Archive for category Individual Freedom

The dawn of totalitarianism

German politicians – especially female politicians – rally to increase the share of women in corporate boards. However, this does not mean that they put forward an initiative or some kind of incentives for women to get themselves more prepared and more willing to reach top-level jobs. No. German politicians do what they think they do best, they regulate, they tell others how to behave and especially how not to behave. And with every regulation, German politicians strangle individual freedom a bit more. Mind, all this is done for equality’s sake (not equity)- at least this is what they tell you.

The German minister for quite a lot of things actually, that is for women, youth, family and elderly (maybe I got the wrong order), Ms. Schroeder, plans to tell corporations how to man their boards, i.e. how to woman their boards: Mrs Schroeder wants to see more women in corporate boards – regardless of past merits. (I would like to see myself in more boards, maybe I should apply for a quote?) Accordingly, German corporations will be subjected to a law: If they fail to meet a certain share of women in their board a fee of 25.000 Euros will be due. In other words, state regulation, not shareholders will have a say on board composition. Shareholders simply get stripped of one of their rights, namely to determine board composition.

Forget about effort and performance, forget about all the tons of papers written about the best way to recruit skillful CEOs or skillful board members (and about how to overcome problems like moral hazard, once they are installed in their position). That’s history. From now on, biology will do the trick. Get women in the board and all is fine. This mantra rules the campaign for more women in corporate boards or in leading positions as the EU dubs it. Biology, or the biological imperative that a sizeable share of women in corporate boards improve profits is the new racism of our times (- and it violates individual rights, the rights of men, because they can try as hard as they like, they won’t climb the ladder because they have the wrong gender, the rights of women because once they form a part of corporate boards, nobody will attribute this “success” to effort, performance, knowledge or any other individual feature) .

The campaign to bring more women with their snout in the corporate trough is a religious crusade. There is not a single reason given as to why more women in corporate boards is an improvement. There is not a single shred of evidence that boards with a considerable share of women make higher profits nor is any other reason than “equality” given. Equality is a religious dogma and anyone who dares to question the dogma, asking for reasons and benefits, will be treated as a heretic. Accordingly, another German minister, Mrs von der Leyen, threatens to publicly denounce corporations that do not fill their boards with numbers of women deemed suitable by the very minister. So we’re back to the dark ages and it won’t take long before to criticize German politicians and question their approach will end with the critic being burned at the stake. Whether the burning at the stake is literally or metaphorically, time will tell, history, however, suggests the former.

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German Tax Stalkers

In the early 1970s the Laffer-curve emerged as a new form to describe the relationship between a tax rate on the one hand and tax revenues generated by government on the other. Arthur Laffer argued that in some cases, a reduction in tax rate can trigger an increase in tax revenue, while an increase can trigger a reduction in tax revenue. Individuals’ effort, Laffer argued, will be affected by the tax rate. The less of their profits remain, the less effort individuals will put into work leading to an overall decrease in tax revenues. Other researchers assembled a number of factors that influence people’s willingness to pay taxes or their inclination to evade taxes. Attitudes towards the government, perceived fairness of taxes and attitudes towards basic religious and cultural development are amongst these variables (Frey, 1989; Sandmo, 1976).

As usual, when it comes to scientific results, German authorities seem bare of any kind of knowledge. It’s because they don’t need this knowledge! Take members of German tax authorities, to these people talking of people’s willingness to pay taxes is preposterous. German people are obliged to pay taxes. It’s their lifelong duty. That’s what they are here for. It is not that people give some of their individual rights to authorities and allow them to act on their behalf, it is German authorities who allow German people to feel free in certain areas as a concession to what is deemed democratic rights in other countries.

However, individual freedom ends where authorities’ deem necessary. Therefore, it is quite suitable that Germans are seen as property by their authorities. As such they do not require respect, they do not require politeness, all that’s needed is for German citizens to comply to §§88, 90 Abgabenordnung or some other code of law. The funny thing is, that German authorities are staffed with “real” German people so you would think they will act as citizens in the first and as representatives of the authorities in the second place. But it’s the opposite. When employed by a German authority, German’s transform from being citizens to government rubber stamps and they take pride in that. Hans Ordinary becomes Hans the sleuth who detects a tax evasion in every tax return that crosses his desk. And he is quite eager to do so.

Build on a vast number of Hanses and the fact that German authorities think they have “their” citizens at lifelong disposal, interactions between tax authorities and tax payers deteriorate. Tax payer and taxman confront each other like soldiers in the Great War, in entrenched positions. The rude tone present in tax authority letters as well as the huge number of people bringing their funds to Switzerland and other save heavens give ample evidence of this. Not at any single point in time, German tax authorities let alone German Ministers of Finance got the idea that people’s obvious unwillingness to pay taxes might be a function of the way they are treated or of the amount of money they are left with after Government’s taxation hit them. It’s, as I said, your legal duty to pay taxes, you cannot escape this duty nor can you at any point in your life escape the ever-present suspicion that you evade taxes.

