Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Being upset about taxation a luxury, and not just a luxury for the rich.

I've always been puzzled by the self satisfied anti-tax rhetoric in the U.S., where resisting taxes is looked upon as patriotism. For most of the industrialized world taxation is looked at as a necessity, a necessity ensuring that people don't die of starvation, live in the streets in mass numbers, have a decent standard of living, as well as good schools. Coincidentally, we in the U.S. who put on our virtual powdered wigs and invoke George Washington on taxes, even if we don't know a thing that Washington actually said or wrote, have lots of people who are "food insecure" and are only getting by because food stamps remains an "entitlement" program, meaning that if you're hungry and qualify you can get food; the homeless population is growing, people are being thrown out of their market financed homes, general standards of living are well below those of most European countries, and whether or not you get a decent education depends solely on whether you live in a rich community or not. And food stamps are always under attack by Republicans. The fact is that taxation is needed for collective survival and it always has been.

Take this example: a village council decides that the farmers who live there have to give a certain percentage of their grain crops for a common grain storehouse for use in emergencies. The chief and elders request it and it's done by the citizens. This is an example of taxation. Because of the tax on wheat, or corn, the village has something to fall back on during a particularly harsh winter or during a time with less crops than were forecast. Market fundamentalism, which is what anti-tax doctrine is, strips away all the possible protections for individuals when bad times hit, and then blames the victims for things that are out of their control.

But, forsooth, we need none of these Kingly and Popish devices.

3 comments:

Rad Geek said...

Well, I can speak only for myself, not for American political culture as a whole. But I oppose and hate taxes because taxes pay for the government. I'm an anarchist, so I oppose and hate the government. So I also oppose and hate the taxes that make it possible.

You mention that taxes pay for social welfare programs. Sure they do; they also pay for missiles to blow up houses in Pakistan and for bombs to murder Iraqi children with. You might say that what you'd like to do is to pay in for the welfare and not pay in for the warfare. I'm sure you would; so would I. But if you got to pick and choose which projects your money went to, that would be a fine thing, but it wouldn't be taxes anymore, would it? If you get to choose where it goes, then it's voluntary mutual aid, and for that you need neither a government nor taxes, which necessarily entail that money is taken from people and put to purposes which the government, not those people, decide on.

Take this example: a village council decides that the farmers who live there have to give a certain percentage of their grain crops for a common grain storehouse for use in emergencies. The chief and elders request it and it's done by the citizens. This is an example of taxation.

No it's not. Tax collectors don't "request"; they threaten. If people voluntarily agree to support a common project, then you're not describing taxation anymore. You're describing donations.

Db0 said...

Rad Geek, lets make the example more accurate then. The Village council decides that the farmers must give a certain percentage of their crop for emergencies, you, as a true hardy individual refuse to participate. The village council decides that you do not have a choice in the matter. You must contribute.

This is taxes.

PS: One-time awareness link for blogspot users.

John Madziarczyk said...

Realistically, at some level there has to be some coercion, even in an anarchist society. If you have a series of town meetings on the local level, and people decide and consent to the idea that money has to be allocated to constructing or maintaining roads, then it has to be binding. If everyone picked and chose about everything that they contribute to it would invalidate democratically made communal decisions. For example, this month I decide to support health care, next month I decide that health care isn't important so I withhold money, next month I think health care is important again so I give money. If everyone did that there wouldn't be a functioning health care system since there would be no way to consistently budget and finance it.

Decisions after a certain point have to be implemented, and that that implementation doesn't make a state but instead reflects collective action and decision making.

Right now taxes go to a lot of very abhorrent things, from Iraq and Afghanistan, missiles, arms dealers, covert actions against countries, but I think that there's room for reform and that if people flexed their muscles through the representative system that they could decrease some of the activities like these that tax dollars are used for.

That said, I don't believe that a state that has more rational tax allocation is the end point for social transformation by any means, but other countries have used popular pressure to increase their standard of living by this way. My thought is that we should pursue avenues that improve life for people, even if they seem to reinforce one of the things we're fighting against.