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Congratulations, It's a Boy! - A Gay Man Adopts a Son

Editors note:
For a number of reasons most of the readers of this blog are familiar with Dan Mitchell. One reason is because we frequently feature his videos and essays here. Another is because he is on TV almost daily engaging in debate with some leftist economist or being interviewed about tax policy or the like. 
The most likely reason is that he is a guest contributor to this blog and most of you wouldn't dream of missing a post on this site. 
Okay, as usual, I engaged in some creative description (deception?) to make this blog seem more impressive than it actually is. The truth is Dan has given us express permission to republish his posts whenever we want. So we do that on a semi-regular basis. I try not to post too many of them because they always make my posts seem amateurish by comparison.
Dan's offerings are always interesting and educational but sometimes he hits it out of the park. The following essay is one of those home runs. Be sure to check out his blog, International Liberty. You'll be more well informed and generally happier if you do.
A Clever Example of Tax Avoidance, but a Quandary for Leftists and Social Conservatives
I generally believe that social conservatives and libertarians are natural allies. As I wrote last year, this is “because there is wide and deep agreement on the principle of individual responsibility. They may focus on different ill effects, but both camps understand that big government is a threat to a virtuous and productive citizenry.”
I even promoted a “Fusionist” principle based on a very good column by Tim Carney, and I suspect a large majority of libertarians and social conservatives would agree with the statement.
But that doesn’t mean social conservatives and libertarians are the same. There’s some fascinating research on the underlying differences between people of different ideologies, and I suspect the following story might be an example of where the two camps might diverge.
But notice I wrote “might” rather than “will.” I’ll be very curious to see how various readers react to this story about a gay couple that is taking an unusual step to minimize an unfair and punitive tax imposed by the government of Pennsylvania.
John met Gregory at a gay bar in Pittsburgh nearly 45 years ago and immediately fell in love. …Now, as lifelong partners facing the financial and emotional insecurities of old age, they have legally changed their relationship and are father and son — John, 65, has adopted Gregory, 73. The couple was worried about Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax. “If we just live together and Gregory willed me his assets and property and anything else, I would be liable for a 15 percent tax on the value of the estate,” said John. “By adoption, that decreases to 4 percent. It’s a huge difference.” …the couple had considered marrying in another state, but because their primary residence was in Pennsylvania, which does not recognize same-sex marriage, they would still be subjected to the inheritance law.
The Judge who approved the adoption obviously wasn’t too troubled by this unusual method of tax avoidance.
The judge did turn to John and said, “I am really curious, why are you adopting [Gregory]?” “I said, ‘Because it’s our only legal option to protect ourselves from Pennsylvania’s inheritance taxes,’” said John. “He got it immediately.” The judge agreed to sign the adoption papers on the spot and handed it to the clerk. Then he turned and looked at John, “Congratulations, it’s a boy.”
So what’s your take on this issue? For some groups, it’s easy to predict how they’ll react to this story.
1. If you have the statist mindset of England’s political elite or if you work at a bureaucracy such as the OECD, you’ll think this is morally wrong. Not because you object to homosexuality, but because you think tax avoidance is very bad and you believe the state should have more money.
2. If you’re a libertarian, you’re cheering for John and Gregory. Even if you don’t personally approve of homosexuality, you don’t think the state should interfere with the private actions of consenting adults and you like the idea of people keeping more of the money they earn.
3. If you’re a public finance economist, you think any form of death tax is a very perverse form of double taxation and you like just about anything that reduces this onerous penalty on saving and investment.
But there are some groups that will be conflicted.
Social Conservative Quandary1. Social conservatives don’t like big government and bad tax policy, but they also don’t approve of homosexuality. And, in this case, it’s now technically incestuous homosexuality! If I had to guess, most social conservatives will argue that the court should not have granted the adoption. We’ll see if there are some good comments on this post.
Leftist Quandary2. Leftists also will be conflicted. They like the death tax and they want the government to have more money, but they also believe in identity politics and wouldn’t want to offend one of their constituent groups.  I’m guessing identity politics would trump greed, but I suspect their ideal approach would be to tax all inheritances at 15 percent.
In my fantasy world, needless to say, there’s no death tax and the entire issue disappears.


Some Scandals are More Frightening Than Others

By Grant Davies

Some decades back, I remember witnessing the Nixon debacle as if it were a slow motion version of a train wreck. But I also remember being nauseated rather than terrified. After all, I was watching the train wreck, not involved in it.

You grimace and wince and make squinty eyes, but it's not you who's about to be squashed. It's some sweaty President on TV telling you he's not a crook when you know in your gut that he is.

And you feel (at least I felt) that in the end, everyone would get what was coming to them and the country would be okay, and therefore you would be okay, too. I also distinctly remember the feeling of satisfaction when he resigned before they could fire him. I felt that way because my perception was that the system had worked. I wasn't smug because I had known that everything would work out; I was relieved. Even after all these years, I'm not sure if I was right about everything working out, or merely naive.

But the thing that I remember most of all was the news breaking of some new part of the scandal on what seemed like a daily basis. You needed a freaking program to remember all the players. (Yes, I know there were no programs yet for the common man.) They all seemed to run together into one giant stinking pile of liars and their lies.

In the end it was all about the cover-up. At least that's what the press tried to tell us, and most of us chose to believe it because it was the easier choice.

