Showing posts with label Gustave Le Bon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gustave Le Bon. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Show Us The Figures, Rick

By now Rick Perry's opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal is making some waves. In many ways I agree with you, Rick, particularly about simplifying the tax code. But that does not mean a simple graduated tax structure has to be thrown out (in favor of the regressive flat tax) and it does not mean one has to entirely do away with capital gains taxation (usually the realm of the wealthy, so that, too, is another regressive move) or does it mean that a carefully thought out, and fair, inheritance tax shouldn't be retained (concentration of wealth doesn't enhance the American dream, it erodes it). And I'm all for responsibly addressing the twin Swords of Damocles that loom in our future, Medicare and Social Security. I'm even for a balanced budget, but not via Constitutional Amendment (imagine having to raise $$ in a crisis with congressional bickering stalling the process, not to mention transitional issues).

So while I agree with many of the feel-good measures, Rick, how does your op-ed piece constitute a "plan?" Show us the figures, Rick -- how many jobs evolve from massive tax cuts and would those jobs materialize anyhow with the next business cycle? Where is the evidence? Or, is this merely an ideological belief?

And that is my problem in accepting your "plan" as a serious one. Furthermore, Rick, you were not the first Republican candidate with a flat tax agenda. Cain beat you to the Texas punch and Gingrich now says he's for an optional flat tax rate of 15%, which beats yours by five percent. By your own logic, that ought to create even more jobs! And Romney now says he's always been for a flat tax. Sounds like a game of Texas Hold 'em. Are all you Republican candidates in? -- place your bets.

There is a pioneering book of social psychology you should read, Rick: Gustave Le Bon's The Crowd; A Study of the Popular Mind. Hard to believe it was written in 1895 as your true-believer words "tax cut" could have been used by Le Bon as an example. Think of them in the context of a passage I underlined as a student: "The power of words is bound up with the images they evoke, and is quite independent of their real significance. Words whose sense is the most ill-defined are sometimes those that possess the most influence...Yet it is certain that a truly magical power is attached to those short syllables" [e.g. tax cut] "as they contained the solution to all problems. They synthesize the most diverse unconscious aspirations and the hope of their realization. Reason and arguments are incapable of combating certain words and formulas. They are uttered with solemnity...and as soon as they have been pronounced an expression of respect is visible on every countenance, and all heads bowed. By many they are considered as natural forces, as supernatural powers. They evoke grandiose and vague images in men's minds, but this very vagueness that wraps them in obscurity augments their mysterious power."

"Tax cut" is the holy grail for supply-siders -- a "mysterious power" indeed when it comes to resulting in more jobs. As Le Bon further says, those unexamined words "become vain sounds, whose principal utility is to relieve the person who employs them of the obligation of thinking." And, that seems to be the new "democracy" of the so-called "debates." As the late preeminent science fiction writer Isaac Asimov said in Newsweek (21 January 1980): “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” (Hat tip, The Big Picture)