Why we need to pay taxes
By Joseph Ellis
There is a lot of debate surrounding taxes these days. I suppose it is unsurprising given our propensities as human beings to guard whatever we possess. This instinctive reaction is so strong it has lead some politicians, such as Ron Paul, to describe taxes as outright theft. It’s an idea he has devoted a lot of time writing and speaking about.
On the other hand, there are those who have consistently pointed out that taxes pay for government services that benefit all of us. This is easy to see anytime you hop on the highway, as the gasoline taxes go directly to the building and maintaining the expansive road system we have. However, the benefits of taxes are a bit intangible when someone’s taxes go to public education and she has no children, or social security that provides benefits for today’s elderly but does not secure those benefits for ourselves, or taxes that help provide for the poor. It is difficult to quantify the unseen benefits.
To begin with, self sufficiency is a myth in today’s world. As much as some would like to be homesteaders (or think of themselves as such), with every need supplied by the land and your own hard work, the vast majority of Americans don’t live that way. Even in very rural areas the link to civilization is closer than ever before, and relied upon. We all depend on each other to some degree or another. Much of this is done in the confines of business, but a substantial amount of the fundamental framework is provided by the government.
At various points in our lives we all need the infrastructure that has been built. I can never be self sufficient 100% of the time, and my life is in the hands of others more often than I would like to think. I depend on others to make sure food producers are providing safe, uncontaminated food; I trust that unsafe medicine is not being handed to me; and I am trusting that local structures and road ways are not death traps, but it goes deeper than this. For example, I am trusting that people who provide these services have received a proper education so they are competent in the services they provide; this is not to say people don’t need training from their employer, often they do, but employers trust that a workforce has learned the necessary skills and knowledge to make them useful employees to begin with. Furthermore, I trust that Medicaid is providing vaccinations and medical care to underprivileged children and adults so that sickness doesn’t debilitate my community. A population that is sick and poor makes the rest of society less productive. The multitude of societal layers that provide the framework for our daily lives should not be overlooked.
There are those who would be glad to live completely on their own, free from societal demands; and some move to remote areas to do so. However, many of them still have supplies flown in, and, when they do, all the societal layers necessary for supplies to exist and be delivered are found to be needed. As for me, I’m thankful for the structure we have. There are many things about government that can and should be improved, but I think most of the taxes we pay have helped to create a great nation.