mary Sue this feels like the best that she can hope for. …

Mary Sue posted on facebook, not long ago, that she'd figured out her problems.
Her problem, she said, is that no one in the world loves her — which is probably true …
And, she's figured out how to solve that problem.
Mary Sue's going to have baby, because the baby will love her.
And if you think Mary Sue is in a pickle, imagine Mary Sue's baby …

[The] most important feature of the life of a poor kid in America today, bar none, is that poor kids are isolated and alone.
And they don't trust anyone.
They don't trust their parents …
They don't trust schools.
They don't trust anybody.

Mary Sue recently posted on facebook:
Love hurts.
Trust kills.
Think what it means to grow up in a society in which you cannot trust anyone.

(Closing the Opportunity Gap, RSA, 6 October 2015)


Inequality of Outcome = Inequality of Opportunity


John Quiggin: Professor of Economics, Queensland University

Among the developed countries,
  • the United States has the lowest social mobility on nearly all measures, and
  • the European social democracies [have] the highest.
(p 162)

If inequality of outcomes is entrenched for a long period, it inexorably erodes equality of opportunity.
Parents want the best for their children.
In a highly unequal society, wealthy parents will always find a way to guarantee their children a substantial head start {[—] most obviously through private schooling, expansion of which has been a central demand of market liberals. …}
(pp 164-5)

[Between] 1985 and 2000, the proportion of high-income (top 25 percent) students among freshmen at elite [US] institutions rose steadily, from 46 to 55 percent.
[By contrast, the] proportion of middle-income students (between the 25th and 75th percentiles) fell from 41 to 33 percent.
(p 159)

Those with old money, but less than stellar intellectual resources, have their highly effective affirmative action program — the (formal or informal) legacy admission system by which the children of alumni gain preferential admission. …
William Bowen and Derek Bok:
[The] overall admission rate for legacies was almost twice that for all other candidates.
(The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions, Princeton University Press, 1998)
(p 164)

A British study [has also] found that “low ability children with high economic status” … experienced the largest increases in educational attainment.
(p 164, emphasis added)

The Gini coefficient is a standard statistical measure of inequality.
It is equal to half of the average income gap between households, divided by the mean income.
So if average income is $10,000, then a Gini of 0.25 means that the expected income gap between two randomly selected individuals is:
2 × 0.25 × $10,000 = $5000. …

The pattern set by the United States in the 1980s, was followed, to a greater or lesser degree, by other English-speaking countries as they embarked on the path of market liberalism.
{Canada and Australia all followed a similar path, as did Ireland in the 1990s.
Most countries in the European Union resisted the trend to increased inequality through the 1980s and 1990s, but recent evidence suggests that inequality may be rising there also.}

The most striking increases in inequality were in Britain under the Thatcher government, where the Gini coefficient rose from 0.25, a value comparable to that of Scandinavian social democracies to 0.33, which is among the highest values for developed countries.

New Zealand [cut] the top marginal rate of income tax from
  • 66% in 1986 to
  • 33% by 1990.
Unsurprisingly, this pushed the Gini index from an initial value 0.26 to 0.33 by the mid-1990s.
(p 142)

[As a result] income per person in New Zealand [fell] from broad parity with Australia (a position sustained from European settlement to the late 1970s) to two-thirds of the Australian level.
The gap stabilized around 2000, [and] has not been reduced [since.]
(p 221)

While the problem is worse in the United States than elsewhere because of highly unequal access to health care, high levels of inequality produce unequal health outcomes even in countries with universal public systems.
Children growing up with the poor health that is systematically associated with poverty can never be said to have a truly equal opportunity.
(p 165)

(Zombie Economics, Princeton University Press, 2012)


Rising mortality among white middle-aged Americans in the 21st century


Anne Case & Angus Deaton: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Department of Economics, Princeton University

[There has been] a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013.
This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround.
The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics …
[In all other] racial and ethnic [groups and age cohorts] mortality rates [have continued to] fall.
This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from
  • drug and alcohol poisonings,
  • suicide, and
  • chronic liver diseases [including] cirrhosis.

Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases.
Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity.
Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. …

From 1978 to 1998, the mortality rate for US whites aged 45–54 fell by 2% per year on average, which matched … the average over all other industrialized countries. …
After 1998, other rich countries’ mortality rates continued to decline by 2% a year.
[By] contrast, US white non-Hispanic mortality rose by half a percent a year. …
If it had continued to fall at its previous (1979‒1998) rate of decline of 1.8% per year, 488,500 deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, [including] 54,000 in 2013 [alone.]
(p 15078)

[In fact, all white non-hispanic] 5-y age groups between [30–64] have witnessed marked and similar increases in mortality from the sum of drug and alcohol poisoning, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis over the period 1999–2013; the midlife group [differed] only in that the sum of these deaths is large enough that the common growth rate changes the direction of all-cause mortality.
(p 15080)

The fraction reporting being unable to work doubled for white non-Hispanics aged 45–54 [over the] 15-y period [— ie increasing from 4.7% to 9.2%. …]

Although the epidemic of pain, suicide, and drug overdoses preceded the financial crisis, ties to economic insecurity are possible.

After the productivity slowdown in the early 1970s, and with widening income inequality, many of the baby-boom generation are the first to find, in midlife, that they will not be better off than were their parents.
Growth in real median earnings has been slow for this group, especially those with only a high school education.
However, the productivity slowdown is common to many rich countries, some of which have seen even slower growth in median earnings than the United States, yet none have had the same mortality experience.

(Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century, PNAS, 112: 49, 8 December 2015, p 15081)


Healing Kansas


Researchers rank US counties according to how they measure up along the following behavioral, clinical, socioeconomic and environmental lines known to contribute to overall health.


Health Checklist
Socioeconomic Factors (40%)Health Behaviors (30%)Clinical Care (20%)Physical Environment (10%)
Education (10%)Smoking (10%)Access to care (10%)Environmental quality (5%)
Employment (10%)Diet and exercise (10%)Quality of care (10%)Built environment (5%)
Income (10%)Alcohol use (5%)
Family and social support (5%)Unsafe sex (5%)
Community safety (5%)


[The] evidence that socieoeconomic factors like education play a major role in health is solid and growing.
[High] school dropouts tend to die earlier than graduates [and] their children are more likely to be born prematurely, robbing another generation of a healthy start.
Every year of additional education improves … outcomes.

(Deborah Franklin, Scientific American, January 2012, p 18)

July 23, 2016

Ministry of Plenty

Live Long and Prosper


On few matters over the centuries has
the human conscience been more amenable and
the human brain more resourceful
than in finding reasons why the rich and the fortunate
should live in comfortable coexistence with the poor.


(John Galbraith, The Affluent Society, 4th Ed, Penguin, 1984, p xxiv)




(Michael Kirk, President Trump, PBS Frontline, WGBH, 2017)

John Galbraith (1908–2006):
There are some economic lessons that are never learned.
One is the need for the most profound suspicion of innovation in matters concerning money and more generally the field of finance.
The thought persists that there must surely be some as yet undiscovered way of solving great social problems without pain, but the simple fact is that there is not.
Ingenious monetary and financial designs, without known exception, turn out to be, if not innocuous, then frauds on the public or, frequently, on their perpetrators themselves.
(p 99)

[The] pretension of economics that it is a science is firmly rooted in the need for an escape from blame for the inadequacies and injustices of the system with which the great classical tradition was concerned.
(p 125)

The most common qualification of the economic forecaster is not in knowing, but in not knowing that he does not know.
His greatest advantage is that all predictions, right or wrong, are soon forgotten. …
The modern economic system [survives] not because of the excellence of the work of those who forecast its future, but because of their supremely reliable commitment to error.
(p 4)

Thomas Robert Malthus [1766 – 1834], a British clergyman of aristocratic instinct … provided a powerful case against public or private charity and a greatly serviceable support to those who found it publicly convenient or personally economical to forgo help to the unfortunate. …
[Among] the many who sought to put the poverty of the poor on the shoulders of the poor — or remove it from those of the more affluent — none did so more completely than Malthus.
(A History of Economics, Penguin, 1987, pp 77 & 79)

When people are least sure they are often most dogmatic.
(The Great Crash 1929, Penguin, 1975, p 189)

