Good legalese, immigration, Lord Black, and Anaheim.

Legal Sanity · Check out Contributor Agreement by Mike Dillon, who’s Sun’s General Counsel (i.e. head lawyer). People complain about legalese, lawyer says “OK”, it gets fixed. Eben Moglen, get a clue.

Not Born Here · Via the BBC: One-fifth of Canadians immigrants. And here in Vancouver, it’s a whole lot more than 20%; the last tally I heard said that 46% of the city’s residents weren’t born in Canada.

I try to judge by the evidence, and on the evidence, immigration is a very good thing.

78 Months · It looks like that’s the sentence for Conrad Black. I've mixed feelings about this; like most Canadians, I have long loathed Mr. Black for his lecturing tone, towering arrogance, and unbearably-pompous writing style. I’ve also loathed his wife Barbara Amiel for over twenty years, since she was an newspaper writer in Toronto, reciting the dogma: we should slash social benefits and labour laws to motivate the poor to work harder, and simultaneously slash taxes and otherwise send money to the rich to motivate them to work harder.

It seems pretty clear that Lord Black (what a pathetic thing to do, sliming into the British House of Lords) was pretty well guilty as charged. He provides further evidence that extreme right-wingers are, by and large, scummy greed-heads.

But still, years in jail? Figuring out some way to strip him of his ill-gotten gains and make him go out and live among ordinary people would be much better poetic justice.

Pave It Over · Dervala blogs less these days, but her eye remains just as keen and her touch just as deft. As, for example, in Anaheim, California.



Contributions

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From: Tony (Dec 11 2007, at 06:22)

I don't share your reluctance regarding Conrad Black's prison sentence. There are countless examples of a two tier justice system across western nations, where those with enough power and wealth consistently evade jail sentences, whereas the poor and uneducated are incarcerated for lengthy sentences for equal or even lesser crimes. Black stole millions from his shareholders. What are the chances of a convicted bank robber, or a house burglar escaping jail time ? The only way to stop this type of behaviour is to punish the offenders properly. In my view he didn't get long enough.

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From: denis bider (Dec 11 2007, at 12:01)

The reason that rich people generally get light sentences is because, in order to get rich, you must have contributed something valuable that made people want to give you money. Unlike the IRS, which can at any time simply waltz in and take whatever they say you "owe" them, businesspeople actually have to try and bend over backwards a bit to get people to voluntarily part with their money. People don't part with their money unless they perceive a benefit at least equal to or greater than the cost. So overall, if you got rich by doing business, this must mean that you have helped make other people even richer, whether this is tangible or not.

For this reason, people who didn't downright steal their way into riches deserve lighter punishments for the transgressions they make - as long, at least, as their transgressions remain small compared to their overall contributions.

This is in contrast to a habitual car thief, who perhaps causes less damage, but who has never developed any productive work habits and whose contribution to society overall is likely to be strictly negative. Stealing a car worth $30,000 is less economic damage than skimming $7 million, but the car thief's lifetime positive contribution is $0, while the rich guy's may well be a magnitude larger than $7 million.

As for the lower-taxes-for-the-rich and less-benefits-for-the-poor jibe: this is obviously unpopular, but it has a point. Motivation requires both a carrot attracting to desired behavior, and a stick warning to stay away from undesired behavior. Aside from Paris Hilton, most rich do not get rich by sitting idly on their asses. Work and sacrifice is required to get there, and the sacrifice typically involves producing economic benefits for everyone else that exceed whatever the rewards are. The "progressive" tax policies remove the "carrot" which stimulates people to strive for achievement, by reducing the rewards. Meanwhile, the social benefits for people who are "down on their luck" remove incentives to stay away from economically unproductive behavior.

It gets worse. The rich do not stay rich by spending all their money on consumption. The majority of a rich person's income must be reinvested, or else they will not remain rich. Investment is what drives productivity growth, and productivity growth is what makes it possible for everyone, including the poor, to live in relative luxury today compared to what there was 200 years ago. Most poor households today have air conditioning. Everyone has cell phones, and obesity is a problem that affects poor people. This was not the case 200 years ago, and it was not because the food back then was more healthy!

Now, what income taxes do is, they take away much of the money that would be spent by the rich on investment, and it also takes some of the money they would have spent on their own personal consumption, too. Now this money is given to people and projects where it is spent on immediate consumption. The consequence is less investment in the economy overall, and the consequence of that is less productivity growth. As a result, instead of the _real wages_ of the median worker growing like this:

Year 1: 1.04

Year 2: 1.08

Year 5: 1.22

Year 10: 1.48

Year 15: 1.80

Year 20: 2.19

they grow like this:

Year 1: 1.02

Year 2: 1.04

Year 5: 1.10

Year 10: 1.22

Year 15: 1.35

Year 20: 1.49

While the median worker may benefit to some extent from redistribution of income in the short run, in the long run, the exponential effects of reduced economic growth make things worse not just for the rich, but for everyone.

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From: Rob (Dec 11 2007, at 13:39)

Tim writes:

..."reciting the dogma: we should slash social benefits and labour laws to motivate the poor to work harder, and simultaneously slash taxes and otherwise send money to the rich to motivate them to work harder."

Yea, that never works. Sheesh...

Just read a similar post:

http://reason.com/blog/show/123855.html

"In the early 1960s, the highest marginal income tax rate was a stunning 91 percent. That top rate fell to 70 percent after the Kennedy-Johnson tax cuts and remained there until 1981. Then Ronald Reagan slashed it to 50 percent and ultimately to 28 percent after the 1986 Tax Reform Act. Although the federal tax rate fell by more than half, total tax receipts in the 1980s doubled from $517 billion in 1981 to $1,030 billion in 1990."

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