There is a big debate going on about taxes. The two presidential candidates seem intent on talking about it. Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama have very different views on the matter, and the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the Health Care Mandate under Congress's taxing power as well as the pending expiration of the so-called "Bush Tax Cuts" have only added to the debate.
There is a view held by some in our country that taxes are a bad thing. We can talk about fees and penalties, but don't talk about taxes. But, while we may not enjoy paying taxes, what are we willing to give up so we can pay less in taxes?
- Do you like having a strong military? What about police and fire?
- How about roads and bridges? Much of our American infrastructure is not 40-80 years old.
- Do you like going to National Parks? Do you think it's a good thing to protect and make available places like Antietam?
- What about Social Security and Medicare? Ah, you earned those benefits -- well, maybe. Most Americans live past the point at which what they paid in are paid back. Thus, a large number of our elderly are essentially on "welfare."
- What about culture -- do you realize than many of our cultural sites and events are provided by the government? You know, like libraries and the lot.
- Or what about education? Do we really want to live in a nation that is uneducated? (Remember that moment in Dickens's A Christmas Carol where the Ghost of Christmas warns us about what will happen if we don't care for the two children -- Ignorance and Want?)
- I suggest more possibilities, but you get the picture
The title of this post -- "Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society" -- is from a speech made by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Holmes was the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court when he made that statement. Earlier in life he survived the Battle of Antietam. This statement is found above the entrance to the IRS building in Washington DC, which I walked past earlier this week during my time in Washington..
Whether or not we enjoy paying taxes, they appear to be a necessity if we want to have a civilized society. Government can become too big and overbearing but a government can become too small to be functional. Trying to "restore" the original vision of small government offered by Jefferson might not be possible. Hamilton's Federalism is likely more appropriate in an age when people are extremely mobile and the needs of the nation are greater. In the 1780s the US was a small, newly independent, and rather insignificant nation. That is no longer true! Well, that is unless the anti-government folks get their way and we begin to slide toward Third World status.