15 April 2011

15 April

I don't like taxes. Any of them. And I'm put off by people who are either ambivalent about them or think they are a good idea. A necessary evil, perhaps, but the operative word would be evil over necessary. I know government needs revenue in order to function, and though I admire and respect Murray Rothbard, I am not an anarchist. Anarchy may be a fine aspiration (mankind living harmoniously, with respect to human, civil and property rights without the need for government), but I don't think it realistic.

The establishment of government means that we all have to give up some liberty in exchange for order. But since some liberty must be sacrificed, and since liberty is something held dear, we should keep the amount we must sacrifice to the absolute minimum. And this requires keeping government to an absolute minimum. Which would keep the amount of revenue needed for the government to function as low as possible. Which would have the happy consequence of keeping taxes as low as possible.

People who say "I would gladly pay more in taxes" are, to put it mildly, idiots. That means that they quite obviously receive too much compensation for the work they do. Secondly, anyone who wishes to pay more in taxes can. Have your employer withhold the maximum amount from your pay and don't claim any deductions. And don't cash your refund check. It is obvious that anyone who would do these things is not a rational actor. And I don't want irrational people telling me what to do with my money.

Then we have those who say the "rich" should pay their "fair share." I have said it before and I will say it again: the easiest thing in the world to do is to spend someone else's money. Milton Friedman devotes a chapter to this in his book Free to Choose (Chapter 4, From Cradle to Grave, please see the video that accompanies the chapter here). Not only is it easy to spend someone else's money, it is just as easy to waste someone else's money. And government, every single government that has ever existed, proves exceptionally good at this.

So when you couple this almost genetic compulsion to waste money, even when the task at hand is a legitimate function of government and works to the best interest of all participants with no negative externalities, with the propensity to spend more money than taken in, you have what is known as a problem. And folks, we got a big problem. And the problem has gotten as big as it is because government, and people's expectations of government, has become unchained from what its legitimate function is.

In his speech on Wednesday, 13 April 2011, President Obama pointed out that he doesn't care for the spending plan for the 2012 budget laid out by the Republicans because "their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America."


Social Security was started in 1935 and Medicare and Medicaid were started in 1965, 76 and 46 years respectively. The country is 235 years old and the constitution is 222 years old. I don't think a transfer program that is one-month younger than my step-father can be considered a more important social compact than the constitution of the United States.

Realizing that people not only are responsible for themselves, but actually can be responsible for themselves in an anathema to most politicians, because what then would the politician be good for if not taking from the many to give to the few in order to remain in office?

Another point. Obama also said in his speech: "Part of this American belief that we are all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. 'There but for the grace of God go I,' we say to ourselves, and so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security[.]" Pleasing rhetoric, no doubt, but utter nonsense.

No one I know "contributes" anything to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. It is taken from your pay by your employer and remitted to the government quarterly, along with the employer's matching "contribution" under penalty of law. Things tight this quarter? Need to pass on making that "contribution"? Guess what happens? You won't be discussing the virtues of government mandated compassion with the fellow with the pleasing rhetoric. You will be faced with fines and penalties and liens on any real estate you own. Decide to keep too much of your own money and you're looking at accommodations at some other federally run resorts.

We don't "give" to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid because we are compassionate towards our fellow citizens. We give to churches, the Red Cross, food pantries. We give our time and effort and money to others. That is charity. That is compassion. Because it is voluntary, it is not good, it is great. It is a very small step towards that Utopia of Anarchy. It is also something people have done since people have been around. It even precedes people. Evidence of altruistic behavior can be seen throughout the animal kingdom. But we "give" to these government entities, the ones that will spend the money foolishly while increasing the soul-deadening bureaucracy, because if we don't we will lose more money, lose our homes, go to jail or all three.

These programs throw the government-liberty balance completely out of whack.

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