It’s not possible to prevent people, particularly people whose goal is power, from abusing it. All we can do is deprive them of it.
- This comes near the end of a very good piece by Rand Simberg about the IRS, what it did, why, and what to do about it.
Which is what our own Jonathan Pearce also said recently.
“Why would you trust the bureaucracy with your health if you can’t trust the bureaucracy with your politics?”
Newt Gringrich, as reported at The Fiscal Times. Never mind what one thinks of the source of the quote – I don’t care for Gringrich one iota – that’s a good quotation.
Here is a reminder of my argument, a few days back, that this whole affair requires developments such as a flat tax, and the abolition of this wretched institution.
Timothy Carney says something similar:
The story is instead one of government power so great that, even in the hands of nonpolitical career civil servants, politically motivated abuse is inevitable. And the ultimate problem is that our tax code and campaign finance laws put the IRS in the business of policing political speech. Politics inevitably comes into play.
Many dedicated and professional civil servants serve the IRS. But the recent revelations still aren’t surprising. If you give people the terrifying power to tax and the right to police political speech, some partisans will abuse that power.
The list of scandals that this administration is building up is really quite impressive.
I liked these thoughts from Timothy Sandefur and it is worth quoting them at length:
The problem, it seems to me, is that while there is much to be said for pursuing in work what you love in life, a lot of people seem to assume that their “passions” will just come to them like a bolt from the blue. At some point, they seem to imagine, you just wake up knowing what you love, and then you’re able to plan a career around that.
But it does not work that way. Instead, you discover only after doing things that there’s something you love to do. The point of a broad exposure to different ideas, pursuits, and cultural influences during your education is to enable you to discover what it is you love doing—which, of course, will come only after doing many things that you don’t love. You don’t just somehow know that you want to be an architect because building is your passion, or decide that researching the history of coal mining in upper Silesia or the genetic diseases of fruitflies is what you love to do. Instead, you read a book about architecture or European history or medicine, and that leads you to another book or to a lecture or to a documentary film, and then you take an intro class at your community college, and get a summer internship at the Silesia Cultural Foundation…or whatever the story. You go from one discovery to the next, exploring your way forward. You must discover your passion—it isn’t handed to you. And you only discover it by trying things and being patient and allowing that discovery to bubble up from underneath. That involves a lot of work and a lot of trial and error and a lot of dead ends, sometimes. But that is true of all things in life. Often you do not realize that you have a passion for a particular thing until after you’ve been doing it for a long while. To say you don’t know what job to pursue because you don’t know what your passion is is like saying “I know I should marry a person I love, but what if I don’t have a person I love?” or “I know I should eat food that is palatable to me, but what if I don’t know of a food that’s palatable to me?” You have to go out and find these things; work to discover what you love to work at. Yes, that’s sort of a bootstrap paradox. But it’s still the only way it can be done. The idea—pushed by inspirational posters and Hollywood—that you just know what you want from life and go out and get it, is misguided and ultimately self-defeating.
I should add that one of the reasons for my being rather crap in updating posts on Samizdata lately is that I have become so incredibly busy with my day job that time has been short. But I love what I do – most of the time anyway – so this is part of the deal that I have to arrive at. I am in Malta at the moment and recently met the guys who run a hedge fund business focused on Bitcoin. They seem a very smart lot, and I’ll pass on my thoughts a bit later.
“Dear incompetent ninny …” No. “Dear complete imbecile …” I suppose not. “Dear feeble-minded simpleton …” I’d better not. Well, fine, then. “Dear State Representative …”
- Here via here. (I must declare an interest however. Another of the quotes in that second “here” was from here.)
This is actually quite profound. We are often tempted to get angry with state functionaries. But since we are usually begging things from them, rather than demanding them in the manner of one who could take his business elsewhere – with the state there is no elsewhere, we usually choose to remain polite. And if we finally get what we are begging for, we tend to be effusive in our thanks, if only because so pleased that the ninny did something less than completely ninny-ish. The result is a world in which state functionaries genuinely imagine themselves to be loved by almost all of their victims and hated by hardly any of them.
Do you wonder that fish spoil when wrapped in the Guardian?
- Samizdata commenter RRS
Not the official QOTD, but pretty great anyway:
“If prices are information, then subsidies are censorship.”
- Russ Nelson
If you want to introduce someone to libertarian thinking, encourage them to try this experiment. Spend a few days reading nothing but technology news. Then spend a few days reading nothing but political news. For the first few days they’ll see an exciting world of innovation and creativity where everything is getting better all the time. In the second period they’ll see a miserable world of cynicism and treachery where everything is falling apart. Then ask them to explain the difference.
- Andrew Zalotocky, commenting on this, here, about #HackedOff, many weeks ago.
I had this all ready to be an SQotD right after it first got said, but then another SQotD happened, and I forgot about it. Today, I chanced upon it again.
We appear to find ourselves in something of a Catch 22 situation. Nobody will invest in the new generating capacity that the government wants because nobody believes that the government policy of institutionalised insanity will last – taxpayers will not bear the kind of price rises that Davey wants to impose on everyone. But while the government is insisting that insanity is the way forward, nobody is going to invest in the UK energy industry at all.
- Here. From one of a number of recent Bishop Hill postings on the insanity of UK energy policy.
To the political class, whatever the rhetoric, government programs aren’t tools for improving the country. They’re tools for acquiring the main goal of the political class: more power…
- Glen Reynolds (All hail to the Blogfather… PBUHH) in USA Today – April 29, 2013
…given there is a cross-party consensus that energy rationing is good for growth.
…given there is a cross-party consensus that bureaucrats can manage businesses better than their owners.
…given there is a cross-party consensus that paying money to people to not work is investing.
…given there is a cross-party consensus that the more complex the tax system is, the ‘fairer’ it is.
…given there is a cross-party consensus that when the public ignore the current laws then more laws are needed.
…given there is a cross-party consensus that giving ‘offence’ is a more heinous crime than mugging.
- Samizdata commenter Kevin B.
Dave is going to wake up one morning and find that the Conservative Party website, and any other right-of-centre source of information, is going to be shut away behind an “Over-18″ “hate-and-porn” firewall and he will be too stupid to work out what happened.
- Samizdata commenter Rob
“If, as I believe, the distinctive distance from our organic nature, we should rejoice in the expression of changing human possibility in ever-advancing technology. After all, the organic world is one in which life is nasty, brutish and short and dominated by experiences that are inhumanly unpleasant. Human technology is less alien to us than nature (compare bitter cold with central heating; being lost without GPS and being found with it; dying of parasitic infestation versus vermicides or spraying with pesticides) and the material of that part of nature that we are: our inhuman, or at least impersonal bodies. Anyone who considers the new technologies as inhuman, or a threat to our humanity, should consider this. Better still, they should spend five uninterrupted minutes imagining the impact of a major stroke, severe Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease on their ability to express their humanity…..Self transformation is the essence of humanity and our humanity is defined by our ever-widening distance from the material and organic world of which we are a part and from which we are apart.”
- Raymond Tallis. In Defence of Wonder, page 200.