Which brings us to today, and the sickening realization that deja vu is more than a concept. But this endless stream of scandals is different. Much different. This stuff is not as sickening as it is frightening. I'm not grimacing and wincing this time. I'm contemplating the future, and my eyes probably show a frightened bewilderment instead of the squint I wore back then. Age and experience may do that to you. I'm not sure.

So pick your scandal. Is it Benghazi that scares you? Or does it just sicken you that your government could leave our people to die for whatever reason and then try to cover it up with a preposterous story about anti-Islam Internet films?

Is it more frightening that your government and the IRS are more than just incompetent morons who do not understand the tax code well enough to administer it? Or that they are now the enforcement squad for whatever party is in control at the time? Anyone who has dealt with those thugs knows what terror really is.

Does the realization that the government is tracking the phone records of Fox News and AP reporters looking for "leaks" scare you? It sure scares the news organizations. Even the liberal ones.

Or does the newest blockbuster scandal concerning the spy agencies gathering "information" about who is talking to whom on the telephone, and for how long, scare you? Over one billion communications have been monitored according to recent reports. And they are the conversations of everyone, we are told, not just of the "suspicious" people in other countries who call "suspicious" people in this country. If you can monitor lots of people with a software program, why limit the scope? The people with the programs are the same people in charge of limiting its use.

Now that it has come to light that ordinary people like you and I are being watched by massive computer programs, it starts to look more than a little like East Germany just a few decades ago.  And those programs  are being made more capable every day. It's a Hitlerian wet dream.

From my perspective, all this is very frightening. But the most frightening thing of all is where it will lead. If this all just gets to be old news and passes away while we move on with our lives, it will take its natural course. The authorities will be emboldened, and history will repeat. A quick peek at what happened only about eighty years ago should convince even an intellectual ostrich that it's a sure thing that governments always do what they can get away with.

For anyone who doesn't yet understand what the spy agencies are already capable of, here is some of what the "whistle blower" Edward Snowden said in the blockbuster interview being featured on the Drudge Report and elsewhere. ( Snowden is the "source for the Guardian's NSA files on why he carried out the biggest intelligence leak in a generation.")

Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?

A: "The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

"I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under."

To find out more about Edward Snowden and see the interview, click here. I warn you though, it's not for the faint of heart to contemplate what might happen to this man now that he has spilled the beans on the spooks.

Did I miss a scandal or two?  Certainly. They have been flowing like water for a long time. Unfortunately, many people are more interested in blaming past administrations, or the current one, in a game of political grab ass than concentrating on what actually is happening.

So which scandal has you more frightened than the others? Or are you one of the few left who think it's all much ado about  nothing?

My answer is: what the future has in store for us if the various agencies and executives get away with these crimes against our rights is past frightening, it's terrifying. But then again, I was terrified of Obamacare and the bailouts and they have worked out fine, so maybe I scare too easily.


It's Only Money

Editors note: The following post was published this morning on our other blog, Cheeky History. That blog is devoted to short historical musings and has nothing to do with any particular ideology. I call it "History with an attitude."

Having said that, today's story has plenty of crossover appeal for people who read this blog. If you enjoy the style you might want to visit there regularly to see what we are blabbering about when we aren't pushing the freedom philosophy.

By Grant Davies

On this day in 1933, the Congress of the United States passed a law, (HJR 192), that took the country off the gold standard.

Ho hum, just some legalistic, monetary, mumbo jumbo that doesn't affect the common man, you might say. In fact, it might help the common man because it's designed to stop those evil rich guys from hoarding gold. And everyone knows that's what's causing the depression.. right?

Anyway, what's the big deal? The little guy doesn't have any gold so who cares what happens to the fat cats?

The law was just the rubber stamp that FDR's puppets applied to his "executive order 6102", which had been signed just three months earlier by the king, er, President. That order was the one that made every citizen in the country a criminal if they didn't turn in their gold by May 1st of the same year.

Oh, I forgot to mention, these laws and executive orders were preceded by, yep you guessed it, a Presidential Proclamation. "Proclamation 2039" to be exact. (It does sound a bit like what a king might do, but it's not like what the Wizard of Oz did when he gave out hearts, brains, and courage. But I digress.)

What all this meant was that the government took away all your gold coins and bullion. (Silver was included too. We'll leave that for a future story.) But not to worry, these nice men were allowing you to keep grandpa's gold watch and mom's wedding band. And what's the big deal? They will pay you $20.67 per ounce for it; it's not like they are stealing it from you.

So you get the paper, the government gets the gold (and the power to make the paper worth anything, or nothing, it wants) and all is right with the world. Surely this will fix the depression, so it's worth the minor inconvenience.

Before I forget, it should be mentioned that just a short time after they took all the gold they could get their hands on, they arbitrarily raised the price of gold to $35 an ounce. It was a stroke of genius for the Federal Reserve who was able to realize a 69 percent increase in the value of what they had just stolen, er, bought. It wasn't such a good deal for the home folks though because it made the value of their currency worth 40% less.

Another way to devalue the money would be to print it like crazy, but don't worry, they would never do that. After all, ever since the Fed began defending the value of the dollar it has lost 95% of its value, and who can argue with a track record like that?

To celebrate the day, stop down at the Yellow Rock Saloon and have a shot of Goldschlager schnapps. But just because it's about 40% alcohol don't assume you broke even on the deal.