Notes on Virtues


I have the vague impression that in spite of getting some obvious (to the outsider) things wrong (fervently believing the preposterous), Mormons or LDS culture get some less-obvious things unusually right (relative to non-Mormons/LDS culture generally). I'm curious about those things, how they felt from the inside, and how the rest of us look in comparison from inside that culture. What are some things you think LDS culture does well that the rest of us might be able to emulate?

The reason I said "not funny" is not my sideways way of saying "I don't approve of that sort of thing" but is more related to the point in your second paragraph. You can't just state your opinion in the form of a joke and turn it into a joke that way. (Except perhaps in some rare edge cases: "Knock knock. Who's there? Epstein didn't kill himself.") It's like if I said "What do you call a ladder? An accident waiting to happen." Have I said anything funny, or have I just chosen a strange way to say "I think a ladder is an accident waiting to happen"?

And in the case of Bob, I can certainly imagine someone from another culture, or who is young and sheltered, etc. not being up on American stereotyping and for whom such innocence would not be merely affected innocence.

I've been in a long pause on adding to the sequence, although I've been quietly updating some of the existing pages behind-the-scenes. I hope to pick up the pace again at some point.

As for the floundering of SotF&E... I still think it's a good model, but getting something like that off the ground is hard work and requires that a lot of things go right. For one thing, it takes a critical mass of people who believe in the promise of it enough to put in the work; it's not something people can absorb passively. It's hard to find enough people who are willing both to stretch out of their comfort zones and to take time out of their already busy days to dedicate to an unproven eccentric project like this. When the early-covid isolation/quarantine stuff hit it really took the wind out of the sails of social projects like SotF&E, and I haven't felt confident enough to try to restart it.

I think I see where you're coming from on this, but there are a few things to consider:

First, a lot of your criticisms apply most strongly to my own particular idiosyncratic method, and when evaluating it solely as an effective altruism strategy. In fact, I chose the method I did largely as a variety of conscientious objection, not as effective altruism. My post here highlighted the possibilities of tax resistance as an effective altruism strategy, but my own motives for my resistance are more complicated and I did not choose my own method of resistance to optimize its charitable donation possibilities. If you judge it by that standard, it will admittedly look pretty weak. But it's also possible to choose tax resistance methods differently from how I have done, in a way that prioritizes effective altruism over conscientious objection, if your motives are different from mine.

Second, I think you exaggerate the precariousness of my position. I'm not impoverished. I'm actually doing pretty well. I put aside something like 35–40% of my income for retirement, and every year I put roughly the equivalent of my health insurance deductible into a Health Savings Account in case disaster (or distracted driver) strikes. I make about the median annual income for an individual in the U.S., and have saved up more than the median retirement savings for someone in my age bracket. I'm not "brutally curtailed" or living in "self-imposed poverty". I'm a reasonably well-off person living in the lap of luxury here in California and enjoying the fruits of the most fabulously prosperous time our species has yet experienced. I can't imagine feeling deprived like this.

Third, you underestimate the charitable impact of my resistance if you only include the $5k/year or so that I donate and ignore the hundreds of hours of volunteer work (not, perhaps, effective-altruistically optimized, but nonetheless good) my particular technique has helped me to put in.

Fourth, your argument that "if you wanted to fix any of this, you... couldn't pay off your existing $90k+ liability" is incorrect. If for some reason I changed my mind about all this and wanted to wipe the slate clean, if I were too poor to just pay the full amount, the IRS is like many debt collectors in this regard: it would rather get something than fail to get everything, so it's willing to bargain. It will ask you what you can afford (demanding that you fess up about your income and assets) and then come up with some figure that doesn't totally bankrupt you, telling you that you can eliminate your tax debt entirely if you can come up with this lower sum. It's called the Offer in Compromise program (

As I mention in my post: "There is a law on the books that makes willful failure to pay taxes a criminal offense. However it is almost unheard of for the U.S. government to criminally prosecute someone who files an honest and correct tax return but who will not voluntarily surrender the money."

American "war tax resisters" have been willfully refusing to pay taxes for decades, often going out of their way to make public declarations of their willful intent (sometimes in letters to the IRS itself). In the last 80 years, of the tens of thousands of American war tax resisters who have done this sort of thing, exactly two have been prosecuted merely for willful failure to pay. One was in 1942, and targeted the leader of an emerging war tax resistance movement (he was prosecuted for failing to purchase a war tax stamp to put on his car, so also this was not really an "income tax" refusal prosecution). The other was in 2005, and targeted an attorney who had two previous tax convictions and whose legal practice tended to get on the nerves of prosecutors by specializing in the vigorous defense of dissidents like Huey Newton, Judi Bari, Dennis Peron, etc.

Given this track record, I think it's accurate to say that criminal prosecution for willful failure to pay your income taxes is not the sort of thing the typical refuser has to worry about.

Thanks for the response. This goes far enough afield of my expertise that I don't think I can give very helpful answers to your specific questions. I don't have any experience with corporate tax refusal of this sort. In the very limited anecdotal reports I've seen, it seems like the IRS is most likely to crack the whip and potentially pursue corporate officers when 1) the corporate entity fails to pay employment taxes (payroll/social-security taxes) after withholding them from employees' paychecks, 2) when there's actual fraud/dishonest filing involved, 3) when there's no filing of required forms; in roughly that order of severity. I'm much less confident in anticipating the IRS's behavior here than I am in the case of individual tax-nonpayers.

As far as the 10-year limitations deadline, again here I have much less information to go on for corporate taxpayers than for individuals. I know in the case of individuals, once the tax debt passes the "collection statute expiration date" it just sort of vanishes from the system and so they stop bothering you about it.

Note that if the corporate entity formally files for bankruptcy that this suspends the ticking of the statute of limitations clock until six months after the bankruptcy is resolved.

I believe it's not actually true that, if you merely repeatedly neglect to pay your taxes, the I.R.S. will inquire into your motives and intent in order to decide whether to come after you with both barrels blazing. As far as I can tell they do not have the resources or inclination to do that sort of investigation.

I base this largely on the experience of American war tax resisters. They are often loudly self-incriminating about their willful intent: sometimes going so far as to write letters to the I.R.S. explaining their motivation. Of the tens of thousands of Americans who have engaged in war tax resistance over the years, I know of only two in the past 80 years who have been criminally prosecuted merely for willful refusal to pay taxes (there have been others who have been criminally prosecuted or jailed for things like filing inaccurate forms or contempt of court, but those were cases in which they were defying the law in ways that went beyond merely not paying). The war tax resistance movement keeps pretty good records on its "martyrs" so if there were other cases like those two they would probably have come to my attention.

Last I heard, about 40% of U.S. citizens don't have passports to begin with, so I expect that at least for some readers, this isn't such a big deal. For the rest it is certainly a consideration to factor in. Note that it typically takes some time before it becomes a problem: you accumulate $59,000 (actually more, as this number is inflation-adjusted) in delinquent taxes, the I.R.S. notices you're over the limit and submits paperwork to the State Department, then somewhere down the line your passport expires and you're unable to renew it until you resolve the tax delinquency (and go through a State Department paperwork dance of your own).

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