Taxes: One of the most debated topics of every modern election; some say we should lower taxes, some say we should raise them. Some people say we need to raise or lower them for specific groups of people, some say taxation is theft, and others support up to a 70% tax. Why is there so much disagreement about taxes and how come there doesn’t seem to be a straight answer about what to do with them? Here I’m going to explore some of the main points of confusion with taxes, what the purpose of them is, some of the main points of contention with them, and try to create some clarity about how we should move forward regarding taxes.
Points of Confusion
With all of these different messages and opinions about taxes flying around it’s no surprise there is so much confusion surrounding them. I am under the belief that most points of contention with taxes come from snap judgements about whether taxes are “good” or “bad” and this is usually because of a lack of information and understanding of the topic. I do, however, believe there are some points of contention that are completely valid and not easily solved which is why I want to address seeming misunderstandings of the topic first so we can see clearly what valid points are left when we get there. The largest and most important point of confusion is what the point of taxes are in the first place.
In the meme I placed at the beginning of this article a casual tweet from user prodbysyndrome reads, “taxes are essentially just a yearly subscription to the country you live in”. While hilariously put, this is essentially the boiled down definition of taxes for multiple reasons. First, yes, you do need to pay your taxes to continue your “subscription”, or, unbothered residency but a deeper fact lies here: You are essentially paying a business, the government, which is in the business of running a country to be the best for its citizens, to keep running and providing you your subscription. Now, most people know that our taxes go towards running the country but what this means exactly isn’t as well-known. In a perfect country all of our taxes would go towards things that make our lives easier, better, and reduce our suffering. The argument most people have at this point is that they can take care of themselves and that paying into a system that will offer them help they don’t need doesn’t do them any good. In other words, the largest argument against taxes when people know what they are is that they don’t want what’s theirs and what they’ve earned being taken when it’s not helping them in any way. This leads me to the second point.
When you live in a society you are constantly benefitting from it whether it be the ease of going to a grocery store to get what you need, using public roads, or using electricity coming from power plants. Whether these things you get to enjoy are coming directly from the government or from a private business you wouldn’t be able to obtain or use these things without the structure of a government in place which has built the infrastructure that everything is based on. So when people complain about having to pay taxes into a system that doesn’t benefit them they are simply not realizing how much they have already and are currently benefiting from the system being in place. Additionally, because you are living in a society with others who contribute not only are you helping pay for what benefits you but others are helping with that as well and visa-versa. This is why I think the idea of taxing wealthier people more makes sense, they have chosen to live here, have benefited greatly from the existence of this society, and now need to help their neighbors how they can by paying back part of what they’ve benefitted. When you live in a society you are agreeing, knowingly or not, to support that society meaning yourself and your neighbors how you can. Now considering this and knowing taxes are essentially a yearly subscription shows you a clearer picture of what taxes are: A retrospective payment to continue supporting and enjoying what the country has to offer.
Now that we’ve cleared up the necessity of taxes, what they are, and why we pay them, let’s look at some remaining points of contention with taxes.
Points of Contention
The first point of contention I want to talk about is a purely ideological one. Some people, even knowing everything discussed above, stand strong in the idea that they have an unwavering 100% claim to everything they have and have earned. This is one of the loudest arguments against taxes, especially in the USA, a country born partly from getting away from excessive taxation and that emphasizes our right to property and personal gain from hard work. When it comes to convincing individuals about the purpose of taxes this will be one of the most difficult things to argue against. Not because the claim has unbeatable merit but because people hold their ideological beliefs closer than any other opinions. This difficulty aside, however, the argument against this lies in something already mentioned: By living in this society you are already benefiting from it and have agreed to help keep those benefits rolling for yourself and your neighbor. While this counterclaim should be effective in most cases, there is still one claim a lot of people can make in defense of their original position.
For people who are born within a society and weren’t born into the means to leave they have not agreed by any sense of the word to enjoy the benefits of the society they are living in. This creates one of the largest, if not the largest unsolved issue with taxes. Are these people still getting the benefits? Yes, which means by the understanding of a retrospective subscription payment they would still be obligated to pay into the “service”. However, because they do not have the perception of a choice in the matter these people are immediately bitter towards the idea of having to do something which is completely valid and a natural reaction. One solution to this problem is a UBI. Meaning when citizens hit the age of 18 the are able to save and leave if they’d like but it can also act as an extra incentive for people to make the choice to stay.
Earlier I stated “In a perfect country all of our taxes would go towards things that make our lives easier, better, and reduce our suffering.” but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect country. The next point of contention I want to go over is people’s disagreement with how the government is using their tax money. The U.S. has a very good example of this with the military budget. About half of the country entirely disagrees with how much money is spent on the U.S. “defense” budget. These disagreements could come from ideological standpoints, in this example being against war, or they could come from the feeling that what it’s being spent on isn’t benefiting them individually. In this example, some people would say the money being spent on certain military operations aren’t benefiting us because they’re just in the interest of certain politicians or big money interests and, further, certain portions of the military budget are hidden from the public which could be a whole other point of contention with being taxed; not knowing where the money is going so we can’t even decide if we support it or not. In regards to the main reasoning here though, while a strong argument that doesn’t really have a counter, some of the money we pay in is still benefiting us so we still have incentive to pay taxes even with this point however this may be enough to encourage people to want to leave bringing up the problem of not having a choice again for some.
These points of contention are obviously very complicated but one thing is for sure, we need to be working towards solutions. The government should, for no reason, be hiding what some of the money we pay into this society is going towards. Additionally, in a country that offers so much freedom and choice, everyone should have the choice of whether they want to be here or not. Taxation in its purest form is not theft but an agreement to live in a society to increase the benefits for everyone involved. Unfortunately, however, in our current system some situations can really seem life theft. The solution isn’t to stop taxing though for taxation is the best way for a necessary government to earn revenue, it’s to listen to the people and to figure out ways to alleviate the concerns of our citizens so we can achieve the goal of taxes in the first place: to make the lives of everyone involved better.