Friday, February 01, 2008

Why I don't mind paying taxes

I've seen way too many people sneering at John Edwards, a poor boy who became a rich man, because he talked about caring for the poor and taxing the wealthy so that it no longer pays for the wealthy to loot companies and leave smoking ruins behind (see: Countrywide Mortgage). Most of these folks identify themselves as "Libertarian". Well, since we’re getting all “libertarian” here, I’ll just point out that in the fictional Libertopia that some of these folks talk about, you’d have nothing. The people who are most vicious, who have the least compunctions about killing, would own everything you have. I’ve seen it happen in nation after nation — Somalia, Afghanistan, the various Trashcanistans in central Asia, hell, in the 4th Ward of Houston back when I was teaching school there — and that’s how it always works out. No government means rule by the most vicious. Government is a necessity because government is how We the People join together in the common defense (it’s right there in the preamble of the Constitution, if you bother to read it) to keep these goons in their proper place (i.e., either in our employ as our enforcers, or in prison). Now, I believe in government being in its place -- limited to what We the People need, not trying to step in where it isn't wanted or needed -- but government itself is one of those things that just has to be if you want civil society rather than law of the jungle.

Regarding taxes to support that government, here’s my deal on all this: Folks who make a lot of money (like me, BTW — I ain’t a millionaire, but let's put it this way, I can get rid of a 7 month old laptop computer to buy the latest and greatest one without a second thought, and pay for the new computer with cash without too much thinking about it) benefit the most from civil society, whereas the gang bangers I once taught back in my days as a poor high school teacher benefit least from a civil society. If a homeless man's lean-to in the woods burns down, he loses everything he has but a few trips to his local charities to pick up used clothing and bedding and such and he’s back where he started. My house burns down, I lose tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff as well as a three-quarter-million-dollar home. So it’s only fair that I pay more towards maintaining civil society — the roads, cops, fire departments, schools, etc. needed to keep society functioning in a smooth and efficient manner. Making sure that the general population is too occupied and well-entertained and too engaged in working hard and getting ahead to get the torches and pitchforks out and burn down my expensive home with me in it is a Good Thing, it’s either that or hire lots of them with guns and kill the rest and frankly that usually doesn’t turn out well (not the least because some of these poor people, if we give’em education and such, can turn out to be productive members of society that I can get a lot of work out of in the end — I know this ’cause I was one of them forty years ago).

So even though I’m in the 33% tax bracket, paying the taxes to maintain civil society doesn’t bother me one bit. I’ve lived the law of the jungle, I’ve seen it close up down the barrel of a gun on the wrong end of it and the right end of it both, and it simply is incompatible with the values needed for a productive society. But that’s where the “screw the poor” mentality gets you — law of the jungle, Mexico North, a dangerous place where people get kidnapped off the streets in plain daylight by armed gangs and held hostage, where the only people who are safe are the small number of oligarchs who huddle behind their glass-and-razorwire-topped walls with their dozens of armed guards when they’re not swooping through the streets in heavily armored limos, Mexico North. If you want the U.S. to be Mexico North, why don’t you just move to Mexico? Their taxes are half those of the United States, so surely it’s a paradise, right?

But then, that’s me living in the real world again, rather than in some fictional la-la land that exists only between the pages of bad science fiction novels (and yes, I read all those bad science fiction novels myself when I was a young man, but see, here’s the thing — *I GREW UP*). The notion that maintaining a civil society that protects my wealth requires that I spend some money caring about people other than myself to make sure they have an opportunity to get ahead too is heresy in fictional la-la land, but in the real world, if you forget this fact… Mexico North. Hope you end up on the right side of those razorwire-topped walls, or that you’re one vicious SOB who can get in good with a drug gang, if that’s your vision.

- Badtux the Been-there Penguin


  1. dead on stuff tux. the folks who spout about freedom of the marketplace always seem to forget the parts in adam smith where he talked about "enlightened self-interest" in favor of bald self interest. if you want to see the full fruit of the neo-con's economic policies look no further than bagdhad. a central government, with no power, no authority, no tax base, and no legitimacy athwart a riddled, corruption rife looter's paradise. it is a glaring, festering open sore repudiation of all their cherished ideas.

    and they still refuse to see or acknowledge what they have created.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more.

  3. oops, sorry minstrel boy, I posted my comment before I read your comment.


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