The Moral Case for Taxes



Playing off of Elizabeth Warren’s widely publicized quote about taxes (see picture above), the editors at The New Republic take the argument one step further, making a moral case for paying them. Their defense of taxation hinges on two arguments. “The first is distributional,” write the editors. “A civilized society recognizes [that capitalism will create losers as well as winners, often because of forces beyond any individual’s control] and vows to mitigate” that problem. “The second reason we need taxes isn’t about the least fortunate; it’s about public goods.” This is the point Warren made, and the editors at TNR make the same point, asking, “Could Bill Gates have made his fortune without government-financed education and technology?”

It’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to taxes. Even the most liberal among us may scoff at their property taxes from year to year. The New Republic’s editorial is a good reminder that, indeed, “Taxes are an act of citizenship. We should all be proud to pay them.”

Source: The New Republic (article only available to subscribers) 

R Cree
12/19/2011 4:12:01 PM

Quit calling taxes a moral responsibility--taxes are what is needed to internalize the massive damage that the capitalistic system has externalized onto the rest of us---yes, in simple terms, capitalism isn't paying for its pollution---effecting millions of individuals, our society, our country and the rest of the world. The rich and corporations have failed miserable after we, the 99%, gave the rich and their corporations trillions of dollars in tax breaks to create prosperity and jobs over the last 10 years. This is not about morality--when the rich and their corporations have failed, they need to pay back those trillions in tax breaks for not doing their job and to internalize those costs onto the system, not the individual and society. Tax the hell out of the rich and their corporations to let someone else use the money to create a better life for the rest of us.

Daniel Robbins
12/19/2011 2:36:40 PM

Have humans devised a better way of pooling their resources to create a better life for themselves than the creation of governments funded by taxation?

dan hoskins
12/16/2011 3:47:02 PM

In practice, the public debate about taxes comes down to sustainability; the right doesn't really expect to escape any tax at all, they just claim the current level is squashing businesses so businesses can't afford to employ more workers. Democrats, "You couldn't have a business without civil society and it's government! Pay your taxes with pride!" Republicans, "Free us from these high taxes and we will grow and make more jobs! Your taxes kill jobs!" We can answer both better with a tax code that protects profits from taxation if businesses employ workers. We could exempt profits from tax at the corporate level dollar-for-dollar for each employee getting wages, capped at some limit, say, 20,000 a year for each employee. So a business employing 100 people at an average wage of 40,000 could protect 20 million in profit from taxation. Suddenly, it becomes very attractive to build a business which needs employees to make its profit. There is an existing provision which does this in a small way for some businesses, the Domestic Production Activities Deduction, which shelters profits by a few percent of wages paid. Massively expand this and extend it to all employers. Let's see shareholder meetings where the shareholders hold the CEO's feet to the fire for not employing more people to get more profit free of corporate taxes. (Offset the reduced revenue by eliminating lots of the special tax provisions in place. If we just identified any provision affecting fewer than 50 businesses and tanked them, we would generate a lot more revenue while greatly simplifying the tax code.)

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