"Those are properly called lords and masters who provide for the good and profit of others" Augustine of Hippo
“In general, the art of Government consists in taking as much money as possible from one group of citizens to give it to another.” Voltaire
LEGITIMATE TAXATION OR CRIMINAL RIP-OFF?
PART ONE: Governments assume powers of taxation and reserve them for themselves.
Through various forms of taxation, but also in other ways, modern governments believe they can seize the property of their citizens with impunity. Like robber barons they function as institutionalised monopolies. No one else is allowed to demand taxes. Were any other organisation to operate in the same way as governments do, it would be considered extortion, robbery, fraud, or some kind of protection racket such as that run by Mafia families. When a dubious character breathing out threats approaches a business demanding a percentage of the profits to stay in business, we think of Sicily or the Ukraine and call it a protection racket. Yet, when the Inland Revenue does the same to our pay packets and businesses at rates determined by government, we call it taxation. But then, at least the Mafiosi do not pretend to be depriving us of our money for our own good. In essence there is only one definitive dividing line between these two, namely the laws drawn up by the governments themselves permitting them to demand payments from the rest of us at will. Criminals who seize our goods can be pursued or resisted; against governments there is no redress. We are taxed throughout our lives and even when we are dead they try.
The main and perhaps most detested tax must surely be income tax. Most of us pay it and find it difficult to avoid should we not be self-employed. Other taxes may be less obvious, occasional, or only collected once. In Britain the basic rate of income tax is at the time of writing payable at 20% on taxable income up to £31,785. There are thresholds of up to just under £11,000 before which no tax is paid, these vary largely according to age. There is a higher rate from taxable income of more than £31,785, where it rises to 40%. Earn more than £150,000, you will have to pay the additional rate of 45% tax on amounts above that sum. In other European countries tax rates are very similar, some higher and some lower. Such rates are scandalously high, grossly unfair and hit the lowest paid workers hardest, eating into their subsistence. 20% of income is more of a blow to a relatively poorer individual than it is to someone on average earnings. Western European personal taxes are progressive, rising with income, whereas in Russia income tax is payable at a flat rate of 13%, hitting everyone equally. A similar system is in place in Belarus with a personal tax rate currently at 13%, although in 2008 and before it was as high as 30%. In the Old Testament, God contented Himself with 10%, a flat rate tax that everyone paid and where everyone knew exactly for what it was used. Are these rulers greater than God Himself and their needs more pressing than His? Some would seem to think they are.
Income Tax and war
Before the mid-19th century, there was no income tax as such in Europe. It seems that it was the British who first dreamt up the idea of income tax. It was levied directly on the earnings of individuals by William Pitt the Younger to finance the Napoleonic Wars and was declared to be intended only as a temporary tax. The idea soon caught on everywhere else. France followed in 1873, Italy in 1877, Norway in 1892, the Netherlands in 1894, Austria in 1898, Sweden in 1903, the USA in 1913, Switzerland in 1916, Denmark and Finland in 1917, Ireland and Belgium in 1922 and Germany in 1924. Whilst the tax in Britain has been suspended on occasions ― the law was repealed in 1816, a year after the Battle of Waterloo ― it was then reintroduced in 1842 by Sir Robert Peel to cope with a massive deficit. It was at the time a flat rate tax paid by around half-a-million taxpayers. Gladstone, when Chancellor, saw the tax as an “engine of gigantic power for great national purposes”. Later, as Britain approached World War II, less than one in five were paying any income tax. Today, a quarter of government revenue comes from income tax paid by 25,700,000 people.
That the introduction of income tax has close connection with waging wars is clear and historically self-evident. As the guns began to roar in 1914, government expenditure as a percentage of GDP had not risen above 10%. Only in Germany was it more where it went to 15%. On average the tax rose to between 20% and 30% in the 1920s and by the 1970s had soared to 50%. As government expenditure increases so will the exploitation of the general population. Higher taxes must follow. More discreetly, new money will also be pumped into the system producing inevitable devaluation of the currency and inflation. Borrowing too will rise as government requirements rise especially in times of ‘crisis’ and interest rates sink ever lower to accommodate the increasing debt problem, that threatens to become increasingly unsustainable as collapse looms.
