Carlos

Taxation, Regulation and Government Programs in a Free Nation

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From John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, Volume I, p. 176

As we advance in this correspondence, we may see cause to differ widely from the judgment of Polybius, "that it is impossible to invent a more perfect system of government." We may be convinced that the constitution of England, if its balance is seen to play, in practice, according to the principles of its theory--that is to say, if the people are fairly and fully represented, so as to have the power of dividing or choosing, of drawing up hill or down, instead of being disposed of by a few lords--is a system much more perfect. The constitutions of several of the United States, it is hoped, will prove themselves improvements, both upon the Roman, the Spartans, and the English commonwealths.

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Rick, clearly Adams sought to improve. That's been my point too, that he sought to improve, by studying the best of the past.

But how important, do you think, was the book of Polybius to him in terms of explaining and teaching about ideal governments, so that he could try improving on the already good?

How important was studying concrete and noble examples from history to him?

How important do you think it is to many people who posted in this thread? Phil disparagingly called me a conservative on account of me doing it!

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May I suggest starting a new thread if you're going to be talking about Adams' writings?

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Rick, clearly Adams sought to improve. That's been my point too, that he sought to improve, by studying the best of the past.

So we are in agreement. Let's study and focus on the best of the past. I would say that study and focus should be on Ayn Rand. If you notice I used a quote from John Adams in my very first post. I'm ready to move on and focus on the future and that can only be done by looking at Ayn Rand's ideas and advocating those ideas.

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Rick, clearly Adams sought to improve. That's been my point too, that he sought to improve, by studying the best of the past.

So we are in agreement. Let's study and focus on the best of the past. I would say that study and focus should be on Ayn Rand. If you notice I used a quote from John Adams in my very first post. I'm ready to move on and focus on the future and that can only be done by looking at Ayn Rand's ideas and advocating those ideas.

No Ayn Rand's ideas are not a historical concrete, they are an abstraction. We still must refer to actual people and actual constitutions from the past, to decide this question and others based on our inductive study of human nature. That's how Ayn Rand studied. Are you saying that because of her we should lobotomize ourselves and understand nothing of what she took into consideration? And even if Galt's Gulch was a concrete implemented at some time, that would still not make irrelevant any of the examples of people and constitutions prior to that.

I just don't understand why we try so hard to refuse to grasp and understand any of the previous men and constitutions. Even if Galt's Gulch was implemented as a concrete example with living men, why would we ignore previous men and their experiences? Surely we should want to know more, to take a bigger sample, to inductively understand human nature more perfectly! Why this obstinant desire to make one's sample of study as small as possible?!

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It's like saying:

"Hey should we admire ten men?"

"No, you're only going to admire one."

Wouldn't it be better to say: Yes, we admire these nine generals, but the tenth, the one we admire most, is the one we are going to follow into battle.

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I just don't understand why we try so hard to refuse to grasp and understand any of the previous men and constitutions. Even if Galt's Gulch was implemented as a concrete example with living men, why would we ignore previous men and their experiences? Surely we should want to know more, to take a bigger sample, to inductively understand human nature more perfectly! Why this obstinant desire to make one's sample of study as small as possible?!

I can only speak for myself when I say that what you have just written is not what I am trying to do. But, one does not have to look back 3,000 years and become and expert on ancient civilizations and constitutions to grasp human nature. It seems by your standard that we cannot move forward or understand human nature until we all have read every bit of informantion that was ever written, I disagree. The goal of achieving knowledge is not just for knowledge sake, it is so that we can use it to enhance our lives. One of my personal goals is to never stop expanding my knowledge and integrating it so that I can use it to enhnace and extend my life. It seems by your standard that even if we gain certain knowledge it will not matter because we are only doomed to repeat the same historical mistakes. I again must disagree. To move forward requires that we learn from the past so that we DO NOT make the same mistakes.

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I can only speak for myself when I say that what you have just written is not what I am trying to do. But, one does not have to look back 3,000 years and become and expert on ancient civilizations and constitutions to grasp human nature.

No, you're right. We should look at the best examples of human nature, at works and examples that cover practically every area of human activity in stylized fashion. That's why we call it the "Classical" civilization, it's stylized in its virtues and it has raised Europe to great heights. Revolutionary America is also Classical in that same sense, though far more recent. That's why to understand concrete instances of taxation, what people will and won't accept, I look at the earlier people more noble than our society, and see what they would think.

The goal of achieving knowledge is not just for knowledge sake, it is so that we can use it to enhance our lives.

Mine too. But I have not seen you integrating Polybius into your ideas or referencing him, although he's on your shelf and you said you don't buy books you don't intend to read and absorb. I am trying to apply this knowledge to enhance our discussion, to make references to concrete facts. Instead Phil calls me a conservative, and you seem to believe that no example prior to 1957 is of any value, and as if a constitution with living people was implemented in 1957.

