Today is Pig’s 6th birthday!
Today is Pig’s 6th birthday!
electricvonstrangler asked: I recently saw a post from the Campaign for Liberty page on Facebook about how the IRS requested a list of their donors and the CFL refused (I believe that's what happened). It seems as though this goes against libertarian philosophy and transparency, to me, at least. What are your thoughts?
Yeah, I’ve heard about this story, but don’t know too much about it. As I understand it, though, it’s pretty much as you’ve described: The IRS requested the C4L given them their donor lists; C4L said no; and the IRS fined them like $13,000 in response.
Libertarians do tend to support transparency, but here’s the thing: That’s for government, not private organizations, like C4L, which have a right to privacy. So no, it’s not un-libertarian to object to forced disclosure of these donor lists.
It’s a lot like censorship and free speech: Libertarians oppose all censorship by the government, but private individuals and organizations can limit speech however they want on their private property or websites.
Does that make sense? Libertarians are pro-transparency, but we’re also pro-privacy, and it’s important to distinguish between rules and expectations for government and for private persons.
This is so corny. It cracks me up.
inbetweenmylungs asked: I have been following you for quite some time now, but for some reason, every time you show up on my dash, I read your name as "hipster librarian." (Love your posts btw I think you're great)
Hahaha, yeah, this happened quite a lot when I first started. I had some people follow me and then wonder why I was always talking about politics instead of books. It’s good to know the tradition continues.
I won’t plug my email list very often, because that would be a violation of my not-annoying policy, but give me a pass today since I just sent out the very first edition. Here’s what you missed — and what you can get on a weekly(ish) basis in the future if you sign up here.
For starters, thanks for signing up for my inaugural email update! I really do appreciate it, and I hope you’ll stick around.
So the big news this week is that I just got back from the Festival of Faith & Writing early Sunday morning. I’ve been looking forward to this conference all spring, and I was able to talk to six acquisitions editors from three publishing houses about my book project. I’ll be following up with them in the coming weeks, so wish me luck!
New writing from me:
Faith involves your brain, too, published at Relevant
For Millennials, patriotism doesn’t mean compliance, my weekly column at Rare
Where did your tax dollars go?, published on my blog
Somebody buy the President some watercolors, published at my Tumblr
Good reads around the interwebs:
Freedom to Travel Is a Right Americans Lost, by Lucy Steigerwald for Antiwar.com
11 Facts about America’s Prison Population, by Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas for WaPo
3 Months Later, Here’s What Denver Looks Like Since Legalizing Marijuana, by Tom McKay for PolicyMic
A Ranking of the Most Sprawling U.S. Metro Areas, and Why You Should Care, by Sarah Goodyear for The Atlantic
Zoning’s Racist Roots Still Bear Fruit, by A. Barton Hinkle for Reason
Like, Degrading the Language? No Way, by John McWhorter for the NYT
Why the Church Needs More Troublemakers, by Michael Hidalgo for Relevant
The Neighboring Movement, by Joshua DuBois for The Daily Beast
In Defense of Extremism, by Mark Van Steenwyk for his personal blog
Stay in touch:
Tumblr: The Hipster Libertarian
IRL: Media & Speaking Schedule
Bonus Pig & Fred photo:
mistakendisenchantment asked: Your "intellectual spirituality" article was incredibly encouraging; thank you as always for sharing (quite eloquently, I might add) your impressive insights.
Thank you! That was my main goal — to help other people realize more quickly than I did that there’s not something wrong with us, haha.
This is my first time publishing at Relevant, and I’m pretty excited about it. Check it out:
I don’t like devotional books.
I rarely get swept up in emotional worship experiences.
And as much as I’ve wanted to be the girl who sings with her arms raised, eyes closed and heart full of joy, I just end up fixated on whether or not I’m flashing sweaty armpits to everyone around me (spoiler: I probably am).For years, I participated in small groups and Bible studies feeling like there must be something wrong with me. I couldn’t connect to the kind of devotional, emotional spirituality so many of my friends seemed to enjoy; and most of the time I’d rather study the details of Paul’s arguments about justification than meditate on a Psalm.
