In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Moviegoing: "The Italian Job" | Main | Sandra Goldbacher and Her Pet, if Unconscious, Theme »

June 27, 2003

Find and Replace Justice


I was reading the New York Times article on the Supreme Court’s rather libertarian decision on gay rights (which you can read here) and suddenly thought, what if the same logic was applied to another minority rights topic—to wit, the progressive income tax.

So I made the following, I think reasonable, changes via my find-and-replace function:

Gays -> wealthy people
Sexual -> economic
Homosexual -> rich
Texas sodomy law -> national progressive income tax
Having sex -> making money and not paying extortionate taxes on it
Same-sex marriage -> flat tax
this relationship -> economic activity
homes -> businesses
gay -> rich
lesbian -> rich
oral or anal sex -> making money and not paying extortionate taxes on it
same-sex couples -> rich people
heterosexuals -> middle-income people

Here goes:

WASHINGTON, June 26 — The Supreme Court issued a sweeping declaration of constitutional liberty for rich people today, overruling the nation’s progressive income tax in the broadest possible terms and effectively apologizing for a contrary 1986 decision that the majority said "demeans the lives of rich persons." The vote was 6 to 3.

Wealthy people are "entitled to respect for their private lives," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said for the court. "The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private economic conduct a crime."

Justice Kennedy said further that "adults may choose to enter upon economic activity in the confines of their businesses and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons." [Excerpts, Pages A16-17.]

While the result had been widely anticipated since the court agreed in December to hear an appeal brought by two Houston men who were prosecuted for making money and not paying extortionate taxes on it in their home, few people on either side of the case expected a decision of such scope from a court that only 17 years ago, in Bowers v. Hardwick, had dismissed the same constitutional argument as "facetious." The court overturned that precedent today.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia accused the court of having "taken sides in the culture war" and having "largely signed on to the so-called rich agenda." He said that the decision "effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation" and made the flat tax, which the majority opinion did not discuss, a logical if not inevitable next step. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas signed Justice Scalia's dissent.

…[T]here was no doubt that the decision had profound legal and political implications. A conservative Supreme Court has now identified the rich-rights cause as a basic civil rights issue.

…"It removes the reflexive assumption of rich people's inferiority," Professor Goldberg said. "Bowers took away the humanity of rich people, and this decision gives it back."

The vote to overturn Bowers v. Hardwick was 5 to 4, with Justice Kennedy joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

"Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today," Justice Kennedy said. "Its continuance as precedent demeans the lives of rich persons."

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was part of the 5-to-4 majority in Bowers v. Hardwick, did not join Justice Kennedy in overruling it. But she provided the sixth vote for overturning the nation’s progressive income tax in a forcefully written separate opinion that attacked the law on equal protection grounds because it made "deviate economic intercourse" — making money and not paying extortionate taxes on it — a crime only between rich people and not for middle-income people.

"A law branding one class of persons as criminal solely based on the state's moral disapproval of that class and the conduct associated with that class runs contrary to the values of the Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause," Justice O'Connor said.

…The fundamental debate on the court was over the meaning of the Constitution's due process guarantee, which Justice Kennedy said was sufficiently expansive so that "persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom."

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?



posted by Friedrich at June 27, 2003


Except that GLBTs don't have higher incomes than hets...

Posted by: Tyler Green on June 27, 2003 11:11 AM

When I read this before, there was something about rich people and their rich lawyers breaking down weeping with relief. Where'd it go? I admit I thought that part was hilarious.

Posted by: annette on June 27, 2003 11:31 AM

Some are also hoping to use this case to strike down Federal drug prohibition.

Posted by: David Mercer on June 27, 2003 12:22 PM

Posted by: John Hinchey on June 27, 2003 4:23 PM

This post is fascinating on so many different levels -- not least of which is that Gays (esp. Gay men) have long been viewed as a sort of decadent aristocracy opposed to middle-class virtue and democracy. That such a view has been proven untrue time and again in no way diminishes its cultural force.

It's more than a little unsettling to see that view creep unawares into a libertarian protest against excessive taxation. On the one hand, you're attempting to remind us that economic freedom is every bit as fundamental a right as personal freedom. Point taken and welcomed. But on the other, you're inadvertently reinforcing class-warfare parallels in the culture war.

