Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Non-blue bluebonnets

with 30 comments

Above, from our first 2021 visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 25th comes a bluebonnet displaying a purple as richly saturated as I think I’ve ever seen in Lupinus texensis. No extra charge for the tiny green nymph of a katydid or grasshopper. And below are two white bluebonnets scattered in the large colony we saw in Dubina on March 29th.

A theme I’ve been pursuing here for some days now is that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense,” which is a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense can be shown not to be true.

Take taxes. Many say it’s only “common sense” that if a jurisdiction raises a tax rate it will bring in more revenue. The truth is that sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t. For example, if a tax rate goes from 10% to 11%, the increase is small enough that the higher rate won’t be enough to cause people to take an easier job with a lower salary to avoid the higher tax, so revenue will increase. On the other hand, if a tax rate goes from 10% to 50%, a lot of people will lower their earning and spending because the higher rate is just too burdensome, and as a result the government may well end up taking in less than before. And, to take an easy-to-understand extreme, if a government imposed a 90% tax on earnings, many people would stop working altogether, go on welfare, and the government would have no income of theirs to tax. There’s a good example of that kind of work avoidance in the current pandemic: the American government has given out such high supplemental unemployment benefits during the pandemic that some people find they make more money by not working than by going to a job. As a result, some owners of small business have been having a hard time finding workers.

Another consideration is that if one jurisdiction raises its tax rates to be significantly higher than the rates in other jurisdictions, people and companies have an incentive to go elsewhere. That’s happening now as people and companies from high-tax states like New York and California move to lower-tax states like Florida and Texas, so New York and California will lose all the money they used to get by taxing those people and companies. If federal corporate tax rates are raised to the point that they’re significantly higher than corporate tax rates in other countries, some companies will relocate a portion or even all of their operations to foreign countries with lower tax rates, and the United States will lose the revenue it used to get. As a historical example, in Britain by the end of the 1960s the upper tax rates were so high that the Rolling Stones moved to the south of France and John Lennon moved to the United States.

In the opposite direction, sometimes lowering tax rates ends up bringing in more revenue by encouraging people to spend more now that they have more. Lowering corporate tax rates can induce American companies to repatriate earnings they’ve kept in foreign countries to avoid excessively high tax rates at home.

In short, it’s not always true that raising tax rates brings in more revenue. The sweet spot depends on many factors, and finding it seems more magic than science.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 13, 2021 at 4:46 AM

30 Responses

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  1. Steve, I guess a discussion of tax strategies would include the Kansas Great Leap Forward Experiment, where it seemed common sense that eliminating business taxes would result in greater prosperity for the entire state, but in reality, only seems to have produced a pretty disastrous budget deficit and an inability to pay for roads, bridges, and schools. What do you think of Janet Yellin’s proposal for a worldwide minimum tax rate on multinational corporations? If they can pressure countries like Ireland to fall in line, it might not be a bad idea?

    Robert Parker

    April 13, 2021 at 6:28 AM

    • I’m inclined toward the traditional notion of “That government is best which governs least,” which implies having the lowest taxes possible to carry out that minimal governance, like maintaining a court system. Give a government more money and it will quickly find ways to spend it, mostly for things it has no business meddling in and that I don’t approve of. If I understand right, imposing a minimum tax rate on multinational corporations is an attempt to shut the prison door on companies that have been free to go where the taxes are most favorable. As I’m for maximum freedom, I’d have to be against that. With regard to the situation in Kansas, I’m not familiar with it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 7:46 AM

  2. If you had not mentioned the tiny green nymph I would not have noticed it. Actually, I had to magnify your photo to see it.

    Peter Klopp

    April 13, 2021 at 7:52 AM

    • I always have the advantage of looking at the large (50 megapixels) original photographs, so I have a much better chance of noticing small things. Looking only at the blog-size picture posted here, I doubt I’d have noticed the insect.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 8:59 AM

  3. Lovely saturated color in that first image! Bluebonnets do not do well for me (maybe our soil type here) but I certainly enjoy your photos. I did not see the green nymph at first either. Maybe I just needed that second cup of coffee… I’m a little more focused that way!


