Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy Tax Day

It’s Tax Day here in the United States of America, the home sovereign political entity of the Life and Times of Michael5000. This is of course occasion for much traditional bitching and moaning and wry jokes told with the weariness of the long-suffering. That’s fine, of course – nobody likes it when bills come due. But I have to say that all of the negativity bothers me a little bit, too. Tax Day is actually the day of the year when I feel most patriotic, most connected to my country. Independence Day? It's fine, but the Fourth of July is mostly just people having picnics and enjoying fireworks, a traditional form of intentional air pollution. Tax Day, though -- Tax Day is serious. It's about putting your money where your democratic idealism is.

Now, it goes without saying that there is nearly infinite room for disagreement about how much of their wealth individuals and entities should be expected to contribute to the common good. There is also nearly infinite room for disagreement about how public funds should then be spent. The eternal debate over these two topics is in fact the very essence of national life, and when conducted intelligently, rationally, and with a decent respect for the priorities of others, it is something to celebrate.

There is also an element in our society, however, that views virtually any taxation as an evil. More disturbingly, they see it as an arbitrary exaction of that which is theirs by a malicious outside entity, The Government. Now, it is certainly their prerogative to ignore certain fundamental aspects of how a civilization works. They are free to see as somehow sinister the idea of everybody pitching in to a common fund to buy things collectively that it doesn’t make sense to buy individually -- things like roads, fire departments, hydroelectric dams, a diplomatic corps, and, if you collectively happen to want one, a nuclear arsenal.

Where it becomes offensive, though, is when people who are blanket, knee-jerk anti-tax radicals also wrap themselves in a mantle of virtuous, flag-lovin’ patriotism. Because the first duty of a patriot – the very essence of loving your country – is being willing to pony up for your share of the bill. This is true even if you don’t agree in every particular with how the legislatures you and your paisanos have elected have decided how to spend the money. After all, no one does. It is also true even if you don’t agree with every detail of the formula that determines what your share of the bill is. Again, no one does. That's the whole point of a democratic system -- no one gets their way all the time. If you really can’t deal with the fact that some public funds will be used for priorities that are not your own, you really don’t belong in a complex society.

Happy Tax Day! You are a citizen, my friend, and you enjoy incalculably vast personal benefits from being a member of an organized state. Take out your checkbook, allow yourself a wistful sigh, and pay your taxes with pride. Arguments about ways, means, and priorities can resume tomorrow.

To all the rest of you UnitedStatesians out there – hey, we live in a great country! Congratulations to you that you have the privilege of paying your share. And for the rest of you guys – Happy Tax Day to you too, when your turn comes around.

graph via Sociological Images.


The Calico Cat said...

Well said!

Elaine said...

Hey, I was going to say that, CCat!

Elizabeth said...

If only the pink line and the blue line were reversed ... I really must file for incorporation.

blythe said...

preach it!

DrSchnell said...

Amen, brother!

For the folks that don't much like the gubmint, I'd recommend a vacation in Somalia, whose travel slogan is "Gubmint-free since 1991!"

gl. said...

burnelujah! i'm guessing it's the people who didn't vote who are complaining the loudest?

bummer about that pink line, though.

Ben said...

I imagine you are mostly preaching to the choir here, but well said nevertheless!

Aviatrix said...

Great post, even better than I expected.

UnwiseOwl said...

Oh ho! That's excellent, Michael.
If only we had a tax day here, I could finally find a day to get more behind than ANZAC day.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

Yes. It is true. We could be living somewhere that the USA is bombing right now, and that would be really sucky. Plus, GW Bush spoke of "rape rooms" out there. I don't want to be in that room.

Where do I send my check! U.S.A! U.S.A.!!