A Meeting of the Minds

Column by new Root Striker forty2oz.

Exclusive to STR

Discussion with a left-leaning Statist who claimed to not be employed by the government:
(We were at Starbucks sitting at adjacent tables with three other patrons seated nearby; a couple in a booth along the windows facing street-side, and a man in a state-issued costume in another booth directly across from them near the entrance to the restrooms.)

Statist: “Did you hear about Verizon?”

Me: “Sure did, are you surprised?”

Statist: “I don’t know, I have mixed feelings on it. On the one hand, it seems to be a good way to thwart terrorism, but on the other I just feel like my phone records are none of their business.”

Me: “None of their business? Who are they?”

Statist: “Our government.”

Me: “I thought ‘We the People’ are our government.”

Statist: “We are!”

Me: “What are you saying? That our phone records are none of our own business?”

Statist: “You know what I mean. It’s just that sometimes I think that if we quit sticking our noses into the affairs of foreign countries, the terrorists would stop caring about us and leave us alone.”

Me: “Have terrorists ever attacked you?”

Statist: “Not me personally, no.”

Me: “Me neither. Looks like the terrorists are already leaving us alone.”

Statist: “What? No, I mean if we just got out of there, I think we’d be at less risk of future attack.”

Me: “But we aren’t meddling with any foreign countries, we’re just hanging out at Starbucks.”

Statist: “Not us as in you and me, us as in our government!”

Me: “Oh, you mean them.”

Statist: (Sighs) “You know what I mean.”

Me: “Let me ask you this. Do you think Guantanamo Bay should be closed down?”

Statist: “Yes. Definitely not something my tax dollars should be spent on.”

Me: “I agree. Do you think we should close down Guantanamo Bay?”

Statist: (Thinks for a moment and chuckles), “Oh okay, I get it. No, I don’t think you and I should personally take on that endeavor.”

Me: “If you don’t think we should do it, but you think it should be done, who should do it?”

Statist: (Smiles and points at me wittingly) “You’re just trying to get me to say our government is not us.”

Me: “It’s interesting that you speak of the government as if it belongs to us.”

Statist: “What do you mean?”

Me: “You keep saying ‘our government’.”

Statist: “Well yes, our government does belong to, and is of, the people. And that includes you and me!”

Me: “What about the other three folks sitting in this here Starbucks?”

Statist: “Yes, them too!”

Me: “I think it’s pretty clear the government doesn’t belong to the five of us.”

Statist: “We’d have to be the only five people in the country for that to be true!”

Me: “Hmm. And why do you think your tax dollars belong to you?”

Statist: “I beg your pardon?”

Me: “You inferred that you weren’t happy about our government spending your tax dollars on Guantanamo Bay.”

Statist: “Yes. Our government belongs to us, and my tax dollars come from me, so I’m not happy about that.”

Me: “What’s the difference between your tax dollars and your non-tax dollars?”

Statist: “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Me: “Well, in both instances, you describe the money as yours. What separates the first instance from the second?”

Statist: “Clearly, the difference is that in the first instance, other people are deciding how to spend my money!”

Me: “Oh I see. They have no obligation to obtain your approval of how it’s spent, hence your frustration when they spend it on something like Guantanamo Bay.”

Statist: “Precisely. It’d be unrealistic, but assuming they spent it on things I approve of, I’d have no qualms about it.”

Me: “If you approved of it, you’d just spend it on said things yourself.”

Statist: “But that’s not the reality. So sometimes they spend it on things I approve of, and sometimes they don’t”

Me: Who are they again?

Statist: “Very funny.”

Me: “Seems to me it would make more sense to call the money their tax revenue rather than your tax dollars since the money has already left your possession.”

Statist: “Regardless of where the money sits, it’s a collective fund. It belongs to all of us because we all pitch in. Folks who work for the government pay taxes just like we do.”

Me: “Really? How do you figure?”

Statist: (Points to the man in the state-issued costume) “See that cop over there? He pays sales tax, state taxes, and federal taxes, all of it. Just like we do.”

Me: “How is the revenue for his paycheck generated?”

Statist: “From taxes!”

Me: “You’re not catching the flaw here are you?”

Statist: “The point is he pays too.”

Me: “No he doesn’t. Try this thought experiment. Imagine me, you, the two people sitting in that booth over there, and that cop really are the only people in the country.”

Statist: “Seriously?”

Me: “Sure. Since there are only five of us, suppose that cop is the only government employee necessary. And for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume we each make $100,000 a year and we each pay 20% in taxes.”

Statist: “This is ridiculous but I’ll play along. So everyone pitches in $20K. And that includes the cop.”

Me: “The cop doesn’t pitch in anything.”

