Taxes, Federal income taxes, are necessary for the preservation of life. The willingness to pay those taxes, though painful, is a measure of how well we love our neighbors and fellow citizens. Some say that taxes represent theft of property from those that earned the money. That is an argument that goes all the way back to the founding of democracy in Greece. The owner of property is a responsible person and only he can be a full citizen withe right to vote and all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
Government cannot be expected to provide happiness itself, only the conditions that allow all people to pursue happiness without hindrance from their starting conditions. I favor the Federal graduated income tax as the fairest tax yet devised. I don’t like paying it, but it is a fairer tax to all income levels than any other tax.
Boomerang, Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis, the author of Liar’s Poker and Moneyball, recently made into a film starring Brad Pitt. This slender volume is an eminently readable tale of how the Great Recession is affecting five different countries: Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany and the US. His thesis is that different cultures react differently to the shock of economic disaster.
If people are given the opportunity to live beyond their means, most people will do so. Almost everyone in Greece is corrupt; no one pays their lawful taxes. All 300 members of the Greek Parliament cheat on their taxes. To expect Greece to change its customs now when facing national default is too optimistic. And a Greek default could bring down the Euro affecting the US adversely.
Germans live by the rules, and it will be up to Germany, the financially strongest country in the European Union to bail out the rest of the members of the European Union who may need help. Iceland went bankrupt because it thought that its banks could outsmart the big banks of London and New York who had both more assets and more experience. Ireland went mad with construction of commercial and residential structures for which there was no foreseeable demand.
Here in the US, our ties to one another have become frayed. Instead of looking out for one another, it has become a game of grab all you can while you can before someone else does. We need to watch out for each other and cooperate in this time of need if we are going to survive the Great Recession, which shows no sign of ending and is likely to worsen.
On the steps of a fire-bombed bank in Athens, Lewis saw a sign quoting an ancient Greek orator named Isocrates who lived from 436 BCE to 338 BCE: “Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.” True then–true today.
Afghanistan is rightly called a graveyard of empires. The natives gave Alexander the Great a hard time when he passed through on his way to India about 2300 years ago. More recently, neither Great Britain nor Russia was able to subdue Afghanistan for long. Now the US is finding how difficult a nut Afghanistan is to crack.
Some say that as the world’s only superpower, we have the right and the duty to rule the world. The rest of the world disagrees. Great Britain gave up its empire to preserve its democracy. Russia gave up its empire and never really achieved full democracy. What it did achieve is slowly slipping away. Now it is our turn to choose between empire and democracy and we must make our decision soon. I choose democracy.