John Locke (1632 – 1704):
The great and chief end of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property …
[Men] have agreed to a disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth …
[By] voluntary consent [they have] found out a way how a man may fairly possess more land than he can fairly use the product of, by receiving … the overplus of gold and silver, which may be hoarded up without injury to anyone.
(Second Treatise on Civil Government, 1689)

Heinrich Heine (1797 – 1856):
Money is the God of our time, and Rothschild is his prophet.
(March 1841)

Gary Becker (1930 – 2014):
All human behavior can be viewed as involving participants who:

  1. maximize their utility,
  2. form a stable set of preferences, and
  3. accumulate an optimal amount of information and other inputs in a variety of markets.

(Economic Approaches to Human Behavior, University of Chicago Press, 1976, p 14)

Alexander Hamilton (1756 – 1804):
Why has government been instituted at all?
Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.
(Federalist No 15 Papers, 17 September 1787)

Chuang Tzu:
What would become of business without a market of fools?
(4th century BCE)

P W Singer (1974):
For all the claims that “big government” can never match the private sector, [the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency] is the ultimate rebuttal.
The Internet … e-mail, cell phones, computer graphics, weather satellites, fuel cells, lasers, night vision, and the Saturn V rockets [that first took man to the moon] all originated at DARPA. …
DARPA works by investing money in research ideas years before any other agency, university, or venture capitalists on Wall Street think they are fruitful enough to fund.
DARPA doesn’t focus on running its own secret labs, but instead spends 90% of its (official) budget of $3.1 billion on university and industry researchers …
(Wired for War, Penguin, 2009, p 140)

Niall Ferguson (1964):
The first era of financial globalization took at least a generation to achieve.
But it was blown apart in a matter of days.
And it would take more than two generations to repair the damage done by the guns of August 1914.
(The Ascent of Money, Penguin, 2008, p 304)

Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919):
  • Individualism,
  • Private Property,
  • the Law of Accumulation of Wealth, and
  • the Law of Competition
[are] the highest results of human experience [—] the best and most valuable of all that humanity has yet accomplished.

Peter Singer:
L Ron Hubbard [(1911 – 1986),] the founder of the Church of Scientology, once wrote that the quickest way to make a million in America is to start a new religion.
(How Are We to Live?, 1993, p 94)

Simone Campbell [Catholic Nun]:
[We were] doing business roundtables [with] some entrepreneur, CEO types. …
A report had just come out that that the average CEO … got $10 million in salary a year, and [that] they were going for $11 million.
I got to ask them:
Is it that you're not getting by on $10 million that you need $11 million?
I don't get it.
And this one guy said: …
Oh, no Sister Simone. …
It's not about the money. …
It's that we want to win.
And money just happens to be the current measure of winning.
(Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise, Corsair, 2016, p 129)

PBS Frontline:
There was a phrase — "ripping someone's face off" — that was used on the trading floor to describe when you sold something to a client who didn't understand it and you were able to extract a massive fee because they didn't understand it.
[This was seen as] a good thing because [you were] making more money for the bank.
[That] sort of spirit, of [acting against the best interests of] your client … took on significant life on Wall Street.
(Money, Power and Wall Street, 2012)

Kid Power Conference, Disney World:
Kids love advertising: it's a gift — it's something they want.
There's something to said … about getting there first, and about branding children and owning them in that way. …
In boy's advertising, it is an aggressive pattern [—] antisocial behavior in pursuit of a product is a good thing.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859):
The people may always be mentally divided into three distinct classes.
  • The first of these classes consists of the wealthy;
  • the second, of those who are in easy circumstances; and
  • the third is composed of those who have little or no property, and who subsist more especially by the work which they perform for the two superior orders.
(Democracy in America, 1835, Bantam, 2011, p 246)

William Sumner (1840 – 1910):
[Millionaires] are a product of natural selection … the naturally selected agents of society for certain work.
They get high wages and live in luxury, but the bargain is a good one for society.
(The Challenge of Facts and Other Essays, Albert Keller, Editor, Yale University Press, 1914, p 90)