Statist: “Yes he does. Look, everyone throws in $20K, so after we all pay our taxes, the cop gets his $80K salary (after taxes, mind you) from the collective pool. There’s $20K left in the pot for the resource expenditures necessary for the cop to do his job. That’s the point!”

Me: “If this were the Olympics, you would have just won the gold medal in mental gymnastics.”

Statist: “Ad hominem. Not helping your argument. You just got schooled.”

Me: “Don’t be so sure. How much money was in the pot before anyone paid any taxes?”

Statist: (Slightly frustrated) “None, obviously.”

Me: “And how much money does everyone wind up with after everyone pitches in?”

Statist: “Everyone walks with $80K after taxes.”

Me: “So the total amount of money circulating in our little thought experiment is $400K.”

Statist: (Scratches his head) “Umm, right.”

Me: “So what really happened is you, I, and those two hapless dupes in that booth over there earned $100K each, and the four of us each put $20K into the pot. That leaves the four of us with $80K each. Our combined contribution into the pot simply became the cop’s ‘after tax’ salary.”

Statist: “That doesn’t make any sense. That can’t be right.”

Me: “The only thing you’re doing wrong is presuming the total amount of money circulating in our thought experiment is $500K. You’re ignoring the key issue; the cop’s contribution to the collective fund doesn’t exist because his salary comes from the contributors.”

Statist: (Clearly irritated) “Okay, fine. I won’t argue with the math, but you do realize that what you’re saying is that people who work for the government don’t pay taxes and everyone else does. You’re trying to argue that they are leeching off of us regardless of how we feel about it.”

Me: “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

Statist: (Shrugs it off) “Heh, try telling them that!”

Me: “Who is th…

Statist: (Visibly angry and cuts me off in mid-sentence) “Shut up, smart ass!”

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forty2oz's picture
Columns on STR: 1

Just another guy out there that recognizes the value of personal liberty


jd-in-georgia's picture

This brings it down to brain damage level. Can I borrow this? It is not my idea specifically but I could not have said it better myself.

Anyone not able to comprehend this logic either has brain damage or has imbibed in waaaaaay too much Kool Aid.

Samarami's picture

This was good, 42oz. Excellent.

For some reason I'm drawn to essays like yours that feature on-the-toes dialogue with governmentalists. I'm an educator (long retired), and feel I was/am woefully lacking in the belly-to-belly alertness your piece portrays. One of those cases where one "knows the walk, but clumsy at talking the talk"...I find myself envious ("highly admiring" is the better descriptor) toward those of you who can indeed carry off presentations of simple, basic logic like you've outlined above.

Jim Davies had one regarding the voting phenomenon some years back. I refer to that often. Butler Shaffer posted a good one on Lew Rockwell a couple years ago on "environmentalism".

Welcome aboard! Please keep posting.


Jim Davies's picture

Super, forty2oz; welcome to STR, and come back often!
The hardest thing, to me, is to think on my feet (or in this case, on one of those absurdly tiny Starbucks chairs.) This was very well done, indeed. Was it the coffee that got you revving?

Glock27's picture

Forty 207: I hate taxes, even when I was 18 and did not understand why I had to give up my pathetic bit of a salary, but what happens when no one pays anything?

Samarami's picture


    "...what happens when no one pays anything?..."


But that can't happen at this point in history, Glock. That's because too many folks up and down the block seem to have a fear of becoming free individuals. So they refuse to see "taxation" as robbery, plain and simple. They'd prefer to stick it out chirping the meme of their childhood -- their governmentalist comfort zone:

    "...Yup! Sure as death and taxes!



Glock27's picture

Samarami: I never thought about that. If you pay nothing you are free and I do have to believe that those who do "honorably" pay their taxes just can't do without the benefits that follow regardless of who's money it is. As I have mentioned before, when I was 18 and got my first pay check (not counting the paper route I had which I never paid any taxes on or SSIT) I was stunned and wondered why in the world do I have to give the government all this money. My job was a hard job, sweaty, and dirty, and I was sure all that I earned was mine and not someone else's. Even now, I don't earn any money at a job and I still have to pay taxes. This year I had to borrow money to pay the damned things.
I have just purchased a complete re-loading outfit to reload all my firearms. I want to make sure I have ammunition available to me when the time comes that I need it.
I have recently been checking out the framers of the constitution and never until this day recognized that all of them (except maybe one or two) were well off individual’s held political offices of one nature or other. I have my differences with Spooner, but now I am into a new agenda of differences of the framers of the Constitution.

“What happens if no one pays anything” the government collapses and we are on our own which is probably the way that it should have been.

Thanks for talkin to me. I appreciate it.

Paul's picture

Welcome forty2oz! I too love these dialogs, although mine are fiction because I'm not smart enough on my feet to actually come up with that stuff. Dialogs are a wonderful way to get a point across.