    April 13, 2021 at 8:28 AM

    • I just replied to Peter that “I always have the advantage of looking at the large (50 megapixels) original photographs, so I have a much better chance of noticing small things.” I don’t think the number of cups of coffee is a factor. Your hypothesis about not having the right soil type up there for bluebonnets, however, does seem likely, independent of the number of cups of coffee consumed—although maybe if you use coffee grounds as a fertilizer it would enhance your bluebonnets.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 9:04 AM

  4. When I looked at my photos from Goliad, I spotted two white bluebonnets in the middle of one field. I didn’t see them at the time, and they’re far too blurry to post, so I’m glad you were able to find some. There’s one in the Floresville field, too. Like your nymph, there’s a lot to see after the fact. I did find some pink and yellow, so that was fun.

    There are both historical and contemporary examples that prove the truth of your conclusions about the results of tax policy. Those results have been exacerbated during the pandemic by the inculcation of a belief that the government is able to provide perfect safety to those who accept its dictates. Reasonable precautions and a fact-based caution are one thing; magical thinking is quite another.

    Of course, handing out cash via various governmental programs is a related issue. Some people believe there’s such a thing as ‘free’ money; others know the truth.


    April 13, 2021 at 8:56 AM

    • For whatever reason, I’ve been finding a good number of white bluebonnets this season. The two in the second photograph here weren’t the only ones in the Dubina field; there must have been at least a dozen.

      The pandemic has unfortunately led to the acceleration of many deplorable trends in America: treating people unfairly, denying due process, “canceling” people, suppressing dissenting views, covering only incidents that support a certain point of view while ignoring the much greater number of incidents that refute that point of view. I’ve started mentioning some of that here (while never stinting of nature pictures) because I feel I can’t sit quietly by while the country falls into authoritarianism.

      You said it well: “Reasonable precautions and a fact-based caution are one thing; magical thinking is quite another.” As for “free” money, the government has sure been printing a lot of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 9:31 AM

  5. I am one of those few Americans who has no problem paying taxes. It would bother me more if I payed as much in taxes as most other people here. For what I pay, I get a pretty good deal on what taxes pay for in our Society. What infuriates me though is that the rest of society gets so little for what everyone else here pays in taxes. I was impressed by the infrastructure in and around Oklahoma City while I was there. Everything seemed to be maintained better than it is here. Yet, the revenue from property tax is minimal relative to here. Technically, the property tax rates are more than they are here, but because the properties are not as (ridiculously) expensive, individual properties cost much less in regard to taxes than they do here. Seriously, the homes in Oklahoma City cost about 10% of what homes in San Jose cost. Yet, Oklahoma City somehow seems to find the resources it need to maintain its infrastructure more than adequately. San Jose generates astronomical tax revenue, but is always broke.


    April 13, 2021 at 1:37 PM

    • “San Jose generates astronomical tax revenue, but is always broke.” That sentence says a lot. You’ve so often mentioned Oklahoma that perhaps you’d be happier if you settled there rather than staying in California.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 2:07 PM

      • NO! I have considered purchasing a home there in which to live for part of the year, but do not intend to leave California permanently. As bad as it is here, the Santa Clara Valley is my home.


        April 14, 2021 at 8:08 PM

  6. I like that pair of photos! That deep-blue in that first photo–whew! It’s beautiful. But the white is lovely too, with its bits of pink and blue. Nice find!


