Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Very Scary PM:

'I Don't Believe That Any Taxes Are Good Taxes'

That was the headline of Jeffrey Simpson's Column in the Globe and Mail.

Honest to God! Asinine!

But the only thing more asinine than that headline was the column that followed.

"This assertion," writes Simpson,

from an interview the Prime Minister gave The Globe and Mail after the G8 summit in Italy, is one of the most stunning, revealing and, frankly, ignorant statements ever made by a prime minister, let alone one who keeps purporting to be an economist, despite doing so many things that economists deplore.

Remember the word "ignorant".

For some reason, Simpson continues.

They, like right-wing politicians, might think taxes are too high, maybe way too high. They might think the private sector can do lots of things better than the public sector. They might believe taxes should be lower. But anyone who says “no taxes are good taxes” and “I don't believe that any taxes are good taxes” is wrong economically, and very, very scary socially and politically.

Okay, Mr. Simpson. It's time we return to some basics of philosophical argument. Statements in argument might either be moral (good or evil), normative (good or bad), or pragmatic (necessary or unnecessary).

The Prime Minister clearly has made a normative statement about taxes. I would be concerned if, like Stephane Dion, he had alleged that taxes were 'good'. Instead he falls into the camp that says taxes are bad. At no time time in this exchange (that I'm aware of) did the pragmatic question come up.

You see, Mr. Simpson, taxes can be 'bad' and still be 'necessary'. In fact, while taxes are frequently described as a necessary (pragmatic) evil (moral), they are probably better described in a conservative economic paradigm as a necessary (pragmatic) bad (normative).

Think things through before you write, Sir. And spare us your faux calumny.

After all, any columnist who can't discern the difference between moral, normative and pragmatic argument is "wrong economically, and very, very scary socially and politically."

h/t Publius, who has another go at it here.

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