John Quiggin [Professor of Economics, Queensland University]:
[In the 1970s, those economists] who wanted to restore the pre-Keynesian purity of classical macroeconomics … became known as the New Classical school.
Their key idea was what they called "rational expectations," which, in its strongest form, required all participants in an economy to have, in their minds, a complete and accurate model of that economy.
John Muth (1930 – 2005):
[Rational expectations are] those that agree with the predictions of the relevant economic model.
(p 94)

[New Classical economics] reproduces the classical conclusion:
  • that government intervention cannot improve macroeconomic performance and
  • that, in the absence of such intervention, the economy will rapidly adjust to economic shocks, returning quickly to its natural equilibrium position.
(p 96)

The top four hundred income earners [in the US] paid average tax rates below 20% in 2007, a fact symbolized by Warren Buffett's observation that he paid a lower rate of tax than his secretary.
(Zombie Economics, Princeton University Press, 2012, p 142)

Breakdown of the Top 1% by Income (2012)
Percentile% of Total Income% of Total Income Tax
P99-10021.938.1
  P99.999-1002.43.3
  P99.99-99.9993.18.3
  P99.90-99.995.510.3
  P99.0-99.910.919.5
P50-9967.059.1
P0-5011.12.8


The Anatomy of the One Percent


Adrian Dungan

For 2012, the [US Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)] threshold for:
  • [The] top 0.001% of tax returns [was] $62,068,187 or more [≈ $170,000 per day or 1700 times median income.]
    These taxpayers accounted for 2.4% of total AGI, and paid 3.3% of total income tax.
  • The top 0.01% of tax returns [was] $12,104,014 or more [≈ $33,000 per day or 330 times the median income.]
    These taxpayers accounted for 5.5% of total AGI, and paid 8.3% of total income tax.
  • [The top 0.1% of tax returns [was] $2,161,175 or more [≈ $6,000 per day or 60 times the median income.]
    These taxpayers accounted for 11% of total AGI, and paid 18.6% of total income tax.]
  • The top 1% of tax returns [was] $434,682 or more [≈ $1200 per day or 12 times median the income.]
    These taxpayers accounted for 21.9% of total AGI and paid 38.1% of total income tax.
  • [The] top 50% of all tax returns was $36,055 for the year [≈ $100 per day = median income.]
    These taxpayers accounted for 88.9% of total AGI and paid 97.2% of total income tax.

(Individual Income Tax Shares, 2012, IRS Statistics of Income Bulletin, Spring 2015)


peaceandlonglife

  • This is equivalent to the wealthiest individual in a group of 100 being paid twice as much as the poorest 50 combined.
  • The richest 1/100,000 part of the population captures a 1/40 share of aggregate income.
  • Each of the richest 1 in 100,000 accrues the lifetime median income (~50 years) every 10 days.
  • Conversely, a person (and their descendents) on the median income would need to work for 17 centuries (or 34 working lifetimes) to earn as much as the richest 1 in 100,000 get in a single year.
  • By definition, half the population earn less than the median income.
  • In 2005, 40% the global population (2.6 billion people) were living on less than $2 per day.


Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

[Private economic] power within a State … can influence
  • [the] law by corruption and
  • public opinion by propaganda.
It can put politicians under obligations which interfere with their freedom.
It can threaten to cause a financial crisis.
But there are very definite limits to what it can achieve. …

[Where] the issue is simple and public opinion is definite, the plutocracy is powerless …
[Where] public opinion is undecided, or baffled by the complexity of the issue, the plutocracy can secure a desired political result. …

[The plutocracy has hitherto] been unable to
  • introduce Asiatic labour in California or Australia, except in [the] early days in small numbers. …
  • destroy trade unionism …
  • avoid heavy taxation of the rich [or]
  • prevent socialist propaganda. …

[The trade unions, for their part,] have failed … to keep in power governments which they liked but which a majority of the nation distrusted.

[The] power of economic organisations to influence political decisions in a democracy is limited by public opinion, which, on many important issues, refuses to be swayed even by very intensive propaganda.
Democracy, where it exists, has more reality than many opponents of capitalism are willing to admit.

