Progressive taxation made simple, and absurd

Here’s an excellent video from Prager University that makes the absurdity of “progressive taxation” easy to see:

I love videos like this because they bring the viewer back to basics with simple, logical arguments, designed to shift the terms of the debate.  Far too much of our discourse is conducted on terms set by the Left decades ago.  The political imagination of the American electorate is fenced in by convincing them certain ideas must be accepted without question.  In truth, for free people, every idea is open to question, and the good ones should be easy enough to defend in an intellectually satisfying way, across years and generations.

What’s especially intriguing about this criticism of progressive taxation is that it emphasizes the importance of understanding how individuals earn their money.  Yes, it’s inherent unfair to expect some people to pay more for the same services, but most people swallow their faint qualms about that fundamental unfairness by reasoning that the wealth of richer people is somehow ill-gotten.  It’s unfair to take more from them, sure, but it’s even more “unfair,” in a cosmic sense, that they’re rolling in dough.  Everyone who supports progressive taxation accepts, either implicitly or eagerly, the premise that some people have less claim on their own property than others, even though they have committed no crime.  

Perhaps sensing that this case is becoming difficult to make as the State takes and controls more of our national wealth, the Left has developed a new argument that wealthier people should pay radically more for the same public services because they have benefited more from those services – they made more of their education, they derive more value from roads, they have more expensive property for the police to protect.  That argument is logically absurd when so many people pay nothing for services they benefit from, and as this video points out, the proportionate gulf between the share paid by low- and high-end taxpayers is so vast that it’s impossible to construct a formula justifying the disparity based on how much the two extremes have “benefited” from government services… a great many of which are of little or no benefit to anyone who actually pays taxes.

Also, this video is great about pointing out that what people do to earn their wealth is an important consideration, but progressive taxation almost completely ignores it, judging us solely by reported income, modified by a vast and ever-changing maze of exemptions.  I would add that not only did a lot of wealthy individuals work extremely hard to accumulate that money, especially during the early days of start-up enterprises, but they also accepted risk.  There is no wealth creation without risk, and there are only two ways to infuse the economy with that priceless resource: either people accept risk voluntarily, or they are forced to do so at gunpoint, as the government seizes assets and becomes the primary “investor,” or the senior partner in every investment.  The latter approach is not “capitalism,” or consistent with constitutional liberty.

Progressive taxation is regressive economics: the active punishment of hard work, savings, and investment.  Its administration calls for an insanely obtrusive government that monitors every transaction, armed with a confusing body of tax law that makes nearly everyone a criminal, at the discretion of those who bring the charges.  The inevitable result is a government that seizes and spends far too much of our national wealth… to the applause of those who contribute little to the seizure, and benefit greatly from the spending.  Look at the three brothers in this video, and ask yourself where the downward spiral of their “progressive” relationship is likely to end.  It takes longer with 300 million brothers, but the destination is the same.


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