-- Directed sales taxes
Health and education are not properly luxuries. This is partly because these markets have a poor contractual basis: students are too poor to be primary consumers, patients are too old to be anything else. And this is partly because , especially at a baseline value, they have moral and investment implications. They are considered "important" to a proper society, and to this degree they are a "right" or a "need".
So fund socialized medicine/education via sales taxes instead of income taxes. Then only those who subscribe to this 'need' would be required to donate. For it's one thing to say "people don't need to go to college." It's another thing to say "my child needs to go to college; yours does not." The latter position is still a viable, of course, but less so.
-- The greatest charity
The greatest charity is to die. If you live a good long life, then social security, medicare, health insurance, LTC insurance, retirement savings, pensions, and assets you happen to be tying up-- these are probably worth more than whatever you've donated. (Don't forget to sum back whatever tax advantages you get, either from employee benefits or from charity, since that's all money that you're taking and using, in some sense.)
So, basically, if you feel like you haven't given enough back to society, all you have to do is to wait till retirement age and kill yourself. Society will come and collect the millions of dollars of beach-front property, nurses, hip replacements, and pill bottles you thought you had coming.
--Politics and Religion
On the way home from Regan National the cab driver tuned to the political radio. It was a lot like the Pro Football talk station at home. The DJs were very informed, both generically and specifically, and very focused on detailed, complicated, strategy and tactics. In contrast, the callers were all basically morons. Anyway I wondered who my taxi driver was rooting for, and I was, I admit, impressed that he cared enough to listen to the meandering vulgarities of everyday national politics.
I mention this because I just moved to a big blue state. People here also really care about politics. The problem is they care more and think less. In DC it's a great big game, full of touchdowns and fumbles and pass interference. Around here people are effing serious about recycling. It's about who's liberal and who's more liberal. It's pretty sad, and I end up sympathizing with conservatives. But on the other hand, I guess if I'm going to be in a state that bases its politics on spiritual axioms, I'd rather it be progressive than aynrandian. At least the progressives manage their own worship with grace, with drinking, and partying, and caring. Conservatives are barred from witnessing their own spirituality, because they that's how they got to be conservative in the first place.
Some of the people here are even super-environmentalists, so they basically worship Gaea, the old Goddess. And while I do appreciate holy water, Ave Maria, and Flannery O Conner; I have to admit I like druids and trees a lot better than priests and crosses. Have you ever seen a real nature shrine? Let me tell you, it's worth the pilgrimage.
To me, in the most abstract, most absolute sense, freedom means having a choice. It means choosing between alternatives.
Note that this is different than how other people talk about it. Other people talk about freedom as a double negative-- to them, freedom means not having lost a choice to someone else.
Mine is the more general sense, to me man is not simply born free, he is born with a list of options, and these options can increase or decrease depending on his circumstances, depending on his actions, and depending on others' actions. Freedom can be lost, and it can also be given, which is what charity is. This freedom is also the ideal I strive for.
On the other hand, this freedom is also grounded in practicality. One can only be free to do what one wants. One can not be free to do what one doesn't want. It doesn't help to give someone an option they'd never execute. If there's no possibility of me choosing an alternative, then don't waste your time giving it to me. In a political sense, this means you can only free a people if you consider their will-- which options will they actually benefit from. Likewise, it doesn't help to give someone the freedom to do something they can't do anyway. To me, the freedom to buy an airplane is utterly useless. I'd rather have 5 cents off tacos, at Taco Bell, than the freedom to buy an airplane.
How do you maximize freedom in this sense? You ask the people "what do you want?" and if they give a half-sensible reply you give it to them. Of course you can't just give away money, so you offer an exchange. A fair market exchange? No. A free-market exchange? No. Who cares if the market is fair or free, I care that the people are free. So, no, instead of a free market exchange I seek the optimal system of exchange, given limited resources and a set or irrational and selfish actors. Morally, and politically, locally and globally, and over a period of time.
Is it worth it to push so hard one suffers to get ahead? What if we could progress techology 5 years with one year of torture, would it be worth it? In economic terms, the answer is yes, for if we push ahead, we'll remain ahead, for all eternity, and all those short term sacrifices will be forgotten with the everlasting fruits of our labor. Economically, the future is the only thing that matters, because it is so much larger. From a mathematical perspective though, the answer is no.
Consider, if you will, the entire history of all humanity as a function of time. Call it H(t). Now, mathematically speaking, we can say that either humanity will end or it will not. If it ends, it will end at some t. If it does not, then it will go on to infinity. Now consider the options, H1(t), where we sacrifice to get ahead, and H2(t), where we don't sacrifice to get ahead. Up till now, t=0, H1(t) and H2(t) are identical. And in the near future, H1(t+1)=H2(t+5), and this continues until humanity ends at t=tmax or forever. In either case, we can compare the options by subtracting the integrals. Once we do that, the past is negated, and the future is negated, and we have only the choice between this one torturous fast year, and those 5 slow years. Mathematically, we must live in the present. Because the future will always be waiting for us.