(Power: A New Social Analysis, 1938, pp 85-6, emphasis added)


Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903)

I am simply carrying out the views of Mr Darwin in their applications to the human race …
Only those who do advance under [the pressure imposed by the system| eventually survive …
[These] must be the select of their generation.
(The Study of Sociology, 1882)

Partly by weeding out those of lowest development, and partly by subjecting those who remain to the never-ceasing discipline of experience, nature secures the growth of a race who shall both understand the conditions of existence, and be able to act up to them.
It is impossible in any degree to suspend this discipline.
(Social Statics, 1878)

The function of Liberalism in the past was that of putting a limit to the powers of kings.
The function of true Liberalism in the future will be that of putting a limit to the powers of Parliaments.
(The Man Versus the State, 1884)


John Galbraith (1908 – 2006)

[The] influence and power [of the modern business firm extends] to politicians, Presidents and the Pentagon. …
[This power] is much enjoyed, and its economic and political exercise can also be pleasingly remunerative.
Nothing serves it better than [an economic] theology that disguises its exercise. …
[Nonetheless,] the service that economists render to the disguise of power in their writing and teaching is more often the result of catatonic expression than of any deliberate or wilful motivation.
(p xv)

Inflation is an endemic tendency of the modern economy, which monetary policy attempts to control by high interest rates.
Given the persistent character of inflation, a reliance on monetary policy means that interest rates will be persistently high. …
And, since those who lend are likely to have more money than those who borrow or have nothing to lend, also a strikingly evident matter, the policy clearly favors those of established affluence.
From this comes the popularity of monetary policy in the financial world — its popularity with those who are or who speak for the affluent. …
[Unsurprisingly] those who urge an aggressive monetary policy are conveniently exempt from the unemployment and other misfortunes that it produces.
(p xxi)

[There] has been the shift in political power to the affluent.
This has led those so favored to try to contract out from the cost of those public services of primary importance to the poor — from the cost of public schools, police, public libraries, parks, public recreational facilities, public transportation.
Instead, through private purchase, the affluent provide these services for themselves in the form of private education, personal security guards, private recreational facilities and private transportation.
Deep moral indignation over the invasion of liberty by taxes coupled with grave complaints about the inefficiency of government have extensively supported this change.
(p xxiii)

A self-serving branch of moral philosophy has been devised to defend the right of the affluent to freedom of choice [while neglecting to mention] the way bad public services (like the absence of income itself) abridge the freedom of the poor.
(p xxiv)

The line which divides our area of wealth from our area of poverty is roughly that which divides privately produced and marketed goods and services from publicly rendered services.
[Our] wealth in privately produced goods is, to a marked degree, the cause of crisis in the supply of public services.
For we have failed to see the [the urgent need to] maintaining a balance between the two.
(p 190)

[For] Herbert Spencer and his American disciples in the last century, the Social Darwinists, poverty is the socially therapeutic tendency that eliminates the unfit.
[This secular] instinct for Social Darwinism still lurks in our time [accompanied by a] fundamentalist theology that holds that property is God's natural reward for the worthy.
The poor, meanwhile, have the comfort of knowing they … will pass [more] easily into the next world to enjoy, along with the meek, full compensation for the miseries of this existence.
The relevant and supporting texts and sermons are amply available from the religious broadcasters and the Moral Majority.
(p xxvi)

(The Affluent Society, 4th Ed, Penguin, 1984)


By showing that the rich were the naturally selected products of the Darwinian process, Herbert Spencer … relieved those so endowed of all sense of guilt and made them understand that they were, instead, the incarnation of their own biological excellence.
And he had also removed all feelings of obligation and concern as regards the poor.
However cruel their euthanasia, it served the higher purpose of human improvement as a whole.
(p 164)

In Europe the division between privilege and impoverishment was by classes; in the United States it was by individuals — the rich and self-reliant and below them the ragged fringe.
There could be a Darwinian selection of individuals, a Darwinian euthanasia of the fringe, but not so obviously of an entire class.
(p 165)

Spencer and his prophets were the supreme achievement in the defense of the great American rich in the years after the Civil War.
(p 166)

(A History of Economics, Penguin, 1987)


Ha Joon Chang (1963)

Reader in Political Economy and Development, Cambridge University

[Nineteenth century 'classical' liberals rejected] the conservative view that tradition and social hierarchy should have priority over individual rights.
[On the other hand, they] believed that not everyone was worthy of such rights.
They thought women lacked full mental faculties and thus did not deserve the right to vote.
They also insisted that poor people should not be given the right to vote, since they [feared that] the poor would vote in politicians who would [redistribute wealth. …]

[Twentieth century neo-liberals, by contrast,] do not oppose democracy [in principle.]
[In practice, however, many would be prepared where necessary to] sacrifice democracy [in the defense of] private property and the free market.

