Thursday, February 12, 2009

Who Knew I Was Rich?

Last night I did my taxes and discovered, to my shouting, cursing chagrin, that I owed Barack Obama and his government $400. This astounded me, considering I would have thought my meager $8,000 income last year to be below the bottom tax bracket. What I found, however, is that if you get income from interest, dividends, capital gains, and scholarships, as I did most of mine, your income is treated quite differently than if you received the same amount in wages. That, children, is because only evil rich capitalists get dividends, and only greedy Jewish bankers receive interest. In case you were not aware, the deck is massively stacked in this country against frugal individuals such as yours truly, who save their money and invest it, with the hope of one day being wealthy. The government has no desire for you to become wealthy, and would rather you spend yourself into one day requiring a bailout.

Now, this incident got me thinking. I contend that I have no moral obligation to pay taxes, only a legal obligation, under threat of fine and imprisonment. On the other hand, I do take advantage of public services, such as education, so I should pay for those, right? I only feel justified in consuming government product because I, or my parents, paid for it in taxes.

This leads me to my main point: the greater government's involvement in people's lives, the more difficult it is to act morally. Rand may have commented on this; I can't remember. Nonetheless, as Objectivists, we often talk about how capitalism is the only system that enables man to act morally (i.e., in his rational self-interest) This makes sense, since only the individual can decide what is in his interests, that individual must be free to make that decision. But it also applies to how we pursue our self-interest around others. Most of us would delight in never living for another's sake or asking another to live for ours, as the oath goes. The more government taxes us, however, the more we are obligated to. As the government taxes us, we are coerced into engaging in a trade we do not want. But should we then foresake the benefit from the trade?

If you have the means, you might be better off just paying taxes and avoiding any further government contact. For most of us, though, this option is too expensive. It is too expensive for many to pay property taxes for one child to go to school and then pay more tuition for their own children to attend school. So, we reluctantly take the upside of the involuntary government trade and get sucked further into the black hole of the welfare state. Even if we want to avoid living off the state, the growth of the state's influence makes doing so almost impossible. There are select few (two or three, probably) colleges that do not take any government funding, and these are liberal arts colleges. So what is the alternative? Don't attend college? There really is no option but to take the government bait and deal with it.

This is the situation we live in, one in which moral action is slowly being made illegal. Maybe we can do something about it. It will take a lot of work, though.

P.S.: Sorry about the morose post. I just did my taxes, what do you expect? I'll try to be more upbeat in the future.


  1. three words: Individual Retirement Account

  2. You need to finance Julio the Fry Cook's way of life.

    But if this asshole wants to make it easier for people to get educations, why would he tax college students so aggressively, and why would he tax scholarships?