Taxes

Nobody likes paying taxes. But nobody likes paying taxes less than this guy:

Damn, dude. Right?

Anyway, I understand the impulse. There’s nothing more annoying than losing something you’ve worked hard to get, especially if it’s just going to be wasted. There’s a lot to get into here: is the government the most efficient actor when it comes to spending money? What is the role of charity in a global 21st century world? Would a consumption tax be better than a production tax?

As for that last one, I’m intensely curious about it, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. But that’s not the question I want to answer. Nor are the others. There’s one question I want to take a look at today:

Are taxes theft?

No.

The reason is simple: you don’t have to pay taxes. Or rather, you shouldn’t have to. In an ideal world, if you didn’t want to pay taxes, you could opt out. You would pay no taxes, and in return, you would agree to never take advantage of taxpayer funded services. You would drive on no roads, drink no water that came from a faucet, and purchase no goods that involved regulation or oversight; so no food, no imported goods, not even so much as a 9mm bullet. In other words, you would contribute nothing, and you would take nothing.

(Side note: This isn’t an ideal world, so that’s not how it works. Indeed, it is a great failure of our system that a man who refuses to pay taxes is taken to jail, where he not only continues to pay no taxes, but is cared for by other taxpayers. And this is the root of so much of the fury and venom directed towards illegal immigrants and welfare recipients, I think. The idea that they’re getting something for nothing; that they are benefiting from the system without contributing to it. This is false, of course, but that’s how the argument goes.)

All of this is madness, of course. It would take a man of extraordinary resilience and ingenuity to live that way. As it is now, we all (if grudgingly) recognize that taxation provides services on which we all depend. Not just the roads, teachers, or police, but the labor laws that protect you from exploitation, the food safety laws that protect you from being poisoned, or the national parks where you hunt. We all see the necessity of these services; we all recognize that if we want to benefit from the system, we have to pay into it.

The problem, then, is not taxes. It’s taxes that are used in a way in which you might disagree. No one has a problem with their taxes being spent on roads and bridges, but when they think they might be funding an abortion, their gorge rises. No one complains when their taxes provide them with clean water, but the idea that they are paying for some invalid to lounge about is a source of rage.

What’s the solution? Well, that’s a more complicated problem. On the one hand, I suppose you could look at the whole balance–do your taxes do more harm than good?–and make your decision based along those lines. But how do you measure such a thing? What portion of your taxes paid for the bombs that were sold to the Saudis in their war in Yemen? What portion of your taxes went to enforcing discriminatory drug laws? And that’s just me–if you feel that government-sponsored charity is a violation of something fundamental, you’re seriously in trouble. Last I checked, entitlement spending still consumes a pretty big chunk of the budget every year.

I think education would be a good place to start. I’m an advocate for transparency in all cases, and I can see its application here. Imagine being able to see where every fraction of a cent of your taxes went? Imagine a streamlined tax program, a streamlined entitlements program, a streamlined infrastructure program…nothing diminished, but made leaner. Higher speed, lower drag. But of course, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Until then, I come back to the idea of a consumption tax. Under that system, you wouldn’t be able to choose where your money went, but at least you could decide when you’d be taxed. But that’s got its own problems. So for right now, people like Mr. Rasputin up there are just going to get angrier.



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