The Federal income tax system in the United States is a complicated mess that intrudes in people's lives in too many ways and is no longer perceived as being fair. There are too many provisions favoring special interests of all kinds that deprive the government of the revenues needed to maintain essential services. Leaving aside all arguments about what constitutes essential services, and thus arguments about the proper size of government, in this essay I want to propose a reformed income tax system that would finance the government in a way that is simple and fair. It is not the purpose of this proposal to increase or to cut anyone's taxes, or to redistribute wealth.
Is real tax reform even possible? With real simplification? With real fairness? It is, if we accept the notion that good ideas from a variety of sources can be combined in a meaningful way for everyone's benefit. This proposal incorporates the ideas that government should intrude as little as possible in people's lives, that taxes should be kept as low as possible, and that people should have some say in how their money gets spent. But it also incorporates the ideas that we are a community and not just isolated individuals, that we all depend on the many services provided by that community, that those who receive more from our economy should contribute more, and that it is to everyone's benefit to help those in need. At the very least, income taxes should not be biased toward helping the rich get richer while penalizing the poor for being poor.
The basic problem is that politicians have been trying to make the tax system do too many things, to encourage or discourage various social policies, industries, or ideologies, and too often just to buy votes from special interests. They have used all sorts of gimmicks to disguise expenses that they do not want to appear in budgets; all such "tax expenditures" must be outlawed. They continually attempt to change the tax laws so it appears they are anti-tax or even anti-government, when nothing could be further from the truth. Politicians must be prevented from indulging in all of these bad habits.
The only purpose of taxation should be to raise money for government operations — nothing else. Our elected representatives must still be free to spend money however they think best, but at least the taxation side of the account books should be locked down, fair and understandable to everyone. Further, there must be a well defined and automatic linkage between spending and taxation so that deficit spending cannot be a normal yearly occurrence, as it is today.
We need to get the taxman out of our personal and corporate lives. The tax system should interfere as little as possible with personal freedom and personal responsibility. We shouldn't have to live our lives with one eye always on tax consequences. Anyone who wants to contribute to a charity, religion or other organization should do so because that is the right thing for them to do; not because it is the tax-efficient thing to do. If they want to invest for their retirement, then they should be able to do so without worrying about the differences between Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs or about all the rules that govern their use — and the same goes for saving for their children's education.
What should be counted as income? For an individual, this includes wages, bonuses, awards, realized options, interest, dividends, pensions, Social Security payments, welfare payments, insurance and annuity payouts, jury awards, alimony, lottery and gambling winnings, profits, and transfers from anyone else — more on inheritances, gifts and transfers later. In this proposal, people, non-profit organizations and all business enterprises are considered individuals and all are taxed in a uniform way — no special cases, not even for churches or political groups. There should be no distinctions made between one kind of income and any other. If there is money coming in, it is income and it is subject to taxation. However, we will need to consider the special cases of windfalls and asset sales.
Any taxation of income should be applied to all income. There should be no special taxes that apply only to income from a particular source, or limited to a specific range of incomes. In particular, taxation for Social Security and Medicare should be rolled into the general Federal income tax system. The wage taxes on which they currently depend (both employee and employer paid) should be returned to people's pay checks. Sufficient funds can be transferred from income tax revenues to the Social Security Trust Fund (from whence they can be lent back to the general fund, as they are in any case). Social Security benefits are not a subject of this proposal.
There should be no deductions, credits, allowances, exclusions or rebates to anyone for any purpose — none at all. In case what I mean by "no exemptions" isn't clear, it means no personal exemptions, no tax-exempt organizations, no interest or dividend exemptions, no exemptions for contributions to 401(k)'s, etc. "No deductions" means no mortgage interest deductions, no medical expense deductions, no charity deductions, no gambling loss deductions, etc. "No credits" means no child care credits, no blind credits, no education credits, etc. And "no allowances" means no oil-depletion allowances, equipment depreciations, or other such corporate tax dodges. This seems harsh, doesn't it? We are all so used to playing these tax-avoidance games. What everyone would get instead is a tax system that is simple, fair and understandable.
