A penny-ante local newspaper posts an interactive map showing the names and addresses of all people in its circulation area who have gun permits . . . so that the burglars will know where to go to steal the guns for their next crime, or alternatively so that the they’ll know which houses are more likely to be safe to burgle because the owners (if home) won’t be armed. When people point out just how monstrous was what they did, the newspaper’s folks . . . post armed guards outside their offices. The Hollywood hand-wringers parade across the television screens about how necessary it is to take away all private citizens’ weapons . . . prior to getting into their enormous SUV with its blacked-out windows and their private (armed, of course) security detail.
Warren Buffett burns copious amounts of oxygen about how death taxes need to be preserved and in fact increased. He fails to mention that he owns about six (was the last number I saw; it might be more, now) life insurance companies, an industry about 20% of the business of which is selling financial products the only purpose for which is estate planning to avoid or ameliorate the effects of death taxes. Buffett also doesn’t bother to elaborate on the details of his own estate plan. Oh sure, he’s pledged all these assets to charity; his heirs will have to squeak by on a measly few hundred million . . . each. But here’s the un-told story: Buffett, like pretty much everyone in this country who’s got more than just a few nickels to rub together, long ago will have put together a very sophisticated estate plan the results of which will be to keep the vast majority of his wealth from being “includible” (I do a lot of estate planning work, and “includible” is the nastiest word in the lexicon) in his gross estate for death tax purposes. When you hear newspaper reports about how wealthy Warren Buffett is, they’re counting all those assets of his which he’s long ago put past the reach of the tax man.
We hear senior university officials lamenting how awful them ‘orrible gun-clinging, Bible-thumpin’ beetle-brow types are because they have the temerity to suggest that forever-increasing tax burdens are a bad thing. They don’t mention that they’re living in a house provided by a tax-exempt entity which has been increasing the prices it charges its customers by triple and quadruple the rate of inflation for decades, and has funnelled most of that increased revenue into additional “administration” make-work jobs, and jacking up the pay and benefits for those jobs, instead of providing better instruction to more students.
I could go on, of course, but why? Victor Davis Hanson points out the similarities of today’s lefties to the penance industry of the Roman Catholic church in the Middle Ages. The medieval Roman church did not reform from within. It took not only the Reformation, the wars of religion, and massive exodus to the New World to get them the message. Across most of Europe the prelacy was still living not just well but nearly obscenely well three hundred years after Luther left history’s most important post-it note.
Back in March, 2011, I was in Germany and had a day to kill. I was coming from Dresden and needed to stay overnight close enough to the airport that I could catch an 11:00 a.m. flight home, but I did not want to stay anywhere near Frankfurt. I’d never been to Fulda but had always wanted to go see dear ol’ St. Boniface. The train schedules worked out right so I got to spend my last full afternoon in Germany wandering around the city (gorgeous, and highly recommended). The archbishop of Fulda was also abbot of the monastery (or vice-versa; I can’t recall which was ex officio, but the offices were tied), and more to the point was also an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire. The archepiscopal palace now belongs to the city and in addition to housing several city offices is also (of course) in part a museum. So I went to visit. The dear ol’ Prince-Bishop’s private apartments are open to visitors. His quarters look like what some Hollywood set-designer would come up with if you gave him the general concept of “gaudy whorehouse, with extra-cloying furnishings, please.”
It took Napoleon to shift the Prince-Bishop from his teat. Napoleon liquidated the monasteries and under his pressure the Habsburgs liquidated the Empire.
I don’t know where the U.S. is going to come up with a Napoleon.