22 Nov 2017

The Lara-Murphy Show Episode 45: The GOP Tax Plans, Theory & History

Lara-Murphy Show 39 Comments

In the latest episode I first walk through the standard theory of tax reform, explaining why different types of taxes have different impacts on behavior. (I make it clear that I’m not endorsing any of these taxes–as they are all coercive–but am just trying to get people to see the logic driving the “mainstream” discussion.)

Then Carlos and I discuss the House and Senate tax bills. I end up agreeing (somewhat) with the Democrats who complain they are targeted for the rich. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but the flip side–that other people’s taxes go up–is the problem.)

39 Responses to “The Lara-Murphy Show Episode 45: The GOP Tax Plans, Theory & History”

  1. Anonymous says:

    “I make it clear that I’m not endorsing any of these taxes–as they are all coercive–but am just trying to get people to see the logic driving the ‘mainstream’ discussion.”

    Dishonesty about the effects of a head tax is pretty close to an endorsement. The other two you list can be implemented without slavery, based on the definition of slavery as a situation you cannot leave even by going to starve in the gutter. (You could still call them theft or exploitation.) A head tax could only be enforced by slavery. Briefly mentioning “ability to pay” without explaining that doesn’t make up for the dishonest claim that a head tax distorts the economy the least. Slavery is a major distortion.

    Even your description of a effects of an income tax is only true for people earning comfortably above subsistence. Sure, for those people, increasing income tax will likely disincentive working and other income-earning activity. For people earning near-subsistence, it is not the same. If a guy can earn near-subsistence on 56-hours per week without an income tax, then he would have to work around 112 hours per week to still earn near-subsistence at a 50% income tax. Thus an income tax on people who are very poor (near subsistence) incentivizes them to allow themselves to be overworked, and that’s not a good thing. (But still technically not slavery, since he could choose to just starve instead of working 112 hours per week.) It’s rather similar to imposing a sharecropping system on a subsistence farmer. If the farmer has to hand over 50% of their crops, then they now have to produce twice as much to still earn subsistence, but it’s only slavery if they aren’t allowed to walk away.

    Consumption taxes on necessities such as food can have a similar effect on workers earning near subsistence.

    A head tax is the worst and most distorting of all these. A head tax is simply a fancy justification for outright conscription of anyone earning less than a particular amount and the sale of those people to any employer willing to pay their head tax, or in other words, a state-sponsored slavery regime, which is exactly what happened when the Belgians implemented it in the Congo. Since the Congolese had an agrarian barter economy, and the Belgians took them away from their farms and forced them to work for mining corporations and other favored industries, this resulted in widespread starvation and death.

    The brutal effects of head taxes are described by Jules Marchal in Lord Leverhulme’s Ghosts and Forced Labor In The Gold & Copper Mines: A History Of Congo Under Belgian Rule, 1910-1945.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “In the Congo, where labor was officially free, the government subjected the Africans, up until 1945, to a particularly harsh form of coercion, to the benefit of Lever, by imposing upon them, on the one hand labour contracts punishable by prison and chicotte, on the other hand an onerous head tax which they could pay only by becoming serfs.”
    – Jules Marchal, Lord Leverhulme’s Ghosts, page 220

    And from further up on the same page:
    “While Nigerian exploitation of palm groves differed radically, there were British colonies in Africa that employed methods identical to those developed in the Congo, involving forcible recruitment on behalf of private companies and the use of prison sentences to reinforce compulsory labor contracts. This was the case with Kenya in particular, a recently published study shows.”
    – Jules Marchal, Lord Leverhulme’s Ghosts, page 220

  3. Anonymous says:

    An increase in head tax is listed among the reasons for the revolt of the Pende in 1931, according to a report prepared by Omer Dewilliamort and summarized by Jules Marchal. The revolt was brutally suppressed.


    * The enforced lowering of the price for a crate of fruit: 30 kilos of fruit now fetched a franc (3.3 centimes a kilo), whereas previously the average price had been 2.50 francs (8.3 centimes a kilo).”
    * The significant increase in the head tax (to be paid by adult, able-bodied men) and above all in the supplementary tax (85 francs for a man having two wives), despite the crisis; the enormous difficulties involved in paying them. One had to cut 2.5 tonnes of fruit to get 85 francs.
    * The difficulties often faced by the blacks in getting paid their due when they delivered fruit (especially by the Portuguese palm-oil firms).
    * The abuses and thefts committed by the industrialists’ representatives.
    * The suppression of the perks which labour recruiters had customarily accorded to chiefs of both cefferies and villages.
    * In Yongo chefferie, the failure of the HCB to buy up the bulk of the food crops which, according to the State, it was supposed to produce.