(Economics: The User's Guide: A Pelican Introduction, 2014, emphasis added)


Freedom Without Justice


Richard Tawney (1880 – 1962):
Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows.
(Equality, 3rd Ed, 1938)

It is not till it is discovered that high individual incomes will not purchase the mass of mankind immunity from cholera, typhus, and ignorance, still less secure them the positive advantages of educational opportunity and economic security, that slowly and reluctantly, amid prophecies of moral degeneration and economic disaster, society begins to make collective provision for needs no ordinary individual, even if he works overtime all his life, can provide himself.
(Equality, 4th Ed, Allen & Unwin, 1952, pp 134–5)

Isaiah Berlin (1909 – 1997):
[Total] liberty for wolves is death to [lambs.]
[Total] liberty of the powerful [and] the gifted, is not compatible with the rights to a decent existence of the weak and less gifted. …
Equality may demand the restraint of the liberty of those who wish to dominate … in order
  • to make room for social welfare,
  • to feed the hungry,
  • to clothe the naked,
  • to shelter the homeless,
  • to leave room for the liberty of others, [and]
  • to allow justice or fairness to exercised.
(The Pursuit of the Ideal, The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas, 1990)

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826):
Under pretence of governing, they have divided their nations into two classes:
  • wolves and
  • sheep.
Experience declares that Man is the only animal that devours its own kind.
For I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe.
And to the general prey of the rich [upon] the poor.
(Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington, 16 January 1787)

Karl Popper (1902 – 1994):
[The] paradox of freedom, first discovered by Plato, … can be expressed by saying that unlimited freedom leads to its opposite, since without its protection and restriction by law, freedom must lead to a tyranny of the strong over the weak.
This paradox … was solved by Kant, who demanded that the freedom of each man should be restricted, but not beyond what is necessary to safeguard an equal degree of freedom for all.
(The Open Society and Its Enemies, 5th Ed, 1966, Routledge, pp 257-8)

Tony Benn (1925-2014):
[Real choice] depends on the freedom to choose, and if you're shackled with debt, you don't have the freedom to choose. …
[If] the poor in Britain or the United States turned out and voted for people who represented their interests, it would be a real democratic revolution. …
[There] are two ways in which people are controlled:
  • first of all, frighten people; and
  • secondly, demoralize them.
An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern. …
The top 1% of the world's population own 80% of the world's wealth.
It's incredible that people put up with it.
But they're poor, they're demoralized, they're frightened.
And therefore they think: perhaps the safest thing to do is [just] to take orders and hope for the best.
(Michael Moore, Sicko, 2007)

Milton Friedman (1912–2006):
[The] Great Depression was not a failure of capitalism.
It was not a failure of the private market system …
It was a failure of government.
(Who Protects the Worker?, Free to Choose, Episode 8, PBS, 1980)

Unfortunately that failure did not end with the Great Depression.
Ever since, government has been attempting to fine-tune the economy.
In practice, just as during the Depression, far from promoting stability, the government itself has been the major single source of instability.
(Anatomy of a Crisis, Free to Choose, Episode 3, PBS, 1980)

George W Bush (1946):
We're faced with a prospect of a global meltdown. …
It's true this crisis includes failures
  • by lenders and borrowers, and
  • by financial firms and independent regulators,
but the crisis was not a failure of the free market system.
(The G20, Rear Vision, ABC Radio National, 2 November 2014)


Mark Blyth (1967)

[Milton Friedman] assumed that unemployment was voluntary and was not due to a deficiency [in the demand for labor.]
People [voluntarily trade off leisure against labor according to] the prevailing wage.
There is no [such thing as Keynesian] demand-deficient unemployment in Milton's world.
In other words, the 25% of Spaniards who are presently without work [have simply made a rational decision not to] work at the prevailing wage [— freely choosing, instead, to go] on vacation.
(p 153)

