Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 396, December 3, 2006

"A Future that's worth looking forward to."

Letters to the Editor

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Letter from Samantha Atkins

Letter from L. Neil Smith

Letter from David K. Farel

Letter from Joseph Knight

Letter from Steve Reed

Letter from Vince Losasso

Re: "Back To Basics", by L. Neil Smith

I agree with where we want to go. But the difficult question is how to get there from here. The inertia of the current governmental machine is huge. It cannot be stopped on a dime and immediately dismantled. In a country where some 40% of all employment is with the government, over 50% of the wealth is siphoned through the government, a very large part of health care money is government filtered, etc., how do we dismantle this machine without utterly wrecking the economy and the lives of most of the people? I don't believe we will get a lot of traction until we begin to address this.

Samantha Atkins

[Mr. Smith addresses this letter in the article "Back to Basics: Part Two" in this issue—Editor]

Dear Ken

Re: "Letter from Mark Estes"

I share your exasperation with thick-headed nitpickers who don't get it even after it's carefully explained to them. Mark Estes demands that we "Quit dancing and just own up to jumping the gun" with regard to our Democrats-in-Power counter.

What Mark fails to get is that it doesn't matter even a little bit what the Chimpanzee-in-Chief and his menagerie do. What matters is what the Democrats do—or what they can frighten the lame duck cowardly Republicans into doing or not doing—and that remains to be seen.

L. Neil Smith

Re: "Of the Dead Speak Nothing But Truth", by L. Neil Smith

It's worse than you say. Friedman was always a lover of the Fed and its owners—he only criticized its inconsistent policies.

Friedman, Hayek, and Nixon advocated guaranteed annual income (Remember the "negative income tax" and Nixon's "family assistance plan?)

Anyone advocating guaranteed income is a SOCIALIST. Friedman's positions were considered far left in the thirties.

Friedman advocated markets for expedient reasons—they work. Markets by permission of the state—not by right.

I view Friedman as a loyal supporter of the "moneyed establishment." A total whore.

Increasing the money supply 3 to 5 % a year means ADULTERATING money by that amount.

One of the more EVIL characters of the last century.

Yes, it couldn't happen without withholding. . . pure destruction!

David K. Farel

Re: "Back To Basics", by L. Neil Smith

You (LNS) write "saying that you're a 'gradualist'. . . what I hear is that you want to go on stealing from me for as long as I continue to let you get away with it."

I am an incrementalist by necessity. But I don't think you're hearing what I'm saying.

Suppose I'm walking in your neighborhood and see a burglar leaving your house carrying a TV and a stereo.

"Hey" I yell, reaching into my pocket for my .38 bad-guy repelling device. The thief drops the stereo and runs off with the TV. I'm glad I was able to save the stereo but just because I wasn't able to save the TV too doesn't make me a party to the theft.

I want all my freedom, all the time, and I want it now. If you show me the magic button to push to make that happen, I'll push it. Until then, I'll take as much as I can get as fast as I can get it.

Joseph Knight

Re: "Of the Dead Speak Nothing But Truth", by L. Neil Smith

I was disappointed to see that Neil Smith's obituary—more of an anti-eulogy—for Milton Friedman (26 November) had the weaknesses, both of them rare for Neil, of being inaccurate and graceless.

As to the latter: Neil brought up enough of what Friedman may or may not have done, in establishing income-tax withholding, to devote nearly two-thirds of the essay to a moral condemnation. Especially since none of this moral thunder was even documented, an older principle does come into play here, as I see it: There are times to speak in such terms of the dead, but an obituary like this is not one of them.

And as to the former: To say that Friedman was uniquely responsible—or, as Neil implies, essentially fully responsible—for "having actually invented" the tax withholding that feeds Leviathan is to misrepresent the situation. Almost, in fact, to the point of a personal smear.

Are we to blame the whole of the Welfare-Warfare State on every marginal mid-level bureaucrat? That is all Friedman was, as any decent analysis of how withholding came about would tell you. Such as this article in the Cato Journal about the milieu of manipulation involved.

(Oh, that is, if Cato's peer-reviewed research works are acceptable to cite around here, and are not automatically dismissed as "minarchist" sellout pieces. I don't like their current-events temporizing, either, but let's make sure their more thorough efforts aren't summarily dismissed.)

Charlotte Twight's article notes how the push for withholding had existed for decades, going back to before the 16th Amendment. In fact, such a regime was implemented in 1913 as part of of the first federal income-tax statutes, but was repealed in 1917! Friedman was barely out of diapers by then.

The agitation continued in and out of Congress to even out tax receipts, mostly from an effort to find effective administrative mechanisms to foist the costs of doing so onto employers. The transition also involved a question of whether 1942 taxes, originally to be paid "in arrears" in April 1943 and not withheld, would be cancelled in whole or in part. As usual, the rationale was one part lies and one part faux "patriotism":

    Crisis also facilitated passage of income tax withholding legislation. In the dispute over forgiveness or cancellation of 1942 taxes, outraged opponents of any cancellation impugned the patriotism of their adversaries and asked how one could in good conscience cancel taxes when U.S. soldiers were dying in battle. Countless allusions to "our men and boys. . . dying to win victory and save our country" peppered the debates.

Friedman was indeed a Treasury functionary who worked on the proposed mechanics. Yet the power plays, debates, and misrepresentations rested wholly with Congress. Ultimately, no taxes were cancelled, and the notion was entirely a ruse to get wavering Congressmen on board.

Moreover, the adoption of Social Security withholding had already greased the public-opinion skids, and set up the bureaucratic scaffolding, for doing so with income taxes. The political and business opponents of withholding had already accepted that scheme for nearly a decade, and were effectively neutered from taking any stand of principled opposition.

With all of this—where any one bureaucrat was a cog in that infernal Machine of which Isobel Paterson wrote, that very year—we're supposed to believe that "every excess, every evil, everything the government has done since then is, in some part, Milton Friedman's doing," as Neil wrote?

I don't think so. In fact, Friedman was later publicly regretful even for his quite minor role on the periphery of this issue. That may be too little after the fact, but is that apology inoperative, Neil? The current mental Shrub in the White House has certainly never apologized for his war crimes in this century.

If anyone ever made up, in becoming an articulate and persuasive advocate for liberty, from having taken an ill-advised employment step, it was Milton Friedman. I am truly saddened that Neil Smith would breeze past this in order to make other rhetorical points—and, whether he intended to do so or not, to stomp on the memory of such a man.

Steve Reed

Mr. Ed,

See [This link]

I believe I irritated the young lady. Sigh It's not the first time I've seen this happen.

It's a pity she shut me out; now I'll never have the chance to explain (in that way she loves so much) that I too work for a living, have family and responsibilities. What I DON'T have is my own blog or website link which the lady claims I lack the balls to give to her.

But then, I knew two things when I ignored her original dismissal. One, I would never convince her to look at things from any different perspective and two, that eventually she would disappear in a cloud of steam like Dorothy's nemesis did when she was hit with water.

You know, my wife warned me (albeit with tongue in cheek). "See what happens when you talk to strangers on the internet."

LOL, you're gonna put those ideas in your head? You don't know where they've been!

Vince Losasso

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