What about families with six kids who need all those personal exemptions just to get by? A friend who is single argues that those exemptions aren't fair to him; why should a single person have to pay more because someone else chose to have kids? Fairness, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder. We all bear a certain amount of responsibility for each other, and certainly for all of our children; they are our future. But there is also the basic idea that we should place high value on families (all families, however constituted) as the foundation of social stability. We need to recognize that families that raise children bear an extra financial burden for all of us.
So here is a change I would make that would help families — without it being limited to only families. Every person should be individually responsible for taxes on his or her own income. This means no more joint taxes on total family income. Mom, Dad and each child should each pay taxes on their own income, from whatever source. It also means no tax rate differences for "Single," "Married filing jointly," "Married filing separately," or "Head of household" tax payers.
By itself, this wouldn't make much difference to a sole-breadwinner family, but here is a second proposal. Any individual should be able to transfer any amount of his own income to any other individual or organization, thereby lowering his own taxable income and the rate at which that income is taxed. This assumes progressive tax rates.
To illustrate these ideas, consider a family where in 2009 Dad earned $60,000, Mom earned $40,000, and their two kids earned nothing. Their total income is $92,350 after paying FICA taxes of $7650. For now, I will use the 2009 "Married filing jointly" tax table for all calculations, but later in this paper I will introduce alternative methods of calculating taxes that are more fair. Let's assume this family claimed the 2009 Standard Deduction of $11,400 and personal exemptions of $14,600 ($3,650 each) for a taxable income of $66,350. To their income tax bill of $9,119, we must also add $7,650, their FICA tax payments, for a total tax of $18,519 which is 18.5% of their total income. Their after-tax, take-home pay is $81,481.
Now take that $100,000, add $15,300 for the FICA assessment (employee and employer) they received instead of paying, for a taxable income (no deductions or exemptions) of $115,300. If you evenly distribute the $115,300 to the four members of the family, each individual has a taxable income of $28,825 and each person's tax bill is $3,486, which is 12.1%. The family's total tax bill is then $13,944, which is also 12.1% of their total income. Their after-tax, take-home pay is $101,356, for a family tax saving of $19,875. Of course, most of this is from monies that would have been paid as FICA taxes, monies that will have to be returned to FICA from national income tax revenues, but more on that later.
Now, let's look more deeply at the idea of income transfers. Are these just book-keeping transfers, or real transfers of income? In the above example, does each child really get $28,825 ($25,339 after taxes) from his parents? The answer has to be yes, they are real transfers because income can be transferred to any person or organization, not just to family members. But how money actually gets spent within a family is no one's business but theirs. The parents would still have the right to use the amounts transferred to their children for living expenses appropriate to their family's life style. Any portion not spent on family living would remain the child's, perhaps as savings for his or her education.
Would the parents of this family really transfer a full quarter of the family's total income to a child? Probably not. They would want to retain a larger share for their own long-term use; for example, to save for the parents' retirement. The family's income of $115,300 could be allocated as 40% ($46,120) each for Mom and Dad (for a tax of $5,331 each) and 10% ($11,530) for each child (for a tax of $1153 each). The resulting total family tax is $12,968 (11.2%) and their after-tax, take-home pay is $102,332. The key point here is that such transfers should be the decision of each individual and family.
This would be a real help for families, but it does not discriminate in their favor, or in any way encourage families to have more (or fewer) children. A single person would have the same right to transfer any part of his income to anyone else: to a parent, to a sibling, or to an unrelated individual or organization. It is up to each person to decide how much of their income to transfer, and to whom. On the rest of their income, they would pay taxes.
When I said that income could be transferred to anyone else, I didn't just mean family members; I mean to any person or organization. So out of that $115,300 of total family income, it would also be possible to transfer $10,000, for example, to charitable or religious organizations. This reduces each family member's taxable income in our second example to $41,120 to Mom and Dad and still $10,000 to each child. The resulting taxes would be $4,925 for each parent and $1,153 for each child, for a total of $12,156 and a final tax rate of 10.54% of the original $115,300.
The idea of income transfers should also apply to corporate income. Corporations are responsible for taxes on the profits they earn from all of their operations and investments, but they can transfer part of that income to stockholders as dividends. What constitutes profit and what is or is not a valid business expense are details for accountants to work out. What counts is that the old issue of the double taxation of corporate profits and dividends is thereby eliminated. It also eliminates the essential unfairness of differential tax rates for dividends versus earned income.