[By this logic, the Great Depression was] a giant, unexpected, and astonishingly long unpaid vacation for millions of people …
(p 159)

[Likewise, Joseph Schumpeter] argued that the Great Depression was neither great nor depressing.
Rather, it was just a particularly marked transitional period of technological and organizational change …
(p 129)

(Austerity, 2013)


Milton Friedman (1912 – 2006)

Swedish National Bank's Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (1976)

If you promote freedom … you will end up … with both
  • more freedom,
  • more prosperity, and
  • more equality. …
[But] if I were wrong, if freedom led to wider inequality, I would [still] prefer that to a world in which I got artificial equality at the expense of [natural] freedom.
[My] God … is freedom. …

For much of this century the British have tried, [and failed,] to use the law to impose equality …
The drive for equality [failed because it] goes against the most basic instinct of all human beings.
In the words of Adam Smith:
The uniform, constant, and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition; to improve his own lot and to make a better world for his children and his children's children. …
The growth of crude criminality in Britain … owes much to the drive for equality …
Who can doubt [that] the effect that the drive for equality has had on efficiency and productivity … is one of the main reasons why Britain has fallen so far behind … other countries in the improvement of the economic lot of the ordinary man over the past 30 years. …
If you ask, where in the world to people have the greatest opportunity for them and their children? … it's in places like the United States

The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. …
[You] get greater equality of actual results by a system under which people are free to achieve unequal results. …
[In] this world, the greatest source of inequality has been special privileges granted by government. …
Everywhere, and at all times, economic progress has meant far more to the poor than to the rich.
Wherever progress has been achieved, it has relieved the poor from back-breaking toil …

The inheritance of talent is no different, from an ethical point of view, from the inheritance of other forms of property: of bonds, of stocks, of houses, or of factories — yet many people resent the one but not the other. …
(Created Equal, Episode 5)

[The] capitalist system … in the 19th century did a far better job of expressing … compassion than the governmental welfare programs are today.
The 19th century … was the period of the the greatest outpouring of … charitable activity the world has ever known.
And one of the things I hold against the welfare system most seriously, is that it has destroyed private charitable arrangements that are far more effective [in helping people] in disadvantaged situations.
(From Cradle to Grave, Episode 4)

The strongest argument for free enterprise is that it prevents anybody from having too much power …

I'm not in favor of no government intervention, I never have been. …
The question is, what kind of intervention?

I agree … that the more homogeneous a country, the less harm a government will do by intervening.
I don't believe it does positive good; I just simply believe it does less harm.

… I am in favor of the [antitrust] laws that make agreements and restraint of trade illegal.
[However, most] of the antitrust apparatus has promoted monopoly instead of hindered monopoly.
If you look are where there are monopolistic elements in the world … in almost every case [it] derives from a special grant by government.
And, therefore, the problem is not: how does government enforce competition, [but] how do you keep government from setting up monopolies? …
The responsibility [of government] is to set a system of laws … under which competition will flourish …

I don't know of any case, in history, in which monopolies have been able to maintain themselves for very long, without having government assistance directly come in on their side.
The trade union monopolies … would never have the kind of power they do now if it weren't for the special privileges which government has granted to them …
[Antitrust action by the government is really] pro-monopoly action — in the main.
(The Tyranny of Control, Episode 2)

[Some stimulus] measures may have been useful, and indeed needed during the depression years …
(Anatomy of a Crisis, Episode 3)

The people who get on welfare lose their … feeling of dignity. …

Suppose you were cruel, and simply took away [a recipient's] welfare overnight — cut it off — what would happen?
He would find a job.
What kind of job?
I don't know.
It might not be a very nice job. …
But at some wage, at some level of pay, there will always be job which he could get for himself.
It might be also that he would be driven to rely on some private charity; he might have to get soup kitchen help or the equivalent.
[I'm] not saying that that's desirable … but as a matter of actual fact as to what would happen, there is little doubt that he would find some way to earn a living. …

