In the debate over avoiding the “fiscal cliff”—especially over whose taxes should and shouldn’t be raised—I detect an annoying attempt to romanticize taxation. I read this as an act of desperation on the part of those who want higher taxes on the wealthy, for there is nothing romantic about taxation.
The other day MSNBC’s Chris Hayes invoked Franklin Roosevelt in support of higher taxes on the top 2 percent. Pulling out all the stops, Hayes quoted from one of FDR’s October 1936 campaign speeches, in which Roosevelt said:
In 1776 the fight was for democracy in taxation. In 1936 that is still the fight. Mr. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: “Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society.” One sure way to determine the social conscience of a Government is to examine the way taxes are collected and how they are spent. And one sure way to determine the social conscience of an individual is to get his tax-reaction.
Taxes, after all, are the dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.
As society becomes more civilized, Government—national, State and local government—is called on to assume more obligations to its citizens. The privileges of membership in a civilized society have vastly increased in modern times. But I am afraid we have many who still do not recognize their advantages and want to avoid paying their dues.
CONTINUED at Reason. Written by Sheldon Richman.