Death and Taxes Redux (4/13/2011)

Attending funerals I reflect on death, and although inevitable we deny our mortality one statement that intrigues me is the saying, “Only two things are known; death and taxes.” I know with certainty I will die and everyone around me will die, someday. Of course cause of death cannot be predicted but risks associated with death can be minimized and each of us tries to live with a goal of prolonging life and we fight death with all of our might but cannot stop its inevitability. Taxes, however, are not an absolute, but we evolved to accept taxes part of our being, just like death. Instead of continually working toward ending this other ‘absolute’ in our lives our society seems willing to perpetuate this self-destructive mechanism upon ourselves.

Taking a step back, maybe a better word for tax would be “privilege payment”. We pay for the privilege of living in a civilized society, and this argument could be made throughout human history. Most of us are willing to contribute a nominal amount of our individual efforts to support the purported common good of the society in which we live. I accept there is a cost to civilization as I expect infrastructure for safe water, sewage disposal, defense, and transportation.

Regardless of the specifics of the individual line items that we agree to tax ourselves for, we should constantly examine the necessity. I choose to minimize the risks I take in my daily life, exercise, eat well and therefore am hopefully prolonging my life and cheating death. I argue that we no longer do the same regarding taxes and instead readily acquiesce to taxing our individual efforts and allowing the state to control and disburse them. I assert we have voluntarily enslaved ourselves to an entity that we may not be able to escape.

Death is inevitable; the process of self-destruction through taxation is not. Taxes are acceptable when presented with a true cost and benefit analysis, a clear exit strategy from the tax, and a method to provide for checks and balances against a tax. If you were taking an inventory of your personal health in an effort to ensure you were prolonging your life you would question every risk, every activity, and eliminate those that are harming you. This same analysis must be performed frequently and regularly regarding taxes. We must question every dollar that is spent and be willing to take tough measures to eliminate waste, just as you would do personally.