In the United States the situation was and is no better. If anything, it is far worse than anywhere else. World War II was for the US Treasury ten times more expensive than World War I. The rates of income tax rose repeatedly. When Japanese bombers hit Pearl Harbour in December 1941, income taxes were already historically high. There were 32 different rates ranging from 10% at the bottom; 79% on incomes over $1 million; 80% on anything over $2 million; and on income over $5 million it was 81%. Shortly after the bombing in April of the next year Roosevelt was pressing for a top rate of 100%, in other words total confiscation once the limit is reached. His argument was that when the nation is in such grave danger “no American citizen ought to have a net income, after he has paid his taxes, of more than $25,000 a year” ― today that would be around $300,000. The 1942 Revenue Act whilst not going quite so far, pushed top rates to 88% for everything over $200,000. 1944 saw the bottom rate double to 23% and the top rate crept up to 94%. In 1940 just 15 million Americans were paying income tax, but this rose to 50 million in 1945.
The expenses incurred in going to war are to this day funded largely by taxation plus borrowing. The American national debt rose in World War II to more than five times what it was previously. In 1941 at the time of the Pearl Harbour attack the national debt was $49 billion, by 1945 it had risen to $259, from 38% of GDP to 116%. On entering the war, the Great Depression effectively ended. At the end of the war, which had cost $296 billion, a new depression began. In addition, the Federal Reserve System bought up $20 billion of government debt turning it into a printing press for the treasury. Between 1940 and 1948 the money supply increased by 183% with the dollar thus losing half its purchasing power.
Americans continue to pay out huge sums in support of military and defence spending of astronomical proportions. Its declared budget for 2016 is $601 billion, amounting to 54% of all federal discretionary spending. This is more than all the next seven high spending countries put together. It is evident where American priorities lie, stretching way beyond that required simply for the defence of the United States. General government gross debt in the United States at the time of writing amounts to about $19.3 trillion, well over 100% of GDP. The share of this debt to each US citizen is roughly $60,000. This debt is still increasing at $2.4 billion a day.
The British national debt in 1920 was £7.9 billion; in 1938 it was £8.3 billion; by 1945 it had risen £22.4 billion; in 1970 we owed £34 billion; by 1987 the debt had shot up to £190 billion; today it is an eye- watering £1.5 trillion. What this means in practical terms is: we owe £23,483 for every man, woman and child. That is more than £52,788 for every person in employment. Every household will pay £1,856 this year, just to cover the interest. Combining the debt of the United States, Japan, and Europe together accounts for 75% of total global debt. What are they doing with all this money? One might well ask.
Interestingly by comparison, figures from the Russian Ministry of Finance show that the country has far less debt than her western counterparts. Despite what her detractors claim, it stands to reason that in the end an economy with proportionately less debt is a healthier one. Russian debt currently stands at 11.4 trillion rubles or $143.8 billion, making up just 14.43% of GDP. With a population 146,300,000 people each citizen therefore owes 78,144 rubles, or $984. Defence spending in 2016, according to the Russian news agency TASS, will see a modest increase of 0.8% bringing it to a planned 3.145 trillion rubles or $50 billion. Can it be that this is because Russia has more interest in genuine military defence than in expansionist policies around the world?
How ever did we fall for this outrageous institutionalised confiscation?
Powers of institutionalised expropriation though taxation can only work if there exists some form of legitimisation to make them acceptable to everyone. The public at large must be prepared to accept what the government is doing as being legal and sufficiently fair ― we all remember Mrs Thatcher’s iniquitous poll tax, and what of Cameron’s bedroom tax? Taxes must be deemed necessary and acceptable by the general public if eventual resistance or rebellion and, always most feared by the authorities, rioting and revolution are to be avoided. Governments will always claim their limitless confiscatory powers are legal and beneficial therefore and must be accepted by the general population without question. Should anyone not pay, then they must face severe financial sanctions, even imprisonment. We take half your income or you go to jail ― as simple as that. To underline the necessity of ever-rising taxation, threats of possible war or terror, imagined or real, will be called upon in support. Regularly, a Russian ‘threat’, or Putin the bogeyman, will be brought out and lined up for our consideration, all portrayed in the most chilling terms. NATO will then rattle her tanks in eastern Europe to justify its existence. Once most of the general public have come around to accepting without question the word of government in times of so-called crisis―even though in reality most of us recognise know they are lying through their teeth―, then this acceptance of authority tends to extend to most other areas too. We accept more surveillance, more spying on us as being necessary to maintaining our freedoms!