Non-profit organizations are also responsible for taxes on all the income they receive from all of their contributors, but they can further transfer that income to secondary recipients. In effect, these organizations can act as transfer agents with no tax responsibility for the amounts they receive and then transfer. Of course, they have to pay taxes on income not transferred.
The primary limitation on transfers is that there can be no quid pro quo involved in any transfer; that is, no value received for a transfer. This is what distinguishes transfers from expenditures. Nor can there be transfers to receivers over which the donor has any kind of control or from whom the donor can extract an advantage, monetary or otherwise. For example, the CEO of a corporation should not be able to transfer a portion of his income to the corporation so it can purchase a jet for CEO "business travel". Such attempts to game the system should be prosecuted as tax fraud. However, transfers to dependents, such as to the children of a family, are permitted.
Given the ability to transfer income, there is no longer any motivation to classify organizations as "non-profit," "tax-exempt," "religious," "political," or "charitable" or to give them any special tax treatment. The nature of the receiving organization is no longer a factor. People should be free to transfer their income however they want; thereby eliminating all concerns for such abstractions as "church-state separation" and all limitations related to political and lobbying organizations. There is also no need for special reporting of who gave how much to political candidates, since all transfers must be reported and are a matter of public record.
What about large one-time income windfalls, such as inheritances, insurance payouts, lottery winnings, and bonuses? In this proposal, income can be transferred to a person's future years. This can be accomplished by investing the transferred income in a tax-deferred account, such as a mutual fund, similar to today's IRAs. This ability is not restricted to windfalls; current income can be transferred to later years for retirement or for other goals. A key advantage of income deferral is growth in the value of the account through dividends and increases in market value. There should be no restrictions or requirements on when a person can take tax-deferred money as current taxable income. Essentially the same rules regarding the inheritance of IRAs should apply.
How about profits from the sale of assets? Assets are things like real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, savings accounts, farms, real estate, and businesses. We want people to become rich in assets and part of the so called "ownership society." To accomplish this, assets should be freely convertible from one form to another without tax consequences. If I sell my house, I should not have to count the proceeds as income, unless I fail to reinvest in other assets — the same if I sell my farm and reinvest in mutual funds or a condo in Florida. There should be no distinctions made concerning types of assets. This includes increases in asset values.
So when do increases get taxed? It's simple, when assets are sold and taken as income instead of being reinvested. For example, if a block of stocks bought for $10,000 is sold for $15,000, the profit of $5,000 is taxable income unless the full $15,000 is reinvested in some other asset. Any part of the proceeds not reinvested is income, which can be transferred or allowed to be taxed. How that $5,000 of income is used doesn't matter: whether it is used to pay for simple living expenses, to pay for a vacation, a car, or a boat, or even to pay tuition or medical bills (none of which are assets in the sense intended here).
What about losses from the sale of assets? Investments always involve risk; the amount of perceived risk determines an investment's potential returns. It is not the responsibility of government to reduce the risk of any investment or to otherwise insure against investment losses. Any attempt to do so distorts the market's perception of an asset's level of risk and therefore of its possible rate of return. If a property bought for $100,000 is sold for $75,000 because that is all the market will bear, the loss of $25,000 should be borne completely by the investor. This eliminates today's tax dodges for mitigating investment gains through offsetting losses. Money losing investments, such as hobby farms, can still be bought for other reasons, but not for their ability to offset other investment gains.
Assets should also be transferable from one individual to another without any tax consequences. For example, a parent should be able to transfer a family business, all or in part, to a child without the transfer being viewed as a taxable transaction. And the same goes for the transfer of assets to charities or to anyone else, except as payment for services rendered or goods purchased. This gives everyone the ability to do what the rich have always done with their various foundations. Of course, if an asset is sold by the receiver, the proceeds become income for the receiver unless immediately reinvested or transferred. A fallout of this ability to freely transfer assets is that it eliminates any need for estate taxes, the so-called "death taxes," as asset transfers can simply be a provision of a last will.
