Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Taxing Problem, III: Where Did We Go Wrong?

- By: Michael D. Greaney - The Just Third Way -

Looking at what has happened to the Federal Reserve and the income tax, we have to wonder what is the root cause of the misuse of these institutions? Where, in other words, did we go wrong?

Trying to be objective, we think it is in how people understand private property and contract, and thus money, credit, banking, and finance. Of these, the (mis)understanding of money appears to be the most immediate problem. Not that the others are unimportant, but the vortex, as it were, seems to swirl around money and credit - according to Henry Dunning Macleod, two forms of the same thing.

Money is legally defined as anything that is accepted in settlement of a debt. It is a contract involving "offer" and "acceptance." It is not, as some theorists declare, a claim issued by the State on the general wealth of society. That is socialism, and is rooted in the understanding of taxation and private property found in Thomas Hobbes's virtual manual for totalitarian government, Leviathan, that denied (abolished) private property:

"A Fifth doctrine, that tendeth to the Dissolution of a Common-wealth, is, 'That every private man has an absolute Propriety in his Goods; such, as excludeth the Right of the Soveraign.' Every man has indeed a Propriety that excludes the Right of every other Subject: And he has it onely from the Soveraign Power; without the protection whereof, every other man should have equall Right to the same. But if the Right of the Soveraign also be excluded, he cannot performe the office they have put him into; which is, to defend them both from forraign enemies, and from the injuries of one another; and consequently there is no longer a Common-wealth." (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. XXIX.)

That is, the king — the State — is the ultimate owner of everything in the State. That being the case, taxes are not a grant from a free citizenry, but a "retaking" of what the State was pleased to allow the citizens in the first place: "[T]he Kings word, is sufficient to take any thing from any subject, when there is need; and... the King is Judge of that need." (Ibid., Ch. XX.)

It is interesting to note that Hobbes influenced Walter Bagehot (who, incidentally, had enormous contempt for the United States), while Keynes, the virtual demigod of today's monetary and fiscal policy, revered Bagehot.

The fact is, despite the fixed beliefs of modern academics, it is possible to create money to finance new capital formation without first having to cut consumption and accumulate money savings. Keynes did not understand basic bookkeeping or the accounting equation, assets = liabilities + owners equity. Keynes failed to realize that the "multipliers" developed from his theories, especially the "money multiplier," are complete fantasy.

The money multiplier relies on counting the same asset multiple times and shifting ownership around indiscriminately to meet political ends. The Keynesian money multiplier embodies a fatal error that is obvious to anyone who understands double entry bookkeeping or (better) money. That is, the money multiplier theory assumes that checks drawn on one account remain on deposit in another account without ever being presented for payment!

Anyone who has ever balanced a bank statement knows that this is not the case. Checks clear, decreasing the amount in the account and thus the amount of money available, or they remain outstanding, in which case you still can't spend the money because it has already been spent. Drawing checks against money in an account that has already had checks drawn against it is called "issuing bad checks." It is a civil or criminal offense, depending on the amount of the fraudulent check you issued and the jurisdiction in which you committed the offense. It is what Henry Thornton called a "fictitious bill," that is, money with nothing behind it.

The Keynesian money multiplier, however, assumes as a matter of course that banks are engaged in a vast criminal conspiracy by creating money backed by nothing more than checks drawn against money that doesn't exist. (We never claimed that the Keynesian theory made sense — but it's in all the textbooks.) Today's academic economists and politicians dismiss as ludicrous the actual case, that commercial banks create money by accepting bills of exchange and issuing promissory notes that back the demand deposits.

Thus, if we accept today's standard assumptions about money and credit, there is no way to create money for Capital Homesteading so that ordinary people can become owners of capital without first having to cut consumption and accumulate money savings. If we reject the standard assumption, however, and use a little common sense along with some basic bookkeeping, the way is clear for a more rational monetary system than the debt-backed Leviathan that has kept the world locked into the slavery of past savings.

CESJ's Pro-Life economic agenda, for which we make the case in Supporting Life (2010) takes all this into account, reorienting the economy to conform to the natural law-based three principles of economic justice, 1) Participation, 2) Distribution and 3) Harmony ("feedback" or "social justice"), and the four pillars of an economically just society:

  1. A limited economic role for the State,

  2. Free and open markets as the best means for determining just wages, just prices, and just profits,

  3. Restoration of the rights of private property, especially in corporate and other business equity, and

  4. Widespread direct ownership of capital, individually or in free association with others.

In short, to require everyone to pay some tax, regardless whether they have the means or ability to pay, is to force anyone without property — and thus power — into a condition of dependency on the State . . . and keep in mind that "condition of dependency" was, prior to the Civil War, a euphemism for chattel slavery.

Via: The Just Third Way Blog

Related: A Taxing Problem, II: What Happened to the Federal Reserve?

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