    – Jules Marchal, Lord Leverhulme’s Ghosts, pages 153-154

    • Anonymous says:

      “The average output of a good cutter was 180 crates per year, or 15 crates per month.”

      – Jules Marchal, Lord Leverhulme’s Ghosts, page 214

  4. Anonymous says:

    Dehees, the director of the Baruma circle, sent a request for assistance in recruitment to Alexis Bertrand, who was acting as governor. Dehees asked for “tax collection staggered across the whole year in the palm-tree areas” and an “increase in rates of tax in the palm-tree regions” among other things. Dehees accused the natives of the region of being “apathetic and lazy”, claimed these measures were necessary to persuade them to work and, like many apologists for slavery, claimed that he was “defending the best interests of the black man.” See pages 63-64 of Lord Leverhulme’s Ghosts by Jules Marchal.

  5. Anonymous says:

    From a report by Dr. Raingeard, on page 124 of Lord Leverhulme’s Ghosts, “By law old men and adolescents of less than sixteen years old are exempt from taxation. In practice, as I have many times observed in Mushuni and Mombanda circles, 80% of old men and 40% of children pay.” The report also discusses natives being forced by violence to sign contracts, the enforcement of these contracts by chicotte (a type of whip), food shortages (one of the consequences of conscripting would-be farmers to instead work for corporations), poor housing (a result of forced relocation), poor sanitation (resulting in disease), etc.

  6. Anonymous says:

    These are committee notes from a meeting in Kiambi as quoted by Jules Marchal on page 42 of Forced Labor in the Gold & Copper Mines: A History of Congo under Belgian Rule, 1910-1945. The views expressed are not our own and we are simply quoting this as a piece of evidence of the attitudes and actions of those running the Congo at the time.

    “Natives in this area, like natives everywhere, are inclined to shirk all work, and very rarely agree to work of their own free will. So the only time they feel a need to work is when they are compelled by their tax obligations to do so. We saw this in Ankoro, a region where large numbers of laborers were recently recruited. It is therefore preferable for the Exchange agent to go to work where the tax collector, that is to say, the area agent or administrator, collects taxes.”

  7. Anonymous says:

    A report by Hector Maertens describes how workers were held against their will.

    “Every human flock has its bold members and its cowards. This holds true for labor recruits brought to work by force. Among them, too, there are bold, reckless fellows who take the risk of running away instead of submitting to the rigors of work. Then there are the prudent, pusillanimous fellows who know that if they run away they will be hunted all over the country by armed so-called soldiers of legendary brutality. They have seen runaway workers in their villages tracked down after heartrending manhunts. That is not to say that the hardships awaiting them at the mines are anything to look forward to, either …. It’s simply that these fellows have no choice, no exit either way. So they resign themselves to forced labor, their hearts turgid with hatred.”
    – Forced Labor in the Gold & Copper Mines: A History of Congo under Belgian Rule, 1910-1945, page 240

    In the euphemism of the times, those workers who were too afraid to attempt to run away were called “voluntary laborers”.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Head taxes cause rape.

    “If the laborer is accompanied by his wife, ad if the wive is passably good-looking, she quickly becomes the target of the white man’s bestial covetousness. If he refuses to hand her over without fuss, he will be subjected to constant harassment. In extreme cases he may have to deal with the likes of [Arnold] Bulens [a man hired in 1907 as a farmer-dairyman], who will drag the wife into the bush a few meters away from the husband who, on the white man’s orders, is immobilized by a ‘soldier’ detailed to keep order at the site. I reported such an incident to the Department of Justice, but the case was dismissed on the grounds that since the bush formed a curtain between the accused and the putative onlookers (all laborers at the site), the act did not happen in a public place.”

    “When the wretched man went to complain to management, he was thrown in jail. If he persisted, he was whipped until he came to understand the normal order of reality. In that scheme of things, the slogan “No troublemaking” had greater force than feelings of justice and human decency. Under these conditions, it was not surprising that workers, nudged along, moreover, by their own fatalism, resigned themselves to the work.”

    – Maertens, as quoted by Jules Marchal, Forced Labor in the Gold & Copper Mines: A History of Congo under Belgian Rule, 1910-1945, page 241-242

  9. Anonymous says:

    A description of recruitment of laborers so that they could pay head taxes.

