Sunday, December 13, 2009
David Boaz in Camelot
I just returned from David Boaz's talk at the Foundation for Economic Education. Mr. Boaz is co-founder and Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute in Washington. I drove down to Irvington-on-Hudson, which is a two hour drive, and I thought it was very much worth it. Mr. Boaz is an excellent speaker, brilliant and wise. He is surprisingly optimistic. He noted that the long term trend has been toward greater freedom. He noted that there is more freedom for blacks and Jews today than there was in the era of laissez-faire. Also, the degree of government intervention is less now than it was in the past. For instance, he noted that while 75% of the nation favored nationalization of banking in the 1930s, only 35% favors it today.
I enjoyed the talk but experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance with respect to all the optimism. While we are better off than we might have been had it not been for people like David Boaz, today we pay 50% of our incomes in taxes, when you include property, sales, state income tax and social security tax. If we do not have the freedom to dispose of half of our earnings I don't see how we can consider ourselves to be free. In the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s Pennsylvanians were ready to overthrow Washington over a small tax on whiskey.
I suppose optimism is psychologically preferable to pessimism. Nevertheless, Mr. Boaz reminded me of the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. King Arthur cuts off one of his arms, and the black knight says "'tis but a scratch." He cuts off the other arm and the black knight says "just a flesh wound". King Arthur proceeds to cut off both of the black knight's legs and he says "I'm invincible!" (see below).