How did this state of affairs come about whereby we allow ourselves to be deprived of what is ours in this way and accept its legality? We must perhaps first understand how even within primitive forms of society élites arise. This will happen often because individuals who stand out because of their skills or other personal attributes, useful or otherwise, rise above their fellows or alternatively because those with a lust for power are allowed to climb to the top of the pile. Either way, they will be accepted, willingly or unwillingly, by everyone else as possessing legitimate natural authority. Once such a tightly knit group has formed, its members will then proceed to impose a monopolistic compulsion over everyone else below them. They will reinforce this power through legislation, courts of justice and a police force. Moreover, this will usually be accepted without much ado by everyone else as their prerogative and rarely seen for what they actually are, namely, the coercive instruments of those in power.
PART TWO: Modern western ‛democracies’ and their taxes
Are our present day democracies really so much better than the forms of government they replaced? Winston Churchill’s view of democracy is well-known: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” As with many of his bon mots, they may be clever witticisms, but little else. Should we even desire it, there seems little possibility of turning the clock back to former times. It is, however, useful to consider the ways in which things have changed. In this way we can expose the weaknesses inherent in our democracies today.
Depending upon how far back we go, most of the trappings of being a monarch, the castles, the large estates, and even the army were more often than not seen as being the king’s own personal property to maintain, pay for, and to dispose of as he happened to think fit. By contrast, in a modern democracy the understanding is that the apparatus of government is public and not private property. It belongs to ‘the nation’. The assets of government are construed as belonging to all of us and so to no one person in particular. Government buildings are ‘public’ buildings as is everything else needed to govern. It is not thought of as the personal property of government officers and functionaries. These people are merely stewards or trustees using these things on behalf of us all. Nevertheless, we as citizens do not possess any real direct authority over these so-called public assets because this authority is vested in the elected élite who are then supposed to act in our interest.
Under a monarch all expropriated resources obtained through taxation, by confiscation or other means were then added to the king’s own personal wealth and became part of it. He could dispose of what was his own by gift or sale, or he could pass it on to his heirs. Only a property owner can enjoy the full use of what he owns and he can share it all with whom he will and exclude whom he will. Therefore, the numbers of those enjoying a parasitic existence by living off everyone else was strictly limited by the will of the monarch to those whom he decided should benefit. Within our current ‘democratic’ system, there are no limitations on those able to live off the State, from members of parliament, public servants, through to anyone supported by taxpayers. Widespread excesses are almost inevitable. Despite the fact that he could pocket taxes, a wise ruler in the past would have been careful not to lay a burden of tax on his subjects too heavily lest his future earning potential be reduced or put in jeopardy and this would in turn diminish the current value of his estate. Lower taxation allows the population to be more flexible, more productive, and this will inevitably lead to a higher overall value for any government’s taxation monopoly.
Most democratic governments have come into existence through wars or revolution. Once a State is born by war, it is then sustained by war. In wartime the State will transmogrify itself into an unstoppable force determined to increase its own powers, crushing all opposition before it. Liberties and property disappear, confiscatory powers of State arise and once won rarely reappear, but they are gone for ever never to be returned or seen again. The power of the State will grow and grow as individual liberties shrink proportionately. War makes unrestrained government expropriation appear to be justified. Once a war is over such measures are than accepted as being normal and are left in place. With no war being waged some irrational fear must then be awakened directed against some imaginary threat in the world, such as Russian aggression, or an exaggerated fear of terror attacks. This self-justifying fabricated fear serves to keep the great military juggernaut alive and the revenues flowing. It is just another excuse to rip us all off, filling government coffers, inflating the ill-gotten gains of the arms industry. The rewards of democratic government activities will wherever possible be used in self-interest somewhere in order to increase personal income and wealth.
