Through my time blogging and just engaging in political thought in my spare time, I am beginning to wonder if arguing about what is “fair” concerning taxes is useless. After all, much of it has to do with subjective opinion. It seems fair to me that someone be able to pass on their inheritance to their children, whereas others believe that it is only fair that they only pass on half their inheritance to their children, and the rest go to the government (or more euphemistically, the people).
I wish I had the luxury of being a pure libertarian, then I could say that any income redistribution is immoral. By doing so, I could easily draw a line in the sand. However, I do believe in using taxes to help those who cannot help themselves. Maybe I’m too much of a softy, but I don’t want to see people dying in the gutter. At the same time, I do not see the government as an agent of social change, and I do not think the majority of charity should be done through the arm of government. Like most conservatives, I believe welfare for able-bodied people should be temporary, but I think there can be exceptions for those severely handicapped.
But by having the aforementioned position, it is hard for me to draw a line in the sand in determining just how much we should be taxed. I suppose that is what democracy is for, to figure such things out. However, in our current system, it is not how much we decide “we” should be taxed, but how much other people should be taxed. Now, some of the rich vote to tax more of the rich, what liberals call the “responsible rich”. And yes, the rich can afford to pay more. But, for me personally, I have issues voting to tax certain groups outside myself. I don’t know if I have any firm philosophical footing to support a flat tax right now, but I do like the idea of everyone chipping in when there is a problem, not one group asking another group to chip in. That bothers me.
Concerning the rich “paying their fair share”, let’s put aside the philosophy for a second. I believe from an economics standpoint, it can do more harm than good. As JFK said, “An economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenues to balance our budget-just as it will never produce enough jobs or profits.” (Hat tip to Glen) Even if people disagree on what the optimal rate is, we all know that, of course, it is not 100%.
Back to the philosophical side (which I said is probably useless in debate anyway), I personally don’t believe people should have many guarantees. I do admit that in theory, I like the idea of universal healthcare. But I simply believe that it won’t work, and I believe a host of other countries have demonstrated that it leads to care rationing.
I think we should separate the economic issues of the market and welfare. The market should be regulated to some extent concerning pollution and safety. But it seems like the left’s biggest criticism of the market is its ability to provide for the poor. However, if I have to pick my battles, I would rather see a freer market with higher tax rates than a regulated market with lower tax rates. A freer market should produce more wealth anyway. If I was a progressive, I would allow for a free market, but simply tax people more. A loaf of bread costs what a loaf of bread costs. I would rather see the government tax the seller of the bread more than regulate what the loaf of bread costs. Not that I want to see extremely high taxes, but I think the economic right needs to fight the battle for the market, and let democracy sort out the tax rates. Maybe I’m saying something dangerous to economic liberty, but I think we should separate the two issues.
Finally, I prefer a measure of freedom when it comes to economics, as opposed to complete security. The left is correct in that we should not sacrifice civil liberties in our fight against terrorism. They see the importance of freedom with respect to security. The importance may not be that apparent to the right with regards to our physical security, but I think they do realize the importance when it comes to economics.
In summary, many people criticize the right for not caring about the poor. And I’ll be honest, there are probably many who don’t. But, as someone on the right, I still want to leave enough help so that people aren’t starving. At the same time, I believe that charity is a more powerful force than government assistance, and we should still leave room for that. Also, I believe that taxing any group excessively can be counter-productive. I believe that economic liberty is intertwined with personal liberty.