    “Imagine the suffering of these unhappy fellows. They are sold by their chief, a shadowy authority figure installed by us the better to serve our purposes, and whom we use like Judas. In 75 cases out of 100 he is not the natives’ choice. Laborers are snatched from their huts and villages, and marched to the mines with ropes round their necks, like criminals, under and escort of utterly ignorant soldiers’ with no idea whatsoever of discipline, with no respect for orders received. Delivered by their chief, who grows fat off the gifts he receives in exchange for his venality, these recruits, from the moment they leave their villages, are obsessed with the idea of escape ….”

    “No doubt, if, on their arrival at the work site, they found decent lodging and food, plus kind treatment to offset privations endured and still come under a regime of harsh labor, one might hope that they could experience, if not a reversal of feelings about our methods and the work itself, at least a sweetening of the bitterness instilled in them by this whole penny-wise policy. But what do they find at the work site?”

    “They are confronted with unhealthy working conditions, and work so heavy that it saps the stamina of weakened laborers unused to such strain. And then the food is hardly enough, incapable of offering any solace, utterly inadequate considering the output of energy required. They are housed in shabby, humid sheds meaner than livestock stables here, or pigsties back home in Europe. Yet the laborer, when he was a free man, able to use his time as he wished, ate well and had a decent dwelling. So much for the physical situation.”

    “No one will deny that such men are justified in wondering what benefits our civilization has brought them, and what reward they get from the work we ceaselessly lecture them about. Their suffering begins with a moral exaction. The moment they reach the camp, it is aggravated by tremendous physical impositions. Finally, to complete their misery, in most cases their white master, the civilizing agent, will add an extraordinary chain of aggravations to their lengthening woes.”

    “A white boss, a perverted, brutal drunkard, will heap insults and threats on them from morning till night. They get slapped here, cuffed there, and kicked to the ground. If their spirits, pushed to revolt, or their bodies, numbed by pain, refuse to work, they will be whipped, because most of our whites cannot tell the difference between a sick man and a malingerer.”

    – Maertens, as quoted by Jules Marchal, Forced Labor in the Gold & Copper Mines: A History of Congo under Belgian Rule, 1910-1945, pages 240-241

  10. Tel says:

    It is kind of fascinating how deeply upset certain people get over “head tax” which once penalized people before they have worked, but yet how relaxed the feeling is about “income tax” which both penalizes people after they have worked and on top of that takes away their privacy as well.

    I agree with Bob, both are coercive and they are coercive in proportion to the size of the tax.

    However what I find weird is that one is associated with slavery while the other gets a pass. Is there a logical explanation?

    On a completely unrelated note, socialism kills people, Millions of people. Just thought we all needed to stop and remember that. http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2017/11/20/nicolae-one-hundred-million/

    • Anonymous says:

      If theft is coercive in proportion to the amount stolen, does that mean that an online hacker who digitally steals $100 million from a bank is more coercive than a guy with a gun who steals a person and and sells that person to a mine, where they are whipped to force them to work, for $100? $100 million is a lot more than $100, no?

      This is why talking to libertarians about “coercion” is useless. I have no idea what that word even means to you folks, but stealing a person is clearly much more violent than hacking a bank. But apparently, based on what you just said, libertarians would think hacking the bank is a million times more “coercive”.

      Slavery has a very specific definition, by the way.

      “There’s certainly the question of sustenance, you normally feed your slaves, you normally house your slaves. But beyond that, normally, there is no pay for people in slavery. There could be tokenistic payments, which are given to people in slavery to encourage them to work harder. But the key is not about remuneration. Slavery has never been determined by the presence or absence of remuneration. It’s always been about the total control. And in some ways, when I’m in the field and I’m looking at people who may or may not be in slavery, my rule of thumb question is first, can they walk away, and can they walk away even into a worse situation? So if they can walk away and literally starve to death in a gutter, that’s harsh, but that’s not slavery. But if they are controlled to the point that they lack free will, they lack freedom of movement, then they are in slavery. And then you can begin to talk about the nature and the mechanism by which they are enslaved.”


      Quite simply, an income tax can be enforced in a way which leaves people free to go starve in a gutter if they want, and a head tax can’t. Now, if you combined income tax with something else, like vagrancy laws, where the penalty for vagrancy was slavery, like in many states in post-Civil War America, that would be different, but the vagrancy laws would be a bigger problem than the income tax in that case.

      Do you think the women who were raped within sight of their husbands, because their husbands had to come pay head tax, had more privacy than Americans who pay income tax?

      You don’t need to give income tax a free pass, but crying that you are more victimized that slaves who were frequently beaten and whipped, merely because of the amount of money taken from you, is just disgusting.

