EspañolThere is a general frenzy going on among governments that want to raise taxes. In Latin American countries specifically, the pretext for this is the maintenance of “welfare states” but the real rationale has to do with covering up the colossal fiscal deficit caused by excessive public spending.
The leaders at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are erecting a sort of “Big Brother” to control and examine every last cent each resident has. It truly seems as if they are trying to recreate the world described by George Orwell in “1984,” in which the Big Brother of the tax court encompasses the entire world, extending its tentacles into every nook and cranny.
That’s a world of nightmares — a place where individuals live as if in a fishbowl, under constant bureaucratic and political surveillance by an omnipotent power. A place, also, in which there is no where to hide, or the economic means to do so.
This situation, in which the blunt force of “law” is used to pursue people as if they are criminals just for evading taxes, should encourage us to analyze the issue in more depth. It is a topic that spans the moral spectrum politically, economically and legally.
Originally, the relationship between the voter and legislator emerged from a cry for “no taxation without representation.” Today, said connection has been distorted. Representatives in government, especially those who have to be voted in, focus on the needs of their constituents only until they actually win the office. Then it’s back to furthering their own interests.
What has led to this trend — one that only looks to be worsening with time? Why do leaders believe in the “right” to impose taxes with seemingly exponential abundance?
It would even seem that there are some “magic phrases” that justify this looting — “take from the rich and give to the poor,” for example.
But is that moral? Is it fair? Does it correspond with the law as we understand it? Is the money raised from taxes really going to the most needy?
This situation really started to be challenged with Greek humanist thought around the fifth century, B.C.
Distinguished philosophers noted the importance of the polis being well-governed, as that approach would ensure everyone benefitted fairly. Those philosophers highlighted the intimate connections that exist between morals and politics. A good government is one that is prudent and practical.
The Roman jurists Ulpiano said, “justice is the constant and perpetual will to give everyone their rights.” The moral, legal and political norm is “live honestly, do not harm anyone and give everyone what they deserve.”
Centuries later, Great Britain became successful in part because its governing leaders were subject to the same laws as regular citizens — meaning the law was not divided into two branches (administrative and civil). Rather, everyone was judged by the same standard.
All of these ideas are based in “Natural Law,” which are unwritten rules arguing that there are certain laws that inherent to every person. Property, life and liberty, are some common examples.
Even if you want to deny its existence, Natural Law manifests itself with force.
Everyone knows that it is unfair, unwise and immoral for Uruguayan lawmakers to consider a tax hike despite the country already having one of the highest tax rates in all of Latin America. At the same time, several members of the government traveled to Africa on public money. Taxpayers suffer through direct, indirect and covert tax increases because of trips like these.
As John Locke pointed out, if the people agree to submit to the power of the state it will only be in order to ensure their life, liberty and the protection of property. If we are largely guided by Natural Law, taxes should cover the costs of those expensive goals. Anything that exceeds that function is breaking the social contract.
Without Natural Law, the lower class becomes dependent on the state, and can never rise out of its poverty. The most serous problem is that money is freedom. If we lose our financial security and economic autonomy, all of our other liberties will become nothing more than an illusion. Those who control our means of sustenance simultaneously control every aspect of our lives.
If you don’t believe it, just ask Venezuela or Cuba.