A TAXING SUBJECT

Some say taxes are our civic responsibility. Some say it’s institutionalized theft. Both are right.

Our obligation to the governments extends to the limits of the services they provide to us. This includes public defense (military, police, intelligence), infrastructure development and maintenance (roads, bridges), security (borders, passports and the like) and safety (regulating air, water, food production, etc.). You may be able to find a few other niches  such as education (which I believe should be at the lower levels of government), but the idea is to pay for what public services are needed for the public welfare and a reasonably ordered existence.

More recently in our history, the governments have increasingly taken on the responsibility of providing for those least able to help themselves, on the surface a laudable goal. In the past, this was termed charity, and the institutions that provided it were, from the bottom up, family and friends, secular and religious community organizations, and local, county/state and federal governments. With the greater institutionalization of charity, it began to move further and further away from the recipient and, I posit, becomes less and less “charity” at all. Charity, by definition, comes from the heart, not at the end of a shotgun barrel.

The liberal view, which hinges on the tenets of larger government and more structured “giving” (necessarily requiring “taking”) implies a belief that, of their own volition, people would not provide enough for the needy. One might conclude that, therefore, the progressive ideology is linked to a more pessimistic assessment to human nature, but that is beyond the scope of the present discussion. More pertinent is one of the fundamental differences between conservatives and progressives: where the line is drawn. In other words, determining the definitions of “enough” and “needy.”

So where should the safety net be placed? Those on the left like to characterize the right’s reluctance to redistribute wealth with callousness, minimizing the well-documented unintended consequences of overdoing welfare that has historically caused empires to implode. They cite the maldistribution of wealth inherent in a capitalist economy, emphasizing the widely publicized malfeasance and distortion of the free market by private entities that will always be present, to bolter their arguments. Corruption of the system by the government through crony capitalism often gets less play on both sides of the divide.

The bottom line, for me, is that the further you stray from the social structure closest to those in need, the greater the risk of corruption and incompetence and funds being disbursed inappropriately. And the larger the group we define as needy, the more we rob the population of the incentive to produce and the incentive to give.

The next time congress convenes to legislate the newest tax hike it behooves them to remember one fundamental imperative:  Taxing hardens the heart; charity enriches it.

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