      As for socialism, that really depends on how you define it. If it’s “government ownership of the means of production”, then sure, governments can be just as murderous as corporations. There’s really no fundamental difference between governments and corporations anyway, so we can expect that sort of socialism to be just as bad as capitalism. But some socialists seem to think it means “worker ownership of the means of production”, and there are some worker-owned cooperatives that seem to be fairly peaceful and not killing people.

      Regardless, in the Congo, capitalism killed about 10 million during King Leopold’s reign, the deaths continued under the Belgian reign, then after the Congo finally had their own elections, Lumumba was assassinated with CIA help and replaced with the dictator Mobutu, and even after Mobutu the place is basically run by a variety of little armies who go around killing and enslaving the people while selling raw materials to the electronics and other industries.

      • Tel says:

        If theft is coercive in proportion to the amount stolen, does that mean that an online hacker who digitally steals $100 million from a bank is more coercive than a guy with a gun who steals a person and and sells that person to a mine, where they are whipped to force them to work, for $100? $100 million is a lot more than $100, no?

        Theft and robbery are different things. Theft is by stealth, taking from someone while they are distracted and looking the other way.

        Robbery is by force, taking from someone who knows knows they are being robbed but has no capability of self defense. Both are ways of taking what does not belong to you, but they are not the same thing.

        Now there’s the question of the value in dollar terms of a human life (that is to say what was taken, regardless of the method by which it was taken) and of course it depends on perspective. That life is very valuable to its original owner, but probably lass valuable to the person who took that life. Unless you have an open market in human life there is no commonly accepted value, nor does the era of King Leopold neatly translate to the modern day. I’m not pretending to have an answer for this, merely pointing out that you can wave your hands and claim one thing is worth so much more than another thing but you don’t have anything to base that on.

        … and there are some worker-owned cooperatives that seem to be fairly peaceful and not killing people

        I know someone who worked for a “worker-owned cooperative” and what she discovered is that the people there are pretty much as self centered as the people anywhere. No they were not killing people, but neither was the corporation next door. If it was such a great idea then everyone would already be doing it. You seem to believe everyone else is stupid and you know something. Let me tell you, that approach will not take you far,

        Regardless, in the Congo, capitalism killed about 10 million during King Leopold’s reign ….

        So Capitalism is bad because King Leopold, Seriously?!? Sure you can find people who have used force against other people, some of them might have been capitalists (although the “King” part of the title suggests perhaps not so much) but some of the people who used force were “workers” in unions (I’m Australian so don’t even bother to tell me that the building unions and transport unions are clean because I’ve been there), some of those people using force were socialists claiming to be using force on behalf of the workers (when they get to power their main objective is keeping power but they always pretend to be looking after the workers).

        • Anonymous says:

          So Capitalism is bad because King Leopold, Seriously?!? Sure you can find people who have used force against other people, some of them might have been capitalists (although the “King” part of the title suggests perhaps not so much)

          King Leopold was King of Belgium, but he ran the Congo as his private property.

          Is saying that capitalism is bad because King Leopold any different from saying that communism is bad because Stalin or Mao?

          If it is agreed that Stalin and Mao are examples of communism, then yes I agree that communism is bad. But if a socialist tells me “no, that’s not socialism, socialism is worker ownership of the means of production”, then I can’t very well tell them that their idea of socialism is bad based on something they refuse to take credit for. If the socialist happens to be a pacifist or pseudo-pacifist, then I probably won’t find much to complain about. And I am a bit confused about what the difference is between communism and socialism, but that seems fairly moot when people don’t seem to agree on what those terms even mean.

          Unfortunately, capitalists do seem to endorse the results of King Leopold’s reign. You see, King Leopold brutally enslaved the Congolese people to make them gather wild rubber, which was essential to the rise of the automobile industry. And capitalists seem to just love Henry Ford and the automobile industry. If capitalists were willing to renounce their unqualified love of Henry Ford and the automobile industry, and instead issue a strong condemnation against King Leopold and the results of his reign, then saying “capitalism is bad because King Leopold” would no longer work, but unfortunately this does not seem to be the case.

          Capitalists are like this about a lot of things. Even though the United States imports massive amounts of stuff that was made by slaves, capitalists still keep pointing at the United States, and the specific corporations responsible, as examples of capitalism.

        • Anonymous says:

          Now there’s the question of the value in dollar terms of a human life (that is to say what was taken, regardless of the method by which it was taken) and of course it depends on perspective. That life is very valuable to its original owner, but probably lass valuable to the person who took that life. Unless you have an open market in human life there is no commonly accepted value, nor does the era of King Leopold neatly translate to the modern day. I’m not pretending to have an answer for this, merely pointing out that you can wave your hands and claim one thing is worth so much more than another thing but you don’t have anything to base that on.

