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Ask & You Shall Receive… a Tax Bill

It’s a favorite refrain that the only things one can be certain of in life are death and taxes. But while death is a singular, usually distant occurrence, taxes are ever-present. We find ourselves handing Uncle Sam a share nearly every time we touch our wallets[…] If you want lower taxes, demand smaller government

It’s a favorite refrain that the only things one can be certain of in life are death and taxes. But while death is a singular, usually distant occurrence, taxes are ever-present. We find ourselves handing Uncle Sam a share nearly every time we touch our wallets. Local, state, and federal governments demand a kickback for most anything one does in life—eating lunch, buying a magazine, flying to spend time with family, going to work, living in a house, even feeding the pets. And the number and magnitude of taxes is rapidly increasing, as any reading of the Sunday paper reveals. After massive government spending increases and trillions of dollars in bailouts, the Tea Party movement has arisen from countless Americans who’ve thrown up their hands in a common cry of frustration: “Taxed Enough Already!”

Critics and much of the public have looked on in amusement or apathetic curiosity. After all, taxes are just part of life, a necessary evil—what’s the point of complaining?

While such a response may seem empty or defeatist, it signifies an important lesson for those of us who value our wealth and our freedom to spend it as we see fit. There is a deeper problem at work that tea party protesters must recognize and address, a widespread and largely unchallenged idea in our culture of which rampant taxation is merely an effect: the belief that government exists not simply to protect our freedom, but to provide for our welfare.

Many tax protesters complain that increased government spending is the result of greedy politicians scheming to give handouts to “special interests”. But as any politician can attest, these special interests include…nearly everyone.  For every Tea Party attendee frustrated by the government’s growing take of his or her income, there are 20 other people across the country clamoring for more government aid and services. Who will pay for our hospital bills? The government should, they say. Who should pay for college, mortgages, retirement accounts, prescription drugs, solar panels, farms, scientific research, housing, pesticides for third world villages, habitats for spotted owls, and high-speed internet service to rural areas? People from every corner of America, of every background, of every economic status—poor, middle class, millionaire—all answer, by and large, that the government should do something to assist, stimulate, provide. At whose expense? Well, somebody else’s.

That we now face ever-higher taxes is simply the result of having to fund the kind of government for which Americans have increasingly asked. Objecting to a growing tax burden without objecting to government programs and handouts is like protesting the bill after ordering an extravagant meal.

If we are to effectively (and honestly) advocate for lower taxes, it must be by advocating first and fundamentally for smaller government. Rather than simply decrying taxes, we must reject—on principle—the government spending that brought them about.

On what principle? The central premise behind America’s founding: individual rights. We must recognize that big government is but a symptom of a moral disease, a credo that demands self-sacrifice for the benefit of the “greater good” (see Zev Barnett’s article “In Defense of Liberty”). We must remember that the founding of America and the original Tea Party were based on a diametrically opposite view: that the individual has the right to keep what he earns and use it to pursue his own happiness, that we should not be bound to one another in mutual servitude, that the government exists to protect individual freedom from encroachment by the majority.

If the Tea Parties are to have any lasting value, they must primarily serve to rekindle a respect for the inalienable right of the individual to pursue his own happiness, and for the only model of government that defends such a right: laissez-faire capitalism. In contrast to our current mixture of freedom and control, true capitalism means a government that exists not to provide for some at the expense of others, but solely to protect the freedom of all. Such was the vision in Boston Harbor in 1773, and such should be the vision of today.

Noah received his B.S. in Computer Engineering and M.S. in Information Assurance from Iowa State University. He currently works in the defense industry as a software engineer in St. Petersburg, Florida. As a weekly opinion columnist for the Iowa State Daily campus newspaper, Noah wrote more than 70 articles from an Objectivist viewpoint on a wide variety of cultural and political topics.

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