Read Paul's bio and previous columns
May 18, 2009
How People Come to
Accept Higher Taxes
Recently in New York Times Magazine, Russell Shorto discussed his
first months as an American in Holland:
“For the first few months I was haunted by a number: 52. (It) represents
the rate at which the income I earn, as a writer and as the director of
an institute, is to be taxed. To be plain: More than half of my modest
haul, I learned on arrival, was to be swallowed by the Dutch welfare
went on to explain how he started getting over it:
“And yet as the months rolled along, I found the defiant anger softening
by intervals, thanks to a succession of little events and awarenesses.
(…) Logging into my bank account, I noted with fleeting but pleasant
confusion the arrival of two mysterious payments of 316 Euros (about
$410) each. The remarks line said ‘accommodation schoolbooks.’ (…) Every
quarter, the SVB quietly drops $665 into my account with the one-word
kinderbijslag, or child benefit. As the SVB’s web site
cheerily informed me when I went there in bewilderment after the first
deposit: ‘Babies are expensive. Nappies, clothes, the pram . . . all
these things cost money. The Dutch government provides for child benefit
to help you with the costs of bringing up your child.’”
But that’s not all:
“In late May of last year an unexpected $4,265 arrived in my account:
Vakantiegeld. Vacation money. This money materializes in
the bank accounts of virtually everyone in the country just before the
summer holidays; you get from your employer an amount totaling 8 percent
of your annual salary, which is meant to cover plane tickets, surfing
lessons, tapas: Vacations. (…) For that matter, even if you are
unemployed you still receive a base amount of
vakantiegeld from the
government, the reasoning being that if you can’t go on vacation, you’ll
get depressed and despondent and you’ll
never get a job.”
other words, you have to cringe only once a year when you see 52 percent
of your income go to state coffers. In exchange, every time you look at
your bank account, you see money deposited by the nanny state. Every
year you enjoy Mojitos on the beach, courtesy of the compassionate
government. The evidence of the politicians’ benevolence is everywhere,
all the time. It sounds like a fantastic deal, doesn’t it?
see individuals succumbing to this false sense of security in our own
United States. When the first, “small” “stimulus” of this recession
kicked in during the waning months of the Bush presidency, I criticized
it, and a good, taxpaying friend who doesn’t know much about politics or
economics responded: “Why not, it’s great, I get more money.” It does
seem wonderful, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, to most, it does. They do not realize that the government
is simply not capable of creating wealth – the government is only
capable of redistributing it. They do not realize that for the average
person, the amount of money taken by the government is by definition
greater than the amount given back.
Indeed, the genius of big government experiments that appear
to give people money is that they make it seem like the socialists are
the true fiscal conservatives, because their policies allow individuals
to “get more money” in their pockets. Suddenly, the conservatives sound
like the ones who are evil and want the government to keep the money.
The average Joe simply doesn’t understand that, on average,
every dollar individuals “get” from the government comes directly from
more than one dollar that
individuals were forced to give to the government in the first place.
When Joe sees a $600 “stimulus” check in the mail, he completely forgets
that it comes from $1,000 he was or will be forced to give to the
government, which spends it on bureaucracy, interest, etc. before it
comes back to him in its diminished form. This is to skip a lengthy
discussion about the misallocation of money and the destruction of
incentives for innovation and growth, not to mention the sociological
side effects of the welfare state and its copious opportunities for
why do people accept this empirically proven destruction of wealth and
egregious taking by government? Why do they not pursue a low-tax,
There are several reasons. Primarily, they have not taken the time to
become as knowledgeable about government programs as they are about
Paris Hilton’s sexual escapades. Many are on the receiving end of wealth
transfers, and pay little or no taxes. A very few understand that they
might be incurring a net loss, yet accept this reality for it excuses
them from giving more to charity. (In fact, studies show that liberals
give significantly less to charity than conservatives). Others still
defy their rational instincts by succumbing to the immediate, emotional
gratification of receiving a check in the mail.
It is a sad, unfortunate reality. And it is not encouraging
for those with positive wishes for a sustainable, liberty-protecting
system of government. But for now, the way to fight this ignorance is
for the knowledgeable to explain things to the unknowledgeable. And
that’s where you come in.
© 2009 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column # PI165.
permission to publish here.