The Perverse Moral Standard of Tax-Funded Charity
EspañolImagine this scenario:
You arrive home after a hard day’s work, sit down, get off your feet a little while — and then you hear a knock at the door. It’s a stranger, claiming to be your neighbor. Before you can say hello, he asks for what you owe him.
You look at him blankly for a second, confused. “I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” you say. So he responds on clearer terms, asking for his share of your income.
At which point you start to wonder, “should I call the police? Is this guy robbing me?” until he threatens to make the call himself if you don’t hand over what he’s asking for.
You ask what right he has to your things. And he responds thus:
“I have five children to feed. My sister, who was not so lucky, had to go through an assisted fertilization treatment to get pregnant. My brother who is a scientist wants to investigate the evolution of the South American monkey and his three year old son needs an education. We have to make ends meet but don’t have the resources. So I have some right to your help, don’t you think?”
Maybe you close the door in his face, and continue on with your life. But maybe you don’t. The important question is this: why do we consider this request crazy coming from our neighbor, when it seems so logical coming from an intermediary, like the government?
The word “government” or “law” seems to get twisted up in people’s brains, as if it magically transforms all immorality and injustice into something completely decent and justified.
In reality, the above story has this ending: the neighbor comes into your house and takes what he considers his and before leaving, pats you on the back, telling you to feel proud for having done your duty.
When the government is injected into this situation, no one think of this as theft. But the essence of the act is exactly that. We have to stop letting what is “legal” and “illegal” cloud our judgements, and instead consider what is moral.
Many of the arguments defending the collection of taxes say it’s important to establish a “reasonable” rate of taxation, and to find an honest politician who can make good use of that policy.
But what is a “reasonable” percentage? Nobody knows. What is reasonable for US Democrat Bernie Sanders differs greatly from was reasonable for Thomas Jefferson. What Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro considers reasonable also differs from what Australia’s Prime Minister beleives.
“Reasonable” can be two percent or 99 percent of revenue depending on the political leanings of the current government.
With all the unmet needs out there, what would be a good use of resources? To make a road in an inhospitable place, or a new hospital? To increase teachers’ salaries? Good use according to one person’s vision can be a bad use in someone else’s.
There is also the argument that focuses on honesty. If the ruling is not corrupt and proceeds are not stolen, then the collection of taxes is justified from a moral point of view. If the neighbor shares what he stole and keeps nothing for himself, then perhaps his action are justified.
We have reached a situation where we no longer wonder about the moral nature of the government’s actions, but only about their legality. The end has come to justify the means, and the law has come to replace the concept of justice.
The policy of being generous with other people has transformed the noble victimizer into a victim himself. This misguided morality has generated, as expected, logical consequences: from tax evasion and tax havens to laziness, lack of productivity, strikes and violence.
The solution: limit the government and the law to its objective function, which is to protect the right to life, liberty and property of all individuals alike.