Monday, April 23, 2012

Beauty of Variety

Before our discussion on Thursday, I’m not sure I would have ever considered taxation as theft. After all, it’s a social detail everyone’s programmed to regard from a very young age, as necessary, required, and generally unavoidable. Upon our discussion last week, I began to view taxation differently. Before, I simply assumed that I paid taxes because I owed something to society.  By taking part in a system, I had accumulated some debt to pay for my existence because after all, freedom isn’t free.
I realized that the biggest difference in viewing taxation as theft is simply in the definition and underlying assumptions. So if theft is taking something from someone without their consent then I suppose taxation does take a personal income. The reason why taxation may be considered theft is because often what is given in return is different than what that individual believes they are paying for. It comes down to that classic example. Just because you leave the money in the parking lot and drive away with someone’s car doesn’t mean you magically own that car by any stretch of the imagination. It’s still theft, the owner was still harmed, and no voluntary action really took place.

In finishing The Darwin Economy, it began to strike me rather odd that Frank believed taxation was this indisputable good, and framed it as if taxation was this marvelous tool in reprimanding the wrongs of society. But if taxation is theft in the first place, how could it really be so effective? The reason why Frank believes taxation is beneficial is not only because he does not view it as theft but primarily because he has vastly different fundamental views of the purpose of government and the systems which encompass the functions of taxation, ultimately bringing him to his conclusion.

 He believes that if society allows opportunities to be possible by infrastructure then the concept of money is therefore a governmental and societal creation which is used with the understanding that it must be reinvested through taxation. Government, in Frank’s mind, is an unavoidable necessity simply because the government unites individual interest into a collective function, orchestrating such services which have somehow been deemed necessary. If nobody really owns anything, and private property rights really don’t exist, then we are all renters of governmental property and somehow our tax dollars are allegedly suppose to compensate for this unavoidable debt.

By Frank’s definition of taxation, it is understandable why he makes certain assumptions which may seem rather hasty or misplaced. It is because he functions under vastly different perceptions of the system in which he lives and interprets the  roles of government as inevitable, therefore building his arguments accordingly.

On another issue, in no way does a libertarian desire the world to be controlled completely by their views alone. True, they may desire common beliefs in certain areas…everyone does… but just as pointless as it would be to limit variety and live in a world of libertarian clones, neither would it be very interesting to exist in a world consisting only of conservatives. Frank makes a valid point even if framed in a rather shaky assumption of libertarian desire. Diversity nurtures Prosperity. Each individual’s differences will complement another’s. Each weakness will be compensated by another’s strength. This is the quiet yet beautiful reality which Adam Smith observed long ago as to why the market works …because individual desire allows humans to function in their own specialized professions where their needs are not only met, but likewise, they are given the opportunity to fulfill the needs of others. In no way is a system perfect. What system is? But specialization does demonstrate how diversity can work toward progression.

Therefore, in my opinion, taxation seems to be such an uncreative solution to problems which involve such unique and complex individuality. In so many ways, it undermines the ability of individuals to function as intellectual beings and assumes that because a social reality is not perfect then someone somewhere must have gotten it all wrong. I would like to have a little more faith in human competence before raving about the capabilities of taxation. After all, humans were designed to thrive in environments where their talents can be used and appreciated as not just another taxpayer but someone who has something beneficial to contribute to society as a whole.

Of the many confusing moments in this book, I will say that Frank allowed me the opportunity to encounter the ideas of those who have very different views and even more variant convictions than my own. While Frank seemed to paint libertarians in only two shades, “movement libertarians” and “antigovernment activists,” his writings have allowed me to be more conscious of the way in which I unconsciously categorize other’s ideas which may seem different from my own. There will always be more to the story than just a stereotype. Surely, there are many views and even more assumptions about the way an economy should be run, but if anything, I hope I never forget that it’s truly diversification which makes the market and each person’s individualized talent something notable in collaborating and ultimately strengthening the resolve of the collective.

...Until next semester.

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