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Monday, April 02, 2007

Why is it so taxing?

Category: Issue 9

If we want an organized, centralized system to educate the children around us, there are two basic strategies for covering the cost.  One strategy is to collect money from those who are willing to spend it on the education of the children.  If the funds from the willing are not enough, we tell everyone that it isn’t enough and we ask for more, or we shrink the centralized system.  If we are successful, the children get educated.  Even if we fail, then some children will still get some education.

In the second case, we collect money even from those who are unwilling to spend it on the education of the children.  This increases the cost of the education because we now have to spend some money on collection from the unwilling.  Essentially, this boils down to hiring people who will force the unwilling to pay up.  How exactly would they do that?  It’s difficult to imagine what means might be both decent and effective in such an endeavor.  Of course it’s a good idea to demonstrate and explain why better education for the kids will make things better all around, but this strategy isn’t about that.  In this second strategy, we are replacing that education with brute force, at least sometimes.

If we can’t convince you to give us the money, we will take it by force.  In addition, some form of public agreement has been reached that makes it OK to collect this money by force.  Some educational money is used to pay government agents to use force to collect money from those who didn’t want to pay for the education in the first place.  Whatever amount of money these agents can collect through coercion must at least cover their salaries, and then the leftover (if there is any) can be used to educate those children whose parents,  friends, family, and neighbors cannot or will not pay for education.  Obviously, this group of people unwilling to help will be larger under this strategy simply because the education has become “free”.

The money taken by force in this way will not be spent by those who earned it.  Perhaps they won’t buy that big screen TV or those season tickets to hockey games, or they won’t help someone they know pay for school.  Since the choice between buying education for kids and buying TVs and hockey tickets is no longer available to those with too little money for it, it remains unmade and hidden.  While this may be a benefit to the worst of us, it is a detriment to the best of us.  Some of the people willing to spend some of their money on educating kids will not be able to do so because they won’t have that money.  There seems to be a general feeling that we are all much more like the worst of us than we are like the best of us.  I can’t help but think that this is a result of taxation preventing us from making the choices that would contradict (and educate!) this feeling.  In addition to not having that money ourselves, we also don’t have the opportunity to build a school where there isn’t one - because the money taken from us has already been used to build one.

The politicians end up getting credit for something we would have done.  It is our own fault because we condone their use of force to take the money away from us, and when they spend it, we act as if they earned it.  They take it by force, and then they get the credit when it is put to good use, and when it is used poorly, we get the blame.  That’s what makes it so taxing.

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