Photo: Getty Images
May 2, 2012Santiago, Chile
Stephen King (yes, that Stephen King) is fired up. Angry. Furious. Why? Because he doesn’t get to pay enough income tax.
It’s not enough that King could simply write a check, voluntarily, to the government. He wants to make sure that -everyone- is forcibly coerced under threat of imprisonment to pay their ‘fair share’… as defined in the government’s sole discretion.
In a profanity-laden tirade that was recently published in the Daily Beast, King blusters away about the duty and responsibility of ‘the rich’ to pay more to the tax man.
King’s rant is like the philosophical reflections of a drunken sailor, vacillating between amusing babble and outright gibberish.
He starts off by railing against NJ governor Chris Christie’s waistline, then blasts the billionaire Koch brothers for being too charitable to a cause that King doesn’t care for, and then closes his piece by comparing the fate of rich people to that of Marie Antoinette.
It’s a meandering diatribe from an otherwise gifted and creative mind. And as entertaining as it may be, King is just plain wrong… and there’s one simple reason: his appeal that people should be paying higher taxes as a measure of patriotism is a logical fallacy.
Many people who sound the bombastic call of patriotism presuppose that we’re all born with a certain obligation to society… to a piece of dirt that was here long before human beings walked the earth, and will be here long after we’ve vanquished ourselves from the planet.
This is total bunk. Human beings are born free. No one comes into this world owing anybody anything, especially by some complete accident of birth.
But even if you assume to be true that we’re all born with a burden to pay, King is still missing the point.
There’s a certain amount of aggregate wealth in the economy that can be applied towards any number of activities. Wealth can be invested, consumed, saved, etc. King argues that a much greater percentage of that wealth should fill the government coffers.
Bear in mind, though, that for every dollar, euro, pound, or yen that goes to the government, it’s one fewer that’s available to buy his latest book; to renovate a bathroom; to make a crowd-sourced startup investment; to pay for the kids’ tennis lessons; to donate to an organisation of your own choosing; etc.
The higher tax argument implies that politicians know how to spend money better than we do; that they have some kind of moral authority to determine which causes are worthy, and which are not, and that their determinations supersede our own.
King (and most other notable tax proponents like Warren Buffett) are terribly confused in that they think giving more money to the government to make these decisions is somehow giving more money to the ‘country’. It’s not.
Again, even if you presuppose that we all have an obligation to a piece of dirt, paying more taxes is merely giving more money to politicians. You and I aren’t getting any of King’s money. The ‘environment’ isn’t getting any of King’s money. It goes to the politicians.
And if there is one category of individuals that has shown throughout history, repeatedly, that it is completely and utterly incompetent at spending other people’s money and determining which are the most ‘just’ causes, it is politicians.
More bombs, more wars, more political favours, more debt, more bailouts, more child molesting TSA thugs, more porno-watching SEC regulators, more legislation to take over the Internet and confiscate passports, more gun-happy government agencies with civil asset forfeiture and police authority… this is what politicians do with our money.
Continuing to nurse their largess, corruption, and pitiful decision-making is not the mark of patriotism– it is the mark of insanity, a la Albert Einstein (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result).
By paying higher taxes, you’re feeding the beast. By arguing for higher taxes, King is the animal handler.
If you truly feel an obligation to society and to a piece of dirt, then starve the beast. Let the politicians run it all into the ground, watch the system collapse, and then come back in to create value in the exciting aftermath.
Ranting and raving about society’s duty to continue supporting the most obtusely corrupt system in modern history only delays the inevitable…and hence delays the recovery. It takes a lot of courage, but a real Patriot would walk away.
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