"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Visual Display of Quantitative Information

A partner of mine used to have in his office a copy of the book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.   We often have as an issue in our cases how to explain to a jury in simple terms a complicated quantitative analysis (my work has often involved the finances of large public and union pension plans).    It's a difficult problem usually, and I admire people who find creative ways to present information.   Here, for instance, is a great graph of Napoleon's campaign to Moscow and his retreat from Russia, and the effect it had on the strength of his army.... we saw it a couple of days ago in an exhibit at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis.   The dwindling beige and then black line represents the size of Napoleon's army as it disintegrates.  

Anyway, here is a graph from the Heritage Foundation that says pretty much all you need to know about how awful our current tax system is:

It is immoral to extort at the point of a gun (the implicit threat of punishment if you don't pay your income taxes) that much from such a small group, while the majority pays little if any federal income taxes.  


  1. I tend to side with Warren Buffet on this. Mr. Buffet knows a thing or two about wealth and philanthropy.

    "I think that people at the high end, people like myself, should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it. The rich are always going to say that, you know, 'Just give us more money, and we'll go out and spend more, and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you.' But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on."

    If you have been blessed with the ability to provide a comfortable life for yourself and your family then you should pay more in taxes. Would you rather be poor and pay less? This is not extortion – this is common sense.

  2. No sale. The Warren Buffetts of the world are free to pay any amount of taxes they choose, but I see very few of them choosing to "donate" their money to the government. Instead they advocate for higher taxes for schmucks like me and then shelter their own wealth in foundations. Why is their theory that they know better how to spend their money good for them, but not good for the rest of us?

    And I question the premise that wealth and high income are the product of being "blessed." That suggests that wealth and high income are accidents of fate. They're not usually. Most people who make a lot of money do so because they have a lot of intelligence or talent that they've put to good use through hard work, sacrifice and risk-taking. They didn't get lucky, and taxing them at a significantly higher rate is punishing them for doing the right things with their lives.