So far, this proposal has simplified the taxation of income making all income equivalent and by eliminating the ways in which income can be excluded from taxation. It has also introduced transfers as a way to significantly reduce tax rates. Great, but enough taxes to pay for government operations must still be collected, whatever those operations happen to be. Again. it is not the purpose of this proposal to reduce the size of government, only to make taxation simple, fair and less intrusive in people's lives.
Many people ask why income taxes should be progressive. Aside from the notion that the rich should pay a higher percentage of their income than the poor because they receive disproportionately more value from living in a modern society, progressive taxation is an incentive for individuals to transfer income and to defer income to future years. One does these things in order to obtain a lower tax rate.
At high income levels, one also does them to obtain influence (though not direct control) over the people and organizations who receive the transfers; this proposal is not about altruism. Transfers give individuals a voice on how and by whom their excess income is spent — social, political, artistic, scientific, religious, etc. The more income transfers finance private community organizations, the less need there is for the government to be involved and the smaller government can become. For example, what if NASA was spun off as a private, scientific organization and financed solely by transfers from individuals and corporations? We'd be on Mars in no time flat.
The next question to address is how tax rates should be determined. Today's graduated income tax is defined by a fixed number of tax brackets. Reducing the number of tax brackets, as President Ronald Reagan did, simplifies nothing; it only reduces the top rate for the wealthy and increases everyone else's tax burden. Brackets may have been necessary to reduce the complexity of tax calculations in an earlier age, but today we have computers, so it is no great problem to plug an income amount (the sum of all incomes minus all transfers) into a formula and thereby determine one's tax bill. No elaborate "tax tables" or "tax brackets" are needed.
Mathematicians would be needed to devise formulas that fulfill the policies established by our elected representatives. Some formulas would favor the poor, some the middle class, and some the rich — however these economic classes are defined. The key idea is that the single mathematical formula used to determine taxes would be known to everyone and applicable to everyone, including corporations — no exceptions.
For the sake of discussion, this paper examines some simple alternatives to current "bracketed" taxes based on the formula for a straight line, y = mx + b. Applying a Linear Tax formula to tax calculation, we have
Tax = Rate × Income + Offset
where Rate is a tax rate and Offset is a fixed dollar value. Rate and Offset must be set at values that will raise enough money for government operations and debt retirement. It is thus necessary to know how much is to be spent before Rate and Offset are specified. Here are the ways in which these parameters can be varied:
If Rate is set to 0 and Offset to 10,000, then everyone would pay exactly $10,000 in taxes a year (a highly regressive Head Tax).
If Rate is set to .17 and Offset is set to 0, then everyone would pay 17% of their income in taxes (the regressive Flat Tax that has been widely discussed).
If Rate is greater than 0 and Offset is greater than 0, then everyone pays the same rate plus a supplement of Offset dollars (another regressive tax).
If Rate is greater than 0 and Offset is less than 0, then everyone's taxes would be reduced by a fixed amount. A formula in which Offset is not 0 is herein called an Offset Tax. For individuals with low incomes, when Offset is less than 0, the calculated tax can also be less than $0. This can be viewed in two ways: as an actual tax of $0, or as a payment to the individual by the government of the calculated amount — a negative tax. Both of these approaches aid low income individuals by shifting the tax burden to those with higher incomes, especially the middle class, but they make little difference to individuals with high incomes.
Linear tax formulas are inherently regressive; they adversely affect the lives of people with low incomes more than they do those with high incomes. But the formula need not be a straight line. More progressive taxation curves are also possible. For example, a simple variation of the straight line formula, which is herein called the Log Tax, is
Tax = (k × Log10(Income) × Income) + Offset
where the tax rate is the product of a constant, k, and the base 10 logarithm of the income.
As a simple refresher on logarithms, consider the following table:
Thus, for an income of $10,000, k would be multiplied by 4, and for an income of $100,000, k would be multiplied by 5, with intermediate multipliers for intermediate incomes. The value of the base 10 logarithm of the income causes the tax rate to climb slowly as income increases by powers of ten. Like a straight line, this is a smooth function; so no brackets are involved. For every extra dollar of income, the tax rate increases by a tiny amount, but the rate of increase of the tax rate decreases with increasing income.
