Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Fair game

Blogger extraordinaire Dan at Gone Mild published a biting criticism of efforts to do away with the death tax.

In it, he gave an explanation about the inevitability of taxation. I'm here to agree with him, but I'll put a little more bluntly.

Taxes suck.

Yes, we all (well, okay, not all, actually an increasingly small number of us) have to pony up for the privilege of living in the best country on the planet.

It falls upon us to finance smooth roads (in Kansas that is, not Missouri), sewer systems and drinking water as well as the bloated, inefficient government and cable TV and telephones for the poor.

I get it. Taxes are a fact of life. And, as I said, I agree with Dan. They suck.

Where I disagree with Dan is this notion that our current system of taxation is fair. I've thought about it, and I can't really think of a way to make a fair tax system unless we institute some kind of voluntary mass user fee system.

But as Dan would say, even thinking about something so radical is for the simple minded. And, in fact, I've come to grips with taxation not being fair. After all, life isn't fair. Never has been never will be, so you'd better just get used to it.

Regarding the death tax specifically, Dan says
"I don't think that the joy of inheritance suffers unduly when the amount over $4,000,000 is subjected to a tax burden. My heart does not bleed for the rich kids who get only $4,000,000."
Very nice to be so cavalier with other peoples' money. We might not like was "rich" people do with their money, but it's still their money. Whatever happened to property rights?

I guess what vexes me most about the whole discussion is the self deception and sense of entitlement. We all know that it's not fair for the government to take from someone the result of their life's work and give it to someone else. We all know that it's not fair for me to get paid for 56 hours of work even though I worked 80 hours.

Why not a little honesty? Why not just say "Yeah, we know it's not fair, but you have money and other people need it, so we're going to take it from you and spend it on something else. Sorry mate."

tagged: , , , ,


  1. When you're dead, it's not as if you were going to use the money, right?

    What right do your children have to the money, exactly? Estate taxes allow you to provide for your children to a reasonable extent, but not pass down entire fortunes. If you earn it, you have the right to spend it. Your children didn't earn it.

    And as for property rights, I think we can both agree that they are not unlimited. There are limits to what you can spend your money on. For instance, I would say that the government would be within its rights to keep you from sending your money to Al-Qaida. In a less extreme example, I would say the government has a right to stop you from buying a human being.

    The rationale of estate taxes is that it encourages each generation to create their own wealth. There are reasons there is no aristocracy in the US - estate taxes are one.

    But I'll agree with you on one point. Taxes do suck. And on another - they're rarely "fair", although good legislators on both sides of the aisle try to do the right thing. It's just hard to balance the needs of 300 million separate people.

  2. "What right do your children have to the money, exactly?"

    Well, the same right that anyone has who has recieved anything from anybody. If I have something, don't I have a right to decided who I give it too?

    As for your examples of Al-Qaida and buying human beings, those circumstances are covered by other statutes, not property rights limits.

    The rationale you mentioned is exactly that, a rationale. A way of sugar coating what is really going on. My point is, why sugar coat it at all. We all have accepted what we're doing, now we're just trying to make ourselves feel good about it.

    Thanks for the comment, by the way. Great discussion.

  3. I've got no problem with saying that it sucks to have to pay for government services. It would be great if money grew on trees, and Republicans could go to war anywhere they want without having to pay for it. It would be great if pigs flew, if they wore diapers.

    Yes, the government is going to take money from you so that it can run. I won't sugar coat it. And I don't think the system is perfect, or that it is always fair.

    But, yeah, I think the Spoiled Child Tax (my preferred name for what you call, much less accurately, the "Death Tax") is as fair as they come.

  4. "We all know that it's not fair for me to get paid for 56 hours of work even though I worked 80 hours."

    I disagree. (Surprise, surprise!)

    I'm no fan of government or taxation. The less of each, the better.

    But I was taught that it was our American Way Of Life that allowed these rich bastards to accumulate all of that wealth and that it was their Patriotic Duty to pay those taxes (IN FULL, without complaint) in appreciation for their affluent lifestyle.

    You would think the greedy assholes would be a bit more grateful.

    Let 'em go and try to accumulate that much wealth in North Korea.

    Stingy fucks!

  5. Dan, I actually have no problem paying for govt. services, especially the ones I use. But I do have a problem with paying for items that aren't government services. But as I said, I recognize the inevitability of all of that.

    I also agree with you that the death tax is "as fair as they come," in that it's not fair at all, like most tax schemes, which was one of my points.

    But mainly I'm frustrated with the notion that people still think taxation is about paying for government. That may have been true at one time, but now taxation is more about redistribution of wealth.


Your turn to riff...