Yesterday I rounded out the series on tax by applying the Golden Rule to the concept. Were this to be a universally shared outlook, then most people would be wishing no tax on anybody, and the multitudes of taxes that we have would be substantially reduced.
The issue then becomes all the things that tax money goes towards.
Imagine there’s a bunch of people with cups of water of different sizes, and imagine there’s a reasonably large bowl. Everyone must pour some of their water into the bowl. If the people get their water from an external source, then the bowl will fill up. If some start getting their water from the bowl, it doesn’t matter if they pour a bit of water back in like everyone else, the others will have to pour more water to sustain the water level in the bowl. The more people get their water for the bowl, the less sustainable it gets.
It is this way with taxes. It’s kind of a deception, a shell game, for teachers and administrators in government schools, for politicians, for police, and so on, to pay tax. They’re paid by tax. The money comes from those outside that system.
There was a poem of sorts that I read in History class, when we were learning about the New Deal. It was describing this concept, though I didn’t get it at the time.
It enumerated the population of the US, then gradually subtracted different tax-funded groups. Those on welfare, teachers, police, Congress, those working for government agencies, those on the New Deal, those in prison, and so on. After each subtraction, “Which leaves to do the work:” (smaller number). Then the next set of people was listed.
The poem ended something along these lines:
“Which leaves to do the work:
2. Me and the President. And he’s gone fishing.”
Of course this was an exaggeration. But I can understand feeling like that. One might think that it doesn’t make a lot of difference whether Joe Public pays for a business or service through direct transaction or through taxation, after all, he’s paying for it either way, right? The thing is, a business must walk a fine line between the various costs to provide whatever it provides, profit, and whether Joe Public thinks it’s worth that price. Under the government, there is less incentive for efficiency (if you don’t spend all your budget, you won’t get as much next year when you might need it), accountability, customer service, or value for money. We’ll get into that in more specifics, later.
If fewer people get their water from the bowl of taxation, the less water will need to be taken from those getting their water from elsewhere. The moral thing to do, then, would be to reduce the number of people taking from the tax bowl.
“Does government really need to be doing that?” is a question that we really need to consider.