Then I came across an essay by C.S. Lewis called, “On the Reading of Old Books,” and it completely changed my perspective. “For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books,” Lewis wrote, “and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others.” Years of worry that I was unspiritual or a bad Christian began to melt away. Lewis continued:
I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hands.
Swap the pencil for a laptop and the pipe for a beer and he’d nailed my experience exactly. But if C.S. Lewis of all people was on my side, why did it seem like we were hanging out alone?
The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. — Mark Twain
Last year I shared the very first image in this post, the Heritage Foundation's chart for 2012 explaining where your tax dollar goes. It got almost 800 notes, because it's a great graphic way to demonstrate what our government does with our money. I noticed this morning that it was getting a few additional reblogs thanks to today being Tax Day, so I thought I'd share an updated chart.
As it turned out, I’d already found and saved the very similar chart for 2013 made by the National Priorities Project (NPP), the second to last graphic in this post. When I uploaded it to share, I took a minute to compare the two. Both Heritage’s image for 2012 and NPP’s image for 2013 use the same clever design, but I immediately noticed that the similarities stop there. And when I dug up Heritage’s chart for 2013 (the second graphic above) and NPP’s far more chaotic version from 2012 (the third graphic), the differences became even more telling.
See, all these charts are informative, but they’re made with different agendas in mind. Heritage is a conservative think tank, and as the ACA (Obamacare) has gone into effect since their 2012 graphic, their focus has shifted even more strongly to highlighting entitlement spending. Note that big bracket they’ve added, and how “Income security, Veterans’ benefits” was retitled “Income security and other benefits,” a subtle shift which will make that spending feel more wasteful to Heritage’s typically anti-welfare, pro-military audience. Military spending, meanwhile, is dubbed “National defense” — a label I’d say isn’t quite accurate in our age of endless war — and calculated in a way which makes it seem quite small compared to the social programs.
Then there’s the NPP, which is a nonpartisan transparency organization that leans left. In both of their charts, military spending is labeled as just that, and it’s also calculated in a way which makes it the largest portion of the budget. Veterans’ benefits, health care spending, unemployment benefits, housing benefits, and food benefits are all chopped up into different sections, making social welfare spending look like a smaller slice of the pie than it really is. (The interest on the national debt also plays a much larger role in NPP’s charts than Heritage’s, a difference which I presume comes from Heritage’s use of “net interest.”)
So what’s the takeaway here? Well, there are a few:
1. No matter which chart you use, one thing is clear: Our government spends a heck of a lot of money that we don’t have.
2. The vast bulk of it goes to military spending and entitlement programs. Within each of those categories, there is plenty of corporate welfare, crony capitalism, and corruption of all sorts.
3. While I don’t believe any of these charts were intentionally designed to be deceptive (there are multiple, legitimate ways to slice up these spending categories), each presents the information with a certain bias. Bias is NOT a bad thing (see more on that here), but it can be dangerous if we’re not aware of its presence. Last year, I posted Heritage’s chart uncritically. I don’t think anything too terrible happened as a result, but looking at their updated chart this year (especially compared to NPP’s differently-biased graphics) indicates that was not the best choice.
4. ALWAYS use multiple sources. Last year I didn’t look for other sources on this, because the proportions are generally correct. It’s typically fairly safe to think of Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and military spending each taking about 25% of our spending, with the rest going to other programs and interest on the debt. That’s a very rough estimate, but it’s a good guide to see if charts like these are anywhere close to reality.
Beyond that general estimate, though, we need more sources. Unless you’re a math and budget genius, check multiple versions of these calculations, which inevitably simplify very complex information into a very small space.
Personally, I think the final graphic above is, though least visually interesting, probably the most valuable. It’s from the Tax Foundation, which is more interested in lowering taxes and spending overall than making any particular part of the spending look more ominous than it is (note: it’s all pretty ominous). This chart slices up $100 instead of $1, but the idea is the same. And here you’ll note something of a mediating position which lines up pretty closely with my 25% x 3 approximation.
The White House, the New York Times, CNBC, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and plenty of other organizations with widely varying agendas have put out their own versions of these charts. Being able to find and compare these different calculations is a huge advantage of the internet.
So, where do your tax dollars go? Well, you figure it out. Probably somewhere you don’t like. Happy Tax Day…or something like that.
— Greta Garbo