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02/25/2005

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Corey

"Do you believe they are better off if they are not allowed in at all, which is the present system?"

Ah, the old, "even the slaves are better off than they were in Africa" argument! A true classic of American history...

"What the purpose of his coming is, we may not presume to judge. But we can see much good already resulting from it--good to the negro, in his improved condition; to the country whose rich fields he has cleared of the forest and made productive in climates unfit for the labour of the white man; to the Continent of Africa in furnishing, as it may ultimately, the only means for civilizing its people."
-- William John Grayson, 1855

But no, despite this and other quotes from anti-abolutionists who died over a centry ago, I do NOT believe that someone is better off having paid $50,000 to cross a border.

"Or do you believe students are “indentured” because many of them have large loans when they finish school?"

In a way, yes... as anyone in law school will tell you, graduating with $90K in debt absolutely limits the range of jobs one can take. Just try working in a $36K per year public interest law job and paying down your loan at $1K per month.

Palooka

"Ah, the old, "even the slaves are better off than they were in Africa" argument! A true classic of American history"

Ah, we should have known this was around the corner. If indentured servitude doesn't quite cut it, bring in slavery. The only problem here is that it Becker's proposal is COMPLETELY VOLUNTARY.

If student loans are indentured servitude, what are taxes? Oh, oh, but that's different. Sure it is. Taxes are worse.

spiritofcapital

"In a way, yes... as anyone in law school will tell you, graduating with $90K in debt absolutely limits the range of jobs one can take. Just try working in a $36K per year public interest law job and paying down your loan at $1K per month."


I believe this referred to an 'investment.' In Professor Becker's language, it is an investment in human capital. So, in the short term, there is a sacrifice: large debts to pay off with low-medium paying jobs. This means you must make trade-offs between paying off loans and other activities you desire. But, in the long-run, given that you are wise, your invest will pay-off: higher wages, or whatever you are trying to maximize by going to school in the first place--human capital.


If that is indentured servitude then i guess Professor Hayek should have rewrote his famous THE ROAD TO SERFDOM to argue that modern capitalist societies, by nature of investments, are creating indentured servants. If that is true and undesirable, we could let government take care of our costs, and just have central planning! Off to to the fuedal order for us!


I think, in short, that this criticism is misplaced. I for one, certaintly believe i am better off for incuring college loans, and will continue this process by going to grad school.

Peter Wizenberg

How about if all or part of the proposed fee was put into a personal Social Security account for the immigrant's retirement?

Fred

It's not just that Corey is obviously wrong--paying $50,000 (voluntarily) is a great investment if you come here to work--he's also unbearably condescending. Apparently, he knows better than the hundreds of thousands who would pay such a fee what is best for them and how they should live their lifes.

Corey

"Apparently, he knows better than the hundreds of thousands who would pay such a fee what is best for them and how they should live their lifes."

Its not me, it is the authors of the 13th Amendment. Apparently, they knew better than thousands of white slave owners and hundreds of thousands of slaves and indentured servants who just came here to work. How paternalistic of them to say that slavery is bad!

Although to be fair, society had already largely disaproved of indentured servitude BEFORE the civil war. Perhaps because it is easier for some people to have empathy for folks who are the same color.

I challenge any of you to borrow $200,000 unsecured for you and your family and try to live on a job at Walmart. See how voluntary your life feels then.

Becker did not deny that his proposal is similar to indentured servitude, he said, "but they will still be better off."

"If that is indentured servitude then i guess Professor Hayek should have rewrote his famous THE ROAD TO SERFDOM to argue that modern capitalist societies, by nature of investments, are creating indentured servants. If that is true and undesirable, we could let government take care of our costs, and just have central planning!

Now you are getting it! Good luck paying down your student and credit card debt. I hope the capitalists are nice to you since you defend them so well. Maybe if you work really really hard you will be a billionaire!

Isn't it funny how both sides accuse the other of leading us to feudalism. I think it is.

"Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics" -- George Orwell (commenting on Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom")

Palooka

Again, if you sincerely believe a VOLUNTARY loan is indentured servitude. What are taxes?

Palooka

"taxes are not worse. An activity which a mixed public and private good ought to be funded with mixed public and private dollars."