And so it comes that after living for 5 years in Britain, after paying taxes in Britain for the same period your German tax authority will remember you as one who has been squeezed in the past and one who should be targeted again. The result is the usual rude letter send to a (still) German citizen (German property that is) by the very same tax authority that in ancient times fought with the respective tax payer over such interesting questions as: Is the office in his house to be accessed only by a separate door or is there a chance to leave the sitting room via its window, move along a balcony and enter the very office by its French door, which would result in the office-expenses not to be considered as deductible expenses? The result is a certain feeling of being targeted by tax stalkers on my side and I start to wonder, whether the European Court of Human Rights should not rather sooner than later look into the way, German authorities think they can treat their citizens.

References:

  1. Frey, Bruno S. (1989). How Large (or Small) Should the Underground Economy Be? In: Feige, Edgar L. (ed.). Underground Economies. Tax Evasion and Information Distortion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.111-128.
  2. Sandmo, Agnar (1976). Optimal Taxation. An Introduction to the Literature. Journal of Public Economics 6(1): 37-54.

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Stop abusing ordinary men!

I really can’t stand it anymore, all these people claiming to act in the best interest of ordinary men. Whatever they do, it’s not in their interest, it’s in the interest of ordinary men. Tune in to Five live, Stephen Nolan’s show, and what do you hear: People telling listeners that the reason why they smashed windows and destroyed private property in London was, because they wanted to stand-up for ordinary men who suffer under the Tory government’s austerity regime. It’s always ordinary men, these do-gooders justify their actions with. Implement a new social service, it’s because ordinary men must be helped to get on with their life, their family, their children, their children’s children, you name it! Ordinary men have to understand why politicians do this and that. Ordinary men are claimed by almost any branch of socialists when they demand more equality, more financial support, more tax for rich people, and – interestingly enough: always more public spending.

Doesn’t that strike you odd?

First, do-gooders who stand-up for ordinary men seem to be driven by a rather rare variant of altruism. All they do, is to the good of ordinary men. None of what they do is for their own good. Well, I don’t believe in altruism. I believe that men tries to satisfy his interests. Which leads to the simple conclusion (some kind of Ockham’s razor) that people who smash windows and destroy other people’s property do so, because they want to do so. They have a personal interest in smashing things.

Secondly, do-gooders who want nothing more than to care for ordinary men, may have an interest in these ordinary men, but they have an overriding self-interest that drives their want to bring salvation to ordinary men: they make a living by caring for ordinary men.

Thirdly, what always angers me most is the moral high-ground these do-gooders claim for themselves. And from their elevated point they look down on ordinary men, who they consider being too silly to care for themselves, too frightened to stand-up for themselves and too stupid to voice their own interest.

So, I think it is time for these hypocrites to stand to their interests and tell others what they really want: They want to destroy things, they want to earn a living and they think of themselves as being mentally superior to ordinary men. How can anyone consider himself superior when he hasn’t got the courage to say what really drives him?

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Discouraging care

We’ve been to a Dubliners’ concert the other night. It was impressive to see the old men perform. 49 years on stage and still they sound amazing. In short, the concert was brilliant.

Especially, Barney McKenna, 71 years of age, played his banjo like a young man with a virtuosity in his fingers that you can’t help admiring.

However, being from Germany although living in England for the past four years, I wondered whether someone like Barney McKenna would be possible in Germany. I mean, would it be possible for him to perform? I think not. First, I’m quite certain that a number of legal restrictions and insurance issues would prevent organizers from letting him access the stage. Secondly, I’m almost as certain that the German Nanny State does prevent someone like Barney McKenna from happening. Sound’s weird, but it isn’t.

Official ideology in Germany has it, that working people have to look forward to their retirement. They have to feel joy, when thinking about retirement and they have to forget all about work, once they crossed the assumed biological border that divides working life from retirement. With retirement come social workers and all the busy people who help you here and there, do this and that for you, because you are old and can’t really care for yourself, at least this is what is expected of you. It is exactly this point, I want to make. Nanny states reward people for doing nothing. For retiring into oblivion for example, for quitting public life and, if at all, turn up in a nursing home for the elderly.