          If, by your definition, theft is by stealth and robbery is by brute force, then robbery is more violent than theft, but even then, not all robberies are equally violent.

          And what, precisely, counts as an “open market in human life”?

          The point I was trying to get at is that the Belgian government (and King Leopold before that) literally robbed human lives. If you just look at a head tax and say, “oh, that’s only 85 francs (or whatever)”, that doesn’t capture the reality of human lives being sold to corporations willing to pay those 85 francs (or whatever the amount was), and, when someone has no other assets the government considers worth seizing, the only way the government can enforce a head tax is to seize that person’s life. The Belgian government simply wanted an excuse for conscription, without having to admit it was conscription.

          In contrast, it does seem to be possible to enforce income tax without seizing human lives, though you could still call it robbery if you want to.

        • Anonymous says:

          Edmund Dene Morel was a great anti-slavery campaigner who originally identified as a liberal (in the classical sense), and later as a socialist. He played a major role in exposing King Leopold’s atrocities. He broke with the liberals during World War I, which he opposed but the liberals did not. He was condemned to 6 months forced labor for sending anti-war literature to Switzerland.

          Here’s a link to one of his books, Red Rubber:

        • Anonymous says:

          And another book by E.D. Morel, Truth and the War:

        • Anonymous says:

          As an example of the sort of falsehoods libertarians publish, William L. Anderson has this to say of Henry Ford, “The result was twofold: his workers were able to be paid more than workers in other industries, and individuals across the economy were able to purchase high-quality automobiles.”

          This is blatantly false. The rubber workers, not only in the Congo but in other places too, were typically paid negatively. Far from being paid more than workers in other industries, they were some of the most brutally enslaved people. The best that might be said of Henry Ford is that perhaps, just perhaps, he might not have known his supply chain well enough to know this was happening, despite E.D. Morel’s efforts at telling the world. And the rubber workers certainly weren’t able to purchase automobiles of any sort, high-quality or not.

          If this was written from ignorance, it might be forgivable. But go, see if you can get William L. Anderson to fix his article to acknowledge the rubber terror. See if you can find any libertarian author who cares one whit for truth or justice more than they care for continuing to justify their obscene first world lifestyles, consuming things made by enslaved third worlders or in some cases simply looted.

    • Anonymous says:

      “I agree with Bob, both are coercive and they are coercive in proportion to the size of the tax.”

      For you to say that even after the examples of kidnapping, whipping, rape, etc. just proves that libertarian depravity knows no limits.

      • Tel says:

        At least I’m not a stinking hypocrite.

        I’m sure your Green Party buddies would love to increase all taxes.

        • Anonymous says:

          How are you not a “stinking hypocrite”? Libertarians claim to care about liberty, but it seems this liberty is only for themselves and not for the Congolese and other thirdworlders.

          Most taxes are not worth fighting.

          Rather like World War I. If World War I had not been fought, World War II could have been avoided, and Hitler, Stalin, and maybe even Mao most likely would not have risen to power.

          At least if taxes are to be fought, they should be fought non-violently, using methods like tax resistance, not by recommending that they be replaced by even more violent forms of taxation, such as a head tax which, if enforced, would result in the enslavement of the poor.

          Admittedly, taxes are spent on some awful things, and that definitely should be fought, nonviolently. But it’s probably not worth fighting over whether those taxes then get cut or merely redirected to non-violent expenditures.

          • Anonymous says:

            For more information about the uselessness of fighting World War I, please see To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild.

          • Tel says:

            Here is the Green Party’s own published platform. That is the policies they have chosen to declare to the world represents what they believe.

            Here’s a hint, it’s nothing to do with World War I, but it does contain a bunch of high taxes.


            Maximum Income: Build into the progressive income tax a 100% tax on all income over ten times the minimum wage.

            Firstly they support the minimum wage which is harmful, anti-liberty and just stupid. Then they also are willing to impose 100% top marginal tax rate. Seriously, it’s on their site “100% tax”.

            Wealth Tax: Enact a steeply progressive tax on net wealth over $2.5 million (the top 5% of households).

            And they want to take whatever you own, simply because they don;y like the idea that you own it.

            Inheritance Tax: Replace the loophole-ridden estate tax with a no-loopholes, progressive inheritance tax on inheritances over $1 million.

            And they want to punish your kids and your family.

            There’s a heap of other nutty policies, none of which will help the environment, most of which are just boring old Communism trying to pretend to hug a tree.

            Trump’s tax plan isn’t all that great, and by the time all the Congressional horse trading is over with it might look worse… but compared with the Green Party he is a Presidential genius.

