Taxes reach into both our wallet & soul

I’m paraphrasing one of my favorite lines in Yaron Brook’s recent commentary in Forbes about how politicians use tax exemptions to garner political favor and control our behavior. He does a fine job of connecting what we usually consider to be an economic issue with a moral issue. Here are some excepts:

Tax policy works by attaching financial incentives to a long list of values deemed morally worthy. If you want to maximize your wealth come tax time–and who doesn’t?–you must look at the world through tax-colored glasses, “voluntarily” adjusting your behavior to suit social norms and thereby qualifying for tax breaks. In this way, the social engineers of tax policy preserve the impression that you’re exercising free choice, while they’re actually dispensing with your reason and your judgment. …

Government’s job is not to dictate your values but to protect them. In a free country, you choose values and then use your own money as a tool to achieve them. But a value-rigged tax policy reverses this cause and effect–it uses your money against you, bribing you with tax breaks that let you keep some of your earnings in exchange for abandoning your preferred values. …

Today, it is commonly accepted that Uncle Sam has a right to reach not only into your wallet but into your soul, through tax policies that substitute some version of the “public interest” for your own rational desires. …

In place of the limitless variety that emerges when individuals plan their own lives in a free society, tax laws strive to impose a dreary sameness–as if every individual should get married, have children, buy a home and save for retirement on a government-approved schedule–and as if every company should look to bureaucrats for the one true path to selecting real estate, equipment, fuels, employees and financing. Such artificial homogeneity has no place in the tax policy of a government dedicated to protecting individual rights.


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Filed under ethics, politics

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