Nobody spends someone else's money as carefully as his own.
Nobody has the same dedication to achieving someone else's objectives that he displays when he pursues his own.
[Active labor market programs] have a insidious effect on the moral fibre of both the people who administer the programs and the people who are supposedly benefiting from it.
  • For the people who administer it, it instils in them a feeling of almost God-like power.
  • For the people who are supposedly benefiting, it instils a feeling of child-like dependence.
    Their capacity for personal decision making atrophies.
[These programs] tend to rot away the very fabric that holds a decent society together. …

[Government] money always corrupts …

The … least bad solution that I have ever been able to devise is … the negative income tax. …
[It's] a system [that] would have the effect of eliminating the separation of the society into
  • those who receive and
  • those who pay,
a separation that tends to destroy the whole social fabric. …

We have surrendered power to government.
Nobody has taken it from us.
Its our doing.
The results:
  • monumental government spending, much of it wasted;
  • little of it going to the people we would like to see helped;
  • burdensome taxes;
  • high inflation;
  • a welfare system under which neither those who receive help nor those who pay for it are satisfied.
Trying to do good with other people's money simply has not worked.
(From Cradle to Grave, Episode 4)

There is no place for government to prohibit consumers from buying products the effect of which will be to harm themselves.
There is [only] a place for government to protect third parties. …
There is a role for government in pollution. …
That is a case in which you are protecting third parties. …
There is a case for requiring brakes because that's to protect the person you might hit.
[But,] there's no case for requiring an airbag …
(Who Protects the Consumer?, Episode 7)

The people most discriminated against by a high minimum wage rate are people with low skills, which includes a disproportionate number of negros.
Indeed, I have long believed that the minimum wage rate is the most anti-negro piece of legislation on our statute books …

Unions have never accounted for one out of four or one out of five of American workers.
The American worker benefited not out of unions, he benefited in spite of unions. …
[In] so far as unions have played a role, they [have] protected some workers at the expense of others and [have] retarded the prosperity of this country. …
The plain fact is, that there is no evidence whatsoever, that either unions or minimum wages have made positive contributions to the prosperity of this country [as a whole.]
(Who Protects the Worker?, Episode 8)

(Free to Choose, PBS, 1980)


Consider a group of individuals who initially have equal endowments and who all agree voluntarily to enter a lottery with very unequal prizes.
The resultant inequality of income is surely required to permit the individuals in question to make the most of their initial equality.
Redistribution of the income after the event is equivalent to denying them the opportunity to enter the lottery. …
[By analogy, individuals] choose occupations, investments, and the like partly in accordance with their taste for uncertainty. …

[The] economic progress achieved in the capitalist societies has been accompanied by a drastic diminution in inequality. …

The methods that governments have used most widely to alter the distribution of income have been graduated income and inheritance taxation. …
My impression is that [the current high and highly graduated nominal tax rates (20-91%)] have had a relatively minor, though not negligible, effect in the direction of narrowing the [income] differences between the average position of groups of families …
[Though, if] present tax rates were made fully effective, the effect on incentives and the like might well be so serious as to cause a radical loss in the productivity of the society.
Tax avoidance may therefore have been essential for economic well-being. …

I find it hard, as a liberal, to see any justification for graduated taxation solely to redistribute income.
This seems a clear case of using coercion to take from some in order to give to others and thus to conflict head-on with individual freedom.

All things considered, the … tax structure that seems to me best is a flat-rate tax [eg 23.5% on total personal income (labor and capital); combined] with the abolition of the corporate income tax [coupled with a] requirement that corporations … attribute their income to stockholders …

[Such a flat rate] would yield a higher revenue because a larger amount of taxable income would be reported for three reasons:
  • there would be less incentive than now to adopt legal but costly schemes that reduce the amount of taxable income reported (so-called tax avoidance);
  • there would be less incentive to fail to report income that legally should be reported (tax evasion);
  • the removal of the disincentive effects of the present structure of rates would produce a more efficient use of present resources and a higher income. …

Much of the actual inequality derives from imperfections of the market.
Many of these have themselves been
  • created by government action or
  • could be removed by government action.
There is every reason to adjust the rules of the game so as to eliminate these sources of inequality.
For example, special monopoly privileges granted by government, tariffs, and other legal enactments benefiting particular groups, are a source of inequality.

(Capitalism and Freedom, 1962)