A Lament Is Not An Argument

We’ll be writing a check for a large amount payable to the US Treasury next week. We have no say, directly or indirectly, how the federal government will spend this money. A vote is not a proxy for assent (though withholding it may be laudable dissent). Whatever we have to say about how the money ought to be spent our so-called representatives care little, yours even less. This isn’t cynicism. It isn’t sour grapes. It’s a sad fact. Send in the money they say, then move along citizen we’ll take it from here. Failing this we’ll penalize you even more — jail time in the worst case — under the cover of self-serving laws we’ve likely never read, are obsolete, or don’t understand but which you are subject to. What, you don’t want to pay your fair share for our foreign wars? They’re keeping you safe from terrorists you know. Right, and any day now SETI will discover intelligent life — not likely in Washington D.C..

I was not raised to think I could ever get something for nothing. I was raised to think that, in this country anyway, I could choose the vector my life took, make my own mistakes and abide the consequences, choose and pay for what I valued and avoid what I didn’t. Not that I’d be forced to cover the bill for the myriad laws conceived and passed by people I wouldn’t trust as far as I can spit, not to mention didn’t vote for. If that’s what is taught in high school civics I’m pleased I never took the class (or don’t recall if I did).

People who apologize for sprawling government, coercive taxation, and clamor to have the rich to pay more claim that 1) not everyone was as fortunate as I was coming up (My formative years were spent in a tiny house on a busy street with my parents and two sibs; I shared a bedroom with my brother; my father repaired tv sets; my mother worked on and off in the public schools); 2) not everyone is as smart as you are (I was a C student in high school,  somewhat better in college, even struggled at times as a post-grad); 3) there are certain things only a central government can accomplish (You mean, like, education? Besides, it’s not the thing or two they get right that’s at issue, it’s all the things they don’t which we (taxpayers) must pay for whether we value them — would willing fund them — or not); 4) the rich are disproportionate beneficiaries of government, they should pay more (Jeff Bezos started Amazon in his garage; Sara Blakely invented Spanx in her basement sans husband or inheritance; Oprah was born into poverty to an unwed teenage mother; other examples abound); 5) it’s hypocrisy to object to a system you personally benefit from (I can’t condemn medical malpractice and see my doctor at the same time? Of course there are taxpayer funded programs I personally benefit from — I want access to the police and courts if I need them, I enjoy national parks, my recent academic training was partly paid by taxpayers. But so long as the law compels participation, especially where non-coercive alternatives are possible, this is not hypocrisy. Direct or incidental benefit from a system you’ve been forced to support is not hypocrisy.); 6) like death, taxes are unavoidable (A lament is not an argument).

We’ll send it in next week, what’s the realistic alternative? There’s conscientious objection to fighting in a war but not paying for it, or for that matter any other coercively funded government enterprise many of us no longer value, if we ever did.