Taxes are almost-universally painted as a bad thing. “That’s our money!” outraged conservatives object. And almost any government initiative at all, with which these folks disagree, they label “a tax grab”. They view most government as “over-reaching”, always asking for a bigger bite of our earnings. To conservative voters, self-governing seems a money-making activity. ‘Taxes are parasitic’, ‘taxes are predatory’ …. you’ve heard the drill; the multiple parties on the Right are all promoting anti-tax agendas.
There is, however, an alternative way to look at our taxes. This view is more communitarian than individualistic, and it is that taxes are a physical means for us to help each other, to help our neighbours, and thus we all live a better, more structured, easier daily life.
At the simplest level, taxes buy us our streets and roads, highways and bridges, police and fire services, water and sewers, airports and air services, health and education, food inspection, border control… just the list would fill this column.
Paying our taxes is a crucial form of community-building, probably the best tool we have for creating a supportive community.
How does “fewer taxes” improve society and our social infrastructure? Isn’t the community within which we live and die, which nourishes and educates our children and tends our ill, isn’t our community around us the most important feature of modern life?
The community-building argument for taxes seems pretty obvious. Less obvious is a second consideration: taxes, although they can be steep and difficult to pay all at once, especially if we are dragging back-taxes around with us, all in all, taxes do not cripple our population, our initiative, and our participation in free enterprise. Canada is, in fact, doing well.
Taxes are not as expensive as many claim, and just look at the driveways of most of our neighbours: cars, of course, but also a pick-up, skidoo, boat, 4-wheeler, even a travel trailer, plus the other toys of modern life … here is where life gets expensive. And if we can afford all these toys, can we really complain about paying our share of our community’s expenses?
Yes, these folks with a full drive-way will say this is their choice, their “right” (to spend their earnings as they wish). Folks who protest against “high taxes” don’t appear to be short of food, they’re dressed pretty well … yes, we have an ultimate right to spend as we wish, but my argument here is that “spending” on taxes actually gives us more benefits than filling our driveways … taxes benefit us all, not just the wealthiest people, taxes pull us together as a supportive community, and tax benefits often last a long time (just as our modern tools and gadgets do not).
The third general point about paying taxes is that here in Canada, we expect to pay for everything — free enterprise’s motto is “there’s no free lunch”– so why shouldn’t we have to pay a sort of “membership fee” for being Canadian? Our taxes are our membership fees. Very few Canadians I’ve met would rather live elsewhere.
Most of us believe in personal initiative and in paying our own way. No free lunch, we claim, but then say we don’t want to pay the bill (our taxes) for our lunch (being Canadian). How smart is that? And what personal initiative did it cost us each to be so fortuitously born in the best country on the planet?
Folks, we have to pay our bills, and there’s no sense in making that a political firestorm at election time. Most taxes here in Canada are a good deal, considering what we get in return. Complaints might focus on how the government spends some tax monies, but cutting the throat of government by killing taxes … it’s like cutting our own throats, and for what, exactly?