Libertarians popularized the phrase, “Taxation is theft.” I think it’s closer to Strong-arm Robbery with a firearms possession enhancement, but the Libertarian version fits on coffee mugs and bumper stickers better.
All taxation carries the implied threat of government force. If you don’t believe me, try not paying any income taxes for a while. The letters will be relatively polite, at first, with phrases such as “We noticed” and “Please remit,” and become progressively more aggressive. Ignore the Tax Man’s love notes long enough, and you will discover men with guns breaking down the front door of your house to drag your off to jail.
Local government collecting property taxes may be less aggressive Caesars demanding what is theirs, but liens against property, which must be satisfied prior to any sale, will sooner or later result in the Sheriff, a man who not long ago came to you begging for his current job, evicting you from your home. He’s got a gun, too. As well, as the authority to drag you out kicking and screaming. So ultimately, local government isn’t any better than the Feds, other than he is easier to vote out of office. At least, I get to directly pick my executioner on the local level.
Government needs money to function. My complaint is they function entirely too much.
Long ago, I adopted the “Philosophy of No.” It’s based on my experience as a parent and human ATM for people with neither skills nor jobs.
Whenever a ballot initiative appears asking for power over me or more money, the answer is not only “No,” but “You manage the money I’ve already given you so poorly, I refuse to give you any more to squander.”
It’s a lesson in tough love and money management that most any parents have to mete out sooner or later.
Rather than allow one half of the population to extort money out of the other half, I have a better plan. Run the government via GoFundMe campaign. Imagine a government funding mechanism where every voter was able to put his money where his mouth is. Everything from local projects to entire federal departments would limited to what citizens voluntarily gave.
If providing clean syringes to drug addicts is important to you, there is a fund to which you can contribute. Alternately, don’t like the War on Drugs, don’t contribute to the DEA. Want a border wall? There’s a fund for that, too.
Sometimes, before resorting to force, lower levels of government will resort to guilt trips for enforcement.
The county I live in has something called a Wheel Tax. The state calls it the altruistic-sounding Vehicle Privilege Tax, just in case somebody forgets who serves whom in this relationship.
They get away with hiding this bit of extortion by not listing it as a line item on the state registration, but requiring the serfs to present themselves at the local government palace, where a court functionary doles out stickers bearing the county name. From my experience, the punchline to “How many civil servants does it take to hand out a sticker?” is three; one of which is the County Commissioner. I nearly pooped myself when informed the privilege of owning a vehicle in my county was reckoned to be worth sixty-one dollars per vehicle.
“And what all do I get for my contribution to the Wheel Tax?” I asked the clerk, suspecting I knew the answer.
“It pays for the upkeep of the county roads,” said the clerk, not breaking stride on the smacking of the wad of Hubba Bubba in her maw.
“Really?” I said, raising my eyebrows. “Have you seen the county roads around here? A crew was out at my place two days ago and they missed every third pothole.”
“You can always move to town and live on a state road,” said Hubba Bubba.
“You’ve got a hellova way to handle life’s problems,” I said. Hubba Bubba’s face hardened. I could hear Mrs. Cunha shepherding the kids out of the Assessor’s office into the hallway. She knows I’m not one to pass up a fight, and nearly two decades of experience has taught her they come hard, fast, loud, and messy.
“County Commissioner’s right there,” said Hubba Bubba, pointing to a nervous looking man in a white shirt and blue tie standing at the end of the counter, whom I didn’t vote for in the last election and bore a striking kinship resemblance to Hubba Bubba. She had tired of my shit quickly, and didn’t get paid enough to deal with me.
“That is what a lot of people do,” said The Commish.
“God, no. Then I’d really be steamed, having to pay for something I don’t use,” I said. “At least, this way, I can kid myself into thinking I’m paying for the road in front of my property.”
“Well, you’re getting more than just roads,” said The Commish. “That’s only about a third of it.”
“What’s the other forty dollars go for?” I said.
“Drug abuse and battered women,” said The Commish.
“Put me down for a case of each,” I said. “I’ve got a big weekend planned and I want to get my money’s worth.”
Altruism with other people’s money is neither noble nor commendable.
Charity is a social good. Once bills and family obligations are met, everyone should endeavor to help those in their community who are in need, however you define “community.” Whether defined by geography, religion, ethnicity, occupation, or nature of the need, pick one or two and do what you can to relieve the want of a brother. The choice is entirely up to you, the giver, as is whatever benefit your derive from the charitable act. It’s a win-win for everyone that is best enacted personally, directly, and freely.
Charity through forced redistribution of resources is theft, just the same as if a government bureaucrat slipped a debit card out of your wallet while you napped. I bet people would scream bloody murder if tax bills were payable in time and physical effort instead of cash.
I resent locally imposed taxes slightly less than the further removed ones levied by the state and federal governments because of the higher levels of accountability. Send your secretary out to run interference all you like, Mr. Elected County Official. Our kids attend the same school and there isn’t but one Piggly Wiggly in town. I’m not above asking in a loud voice why you can’t make time for a constituent who voted for you.
It doesn’t matter if that’s a lie. He won’t know one way or the other. Even if he does, the people listening won’t, and that is the important part. The damage will still be done.
I suffer a from genetic disorder called “lack of shame.”
Since the school bus my property taxes pay for is The Lord of the Flies on wheels, Mrs. Cunha and I build our lives around a twice-daily journey to the far side of town to three (now, thankfully, two) schools. I tell myself it is quality time with the kids, but it’s a lie. The more time, money, and energy I expend making up for the shortfalls of government schools, the more attractive home schooling becomes.
The two-a-day trek takes us right past the county government building. The very same building of the sticker standoff with The Commish and his Girl Friday, Hubba Bubba.
I structure my life in such a way as to avoid taxes whenever legally allowable. No less an authority than Learned Hand, the judge most quoted by the Supreme Court, said in Helvering v. Gregory way back in 1934, “Any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.”
Don’t hate the player. Hate the game. – US Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Learned Hand
I had spent days plotting revenge for the blood money I was unable to dodge because of our need for a truck on the farm, when the burrito from lunch decided Elvis was ready to leave the building. It seems giving the only Mexican restaurant in town another chance after its fourth closure by the Health Department was not the best of ideas.
Navigating the town square, a required lap around the county government building to make it from one end of town to the other, a sheen of sweat beaded my forehead, as I searched for a port to shelter against the brewing storm. Not surprisingly, parking was ample. Of the three dozen or so storefronts that ring the outside of the road encircling the county government building, all but four are vacant, and the buildings that house them in such bad repair they will likely never be rented or sold.
I slid out of the passenger seat of the truck (what can I say? Mrs. Cunha likes driving the truck, too), and penguin-walked my way into the building’s basement, where I knew there to be a public toilet.
We need to get out of here before the Sheriff shows up. What I did in there was a crime.
Mrs. Cunha was appalled at the brazenness of my decision that afternoon. She patiently waits in the truck virtually every day since, as I stride into the county government building, folded newspaper tucked under one arm, to conduct my business in the public lavatory. Apart from the occasional puzzled looks from the few building occupants, I draw no attention, create no ruckus, perform no vandalism, damage no property, and leave no unreasonable mess. I make use of a public bathroom during business hours in a taxpayer funded edifice of the county in which I am both a taxpayer and a resident.
It may not be possible to fight City Hall and win, but for anyone willing to sit down, bare assed on a public toilet, the power to subvert is as close as a roll of toilet paper.
Call me Rosa Parks on the Porcelain Throne.
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