Once the ball is rolling, the tendency grows all the time to extend the field of operations. Then the amount that can be extracted from the larger population by way of taxation and other means is greater, just as what can be taken from its previously more limited population is necessarily smaller. For this reason, if for no other, many governments will be aggressively expansionist. Talk of bringing ‛democracy’ to unenlightened nations is a sham. Trade deals, if kept hidden from the general public then so much the better, or just more Lebensraum, the larger the territory, the greater will be the constituency where exploitation can take place. It is therefore in the interest of all governments to spread their sphere of influence as widely as they can. Because in any given area there can by definition only be one actual monopoly of power, when expansion is underway so there will also be calls for more and tighter centralisation and control. Dissident voices and whistle-blowers will as likely as not be jailed as traitors whenever this is possible. Eavesdropping on us all without recourse to magistrates becomes common practice.
Although not in every case, the territorial expansion undertaken by a monarch would have been seen by the population at large as the ruler’s personal affair, nothing much to do with them, just an enlargement of his own personal estates. A battle may have been raging two fields away and, unless there happens to be pillaging and rape by the soldiers, no one living nearby would necessarily take that much notice. If the king, the duke or the prince is going to be the primary beneficiary, then rightly, it is the king who must pay for the adventure. He must pay the wages of his own soldiers. This being the case, a military conquest that incur costs is something that a wise monarch would usually like to avoid, so that contractual arrangements were always likely to be preferable to him. Higher taxation and involvement in a war that brings everything for the king and little for the general population is going to be resented and resisted so that, unless he was motivated solely by bloodlust as many were, he would have first sought other ways to achieve the same end. Monarchs have often extended their spheres of influence by a suitable marriage for themselves or for other family members. Most European royalty was, even is today, in one way or another related to one another. Another means of expansion open to a monarch and a democracy has always been simply to acquire the land by purchase, not to mention by theft.
Winning an election does not in itself make a government democratic or legitimate.
Not many people can aspire to be a king. In a modern democracy, or so it is said, anyone can become a ruler. This is what we are all led to believe. As a result, the line that once was clear between ruler and the ruled has now become indistinct. An illusion has been created that the differences between those ruling and those ruled has in fact virtually disappeared. No one in a democracy is really ruled by anyone, everyone can be a participant. This is why the move from monarchy to democracy is seen as progressive, positive. No one person has all the power, the people do. This is a complete and utter delusion and very far removed from reality. It is a myth spun by élites who have and want to keep power for themselves.
In a democracy, a president or prime minister may use government to his personal advantage, but he does not own the assets of government as did a sovereign. First, he only has the use of government resources whilst in office, the king has them for life. Second and most significantly, not being the legal owner, any debts or other liabilities incurred do not belong to him personally and so he cannot be called upon to meet them as can a monarch.
It is not immediately possible for a prime minister to make a vast amount of money for himself by selling off government assets for direct personal enrichment except by corruption, nor can he pass anything on to heirs. Although after leaving office, on the lecture circuit or by consultancies, he may well amass a fortune by virtue of having been prime minister. Political office must surely be one of the fastest route to riches. Consequently, whilst in office a modern politician is unlikely to see any sense in increasing the wealth or capital assets of government, if he can gain no immediate advantage from it for himself. The result is that under public ownership the trend is towards continual short term consumption. Government resources will be used up swiftly with no thought of enhancing the value of government estates in the long term. A prime minister will have little or no interest in preserving the country from eventual ruin as a result of his actions; all that matters is the present. It will be for successors to clean up any mess he makes. The one governmental advantage clearly understood by democratic governments is to multiply taxes; moderation pays no dividends.
The resistance there might be to government power is weakened by the myth of real democracy. Taxation and all forms of expropriation once thought of as oppression under a monarch now suddenly become acceptable in a democracy as the citizens are in some mysterious way made out to be the beneficiaries. The reality, however, is all very different. A modern democracy is dominated by an élite as impenetrable as any nobility. It is they who will determine who will and who will not rise to the top. They will have all attended the same schools, known each other from university, be members of the same social class, of the same clubs, and attend the same dinner parties, or have supped beer at the same pub. Access is not open to all, but is barred to most. A government in power often enjoys the support of less than a quarter of the electorate, meaning that three-quarters, the majority, oppose them. Otto von Bismarck once observed that once in power, democratically elected governments are quite able to do very much as they please with little to restrain them and with almost no answerability to anyone. Lacking the responsibility of personal ownership and liability, whatever decisions they put into action, whatever the outcomes, they can walk away with impunity once their term of office expires, no retribution will follow them. They can be guilty of the gross mismanagement of the country’s economy without being brought to book. They can send hundreds to their death when going to war under false pretences, but it is not enough to bring them into any courtroom. Where there is no acknowledged personal liability, jail is not an option ― and this is all what we call democracy.