The spreadsheet model that accompanies this proposal considers the Log tax in the following ways:
with an Offset of 0 and k of 0.0359.
with an Offset of -$3650 (the 2009 personal exemption), k of 0.0584, and a tax floor of $0.
with an Offset of -$3650, k of 0.0608, and as a negative tax.
Note that the values of k used in the model was determined only for revenue from individual income, and do not account for the income of corporations and other organizations. The correct value of k cannot be determined without additional data.
Corporate Income Taxes
If dividends paid to stockholders are considered income transfers, as proposed here, then retained corporate profits can also be taxed using the Log formula. For example, from its 2010 Annual Report), Microsoft
had Revenue of $62.48 Billion.
had Net Income of $18.76 Billion.
had 8.813 Billion stockholders.
paid $4.58 Billion as dividends at $.52 per share.
retained profits of $14.18 Billion.
paid Federal income taxes of $4.14 Billion, or 22% of retained profit.
Using the Offset Log Formula in the spreadsheet model (where k = 0.0359 and Offset = 0), Microsoft's tax bill would be $5.16 Billion or 36.4% of retained profit. The obvious alternative to paying taxes at such a rate is for large corporations to pay their stockholders higher dividends.
While this is not a prescription for specific rates of corporate taxation, the Log formula does appear to be in the ball park when taxing the retained profits of large corporations.
As stated at the beginning of this paper, this proposal is not about constraining or reducing the size of government; it is about financing government in a way that is simple, fair and understandable to everyone. The ideas in this paper lock down the taxation side of the account books while leaving the spending side open to legislative prerogatives. But clearly, there has to be a relationship between revenue and expenses. It is the lack of such a relationship that has gotten the United States so deeply in debt. A final requirement of a reformed income tax system is that except for real emergencies the government must collect enough in taxes every year to pay its obligations — and hopefully pay off part of the national debt!
If all income taxes are calculated using a single formula, such as the Log Tax formula proposed here, this is an easy thing to do. Budgeting determines a bottom-line spending number (roughly $3 trillion in 2009), the value of Offset would be determined by Congress, and the Internal Revenue Service would provide statistics on income distribution across the population of people, corporations and other organizations. We now have supercomputers that can simulate a nuclear explosion, so it shouldn't be that difficult to determine a value of k that generates enough income to pay the government's bills. This makes taxation automatically based on a proposed amount of spending, a clear relationship understandable to everyone; the more government spends, the higher taxes must be.
But wouldn't this just encourage unlimited government spending? Yes, it would if this were only a single step process. Instead, it must be an integral part of a budgeting cycle that proposes a spending target, considers the necessary values of k and offset, and repeats the cycle until a satisfactory level of spending and taxation is found. With two houses of Congress involved in the process and with the possibility of a Presidential veto, it should be possible to keep spending in check. It would also be possible, finally, for citizens (or citizen watch groups) to keep an eye on the process.
Some of the basic ideas of this proposal are modeled by a spreadsheet model. Like all such models, it is a partial approximation of reality; suggestive rather than definitive. It serves only to demonstrate that these ideas are feasible. A much more complete model is clearly needed.
A detailed description of the model can be viewed at Model Description.
I am just a citizen taxpayer who has been thinking about the current tax system for many years. I believe the combination of ideas in this proposal would be helpful. Some of these ideas are decidedly liberal and some are clearly conservative; it is by combining them that I believe we can best reform and greatly simplify our income tax system.
Summary of the Proposal
All income must be taxed in a uniform way. All distinctions between wages, dividends, capital gains or any other type of income are eliminated.
Wage taxes are eliminated. Social Security and Medicare are funded through the income tax system.
All deductions, credits, allowances, exclusions and rebates are eliminated.
Every person is individually responsible for taxes on his or her own income.
Any individual or organization can transfer any amount of his own income to any other individual or organization without tax consequences. The Gift tax is eliminated.
The "non-profit" and "tax-exempt" status of all organizations is revoked.
Corporations pay no taxes on dividends transferred to stockholders. The double taxation of dividends is eliminated.
Income can be transferred to future years by means of IRA-style investments.