    April 13, 2021 at 4:39 PM

    • Call that first one supersaturatedexpialidocious. And there it was at the Wildflower Center for all to see. We’ve been seeing a number of white bluebonnets recently, more than I usually notice. Can’t say why.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 4:47 PM

  7. First, I had never heard the term bluebonnet. I think here in California we call them Lupines. Second, you raise very good points. Economy is complicated. To elaborate on migration, I was reading about California residents exiting to Texas just yesterday. The people interviewed mentioned, besides taxes, the high costs of living here in general, the political climate (likelihood of finding equal-minded people), gun restrictions, and finally, the Covid-19 related restrictions. I think that it can be summarized that they want less government. I rather pay less taxes than more taxes, but since I pay all these taxes here in California I expect to live in a place that is safe, clean and beautiful, yet the greater Sacramento area has become dirty, is populated with tent cities and mentally ill people and drug addicts walking aimlessly around and talking to themselves on the streets, it is unsafe and there isn’t much going on. I cannot say that San Francisco, the closest real city, is in much better shape. I wish our taxes got us more in return.

    Alessandra Chaves

    April 13, 2021 at 6:44 PM

    • As far as I’m aware, the name “bluebonnet” is limited to the lupine species in Texas, of which there are five or six, depending on the source. If you lived in Texas, you’d be very familiar with the word. Texas has a tradition of bluebonnet painting that goes back at least 120 years. One well-known practitioner was Julian Onderdonk:


      Another was Porfirio Salinas: https://tinyurl.com/yeedty32

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 6:58 PM

    • I’m sorry but not surprised to hear that high taxes in California aren’t bringing you the things they should. The prevailing belief in California is that more government is better than less. Of course what you’ve experienced is that more government has brought you less safety, less public cleanliness, less civic beauty. (I’ll add that homeless encampments in Austin skyrocketed after the leftist city government rescinded the ban on camping in public spaces; it’s very obvious just a mile from our home.) So yes, some people are leaving California for saner places. I heard yesterday that a one-way rental of a U-Haul type vehicle going out of California costs several times as much as a one-way rental going to California, following the law of supply and demand. I just hope the people moving here won’t have learned their lesson and will vote for California-style government here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 7:47 PM

    • I just heard that Walgreen’s is closing all 10 of its stores in San Francisco. If I understand correctly, it’s because the company can’t abide the high rate of theft the city government promotes by not prosecuting thieves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 9:19 PM

      • I think That they are now about to close the 10th store in the city since the beginning of 2019 and they say that’s in part a function of shoplifting. The response of the community is interesting. They have a petition going to keep the store open and claim that the chain can take the loss of shoplifting because they make way too much money and are abandoning the community. This instead of seeking to fix the problem of disorderly conduct. I know that we, local photographers, don’t go to San Francisco for photography anymore. It’s too dangerous now. Photographers have been mugged and murdered. It is sad, I liked going there. I still go to the golden gate area but that too has now signs at the parking areas not to leave anything of value in the car. Very sad.

        Alessandra Chaves

        April 13, 2021 at 10:17 PM

        • Thanks for your clarification and the extra details. It’s hard to believe that the people in charge of San Francisco would promote so much lawlessness, but they do. Likewise, what chutzpah some residents show in telling a tell a company it can tolerate theft. That’s actually not a new idea on the political left. I had a friend 40 years ago who felt it was okay for people to steal from large companies because they were wealthy and could afford it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 14, 2021 at 5:27 AM

  8. Same idea as that non-red red trillium I posted the other day. It is fun to find the oddities out there.

    Steve Gingold

    April 15, 2021 at 4:17 AM

  9. Those are beautiful bluebonnet blooms. The white form is quite striking, too. Someday I will get to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I have always wanted to see it.

    Lavinia Ross

    April 15, 2021 at 9:48 AM

    • Yes, the Wildflower Center is worth visiting. On our visit in March we walked through a new section that had opened up. Let me know if you ever plan a trip down this way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 15, 2021 at 12:33 PM

  10. Nice shots! I have a shot with a rare white lupine in a field of purple here. I don’t know if we have more than one kind of lupine. A friend’s book says Silvery Lupine (Lupinus Argenteus).


    April 16, 2021 at 12:13 PM

  11. Great shots Steve … he is brilliantly tucked away


    April 20, 2021 at 2:18 PM

  12. […] Taxes […]

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