Strange, how these issues seem to converge.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on June 28, 2003 3:24 AM

Taxes aren't a punishment for a crime, though. They're how public services are funded.

Your analogy only starts to make sense if gays have more sex than hets (which anecdotal evidence suggests is true for men but not for women), if bis are the largest group in America (a point on which polls disagree), if restricting gay sex would improve the sex lives of all (seems unlikely), and if higher tax rates meant that the wealthy had to either become poor or go to prison.

But instead of all wealthy people becoming non-wealthy on April 15, the same people seem to stay wealthy year after year, at least until their children stay wealthy year after year. The only people I know of whose economic condition became desperate because of taxes are lower-class people who got a windfall, spent it, and somehow expected to stay in the middle class.

Now, if the Supreme Court had struck down rape laws -- *that* would be a lot like a flat tax.

Posted by: Ray on June 28, 2003 4:26 PM

Several people seem to have gotten the message that I'm branding gay people as rich (and thus, I can only assume, they get the idea that I'm criticizing the recent Supreme Court decision because it benefits this rotten well-to-do subgroup); that was not my intention at all, sorry I was so opaque. I was simply trying to compare gays to wealthy people as two minority groups who are both on the receiving end of oppressive legislation designed to favor the majority.

The whole idea for the post derived, actually, from Justice O'Connor's analysis; i.e., that placing special burdens on minority groups, burdens that are not placed on the majority (i.e., gays must abstain from oral or anal intercourse but not heteros, wealthy people must pay taxes at very high rates but not the non-wealthy majority) was a violation of the minority's equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment. I think it is a serious failing of our current constitutional set-up that there is effectively no protection of minorty rights in the economic sphere. I mean, we have the First Amendment because we don't trust majorities not to restrict the free speech or religious rights of minorities, and we have the Fifteenth Amendment because we don't trust majorities not to restrict the voting rights of minorities, but our current constitution has an odd view that majorities can be trusted to keep their hands off the money of minorities. I mean, who's kidding whom here?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on June 29, 2003 12:11 AM

So, rich people are an oppressed minority? Yeah, it's just so hard for them to get by. I mean, after being mortgaged to the hilt, then you gotta make payments on the jaguar and the two suv's. And then there are those country club fees . . .

Posted by: John on June 30, 2003 10:12 AM

Dear John:

Thanks for illustrating my point. With an attitude toward the wealthy like you display here, I think we can all conclude why constitutional protection for their rights is necessary. I note that you don't suggest that rich people have done anything wrong; apparently your logic is that if they can afford to pay for Jaguars and SUVs and country club fees, then they can afford to pay for you, right (or for any amount of government benefits for yourself you can dream up?) Or is your logic of the most ancient type--as in, "Gosh, your money would do a lot better in my pocket. Hand it over."

Have you ever noticed that when lefties "come out of the closet" and advocate redistributive programs (transparently designed to benefit themselves), their tone gets real surly? Kind of similar to gay-bashing, don't you think?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on June 30, 2003 10:41 AM

I am not suggesting that rich people have done anything wrong. What I am suggesting is that a system that allows extreme wealth while others continue to live in poverty is unjust. And I don't buy the argument that the rich have "earned" their money because it pre-supposes that an investment banker works harder and contributes more to society than, say, an elementary-school teacher.

Concerning getting surly in order to benefit myself, I do quite well, thank you very much. And I will admit that I have more than I need and that I would find it difficult to give up any of what I have in order to pay more taxes. But I don't kid myself by arguing that I am more deserving of what I have than someone else. And I'm not "coming out of the closet"; I've never been in it.

Posted by: John on June 30, 2003 12:04 PM

Dear John:

And others might say that a system that allows homosexuals legal "approval" while the institution of heterosexual marriage is under such stress is unjust (to use your term). See, that's why we need civil rights--they don't exist purely at the sufferance of the majority's notions of what is just or unjust.

P.S. I've also never found a lefty who would admit that they do well personally out of income redistribution. And yet, somehow, the vast majority of people voting Democratic in elections, do, in fact, do well out of income redistribution. Kind of a mystery, don't you think?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on June 30, 2003 2:26 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?