Where everything belongs to no one
Primarily, the result of this phoney legitimacy will be that debts and taxes will always increase. There is nothing in place that can stop this happening. This will be facilitated either directly by taxation or by increasing the supply of money, now called quantitative easing, with all the resulting inflationary effects. Coin clipping has given place to money printing. All are different forms of the same kind of robbery. Low interest rates on savings to facilitate cheap money is yet another form of theft. Most deceitful of all are the so-called ‘austerity measures’, in place it is said, to reduce government debt and borrowing. It rarely does this, but reveals itself as just another form of expropriation, withholding from the public what they have been promised would be financed with public funds having taken taxes for that purpose. In addition, the number of essentially parasitic government employees will increase exponentially ― all producing nothing ― in order to take care of the expanding administration. As a direct result of the concept of public ownership, the temptation to increase debt will follow. Monarchs were less likely to incur debts because they knew that their heirs would be personally liable for the repayment of these debts to creditors. Many borrowed unwisely and with disastrous consequences for themselves. A king could easily be forced into bankruptcy. A democratically elected president or prime minister bears no personal liability for government debt. It therefore does not really matter to him how high the pile of government debt grows. Public debt liability is shuffled off into the future for other equally non-liable political figures to sort out. Deficit financing is the norm and inflation and currency devaluation follow.
Where government ministers and officials are not held personally liable for debts incurred, of course the debt load will rise and present consumption and spending expands at the expense of government consumption in the future. Saving money for the future is only what idiots do. This situation is the high road to poverty and financial ruin. In order to meet rising public debt, the level of taxation must also rise as will the printing of more money (quantitative easing) and ensuing inflation. All this is being forced out into a future tax burden for us all and for our children and grandchildren. When we see that taxes are likely to rise in the future, or that an inevitable financial crash is impending, then our present spending rises. Investment, if there is any, will be short term ― make a quick buck while you still can. Saving and long term investment will be seen as unattractive and shaky options. The cost of investment will be pushed into the future because of an inordinate dependence on loans. Today’s profits, should there be any, will be trimmed servicing these loans making us all poorer.
When a king ruled, the power of government was readily recognisable, personified in the king. Today, it is claimed that it is impersonal, some speak of a ‘general will’ of the people. In the real world this is illusory, completely bogus. The power of democracy is impersonal, hidden by anonymity. Presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, are both legislator and judge. Being the creators of the law, they increasingly see themselves as being above what they have created and all can in any case be changed to suit themselves at will.
Power is everywhere in the hands of ruling élites of one kind or another. Recent decades have seen a large expansion of governmental authority reaching as it does into every home and hearth, from our first breath to our last gasp. It is more often than not hidden and so a reaction is not forthcoming anywhere apart from the enlightened few. A widening of government powers has resulted time and again in war after war, something in which the political class is complicit and no one in the political world will do anything, because no one wants to diminish powers they hope one day to possess themselves.
Democratic governments steal more of our money than monarchs ever did
World War I saw what remained of monarchies give way to democracy in most of Europe and with this change it is an undeniable fact that taxes grew. At the time of the French Revolution and up to World War I, the tax burden rarely rose above 5% of GDP In Western Europe taxes were at around 15%-20% of GDP after World War I until today where in many countries it has reached around 50% of GDP The rapid increase since those days has been alarming. Also throughout the whole time when monarchs reigned, those in government employment rarely exceeded more than 2% of the workforce. Since then in most Western countries, it has now risen to between 15% and 20%.
Once the USA entered World War I, the lower tax bracket rose from 2% to 6% and the maximum for the highest bracket shot from 13% to a maximum of 77%. In 1916 the number of tax returns filed was less than half a million, but by 1917 it was three and a half million and this doubled by 1920. By this time the Federal Reserve System had been established. As tax revenues were inadequate to meet costs, the government began printing new money. Debt was running at a billion dollars a month in 1918, more than the total amount of the annual federal budget prior to the war. The national debt was less than one billion dollars in 1915, by 1919 it was twenty-five billion. Civilian employees of the government, the parasites, more than doubled between 1916 to 1918 to 450,000. The business fraternity rather than being appalled welcomed government interventions that guaranteed their profits in a capitalism with little risk. Banks fell over each other to provide loans to companies for ‘the war effort’. This established a pattern that the US government, as well as others, have followed ever since.