I am always amazed at the poor quality of arguments from lawyers, especially civil rights lawyers.

I asked: If voluntary loans are indentured servitude, then what are taxes?

The loans were described as such because an individual, once making the decision, must pay it back (though they are discharageable for exceptional circumstances), and must often make sacrifices in career choice.

If one really believes these are analogous (which they are not), then one has to wonder what taxes are.

Taxes are involuntary (thus it is more like slavery in that respect), not paying your taxes is criminally punishable (defaulting on student loans is not), and taxes also effect career choice (many would choose lesser paying jobs if the tax burden was less). As far as the individual is concerned, taxes are worse, and are clearly a closer analog to indentured servitude.

How then to explain away these similarities? Paul Gowder responds with the inapposite remark that taxes serve the public good. Is that supposed to make our indentured servants feel better?

The truth is neither is a valid analog to identured servitude (which was more like temporary slavery, e.g. you had NO freedom). Reducing the amount of choices you have by voluntarily taking on debt cannot be described as having zero freedom (the case of indentured servants). Likewise, having no choice about paying taxes, or the amount of taxes, cannot be described as a total lack of choice. Reduction, or narrowing of choices, because of voluntary (and usually entirely rational) decisions is not worthy of a comparison to indentured servitude. But if we were to rank which was closer to indentured servitude, it would almost certainly be taxes. But, as the liberal mind goes, taxes are good, therefore they cannot be bad. Mind shuts down. End of discussion.

Paul Gowder

Palooka:


The loans were described as such because an individual, once making the decision, must pay it back (though they are discharageable for exceptional circumstances), and must often make sacrifices in career choice.

If one really believes these are analogous (which they are not), then one has to wonder what taxes are.

Taxes are involuntary (thus it is more like slavery in that respect), not paying your taxes is criminally punishable (defaulting on student loans is not), and taxes also effect career choice (many would choose lesser paying jobs if the tax burden was less). As far as the individual is concerned, taxes are worse, and are clearly a closer analog to indentured servitude.


There's your error.

I'm going to keep this simple:

Taxes are income-dependent.
Student loans are income-independent.

If you make less money, you will pay less taxes.
If you make less mney, you will still pay the same amount of student loans.

This means that taxes constrain career choice less than student loans do. Someone who chooses a low-paying, public service job is hurt less by higher taxes than by proportionally higher student loans because their tax burden goes down while their student loan burden does not.

This means that taxes are beneficial for two reasons:
a) As I mentioned before (and as you seem to take great offense at), it divides the cost of the public good of an educated citizenry amongst the public that benefits
b) A tax-funded educational system objectively constrains career choice less, on an individual basis, than does a loan-funded system. This means that more people will be able to enter careers which have a higher public than private good component to them. This is Good For Society, because it means that Society Will Get The Benefit of things like Art and Criminal Prosecution and Scientific Research. Society will lose that benefit if the people who would otherwise do Art and Criminal Prosecution and Scientific Research are instead forced by their Mountains of Debt to do Derivatives and Futures and Human Resources and Private Security and Insurance Defense.

It should be humiliating to you that you sink to insults in order to avoid this reality.

Palooka

"Tax payments are dependent on income."

One more point, which I should have addressed in my last post. Student payments share this attribute as well. Undergraduates can borrow increasing amounts as they advance (as their chance of graduation increases, and with that their earning potential). Graduate students can borrow more than undergraduates because their potential income is much greater. Moreover, one cannot adjust the term of the loan to match one's income and goals (5 years, 10 years, 20 years). Private loans are more readily available to doctors and lawyers than graduate art students. Therefore, the amount one can borrow is ALREADY related to one's income, though perhaps imperfectly. One other note: Student loans ARE dischargeable for exceptional circumstances, such as profound disability.

Palooka

"a) As I mentioned before (and as you seem to take great offense at), it divides the cost of the public good of an educated citizenry amongst the public that benefits"

I guess you still don't get it. I didn't take offense, it was just a very stupid argument. If slaves were used in building a library (thus serving the public good) would it make that slavery any less like slavery? Would it cease to be slavery?

