Saturday, February 25, 2012

The No-Tax Men Part 1: Cooperation

Imagine there are three people on a desert island and you are one of them, along with Joe and Bubba.

Bubba is pretty good sized and, being bigger than you and also bigger than Joe he decides to lay claim to the only coconut tree. But that doesn't mean he climbs it to get coconuts; instead, he alternately forces you and Joe to climb the tree and get coconuts—none of which he will allow you to eat. Because the coconuts are his.

What do you do about this?

The answer that most human individuals arrive at in a case like this is called "cooperation": You and Joe make an alliance, in which both of you agree to cooperate in forcing Bubba to share.

Now, you and Joe are nice people: You share the coconut tree—the coconuts—equally with Bubba. You're not starving him; but he can no longer have the coconut tree to himself.

Bubba's freedom has suffered. Bubba is oppressed; well, according to him, anyway. Bubba says, "Fine. I'll share the tree, but I won't climb it to get coconuts anymore. You guys have to do all of that."

Let's say that there's another desert island quite close by: It is smaller, but easily reached by wading (not swimming). It has its own coconut tree. For some reason, you and Joe aren't particularly interested in going to that island.

But Bubba could go there easily, and have that tree to himself, and he wouldn't have to be oppressed by you and Joe any longer. Of course, if he were there, he would have to climb his own tree and get his own coconuts. Instead, he sits on the beach on the island with you and Joe, watching you and Joe get coconuts for him; and complaining endlessly about how oppressed he is.

How do you feel about that? Should Bubba be allowed to stay on your island and freeload? Or should you make him go to the other island?

No Tax Men

This how many U. S. citizens currently feel about taxes. They want to be on our island, and they want all the benefits thereof, but they don't want to pay taxes; and they complain endlessly about how oppressed they are because they have to pay taxes. We'll call them the "No Tax Men".

They could leave. No one makes them be citizens of the United States.

Instead, they prefer to be here in the good ol' US-of-A, and just not pay taxes. Because taxes are bad.

Society and Cooperation

Really this comes down to a matter of "society", which is a shorthand way of saying, "how we all live together"—how we all cooperate. We have created what we have (in the past) called the "great society".

The problem is that, being a member of the "great society" requires sacrifices. You get drafted to fight wars, you have to pay taxes, and (unfortunately) you inevitably have to give up freedoms. This is the price you pay for being a member of the society.

Now, our society is interesting, because one of the freedoms that is agreed upon—possibly our most immutable freedom—is this:

No one has to be part of the society.

The No Tax Men could leave. Go to a desert island somewhere, where there is no one to charge taxes. Keep the whole coconut tree for themselves. Rip off anyone they can who is smaller than they are. Drill holes in the island and sink it, if they want; or cut the only coconut tree down.

Instead, they prefer to stay here; and argue about how unfair the "great society" is to them because it makes them sacrifice. Because it takes away some of their freedom. Because they might have to go give up their life to fight a war. Because they have to pay taxes.

Take the article Pay Up or Die, by Laurence M. Vance. (He is responding to someone "on the other side", who listed 102 Things NOT To Do If You Hate Taxes.) If you read through his list, there is a theme: He won't pay a dime for anything that he feels is something that citizens can do for themselves. Uniformly, his response every one of the 102 boils down to, "It's not the job of government." Because, of course, if it is government's job to do any of these, then he has to pay taxes.

I particularly like his response to #23, because it is so fitting for so many people on this side of the tax argument: He says he won't use the judiciary. But if you make a contract with him, and he should happen to feel that you've breached it, I can "guar-on-tee" that he will be asking the court to force you to follow through. Forgot about that, probably, didn't he?

Oh, and then there's #42: "Most government contracts should be eliminated." No doubt, of course, excepting the ones where the government pays Mr. Vance's company.

You can read through them; I'll let it go at that. In summary, what he's really saying is, "If I have to pay taxes, then government is doing something it shouldn't be doing."

Yet this society has organized itself around citizen cooperation. Of course some citizens, like Mr. Vance, have to be forced to cooperate. Because, given his free choice, Mr. Vance would cut down our coconut tree, and sink our island; be free to rip us off at will; and never, ever, give anything back. He won't go to the other island because, "The coconuts are better here", but he doesn't want to do his share of what has to be done to maintain this island.

The No Tax Men are uncooperative freeloaders; nothing but.

Continued in part 2.

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