Barney McKenna needs some assistance with walking. I am certain, if he were German, he would have to confront a chorus of voices, telling him that he is too old to be on stage, that his health does suffer, that his ability to perform has declined and so forth. Many people would discourage him, few would encourage him. This is the main feature of a Nanny State. It does discourage people to live-up to their wishes, it tells people not to demand too much and not to strive for a goal that may seem a bit far-fetched. We are all human, the good people would say, and what they mean by that is: be mainstream, fall in line, don’t demand anything from you that is deemed above the ordinary by us and don’t strive for anything special, … don’t live!

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The good German citizen is deaf

The German government stands-up to revolutionize perception and human psychology – by law.

The law that aims to alter the way Germans perceive is called “Gesetz zur Privilegierung von Kinderlärm” a bill to privilege noise made by children. It is quite striking that the law speaks about “noise”. Thus, while it is not to be contested that children do make noise, the law prohibits people from doing something against it, it simply orders them either to stand it or to not hearing it. So if – by any bad luck – you happen to live close to a Kindergarden, you can’t do anything against the noise coming from the Kindergarden. Just imagine, you cannot hear it, or better still if you cannot convince yourself that actually there is no noise, move to another place. By law, the German government declares that though children’s noise is still noise, it is not to be considered harmful any more. Society, the same government declares, owes tolerance to children, and because of that, German citizens have to stand the noise.

This law provides the German government with a powerful tool. For everything that does not fit into what the German government defines as being the correct way of life there is a simple way to handle it: prohibition, prohibition to perceive that is. However, children’s noise is an externality and the problem with externalities is that others do perceive them (that’s why they are called externalities). A government denying its citizens the right to defend themselves against externalities caused by others is either close to becoming a totalitarian government or already crossed the demarcation-line.

Besides, there is not a single word as to why society owes tolerance to children, and why elderly people, working people and all those who do not want to be disturbed by children’s noise do not have the same claim for tolerance. Why don’t parents and wardens in a Kindergarden owe it to society to raise children in the awareness that others do not want to hear their noise and that there are more sensible things to do than just running around and shout like mad?

Because the “Gesetz zur Privilegierung von Kinderlärm” legitimizes noise made by children at the expense of all those who don’t produce externalities for others, it reveals itself exactly as the piece of dictatorship it is meant to be.

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Government approved lifestyle

UK parliament sits over a display ban for tobacco in tobacco shops. The rationale behind this is clear: smoking is harmful for smokers and passive smokers and though heavily taxed in almost any country it is more profitable to waive the revenue than to provide health care. It is this connection between revenue and health care provision that justifies government’s intervention. Health care costs soar and governments are more and more involved in a feverish battle to find economies. This brings smokers and the different forms of cancer they fall prey to into focus. Why not prevent them from harming themselves? Why not de-normalise their lifestyle? Why not tell them how to behave?

Why not? Because it is an imminent intrusion into individual freedom; because it provides society with a role model of lifestyles not to be followed; and because it reduces not only individual freedom of self-determination, but also individuals’ responsibility for their own life. Do-gooders, however, suppose that you cannot let people live by their own, because they are not up for the task. Need proof? Well, look for example at … correct: smokers! Seems circular reasoning and, indeed it is circular reasoning:

Start by defining a group of people who show a certain harmful behaviour, then declare the harmful behaviour as not only harmful to themselves, but to society as a whole. Engage yourself in the quest of bringing these self-harming people to their senses, by joining a do-gooder’s organisation dedicated to fight the particular harmful behaviour and lobby for politicians support. Because today, most politicians will support almost anything that provides them with an opportunity to appear as benefactors to mankind, this shouldn’t be too difficult. The final step is to justify your own engagement with the topic by pointing to politicians’ approval and subsequent needs for action, because of the behaviour of this group of utterly irresponsible smoking blokes.

However, the entire problem originates of governments’ involvement in health care and the respective need to pay for ailments of any kind. So in order to reduce expenses, governments choose to intervene in individual’s freedom which is not too big a problem given the willingly provided assistance of many do-gooders. However, why is it that the target population are smokers? Why not target parents who burden society with another mouth to feed and environment with another increase of carbon imprint. Or why not address people with dangerous hobbies, cyclists for one or skiers who tend to break a leg or acquire frostbites. Why not target meat eaters, who have been shown in a number of studies to get sick because of their eating meat. The list of possible targets is endless, and so would be the need for government intervention were it not flawed by a certain bias against a particular group, “Zeitgeist” makes the best of all possible target groups.

But do not forget that restriction of individual freedom in this case originates of governments’ involvement in the provision of health care. This “blessing” results in government’s interference and it inevitably will result in that, because scarce resources will always have people or groups of people fighting for them. Wouldn’t it be better to transfer responsibility for one’s own health and the costs associated with individuals’ neglect of health issues back to where it belongs, back to the individual?

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