But anyway, not we're talking in abstractions unrelated to the tax thread. I really do wish you would agree to come together with me on examining the concretes, so that if we do (right now) talk past each other in abstractions, we can meet each other on concrete facts, and see where we from there.

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But how important, do you think, was the book of Polybius to him in terms of explaining and teaching about ideal governments, so that he could try improving on the already good?

How important was studying concrete and noble examples from history to him?

I agree with Paul. These questions and a discussion about John Adams should be taken up in a separate thread. I'm just not sure where it should be placed but I think the following paragraph from C. Bradley Thompson's John Adams & The Spirit of Liberty should be taken into consideration.

Historians and political scientists have typically misunderstood Adam's relationship to classical republicanism because they have failed to distinguish the different ways in which he was influenced by ancient thought and practice. On the one hand, Adams adopted the traditional theory of mixed and balanced governments that he associated with Polybius, Cicero, Aristotle, and Plato. He also had a qualified admiration for the actual structure and practice of the Spartan and Roman constitutions. In other words, Adams appreciated the forms or institutional arrangements established by many of the ancient republics. But his admiration stopped there. Adams categorically rejected the "spirit" or arche that animated many of these regimes, and he had nothing but contempt for the ancient view of citizenship and virtue. (p. 192)

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FC, I have never stated that history began in 1957 nor that nothing before that time is not worthy. As a matter of fact I have thrown names and dates from well before that all over this thread and others. So I really do not know where you have gotten this claim, it is definietly not in any of my post.

If I remember correctly (I suspect you already know) history or historia in Greek means to inquire and that is what I always have attempted to do. I inquire into the nature of what ever I am trying to understand, so that I can apply it concretely. So I also do not understand how you can think that I am only talking or thinking just in abstractions with no regard for applying those ideas concretely. When I think abstractly it is always so that I can transfer it to achieving something.

I will end this post by stating that if man is noble, as I think he is, we should be striving/flourishing to be better than those in the past (by looking at history we know their mistakes) which cannot be done by reapplying the same governments nor subjugating people through taxation without representation which means involuntary taxation.

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I agree with Paul. These questions and a discussion about John Adams should be taken up in a separate thread. I'm just not sure where it should be placed but I think the following paragraph from C. Bradley Thompson's John Adams & The Spirit of Liberty should be taken into consideration.

...

Rick, you're right we shouldn't divide this thread into subtopics any further, so allow me my very last reprieve regarding Adams here. Thompson is a good writer and I enjoyed his book quite a bit, but some of the conclusions could be challenged. Adams writes:

Has there ever been a nation who understood the human heart better than the Romans?

in Discoures on Davila, i.e. his latest and most mature work. So it's a lot more there than what could be gleaned from the quote you cited.

Last thing, I promise, concerning your quote and also particularly relevant to Ray's and mine discussion on Founders and Classics and learning from history,

So compelling was Cicero's example that Adams often saw the events of his own life prefigured in the intrigue, turmoil, and triumphs of ancient Rome. Studying Conyers Middleton's Life of M. Tullius Cicero, Adams believed he read therein "the history of our own country for forty years past." He simply had to "change the names" to see that "every anecdote will be applicable to us."

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I wanted to make a brief comment that Ray and I took it upon ourselves to reread and reacquaint ourselves with the source material for the subject that we're discussing here; namely not only abstract political discussion, but actual deeds and principles that have been implemented and guided noble men in the past. Specifically, we are trying to address this comment:

How can you know what the Founding Fathers and the Ancient Greeks and Romans would have done? The answer is you cannot. I also do not revile the Ancient Romans and Greeks as you think. My reason for my earlier statements is that you just keep pulling them out as an example of what should be done when we are so far past that time and knowledge, along with the fact that their ideas did not work, or did you fail to notice. John Adams studied every known government, even the ancients, and could not find one, that is not one, example that did not catabolize itself and hence why our form of government is so amazing and worthy of praise, although not perfect.

What is under discussion is whether John Adams really blamed the ancient societies for catabolizing, whether he thought there was some root problem with them that inevitably had to lead to downfall. Right now we're focusing on C. Bradley Thompson's Spirit of Liberty, which is a summary and sympathetic account of Adams' writings and ideas; perhaps we'll get into Defense of the Constitutions of the United States by Adams, which Adams wrote and which is the real crux of the issue here.

Additionally we're reading Histories of Polybius, to discover whether their ideas did or did not work, and what constitution the Romans lived under that seemingly had affected the Americans to such a profound extent.

When two people have reached an impasse theoretically, when they use concepts which seem to speak past each other, they should always go back down and trace their concepts to facts, as we have done. Once mutual agreement has been reached on merely impartial facts, as must happen, those people should then together build up a theory that encompasses those facts and rises out of them.

That is the best and most proper solution between two rational individuals; instead of throwing two theories past one another, it's imperative to focus on the facts, and then together work out the abstractions from this foundation.

We will complete our readings in about a week, week and a half; at that point the discussion will resume here, once we even further have enriched ourselves with true foundations of all knowledge.

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