Daniel Chapman

"I challenge any of you to borrow $200,000 unsecured for you and your family and try to live on a job at Walmart. See how voluntary your life feels then."

I challenge you, corey, to give up all your possessions and move to Mexico to work as a laborer. See how good that loan looks then.

Paul Gowder

(whoops, the first three paragraphs of my previous comment should have been quotes)

Palooka, that's true, at some level student loans are income-dependent. However, the brunt of it is much less income-dependent than taxes, surely you agree with this. The number of years in school is roughly the same for a MFA or a MBA, the tuition is roughly the same -- hence the need to borrow is the same. If the ability to borrow is lessened, then my initial point (about the cost of higher education being bad for society) remains.

I agree with you on variable payment terms, however. As for dischargability, profound disability is pretty much the only way a student loan will get discharged.

We seem to have fallen off the train here, which started with regard to immigration and indentured servitude. I think the point is only this: an economic arrangement which conditions something which ought to be marketplace-independent (living in a free country, getting an education) on payments comprising a high percentage of a person's income for a significant amount of time is comparable to indentured servitude, insofar as it binds those people into certain forms of work for a certain amount of time without regard to the fact that the thing which they get for that work (immigration, education) ought to be considered a human right.

Paul Gowder

Dearest Palooka:

I hate to break this to you, but taxes are good. (Rather than, say, "slavery.") Taxes allow for public goods to be created that would otherwise not be created. Things like militaries (albeit often misused), roads, and schools.

If you had the choice between living in a world with no taxes, but no government either, no public schools, no police, the Hobbesian war of all against all, or living in the current world, which would you honestly choose?

Which would any of you economist/republican types honestly choose? Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short, or taxes? You do realize that's the choice, don't you? If the government isn't abolished, business isn't going to provide police or schools. Well, maybe they will, but they'll be operated in a totally unrestrained fashion, schools will be staggeringly expensive and will only teach corporate dogma and the police will function as a private mafia against non-members. That's what happens when we get rid of things like law and government and education.

Palooka

"However, the brunt of it is much less income-dependent than taxes, surely you agree with this."

I think you would be surprised at how it correlates to income, but, yes, it is not perfectly individualized like taxes.

"The number of years in school is roughly the same for a MFA or a MBA, the tuition is roughly the same -- hence the need to borrow is the same. If the ability to borrow is lessened, then my initial point (about the cost of higher education being bad for society) remains."

You'd have to make the case as to why we need more MFAs when the market doesn't think so. Why? I don't believe someone has a RIGHT to pursue the degree. If they believe they cannot afford to take on additional debt and do what they want, then I am sorry but that is just tough luck.

Paul Gowder

One more thing:

Palooka said: "Again, if you sincerely believe a VOLUNTARY loan is indentured servitude."

Indentured servitude was "voluntary" in its original form.

Many people would enter into contracts in which they traded their labor for X years for the price of transportation in the new world. They didn't have to do it. They could have stayed in England.

Now, admittedly, some were transported for indebtness or crime, but a large portion were "voluntary."

It was still wrong. It is possible for voluntary economic arrangements to me morally wrong.

David

One of Becker's defenses of his flat-fee proposal seems to be that unskilled immigrants are better off, because they could not get in otherwise (assuming they don't qualify under the quota for their country). I might be willing to grant that, assuming that they could put together the financing, which is a big if. Unskilled immigrants with no assets or work history would have trouble getting private loans, even with the incentives that Becker proposes. More likely, they'd borrow the money from the local loan shark or the mafia, which would cause all sorts of other problems.

Further, if the goal is to increase immigration (and Becker claims to be pro-immigration), why not just have an open borders policy, excluding terrorists and criminals, of course? I don't see the justification for any "fee" unless it is proven that legal immigration is a drain on our society. And so far, I have seen no such proof.

Palooka

Gowder,

The debate wasn't if taxes are "good" or "bad" but if they resembled indentured servitude. Saying they don't resemble indentured servitude because they are "good" is non-responsive. Is the definition of slavery dependent on what the slaves do (killing in war versus building a library)? Is the definition of indentured servitude dependent on what the servants do (blacksmithing or building a library)? NO! Thus your argument was a non-sequitor--"Taxes are not indentured servitude because taxes finance things which are good."

