Monthly Archives: May 2015

Tax Time

Like many people, Robert completed his tax returns a few weeks ago.  Actually about a week before the deadline this year.  Whoo Hoo!

The effective federal income tax rate on Robert and Mira’s combined 2014 earnings was 1.4 percent.

Robert considers this percentage quite reasonable. The manner in which it is calculated, of course, is a nightmare.

Robert does not complain much about income taxes in the United States. He feels that most Americans, if they would turn off the television for a moment and stop their incessant bellyaching, would see that they don’t pay as much tax as they think they do.

Like Fine Wine

Robert is (re-)reading Plato’s Republic.  He has not picked it up seriously since college. And then not so seriously.

His favorite passage for the moment is from Book 1.  As Plato-lovers know, this is the book in which Socrates has a conversation with Glaucon and Adiamantus (and others) about the nature of justice.  Glaucon challenges Socrates to explain why it is bad to be unjust. In setting up the challenge, Glaucon explains the conventional wisdom of the time (and thereafter) that, basically, only an insane man does what is just if he has the power to do what is unjust, profit from it, and suffer no ill consequences.

“They say that to do injustice is naturally good and to suffer injustice bad, but that the badness of suffering it so far exceeds the goodness of doing it that those who have done and suffered injustice and tasted both, but who lack the power to do it and avoid suffering it, decide that it is profitable to come to an agreement with each other neither to do injustice nor to suffer it. As a result, they begin to make laws and covenants, and what the law commands they call lawful and just. This, they say, is the origin and essence of justice. It is intermediate between the best and the worst. The best is to do injustice without paying the penalty; the worst is to suffer it without being able to take revenge. Justice is a mean between these two extremes. People value it not as a good but because they are too weak to do injustice with impunity. Someone who has the power to do this, however, and is a true man wouldn’t make an agreement with anyone not to do injustice in order not to suffer it. For him that would be madness. This is the nature of justice, according to the argument, Socrates, and these are its natural origins.” (Rep. 358 e-359 b)

The passage is very famous. It incorporates so many themes. Like a fine wine, it is so complex. It hints at so much. Notes of social contract theory, deontological moral theory, game theory, even some theory of bureaucracy. It is awesome!

May Day

Robert remembers his first grade teacher, Mrs. Hurt.  She was an old lady.  Maybe she was not so old, but she had gray hair and she called the bathroom the lavatory, so she seemed old to Robert.

Mrs. Hurt took special interest in celebrating May Day with the kids. It is the last time Robert has done so. To this day he does not know if Mrs. Hurt was a socialist or just old fashioned in her celebration of May Day.