H.L. Mencken once wrote that, “Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”
April 15 is the date on which the goods are stolen and on a Tuesday in early November—Election Day—the loot is distributed. The thieves, for the most part, are our politicians. Harsh words? Not nearly as harsh as the moral monstrosity that is the current tax system. Let’s consider.
First, the tax system is premised on the principle of punishing the productive. The so-called “progressive” nature of the system means that the more one produces and the more correspondingly prosperous one becomes, the more one is penalized with higher tax rates. That’s not only economically stupid, holding down production, it’s immoral.
Second, the system is premised on and promotes envy. The prosperity of others, honestly produced, is resented. For example, demand for oil is high and the growing economies of China and India guarantee that it will be a sought-after commodity in the future. Half the members of the American workforce are shareholders, with most investing through private retirement accounts. Every American who invested in oil shared in those profits. Others who opted for other stocks or real estate might not have made out as well. So why the resentment at those who made that choice when they did not?
Third, the system produces ingratitude. Many of the most prosperous companies provide Americans with goods, services, and job opportunities that most Americans could not have produced on their own. Rather than be thankful for such companies, politicians demand double and triple taxation of the individuals involved. This is like someone beating up the doctor who eases their pain.
Fourth, the logical consequence of the current system is total control by politicians, total dependence on the favors of politicians, and total economic misery. For example, at first politicians promise just seek help for retirees with their healthcare costs—Medicare. Then they want to help the poor—Medicaid. Then they offer programs for kids in school, then prescription drug coverage and, finally, universal healthcare. Politicians must continue to promise more and more, in the process taxing us more and more, in the process more and more restricting our ability to care for ourselves. Of course, governments by their nature are inefficient, so there will always be misery, created by the politicians, for the politicians to claim to the voters that they will ease.
Finally, the current system is creating a civil war in America. We see our fellow citizens either as cash cows to be slaughtered for our benefit or we see our fellows as butchers with knifes in their hands coming for us or hiring politicians to slaughter us.
The only way to stop this civil war is to fight it on moral grounds. Producers, that is, each of us who earns a living honestly, must stand up for our rights to our property and profits. Only then will we be able to shrink government and send the politicians packing.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.