Taxes are good, and justifiable. They are necessary for a "civilized" society. I already stated I do not believe taxes or student loans or immigration fees are analogs to indentured servitude. My point is that IF you believe student loans are, then you must believe taxes are as well, right?

Paul Gowder

("be" morally wrong. Not "me" morally wrong. Jesus. If I'm to get into multi-cycled arguments in the blogosphere, I need to learn how to type without a spell/grammar checker as a backstop.)


Palooka: see, that's where we're fundamentally in disagreement. I think that if someone has the talent, they do have a capital-R Right to pursue that MFA degree. I can't justify this on a utilitarian basis, because I think it's a moral/philosophical issue. Life is short. We all die. In the brief time that is allowed to us, we should all be allowed to pursue our talents to the fullest. It gives life meaning. The idea of a talented artist, who loves his work, being chained to a desk somewhere is a tragedy, because it means that someone will die without having reached their potential.

Moreover, at least when art is concerned, all too often, the marketplace is willing to pay for them, just not until after they've already given up and/or are dead. My favorite modern example of this is John Kennedy O'Toole. Have you ever read Confederacy of Dunces? It's an absolutely brilliant book. A laugh riot. It won the Pulitzer Prize. That prize was awarded to the author posthumously because he killed himself before it was published. To be more specific, he couldn't get it published. It was rejected by the marketplace for ten years.

I consider Mr. O'Toole direct proof of the proposition that the marketplace is ineffective at supporting artists. By some miracle, the public benefit of his book got out -- but not before it killed him.

Palooka

Palooka said: "Again, if you sincerely believe a VOLUNTARY loan is indentured servitude."

Indentured servitude was "voluntary" in its original form.

Paul Gowder

Yes, exactly. Now, since taxes are NOT voluntary, but shares the same attributes of indentured servitude (under your criteria), then what would it be?

My point is that under your standards, taxes would be tantamount to slavery.

Fine. Taxes are analagous to slavery to the same extent that student loans are analagous to indentured servitude. I'll concede this, arguendo, and by doing so defeat your silly reductio ad absurdum. Sure. Taxes constitute partial slavery, insofar as a percentage of one's labor is involuntarily alienated from oneself. (Perhaps a better analogy would be to sharecropping, but I'll give you slavery.)

Now that we've established that we must suffer either slavery or indentured servitude, lets look at the relative cost-benefit ratios of each.

Lo and behold, we find that the minor slavery imposition of taxes is less harmful (as discussed copiously in my previous posts and elsewhere) than the major indentured servitude of completely rechanneling someone's life to pay student loans or immigration fees.

Palooka

"Lo and behold, we find that the minor slavery imposition of taxes is less harmful (as discussed copiously in my previous posts and elsewhere) than the major indentured servitude of completely rechanneling someone's life to pay student loans or immigration fees."

Less harmful how? Because there are fewer starving artists? In actuality, there might be more, being that you are going to channel more and more individuals into the arts, therefore reducing each one's chances of survivial. Maybe you can have the taxpayers support them after graduation (wait, we already do that with the NEA). Ever thought that is some of the reason why they are so poorly paid now? Why would the answer be to increase the supply of artists? They may find themselves with less disposable income even though they have less debt.

Paul, it's been a fun little spat, but I have to go for now. Though I will probably respond to whatever else you post at a later time.

scott cunningham

palooka, are you saying that it is immoral to offer someone the option to take out a sizeable loan because of the possibility that they will not be able to repay it?

Corey

"Again, if you sincerely believe a VOLUNTARY loan is indentured servitude. What are taxes?"

Taxes.

Or Feudal Incidents. Depends on who is collecting I guess.

Want an equitable distinction? Ex post vs. Ex ante.

scott cunningham

Paul - just because O'Toole's book was published posthumously does not mean the market failed. That book very well may have garnered such acclaim because he killed himself. It's not a great book in my opinoin - definitely not better than The Moviegoer, which it beat for the Pulitzer (ironic, seeing as how Walker Percy's entirely responsible for it being discovered and promoted). It was probably the story of O'Toole, as much as the book, that helped catapault it into the stars.

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