American society changed permanently for the worse. This make-believe bogus democracy, claiming a mandate by popular vote, gave government the right to dispose as it wished of the lives, property and even liberty of its citizens and so it continues to this day. Government now began tightening its grip. The US Espionage Act (1917) and the Sedition Act which followed twelve months later were designed to do more than apprehend spies; it forbade contrary opinion. People were arrested simply for questioning the constitutionality of the actions of government and even for criticising the Red Cross. Newspapers criticising president Wilson, the war or the Allies were suppressed, censored, or prohibited. Once in place, these powers were not relinquished when the war was over.
Kings always found it difficult to raise loans, particularly if they intended to go to war on the strength of them. As a result, they were regarded as high risk customers likely to default and high interest rates were demanded. The advent of democratic governments after World War I led to an increase in deficit financing and so the debts mounted. Today few national debts, if any, will be found that are less than 30% of GDP and debts of well over 100% of GDP are common.
The monarchical world dealt in community money, tangible gold and silver. There was, as a result, a single integrated world market in the 17th and 18th centuries based on an international gold standard. In these circumstances inflating the money supply was all but impossible. The creation of pure fiat money was not possible. It was not possible to create national paper money out of thin air and at minimal cost. When one man ruled as king, most certainly no one would have trusted him with such powers and his currency would not have been worth the paper it was printed on. With the spread of ‘democracy’ after World War I, the gold standard was abolished and replaced since with a worldwide system of irredeemable national paper money. The general and permanent move towards ever-increasing inflation and currency depreciation was now in full swing. Deficit financing had become everywhere the norm.
Giving our money away
Modern democratic governments will always be inclined to employ their powers in direct intervention in anything and everything, including the transferring funds from one part of society to another. A government of stewards that do not own the wealth of the country is more likely to distribute it to those most likely to keep them in power, deserving or otherwise, as a kind of electoral bribe. This can only have a dampening effect on future productivity. Anyone aspiring these days to government by winning elections must embrace some redistributive powers, like them or loathe them, to the rich or the poor. Alongside rising taxes and inflation, government debt and employment, this will always be a ‘welfare state’ of some sort, where money changes hands without anything ever being produced.
According to Winston Churchill, he should know, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” The redistribution of wealth as a rule will take any of three forms. First, there are simple transfer payments. Money is taken from Peter to pay Paul whereby Paul will be disinclined to do anything to help himself, even were he in a position to do so. Second, there is the ‘free’ or below cost provision of goods and services such as education, healthcare, and much more provided from government coffers. Income is confiscated from one group of taxpayers and handed to another. The third, a proliferation of business and consumer regulations is undertaken. Price controls, tariffs, licensing requirements, health and safety laws, and much more have a stranglehold. The wealth of one group of businessmen or consumers is increased at the expense of others and to the loss – usually quite unfairly – of those of their competitors.
On the level of the individual, the net result has been an increased dependency upon government throughout life and in every area of life. The government is expected to provide any manner of things; after all they take the money in taxes in the first place. Certainly, it is about power. These governments cannot tolerate anything that is not under their fingers to control. Parasites there always were, generally at the top. Now we have them distributed throughout society: still at the top, but also at the bottom, all living in dependency upon those actually producing wealth. Those paying high taxes, those receiving something for nothing, gradually lose all incentive to do any work. What is most serious is that so much is confiscated by government, and many wages are so miserable ― also a form of theft, that most of the population is not in any position to make provision for those things we now expect government to provide for us. Surely, this is what our ‘democratic’ governments prefer: a dependent, slave-like population, blinded, robbed of initiative, quiescent, unlikely to get behind their tricks, and unable to do anything about their lot. The rich stay rich and get yet richer the poor remain poor until the day they die. For most people ‛honest politician’ is an oxymoron.
D. William Norris
"Disregard for the citizens over whom they rule, dismissing all responsibility to the people for what they do in their name, when such tyranny and corruption sets in all attempts to rescue the political system will be futile."
D. William Norris