Assets can be freely convertible from one form to another without tax consequences. Capital gains not reinvested are taxed as income.
Assets can be transferred from one individual to another without any tax consequences. The Estate tax is eliminated.
All income (both individual and organizational) is taxed at a rate determined by a single progressive mathematical formula. Tax brackets are eliminated.
The government must collect enough in taxes every year to pay its obligations and to pay off part of the national debt.
Taxation is automatically linked to total spending by an iterative budget process.
Lots of stuff on the Net recently plus have been discussing with B’wanaBob.
The world is in deep dodo and getting deeper. I do not think there is a way out: bite the bullet!
As previously discussed, there are numerous problems: none with practicable solutions. The problem most evident at the moment is the lack of jobs (cf. “the Arab Spring”, “Occupying”) and the (rising) cost of food.
The lack of jobs in the U.S. is highlighted by the Occupy Movement, the recent Bobolink exchanges re “The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future”, and SleeplessBob’s frequent comments.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
born in 1934 and led a busy life until circa 2006: spent a lot of time in airports and on airplanes (so, well-read) - lived in 27 locations on three continents (traveled in three more).
had one wife (died 1987) and have three sons, three granddaughters, and one grandson.
did a lot of different things including infantry rifleman (Korea draftee), Fulbright Scholar (University of Melbourne – B.Ed. – 1960), computer programmer (IBM – 1960-1987 - mainly attended meetings and wrote reports), teacher (Central Texas College – 1987-1992 – data processing).
favorite books include Quiller-Couch’s “The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250-1918”, Ricks’ “The Oxford Book of English Verse”, McGann’s “The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse”, Harington’s “Orlando Furioso” (also Slavit’s abridged translation), the Norton “The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850), Putnam’s “Don Quixote” (also Montgomery’s), Dewey’s “The Quest for Certainty”, Stallings’ “The Nature of Things”, Hudson’s “Far Away and Long Ago”.
favorite movies include: 1959 "On the Beach" featuring Bob as the Planesman and Fred Astaire as the Scientist
favorite quotes include: "Not only is the universe stranger than we know, it is stranger than we can know." (variously worded, variously attributed - mainly to J. B. S. Haldane - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J.B.S.Haldane )
he was born amid alien corn
and marched only to syncopated drumming
he met lots of strange people
dropped beautiful petals down soundless wells
lived over long good times gone
Be the best you can be.
Do unto others as you would be done unto.
Pay to those who follow the debts you owe to those who went before.
A place for everything, and everything in its place.
Smell the roses.
Atheist by temperament
Agnostic by intellect
High church by tradition
Transactional epistemologist by choice
A Scriptural Rosary: 1596 – Peter Huyck – ST PAULS Publishing
Beyond the Finite: The Sublime in Art and Science - Roald Hoffmann and Iain Boyd Whyte – Oxford University Press
Binding Time: Memoirs of a Programming Man – InstantiatedBob - Samizdat
Design & Memory: Computer Programming in the Twentieth Century – Peter H. Huyck and Nellie W. Kremenak – McGraw Hill
Hymns Ancient and Modern – 1922 Standard Version – Canterbury Press
Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the Seventeenth Century: Donne to Butler – Alastair Fowler – Oxford University Press 1995 ed.
Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs – John Lindow – Oxford University Press
Pensées - Blaise Pascal – Folio Society
St John of the Cross: The Poems – Roy Campbell (trans.) – The Harvill Press
Stories of the rose: the making of the rosary in the Middle Ages - Anne Winston-Allen – Penn. State UP
The Book of Common Prayer - Folio Society
The Collected Poems and Epigrams of J. V. Cunningham - J. V. Cunningham - Swallow Press
The King James Bible – Folio Society
The Periodic Table - Primo Levi - Folio Society
The Rose – Jennifer Potter – Atlantic Books
Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About – Donald Knuth – CSLI Publications
A Pastiche - thanks to J. V. Cunningham
Yes, we are all
By gin or thought
The violence of reason rules
The subtle Schools;
A dependent clause can curl yer cowl/caul.
I know such men
Of strange conclusions.
Cold as the serpent and as wise
Have unfocused my eyes.
Their icy depths have moved my pen.