            • Tel says:

              I forgot this one: “Ecological and Feminist Economic Accounting“.

              No more masculine concepts like numbers that add up and credit cards that hit a maximum. New feminist numbers will do away with all this.

              It’s kind of hilarious, but then you realize these people are not joking.

            • Anonymous says:

              My associate says she voted for Jill Stein due to Jill Stein’s foreign policy, which she believed was more anti-war than any of the other candidates.

              I did not vote in the US elections.

              Voting for someone does not commit you to supporting that person’s entire platform. There are, after all, limited choices available.

              Also, the famous war tax resistor Henry David Thoreau was a green anarchist.

              One reason most taxes (besides those with exceptionally violent enforcement) are not worth fighting is because so often, the government is simply robbing wealth that was already acquired by robbery, by means of enslavement or landtheft. What should happen to that wealth? It should be given back to the victims or their surviving descendants (barring those presently engaged in acts of enslaving or other extreme violence). But since no one wants to hear that, getting involved in the question of taxation, in first world countries, is essentially getting into an argument over how to divide the spoils of war.

              Violent methods of tax collection and violent spending of taxes should of course be opposed regardless.

              • Anonymous says:

                She also wishes me to add that she voted for Ron Paul back when she incorrectly believed he was the most anti-war candidate, but that she is now ashamed of that choice and would never vote Libertarian again, having now seen what libertarians are really like. And also that her best friend is a Chinese citizen who was residing in China at the time of the US election, and that she has not been happy with Trump’s provocation of China and would be severely dismayed if any war broke out there.

              • Anonymous says:

                She wants me to add that she considers minimum wage to be “almost entirely irrelevant”.

                I think “almost entirely irrelevant” is an overstatement. However, the Green Party position on minimum wage is still better than yours. If libertarians simply believed that each person should decide for themselves what the minimum wage they wanted to accept was, I could understand. But your hatred of minimum wage is so great, you would abolish even such an individual minimum wage by means of slavery.

                Are you really ready to be consistent about that? If you ever find yourself unemployed, would you be willing to accept a job that literally pays in food and whiplashes, with no chance to even bring the food home to your family, because you’d be locked up? Or would libertarians still get to pick their minimum wages, just not the rest of the world?

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Hey Tel,

          If you want to debate our guest that’s fine, but try to keep it civil please.

          • Anonymous says:

            He’s been more civil than you have.

            Tel earlier on:

            All taxation contains an element of slavery within it, because one person is forced to work on behalf of another person. That said, head taxes are particularly stupid by design (they are an attempt to disobey Willie Sutton’s law), I doubt you will find anyone on this blog who supports them.

            I guess he didn’t read your article before writing that.

            Now that we’ve considered tax design in the case of the car market, suppose that the government wants to raise $2 trillion over the next ten years with a new tax. It can levy a flat “head tax” that divides the burden evenly across all American taxpayers, or it can slap the $2 trillion tax just on activities that emit a lot of carbon dioxide. Putting aside issues of climate change for the moment, which proposal makes the most sense in terms of standard economic growth?

            It should be obvious that the first proposal is much more efficient. By levying a uniform head tax that isn’t tied to behavior, the government would raise the $2 trillion without distorting activity very much. People would be poorer, and the government would be richer, but there wouldn’t be too much deadweight loss that added insult to injury. It would mostly be a pure transfer of wealth from the taxpayers to the government.

            In complete contrast, the $2 trillion (over 10 years) tax levied on carbon-intensive industries would completely alter behavior. Indeed, that is the whole point of a carbon tax—to utterly transform the way our economy produces energy and provides transportation. So in addition to the taxpayers as a whole being $2 trillion poorer, they would also be doing things that weren’t as productive as the original method. Some people would be driving electric cars, for example, who would have preferred to drive gasoline-powered cars, and these people wouldn’t be contributing much in carbon tax revenue to the government. Instead, their unhappiness (at having to drive an inferior vehicle, or paying higher prices for electricity that was produced by wind power instead of coal) would be part of the deadweight loss to society from the carbon tax.

            Now it’s true, the promoters of the carbon tax could argue that it yielded environmental benefits that counted against the deadweight loss I’ve described. But it should be clear that just focusing on conventional economic output, raising $2 trillion through a lump sum head tax would impose much less drag than raising the same amount of revenue via a tax narrowly targeted to the carbon-intensive segment of the economy.

            It’s been pointed out to you repeatedly that a head tax such as the one you describe could only be enforced by slavery. And it’s also been pointed out to you that the fossil fuel industry kills, poisons people, steals land and receives subsidies, which you refuse to take into consideration when discussing the supposed economic benefits of their activities. So, you would sooner enslave the poor than simply do nothing while your precious corporate murderers are taxed.

