Anything worth talking about, is worth blogging about

The anti–HST petition has been verified as successful. However, Elections BC has declined to act due to an ongoing court case involving the HST. Notably, this is the first time any attempt at initiative here in BC has gathered enough signatures.

I do not know when the court case will end or how it will turn out. If the petition ever gets to the chief electoral officer, two things can happen. The provincial government can introduce a bill to repeal the tax; since they introduced the tax in the first place they will certainly defeat this bill; or it can go to a non–binding referendum, which would be held September 2011. Either way, I don’t expect the government to repeal the tax, and therefore I am pretty sure that the HST is here to stay.

Comments on: "Anti-HST petition verified but nothing goes forward" (20)

  1. I have a simple answer. Just don’t pay it. What can they do? They don’t have any more power than you acknowledge.

  2. The HST is collected when you buy something. It’s pretty unlike that you’ll get a business to simply not collect it. In a value-added tax (which the HST is), sellers are forced to collect HST on behalf of the governmenty and turn over what they get, after deducting what they pay. It’s not like an income tax where you can outright iie or something. And besides, tax evasion is a crime.

  3. First of all, tax evasion is not a crime because taxes are a government order and the government doesn’t have the authority to make orders.

    Second, you CAN not pay it by not going through standard checkout procedure at the store. Leave the money on the shelf, and take the item. Simple as that. It’s technically not stealing because you paid for it.

    Third, if nobody pays this tax, then they don’t have the funds to even pretend they have authority. The quickest and easiest revolution is a financial one.

    I don’t pay taxes in my country. Nobody should ever pay them in theirs.

  4. Due to being a confessed tax evader and an advocate of stealing, I have banned The Ceej from commenting. My ethics don’t allow those sorts of people here.

    Update 2010-08-12: regardless of the exact nature of these acts, they are illegal in any respect.

  5. I never advocated stealing nor tax evasion. I simply advocated doing the right thing. You banned me because you had no logical argument that it wasn’t right.

  6. That was a douchie thing to do, Rob. You’re a douche.

  7. Oh, and I saw the post you deleted. You lied about what it said, which is why you are a douche.

  8. What post?

    In wordpress, when you’re banned, your comments are sent to spam; someone still needs to go through and delete them. In this sense, it would be more accurate to say you automatically sent to the spam bin, rather than being banned per se. The Ceej is still able to comment here, they just have to be approved and such.

    BTW, “leaving the money” on the counter isn’t really paying for it because (1) you have no guarantee that some other customer won’t come along and take it; (2) a business pays VAT on its inputs, and by not paying the VAT on the final purchase price you are increasing the cost of doing business by inflating shrinkage, and therefore VAT payable; and (3) businesses can be held responsible for not remitting the VAT they are supposed to collect if the government finds out they are “selling” it and not paying the VAT.

  9. Thanks, Ankh, for supporting me, but I believe I can handle this. That is, unless you want to keep supporting me.

    Rob, the problem is that companies and government (as if there’s any difference between the two) think they have more power and rights than we do, and think they have the right to tell us what to do. Both Ankh and I have written profound and provocative pieces regarding the issue.

    And, to make this problem worse, the majority of people are doormats. They’re all, “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s the law/their policy.”

    Sure there is. You are not bound by the law or their policy. They just want you to think you are. You are bound by what you know to be right and wrong which is not mutually inclusive with the law or a company’s policy. Actually, if you’re an arsehole, you’re not even bound by that, but that’s another comment.

    I don’t refrain from killing people because there’s a law against it. I refrain from killing people because it’s usually the wrong thing to do. Those who go around killing people don’t care that there’s a law against it and usually get away with it. (Paraphrased from Ankh’s blog.)

    Laws and policy serve no purpose other than to control people. Well, I refuse to be controlled. If that makes me a criminal, so be it. But, at least I can sleep at night knowing I’m a decent and free-thinking person.

    And, another thing. I never confessed to tax evasion. I simply said I don’t pay taxes. You DO know that doesn’t necessarily constitute illegality, even if you agree with the law, right? You DO know there are a large number of people who legally pay no income tax, and many of them even receive refunds in the amount of more than was withheld from their cheques? Or did that just not occur to you?

  10. I considered the possibility that you might live in a tax haven, but thought you would have said that there were no taxes in your country. Considering that the thread was about a VAT and that you said, “I don’t pay taxes in my country. Nobody should ever pay them in theirs”, I thought that by taxes you meant all taxes (such as sales, VAT, property, income, stamp duty, etc) and not just income taxes. Had you said “I don’t pay taxes in my country. Nobody should ever have to pay them in theirs” would have been clearer as to meaning an abolishment of taxation.

