Taxes are not evil, taxes are not bad, taxes are not good either. Taxes are a necessary part of being a member of a larger community. Taxes and tithes have existed throughout the ages and, in more recent history, have normally been collected through some form of currency. But there have always been some expectations that you will give back to your community. As our connections to our larger communities have grown more abstract, as a result of our communities swelling into massive cities, and it became simpler to connect with people all over the world, our sense of allegiance and to whom we feel indebted too also changed, as it becomes harder to appreciate how the work of the rest of our community impacts our lives. The most common place this occurs, in my experience, is in how people talk about taxes. “I don’t want no government stealing my money” is an attitude I regularly encounter both in my personal discussions about social policy and all the time on the internet. It’s as though taxes get taken and you never gain any benefit from them.
Now, before anyone bursts out, I understand that for any given system of taxation and the levels of corruption in a system you going to see different effects, and yes, I’m sure there are a few examples scattered around (the most obvious being certain aboriginal communities in North America) where people really don’t see any benefits from paying taxes. Accepting those exceptions doesn’t change a thing as I’m speaking in generalities. We as individuals benefit immeasurably from the social structures around us. With the dawn of enlightenment and the rise of concept of individualism, also came with a disconnection from more communal thinking. So while many benefits arose from that way of thinking (and we still get many benefits) it makes people more willing to think that they are “self made” and have not real conception of the benefits wright from a stable society as they are just assumed. The costs forgotten.
Yet the benefits wrought by a stable society cost a lot of resources and time. Though that cost is nothing compared to if every person had to handle themselves.
For example lets look at roads. Could you imagine a world where every person had to look over their own section of road? Could you imagine every single person having to organize and pay for the little section of road in font of their home to be paved? Assuming everyone on your street were willing to pave theirs? You’d still probably end up with a patch work of roads of various qualities and outside your immediate area you might lack plausible routes, and whole sections of road decay as no one maintains it. And there might be road taxes where people set up tolls to make their money for the roads directly from commuters. Now, of course market effects can take place, and some people will die out and others will succeed, but monopolies, and the resulting extortion, would run rampant and different groups would be able to control great swaths of road, allowing them to charge whatever they like for the use of their roads.
Now imagine that for every utility, water, gas, electricity, you could have any of it or you’d end up getting it from some Baron who has massive control over your area. Sure, you might collectivize to control your own local resources, but then you’re back to having a government. Sure it’s a small government, but you’re probably subsisting whomever runs the community’s organizational effort. You can’t escape the sort of efficiencies you get from controlling and organizing large amounts of resources from the single governing body, and, given human history, that generally means you either have some sort of democracy of changing leaders, or some kind of totalitarian government run by a single person and their immediate power base or some kind of council.
What’s the point of all this rambling? One way or another, unless you go live out in the mountains completely off the grid, you’re going to have to give up some of your resources back to the community you live in. That isn’t a bad thing, that’s the responsible thing to do. Most of you reading this will also lie in democratic countries with something like freedom of speech and the ability to have your voice heard. So if you don’t like something that’s being done in your local government, or you don’t think tax money is being used correctly, well, you’ll need to do something about it. Make some phone calls, and send some letters. Talk with some other people and convince them to do the same. The answer will never really be as simple a raising or lowering taxes, and getting rid of taxes is utterly impossible without dissolving society as we know it.
So next time you hear someone talk about how they don’t like paying taxes or complain about how their tax dollars don’t work exclusively for them, remind them they are not the center of the universe. Remind them that society is not made just for them. Remind them that they gain far more in benefits then they are forced to pay back (thankfully we are not playing a 0 sum game here). So if they don’t like taxes, they would go live out in the wilderness where the fruits of there labour can be hoarded without the “threat” of taxation.
Taxes are not Satan. Although, unlike Satan, taxes do exist.
March 29th, 2015 at 3:14 pm
Just one thought. You mention that giving to your community is the responsible thing to do. But is it possible that taxes have created a philosophy where that responsibility is diminished? Have required taxes taken the place of personal responsibility, at least to some degree?
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March 29th, 2015 at 5:38 pm
I don’t think one could make a good universal statement either way. That said. Possibly? Though I suspect it has more to do with how our communities are layed out and how we lack connaction with our neibours and communities at large due to the way people move around and the expectation or lack of them when we enter a new community. It’s very easy to forget you live in a community when you don’t interact with them very often.
March 26th, 2015 at 5:16 am
March 26th, 2015 at 2:54 am
if im hungry, it’s more efficient for me to buy a pizza with friends than a slice for myself. when it comes to services we all definitely need (healthcare, education, protection under law), there can be no question that the only reasonable method is to have them publicly funded. rather than demonizing the public sphere and destroying it, only to start the cycle again later out of dutiful moral epiphany, we should just improve of public services if they’re so inept instead. make them more efficient, but don’t reduce what they provide, or allow them to provide anything that isn’t truly of common use
March 26th, 2015 at 11:08 am
“…allow them to provide anything that isn’t truly of common use”
Now that is an excellent thing to add. Though our whole comment was a nice synopsis.
Thanks for stopping by :).
March 26th, 2015 at 1:33 am
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