“It is no contradiction – the most important single thing we can do to stimulate investment in today’s economy is to raise consumption by major reduction of individual income tax rates.”
President John F. Kennedy
Recently, a consortium of wealthy Germans lobbied to have their taxes increased. Obviously, that made news, because it doesn’t really happen that way very often. It is an amusing little anecdote, and mostly shows the old adage that a fool and his money are soon parted.
Their sense of charity is lovely. People ought to be able to do with their property whatsoever they will, including throwing it on a government bonfire. That’s not my choice, but that’s not the point; on the contrary, I will most assuredly defend their right to act on their desires because it is their property, not mine. That’s the point of property ownership: the owner gets to decide what to do with the property, not strangers.
It is just a bit odd that they believe that giving the government more money will alleviate the financial crisis. Still, they are not unique in this; thousands of people have contributed to the Communist Party of various countries over time out of a sense of psychic attachment, notwithstanding that the Communist philosophy would eradicate all property rights.
And in fact, we all dish out oodles of money to the government in the form of taxation every day and every year in every country, and have done so all through history, generally willingly. Therefore it must be right, right? I mean, if it’s always been that way, it must be good, right?
“Every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.”
President Theodore Roosevelt
The usual object of taxation is to redistribute wealth out of a sense of social justice (if you are a socialist); or, to give a job to the King and his power brokers (if you are just power-hungry); or, to make hospitals (if you think you know best); or to create the fabric of social order (just because); or whatever.
“Social justice should not contradict individual justice, either in theory or in practice… it’s pretty callous to forcibly deprive me of the fruit of my labour for the benefit of some other individual who didn’t sweat my sweat. I don’t consider that social justice.”
Walter Williams, 1982
But what the whole principle of taxation doesn’t say out loud, is that it is legalized theft.
“If what is called the state may forcibly take one dollar or one shilling out of what a man owns, it may take what it likes up to the last dollar or last shilling. Once admit of the right of the state to take, and the state becomes the real owner of all property.”
Auberon Herbert, 1897
If a man came to you and said, “give me your money, or else”, the clear understanding is that it is (a) indeed your money but (b) that is no longer going to be the case.
If a man came to you and said “may I please have your money”, the clear understanding is that it (a) is your money and (b) he needs your permission to take it: Your ownership is acknowledged, and the choice of disposal, or not, resides in you.
If I point out that the government follows the first model, and not the second, folk jump up and down and say “that’s different, the government needs the money”.
For goodness sake: What definition of theft do you require?
“The state cannot get a cent for any man without taking it from some other man, and the latter man must be a man who has produced and saved it. The latter is the forgotten man.”
William Graham Sumner, 1863
It is entirely possible that the government might want your money to do something good (in your opinion). If they actually asked you, you might agree to contribute willingly, and then you could even take some pride in the contribution you made to a cause you personally valued.
You might be happy to hand over some of your property to assist the homeless; or to build hospitals; or to feed the soldiers; or to build bridges; or to explore space; or whatever else you imagine to be a good thing - and good for you for having such a sense of community. This is different from those Germans though, who just want to have their money taken from them without any concern for what it is spent on; they lack any moral agenda and simply wish to renounce ownership of their property. This is the common rationalization for suffering taxation in the first place: you like what the government is doing with the money: therefore, it is okay for them to take your money from you as long as they are taking money from other citizens too. So basically, you are a predator: on a moral level, you are saying that it is okay to take peoples’ money as long as it is spent on stuff you like. Collective theft is fine as long as you enjoy the benefits of the proceeds of the crime. Hmmm.
“The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.”
Ayn Rand, 1963
But if the government just takes your money, and spends it for you, then: (a) if it was spent on goofy issues and government waste, then you are just angry; or (b) if it is spent on something you do respect and approve of, but then they take the credit, you are still left feeling ripped off. I mean, who cares if the Conservative Party logo is on a government cheque for something good, right? It’s the cheque that counts, not the moral credit, right?
“The present tax codes…inhibit the mobility and formation of capital, add complexities and inequities which undermine the morale of the taxpayer, and make tax avoidance rather than market factors a prime consideration in too many economic decisions.”
President John F. Kennedy, 1963
Look, things in society cost money, and I will never convince most of you that taxation is morally wrong, even though you have to go through ethical gymnastics to justify your point of view. You have been brought up and trained mentally in the omnipotence of government, despite the evidence of its failings, and despite all the history of tax rebellions. The government has done its work very well. They do after all control education for the most part.
So here is a proposal.
What if you were allowed to allocate your taxes to agendae of which you approved. Just as an experiment towards real social justice.
Let’s say your taxes for a given year totaled $5000. How about if you could then allocate that $5000 any way you wanted through a list of choices the government gave you. You could leave it to them to allocate for you, if you didn’t care of course, like the Germans; but you could instead perhaps give it all to the military, or half to infrastructure expenses, or a third to Indian Affairs, or whatever. Whatever you wanted your money spent on. You allocate it. You don’t want any of your taxes going to bribing Quebec, for instance? Then you get to say “no” to such an expenditure of your money. Let others pay for that with their tax dollars, if they want, but you don’t have to take part in that.
Would that be so horrible? I know, you really are okay with having them take your money from you, you are a lot like those Germans and you only wish the government would take more; but would it be so wrong if you got to vote, through the application of your tax dollars each year, on the programs you thought were worthwhile and against those you thought a stupid waste?
And voting with your money will have far more impact on government policy than the fairly frivolous omnibus vote we currently get once every four years or so. Don’t worry, the politicians will get your message. They will keep very very keen statistics on what people want their money spent on.
I will point out another historical truth. It used to be that the King of England just demanded money, so he could do what he wanted –wage war, build a castle, buy clothes for his mistress. Over the centuries, the nobles, and then the commoners, rose up in protest of the theft of their money without at least a just cause, and eventually there was created the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, and now no money gets spent except as the House of Commons decides. The trouble is, the House of Commons has become no better than the King was originally. They say they want the money, to wage war, build a castle or buy clothes, and you have to pay. So why would you think it immoral for you to stand up to them, but it was good and proper for them to stand up to the King? Because you get to vote once every four years? Is that really the big deal which justifies the theft of your money all the time? The answer is “yes”, if you listen to them.
So vote with your money. Consider the Capitalists, we’ll do what we can with the rascals.