    If what you meant by taxes was just income taxes, excluding things like VAT, sales, etc, then yes, it is entirely possible to legally pay no income taxes, by not making enough or by having enough deductions. Point taken in that case.

  11. Also, I admit to making the implication sound more extreme than the actual circumstances, but these are the same tactics they use.

    I’m against laws. Simply put. If you bind yourself by the laws, then you tie your hands against holding those who write them accountable. What is and isn’t against the law doesn’t cross my mind when I make my day to day decisions. And, that said, I’m a pretty decent person.

    By the way, the difference between ethics (what you profess to have) and morality (what I profess to have) is that ethics are a hard, fast set of rules, unwavering in the face of circumstance whereas morality is subjective and has no real rules. It’s just a guideline for the right thing to do in a given situation. With morality, you can see how something like stealing or killing, which is wrong in most situations, may be right in a specific situation. Ethics would prevent you from making this situational distinction.

  12. You’ve been unbanned.

    I’d say that ethics is more of a tool you use to become moral. I don’t see how ethics would bind you rigidly or prevent you from considering the circumstances. For example, an ethical rule like “Choose the action with the better consequence” would tell you that it is wrong to kill others, yet such a rule would not prevent you from killing someone who was about to spray twenty people with machine gun fire. In this case, killing the one to save the lives of the twenty is clearly a better consequence than doing nothing and letting the one kill twenty.

  13. Ethics would certainly consider that killing someone to prevent others from being killed would be better than letting those other be killed, but ethics wouldn’t consider that killing government officials in order to secure the freedom of the masses could possibly be the right thing to do.

    Another difference is that ethics are typically set up by someone else whereas morality is based on your internal conscience.

  14. But, you know, ethically, you couldn’t actively kill an innocent to save a dozen other innocents. Killing the man who was going to kill the group of people, yes. Or switching a train track destined for derailing onto another that may run over only one person. These are actively killing a would-be criminal and actively saving the life of a train full of people and passively killing one person respectively.

    But, what is the train was going to fall off a broken bridge and there was no switch track. The only possible way to get the train to stop in time was to throw an innocent person onto the tracks. Morality could consider this an option whereas ethics would not. Why? Because you would be actively killing an innocent and only passively saving people.

  15. I do not know of any specific examples off hand, but it seems likely that such discussions exist in the philosophical literature. Similar topics do exist, for example the debate over capital punishment or the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Moral dilemmas are another example.

    I think that ethics being set up by someone else and morality being internal is an irrelevant distinction. Consider the two followin situations:

    (1) Assume you are a doctor in the emergency room of a hospital. Six patients arrive, all needing the same medication. You have only a limited amount of the medication. One of the six needs it so badly that when you give it to them, there will none left for the other five. Alternatively, you can give the five enough so that they are all saved, but then there will be none left to save the one. You size up the situation, seeing that saving five is better than saving one, and hence give the medication to five.

    (2) Same situation as above, but instead of getting the idea of saving the five on the spot, you instead got it from a seminar set up by the hospital’s ethics committee.

    In case 1, the decision was reached by you alone; in the second, it was set up by someone els. I have trouble seeing how this is a relevant distinction, as in either case you are doing the same thing.

  16. (In response to comment 14)

    Regarding your first example with the trolley problem I think you reach the correct conclusion but for the wrong reason. I don’t think its due to actively or passively killing someone; rather I think that in the case of flipping the switch, you are merely deflecting the harm from one person to another. (This is the same point the British Philosopher Philippa Foot makes in her essay Killing and Letting Die) You are merely deflecting the harm from the passengers to the person tied to the tracks.

    Regarding throwing someone in front of the train, I think it is impermissible in general to push someone in front of the train. The one person has no more of a right not to be killed in a trolley accident than anyone else, but the one also has the right not to be pushed in front of the train.

    I think this can be illustrated with another analogy. Someone has pulled out a gun and is about to shoot you. You duck, and the shooter misses you, instead killing someone who was right behind you. Compare this to grabbing someone and using them as a human shield; in the first case you deflect the harm away from you, whereas in the second case someone else’s death is part of a plan to keep yourself alive. I’m pretty sure most people would see the second case as immoral but not see the first case as immoral as the first (if at all).

  17. And again, it all depends on specific circumstances. If I were that doctor, I would consider more than the number of people. If the one person who needed it so badly was a person that had the massive potential to benefit mankind (say, for example, nearing a cure for AIDS or writing an important book), but the others lacked any such obvious potential, then the moral thing to do would be to save that one person, despite the seminar still teaching the ethical thing to do would be to save the five.

