As we try to survive the intense heat of one of the hottest summers on record, and witness the dryness that comes with it devastating our province with forest fires, most of us probably recognize the link between the noticeably hotter and dryer days with that whole climate change thing that people have been talking about for decades. Science, you win this round.

In order to combat climate change, however, we need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions. One such method, proven to reduce the number of carbon-emitting vehicles on the road, is an improved transit system. Of course, given the choice, a group of peoples, asked to democratically choose whether or not to broaden their transit in an effort to reduce congestion, decrease emissions, and improve infrastructure at the cost of a 0.05% sales tax increase, will invariably choose to let their province burn, because hey, those extra couple of dollars at the checkout line might mean having to wait an extra paycheck to buy your next pair of yoga pants.

So it really does seem most people equate taxation as a fate worse than planetary obliteration. Now, it could be argued that the ‘No’ vote against the transit system was a giant ‘fuck you’ towards the mismanagement and financial corruption that is occurring within the transit administration, or due to a general mistrust of government, but frankly, arguing austerity for the sake of pettiness is the absolute worst reason. Government accountability is determined by elections and activism, not plebiscites.

Or maybe privatization is the answer? However, by definition, any profit-driven entity will always offer as little product as they can for as much price as they can get away with, and so when it comes to public services, it seems inane to privatize them. Think of what it would be like if a company owned the police. Quotas for tickets would be ramped up, and more provisions would be given towards fighting crimes that pay rather than fighting crimes, period. And of course, no one is going to arrest their boss. There’s the example of that fee-based fire fighting service that forbade fight fighters from putting out house fires that ignited outside of city limits, unless the individual had paid a $75 fee. A rate that discriminates based on location, as well as being a burden on those who live in poverty, is patently unfair. And yet another example would be to privatize the roads and see all the toll booths that would pop up at every corner. Also remember that any private company will only provide funding for scientific ventures and research that might ultimately profit them, whereas a government is not bound by the same motives.

Now, in this particular blog post, I won’t advocate a communist approach where the government runs all the means of production, but for many services, it just makes sense to have an impartial, non-profit oriented body managing them. Services for the less fortunate, for instance, or universal services like health care or police that provide a necessary function for society.

What’s a necessary service? Well, that’s up for debate, but I hope I’ve provided enough examples to show that privatizing everything would be egregiously stupid. Why help poor people? Unfortunately, people ask this question because general human compassion apparently isn’t enough, and fine, here are some examples that will convince your “socially liberal/ fiscally conservative” ideals: poor people get sick more because of bad diets and less access to sports, fitness centres, etc.; they commit more crimes because they have less money and therefore less connection with society; they don’t spend as much money at your stores because they don’t have that money in the first place, and if some kid with the potential to cure cancer can’t go to school because he can’t afford to, then that will lead to a deficient society. So helping the poor removes strain on the health care system, reduces crime, improves the economy from a Keynesian standpoint, and provides a society with the greatest potential.

Why rely on the government when we have private charities to look after the poor? First and foremost, a private charity could never undermine the basic systemic principles that are in place to maintain the status quo. A charity could donate food to the food bank, or clothes to a shelter, for example, but it could never provide a welfare system or social housing projects which are a necessary part of getting an individual into a position where they can take care of themselves, rather than rely on liberal alms. In addition, the charitable whims of society are constantly in flux, and follow trends rather than socially just goals with an equitable society as their end game. People also tend to donate to causes that relate to them personally rather than causes that need it the most.

But what if you want to be a selfish asshole? It’s your money, and taxation is theft! Well, actually, all money belongs to the government, since they are the ones printing it. The system of doling it out is arbitrary at best. Adam Smith says that some jobs are worth more based on scarcity and skills required. In regards to scarcity, the diamond industry has shown us that it can be manufactured through hoarding, and scarcity also becomes irrelevant if nobody wants the product. Skills are also fairly subjective, as someone who has dedicated their life to art could be argued to be equally skilled compared to someone who has dedicated their life to medicine, but I don’t need to tell you who gets paid more. The financial value of something is based solely upon supply and demand, and that is subject to the random flux of the market and cultural norms: a mother is tasked with the fate of a child, and a lawyer is tasked with the fate of an alleged criminal, but our culture decided one was worth thousands of dollars and the other is worth nothing, and despite all the lawyer jokes we both know which is which.

So no, it’s not your money. It’s only your money in the sense that it was randomly allocated to you by cultural norms outside of your control. Stephanie Meyers and E. L. James are both rich, while Stephen Hawking and Noam Chomsky live passable lives, financially. If that’s not an indicator of the nature of wealth being arbitrarily decided by cultural forces, I don’t know what is.

As someone who is going into social work, I am repeatedly told that I’m doing good work: taking care of the less fortunate is considered morally righteous. But the minute that I get a job working for the government, I am no longer a good person but a drain on the industrious tax payers of this fine country. I’m still helping poor people, but now they no longer deserve it because it’s the government helping them rather than a private individual. If a private individual donates money to charity, or even if a corporation donates money to charity, then they are lauded as sterling citizens. If the government donates money to the exact same cause, they are wasting tax dollars on frivolous handouts. This hypocrisy of seeing two entities committing the same righteous action but seeing one as the hero and the other the villain is an indicator that people against taxation but for charity are full of shit.

If we realize that taxation is not theft and look at it as charity instead, then we realize an important part of how our civilization is supposed to function. A community does not take care of itself through the work of individuals but collectively, and a government facilitates that. If one thinks of their tax dollars as charity, then you have to look at the government you vote for as the charitable organization you would want to give to. Do you want to donate to the Bomb Children Abroad fund? Probably not. It has a terrible ring to it. A government that advocates lowering corporate taxes is like donating your money to rich businesses; they make more money, and the rest of us get fewer public services because of it. (For you humbuggers, since I really don’t want to get into it, here.) What kinds of causes do you like to donate to? Which party best reflects those values?

Yes, I am aware that governments tend to put the word “fallible” to shame, but libertarian idealism is not the answer for a better society. Like I said earlier, activism and elections are the way to hold governments accountable, and yes, our society falls so far short on both of those elements that it makes me wonder if Ted Kaczynski had the right idea. If you want government to change, great! Be heard; we need it. But we also need taxes, because I don’t think Ayn Rand is going to save us from the forest fires.

Post-Script: Progressive taxation, such as income or corporate tax, can never bankrupt you. They are percentages on profit, and I want to take a moment to clarify the greatest myth against taxation that even Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wasn’t able to quite wrap his head around: if you go into a higher tax bracket, you pay higher taxes on that bracket only. If the taxes up until $100 are 0% and above that they become 50%, and if you start making $110, you don’t all of a sudden only get $55; you get $105 because the 50% only applies to the $10 you make over the bracket line. There is no disincentive to not earn more with regards to a higher tax bracket because there will always be a higher profit if a higher profit is earned.

Advertisements