TeeJaw Blog

Taxes The Price of Civilization — Or The Cost of Tyranny?

Posted in Government and Politics by TeeJaw on Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 2: 21 PM

The book description at Amazon begins:

“Jeffrey D. Sachs has been at the forefront of international economic problem solving. But Sachs turns his attention back home in The Price of Civilization, a book that is essential reading for every American. In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, he offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity.”

There are some scary words in there. “Forceful, impassioned and personal” in a book of economic analysis? A “searing and incisive” diagnosis of our economic ills when it’s plain to any fool that the economic malaise is the result of out-of-control government spending, irresponsible economic and regulatory policies by the government that have turned a quite ordinary recession in a nightmare of unemployment and stagnation, with constant demagoguery from our president to divert attention from the failings of his economic policies. The fault for everything from unemployment to worts and dandruff can be explained, according to Obama, by a few rich people not paying enough in taxes. The wealthiest 10% already happen to pay over 90% of all income taxes collected but somehow that’s not enough. The wealthiest 1% make 18% of all income and pay 38% of all income taxes, and 28% of all taxes. How much more can be squeezed out of them? And will it even matter?  If they can be made to pay more what would that do to change the economic condition of the country? Would that create jobs? Would low-income people be helped by skinning the rich for more?

Don’t expect Professor Sachs’ “forceful, impassioned, and personal voice” to explain any of that, nor his “searing and incisive” diagnosis of our economic ills to come anywhere close to explaining how a government that spends money faster than it can be printed or borrowed will use that revenue to do anything positive for the economic woes of the country.   No lowering of unemployment or the creation of  new jobs outside of government jobs have been created despite a massive stimulus and plenty of other government spending. Over 6 million private-sector jobs have been lost under Obama in spite of his massive spending.  How can new tax revenue help and why is it even needed when government spending proceeds at full speed ahead without any constraint whatsoever by a lack of government revenue?

Can we all work for the government?  Yes, we can.  Si se puede.  But our paychecks will be worthless pieces of paper with no private sector creating the wealth necessary to sustain the economy.  The government taking even more of the reduced level of wealth being created today can’t “reawaken American prosperity” as Professor Sachs promises.  That is idiocy that can only further weaken the economy and create yet more unemployment.

Sachs seeks to justify his call for increased taxes by a statement made by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in 1904 that “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” Michael Patrick Leahy shows that this statement of the great Supreme Court Justice is taken out of the context in which it was made, and when put back into that context it is shown to be a ridiculously thin reed for Professor Sachs to base his present argument:

“Holmes issued his famous quote back in 1904, during the 142 year period between 1789 and 1931 when peace time federal spending as a percentage of GDP never exceeded 4 percent. I note today that under policies Professor Sachs supports, federal spending as a percentage of GDP–at 24 percent– is now six times greater than it was during Justice Holmes’ prime.

“When Justice Holmes delivered that famous quote, I’m pretty sure he didn’t have the current level of taxation in mind as the “price” of civilization. At 24 percent of GDP, we’re dramatically overpaying for civilization.”

We’re not only getting gouged by government overcharging us, we aren’t even getting the “civilization” we are supposedly paying for.  Instead we’re getting flash mob violence  by Black youths against Whites, Occupy movement filth and defilement of our public spaces, a drug war that is killing people North and South of our border with Mexico, and a ever more and more bloated government regulating the smallest crevices of our private lives, from our light bulbs and toilets to our banking fees (that have been made higher by the Dodd/Frank Financial Regulatory Act).

The scariest words in the Amazon book description are “the virtues of fairness.”  When you hear that kind of talk you should expect that a beating with a rubber hose is about to occur.  Everybody has their own subjective views of “equity” and “fairness” and after they convince themselves that what they want to do to you is “only fair” then they can do just about anything.  As Mr. Leahy says;

Professor Sachs makes the same mistake many well intentioned altruists make when it comes to public policy. They substitute their own ideas of “equity” and “fairness” for Constitutionally valid solutions. The implication is that their altruism–because it’s good and noble–trumps our notions of Constitutionality.

As an economist, Professor Sachs understands the difference between the concepts of “price” and “cost.” 4 percent of the GDP may be the “price” of civilization, but 24 percent of the GDP sounds more like the “cost” of tyranny.


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