    Also, what about the right to die? Doctors often lobby for the right to die being illegal because they have that hypocritical oath to uphold (unless, of course, they can’t be held accountable for violating it, which is what makes it hypocritical). They fail to mention that just because they are allowed to administer lethal prescriptions doesn’t mean they are required to, so all they’re really doing by lobbying for the right to die to remain illegal is limiting people’s rights. But then, that’s the purpose of law, so no harm done, I guess. This is the result of relying on ethics rather than morality. They don’t like morality because you can’t police it. But, why should they be allowed to?

    Morality is far more tricky than ethics because the situation can potentially make a huge difference in what is right and wrong. It can also help you choose the less wrong option when there is no right option. Hard-wiring right and wrong into laws and ethics doesn’t really do anything good for society. You have to be more fluid. What’s right isn’t always right and what’s wrong isn’t always wrong. The majority of the time, people know the difference and, when they don’t, no amount of laws will stop them from doing the wrong thing.

    In fact, hard-wiring it into the law is actually counter-productive. In addition to people avoiding the action that is “against the law,” people may also do something they wouldn’t otherwise do just to spite the law. (For example, parking in a handicapped parking space without a placard.) The law doesn’t help anyone. Nor does creating a hard code for right and wrong. The majority of the time, it isn’t as simple as looking into a rulebook.

  18. If you are a doctor in the emergency room, you have on obligation to treat patients that arrive. Now, if we simply hand wave over whether you’d even know what else the patients do, do certain people really have more of a right to be treated than others? And do you really have more of an obligation to people that are “special” in some way than to others? Really?

    IFAIK, passive euthanasia (not giving extraordinarily life-prolonging measures to terminal patients) is common and accepted in hospitals. Active euthanasia is far more controversial. AFAIK, doctors are not supposed to treat someone who declines treatment; in that sense the right to die is not controversial. The question of euthanasia itself, such as doctor assisted suicide, is extremely controversial.

    Nothing in ethics requires one to be a moral absolutist, which mens that moral rules have no exceptions. Immanuel Kant was a moral absolutist; he thought that you should tell the truth to a murderer asking where their victim was (see his essay On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives). However, nothing in ethics requires anyone else to be a moral absolutist; it is entirely possible to accept one of a person’s beliefs and reject others.

    A prohibition, like “Do not murder”, would exist in all societies. However, not all of them are literate. Such a prohibition is still a law; having it written down makes no difference.

  19. Having it written down actually does make a difference, though. Sure, you got your self-defence defence, but that’s hard to prove. Killing the gunman, though, unless you were a police officer would be considered vigilantism. If you ask me, there is no practical difference between a police officer and a vigilante. Only a payroll difference.

    Even if the event of self-defence, you have to prove that it was in self-defence. It would be easier, in most cases, to prove you didn’t do it, even if you did.

    But, self-defence aside, attacking a man in retaliation is not covered, despite the fact that there’s a good chance it was the right thing to do (depending what what he did, what you did in retaliation, and his likelihood of getting caught). If someone steals something from you, legally, it’s stealing for you to take it from the person he sold it to, despite the fact it’s the right thing to do and, if you didn’t, you would likely never see it again.

    And, as far as active euthanasia, the only reason there is controversy is that they want to control you. You have a right to end your life, and a doctor has a right to help you. Regardless of legality. Legality is irrelevant.

    And, that brings us full circle back to the taxes. You are upset that your government would pass this tax without your consent, and even blatantly reject your qualified petition? Without the willingness to violate the law, how can you ever expect to hold your government accountable for these actions? Sometimes (in fact, more often than you would expect), the right thing to do is to violate the law.

  20. Self-defense is hard to prove for a reason: if it was easy, genuine murders would go unpunished. This is why it is an affirmative defense in common law; the onus is on the defense to prove their claim of self-defense. If it is necessary to encode this into law, whether directly (like a statute) or indirectly (through court decisions), so that murderers don’t go free, then it is justified compared to the alternatives. And regarding vigilantism, how bad does the other guy have to be in order to make vigilantism justified? And how can we be sure vigilantes won’t “look down” on people who are (say) poorly dressed, foreign, “different”, not heteronormative, etc? I’m pretty sure that almost everyone has prejudices, even if they don’t realize it. How can we make sure people don’t punish the person rather than the crime?

    Regarding the HST, the law was passed legally, and the initiative process was also legal. The initiative was a result of a backlash due to the unpopularity of the HST, rather than any illegal action per se. The delay in taking action is understandable as a court case is ongoing, and taking action now introduces the complication of how to handle the court decision.

    Also, my apologies for the bit of a late response.

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