  11. Anonymous says:

    A head tax was also used to force Papuans to accept wage labor jobs against their will.

    “As a result of the hysteria, the colonial authorities were able to impose an apartheid-style system of laws and regulations on the Papuans. Not only were they coerced by the head tax into leaving their villages to work in the mines and plantations, but when they got there, every aspect of their lives was controlled.”

    – John Tully, The Devil’s Milk., page 220

    Forced labor was exactly the intent of the head tax.

    “Australian planters and their advocates believed they were losing windfall profits because of the ‘lazy natives.’ ‘The reason the boys don’t want to work is their conservatism,’ said the Right Reverend Dr. Sharp, the Anglican Bishop of New Guinea. ‘Their parents have never worked, and they do not see why they should.’ The solution, which dovetailed with the rhetoric of the mission civilisatrice, was that the natives should be forced to work. The left-wing Barrier Daily Truth warned that ‘a number of capitalistic hirelings have sought a remedy for Papuan labor problems in a system of enforced labor.’ ‘The chief of these,’ the article continued, was Miss Beatrice Grimshaw, ‘who has travelled extensively in Papua.’ Grimshaw’s views received strong support from the Australian establishment. Earlier, a number of letters published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph urged the introduction of a head tax to force the Papuans into the cash economy and wage labor. The most prominent advocate of compulsion was Sir Hubert Murray, an Irish-Australian lawyer serving as the Lieutenant Governor of Papua who had commanded a detachment of the NSW Rifles in the Boer War. Murray told the Melbourne newspaper Agethat unless the natives were compelled to work, then the colony would not be developed and they would become ‘useless betel-chewing louts.’ Murray pointed to South Africa, where
    “‘They accomplished the task by direct taxation, imposing a money hut tax on all the natives under their control. The natives were of course destitute of money, but they had money’s worth in the labor of their hands. Finding themselves obliged to pay the tax, they worked to produce it, either as servants of the whites or as producers and tillers of their own soil. Murray also introduced a stringent Native Labor Ordinance to regulate the terms and conditions of laborers’ work under a system of contracts.'”
    “Underlying Murray’s reasoning was the belief that the whites had a right
    to employ the Papuans for whatever purposes they saw fit.”
    “Once an area was ‘pacified,’ recruiters would move in and take out long lines of ‘signed on boys,’ often roping them together to prevent them from escaping.”

    – John Tully, The Devil’s Milk., pages 235-237

  12. Anonymous says:

    And Nigeria.

    “In Nigeria, colonial authorities required that Africans pay their taxes in cash; this requirement forced a percentage of the population into wage labor, especially in the mining areas of the country.” – John R. Heilbrunn, Oil, Democracy, and Development in Africa, page 47

    • Anonymous says:

      “Supplying labour to the mining sites was indirectly aided by the British policy of demanding taxation in cash. While taxation was not new in northern Nigeria, a portion of it had always been collected in kind, and the sums fluctuated to take into account the effect of the frequent drought, flood, or insects upon the harvest. But once the British began to demand cash exclusively, natural crises made tax payments very difficult. Demands for ‘political labor’ to build railways and roads were also very onerous at times, and peasant households sometimes collapsed under the strain. As a result, permanent individual workers and a much larger stream of migrant, dry-season labour came to the Plateau to work tin.” – William Freund, Theft and Social Protest Among the Tin Miners of Northern Nigeria, in Banditry, Rebellion and Social Protest in Africa, edited by Donald Crummey

  13. Anonymous says:

    Something similar happened in Angola.

    “Angola’s people had enjoyed relative autonomy until the late 1890s, when the Portuguese imposed their second colonialism and passed laws that required anyone who could not demonstrate independent taxable wealth to work for an unspecified period to develop the colony.” – John R. Heilbrunn, Oil, Democracy, and Development in Africa, page 47

    • Anonymous says:

      “Those Africans deemed to owe taxes, the Portuguese called contratos, or contracted workers; many worked in horrific conditions where a number died.” – John R. Heilbrunn, Oil, Democracy, and Development in Africa, pages 47-48

    • Anonymous says:

      “When southern Angola’s Cokwe people refused to pay taxes, the Portuguese militarily crushed their resistance.” – John R. Heilbrunn, Oil, Democracy, and Development in Africa, page 48

    • Anonymous says:

      “Portugal, like other colonial powers in Africa, [allegedly] abolished slavery, yet still wanted access to Africans’ labor power. The most effective means to ensure access was the head tax, known in Portuguese Angola as the imposto indígena (native tax). By requiring all African men to pay this tax in Portuguese currency the government created a situation in which a large percentage of men in any given year could only earn the specie needed to pay the tax by going to work for a colonial employer. Of course, compelling people to work for low wages at undesirable jobs in distant locations from their homes and families required more than simply a law. The Portuguese constructed a network to enforce their requirements and to deliver labor. It was this network of colonial administrators and African policemen (cipaes; sing. cipaio) who enforced the system, often brutally, to ensure compliance. Women were not exempted, and in fact, it was women and children who built and maintained much of Angola’s extensive road system.” – Jeremy Ball, “I escaped in a coffin”. Remembering Angolan Forced Labor from the 1940s

      “Sometimes after the men are taken from the village, they take some of the women [to work on road maintenance]. Some men were taken to Catete on the railroad to work in the cotton fields. They may have to stay two or three years as contracted laborers. Some of them have been sent to work on sugar plantations for a six month’s term, but under various pretexts the time may be prolonged to seven or eight months. The planter told them that he had ‘bought’ them of the Government, that they were his slaves and that he did not have to pay them anything. They got only their food and a receipt for their head tax.” – Edward Ross as quoted by Jeremy Ball

      “Government recruited him in 1920 and ‘sold’ him to the petroleum company. He worked for it seven months, at the end of each three months he got a pano worth three escudos. At the end of the seven months he was told that he had seventy escudos due him, which would be paid him at the station where he had been recruited. However, he got nothing there but the receipt for his head tax. He asked about his wages but was told there was nothing for him.” – Edward Ross as quoted by Jeremy Ball

      “In practice forced labor works out as follows. A laborer works for the coffee planter and at the close of his term of service the planter says, ‘I can’t pay you anything for I have deposited the stipulated wage for you with the Government; go to such and such an office and you will get your pay’. The worker applies there and is told to come around in a couple of months. If he has the temerity to do so, he is threatened with the calaboose [jail] and that ends it. It is all a system of bare-faced labor stealing. They think that the planter has really paid for their labor, but that the official does them out of it.” – Edward Ross as quoted by Jeremy Ball

      “Ross summarizes his findings as a collective condemnation of Portuguese colonial practice. He describes the labor system as ‘virtually state serfdom’ that does not allow Africans adequate time to produce their food. Workers rarely received the bulk of their pay, which was embezzled by colonial officials. Africans had no recourse to colonial law for protection. The hut tax and obligatory labor for public works caused a heavy burden. Women, with only rudimentary tools and no pay, were forced to build roads, causing them to abandon their fields, and thus impacting negatively on food production.” – Jeremy Ball, “I escaped in a coffin”. Remembering Angolan Forced Labor from the 1940s

      “According to Galvão, the practice of colonial officials forcibly recruiting workers for particular employers and receiving payments from employers and a cut of worker salaries was ‘required in confidential circulars and official orders’. Galvão concluded that the system was crueler than pure slavery, an opinion also expressed by Africans interviewed by Ross in the 1920s. Mortality rates as high as thirty-five percent for forced laborers reflected the poor conditions under which they lived and worked.” – Jeremy Ball, “I escaped in a coffin”. Remembering Angolan Forced Labor from the 1940s

  14. Anonymous says:

    Head taxes have resulted in forced labor in Uganda too.

    “In the principal provinces of Uganda, natives pay four dollars and seventy-five cents poll tax, while in the small districts the tax is from one dollar and twenty-five cents to two dollars and fifty cents. Besides this there are a number of local taxes which go into the Uganda treasuries. In Buganda, natives pay a land tax of five dollars and must work thirty days without pay on the roads under the native rules. Chiefs and headmen in Myasaland, who are responsible for collecting the head tax, have at times arrested the wives and female relatives of defaulters and detained them until the tax was paid.” – William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, Black Folk Then and Now: An Essay in the History and Sociology of the Negro Race

  15. Anonymous says:

    Not to mention Togoland.

    “Nevertheless, one should be reminded that there was a regime of corporal punishment and the whole array of colonial coercion existed in Togoland, meaning one should not consider the colony as exceptional within the German colonial empire. Broadly speaking, the map’s veneer of orderliness and calm, almost sterile, depiction of Lomé betrayed the potentiality of violence. Colonial officials decreed that all Togolese must pay a Kopfsteur, a head tax, principally through forced labor. After completion, one received a tax card, which a Schutzmann checked to ensure people had ‘paid.'” – John Gregory Garratt, Kulturkampf in Lomé: German and Ewe Identification and Alienation In Togoland, West Africa, 1884-1913


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