At the last Republican debate, 17-year old Tyler Hinsley asked a question for the ages:
…out of every dollar that I earn, how much do you think that I deserve to keep?
Jon Huntsman bypassed the question for rehearsed talking points. But the query is going national, which is awesome. Radio DJs put the question to a Democratic Congresswoman. Her reflexive answer was hilarious:
What is really your question here?
Ha ha! See why I can’t interact with leftists? Their honest answer, which can never be said, is: “whatever we allow you”.
On the other hand, conservative and Tea Party groups aren’t giving Mr. Tyler specifics either. The author’s response in the Spectator article was,
“You deserve to keep every cent that you earn. The government is only entitled to collect in taxes what it needs to perform its legitimate functions as specified in the Constitution.”
Nice! But also incomplete and parochial. Hinsley’s question is philosophical and universal, and practical and Tyler-centric.
How much does anyone deserve to keep?
My gut instantly answers “between 0% and 100%, inclusive”. So now my OCD wants to punch my gut in the stomach. Well, politics aside, it’s a fascinating question.
My principle is the opposite of Schakowsky’s: Tyler deserves to keep as much as civilization can allow him. But societies vary. So here is the full spectrum of “just desserts”, from kit-and-kaboodle down to zilch nada. You deserve:
100% – (theft by monkeys):
You’ve washed up on Gilligan’s Island right after the zany cast escaped. You are your society. How much wealth do you deserve? Whatever you can wrest from Mother Nature. (NOTE: Gaea is both subtle and brazen, wily and moronic, beautiful and terrifying, and she will collect a 100% estate tax from you.)
100% – (your conscience):
You and your family are the Platonic ideal of homesteaders, with other idealized homesteaders in reach. No one makes demands of anyone else, but compassion is not unknown. (NOTE: I don’t know what the hell you are…but you sure ain’t human.)
That takes care of “non-societies”. Now we’ll assume you’re a citizen who acknowledges responsibilities along with claiming rights. Thus:
You live in the best possible government, an enlightened monarchy. You’re free to leave, but why would you? Your monarch’s legendary wisdom and compassion inspires the realm. Almost all taxes go to defending society from rapacious neighbors and predatory citizens, and mediating civil disputes. (NOTE: A foolish and evil monarchy is as bad as yours is good. So your ruler must invariably have wise and loving descendants. P.S.–you’re not human, either.)
Which brings us to utopian America.
90% – (state and local government):
Lucky dog! You’re not just an American, you live in the Platonic version. You’re always free to leave, but only idiots will. Federal taxes are for the same things as an enlightened monarchy. (NOTE: The 10% tax rate is an average, not an institution. Usually it would be less than 10%, but would skyrocket in times of war.)
My personal line in the sand. I never knew it until now, pondering Tyler’s inspired question. Libertarians may raise eyebrows at the “generosity”, which is actually just my terrible haggling. I’d gladly give the government a gratuity if it would serve us in silence. (NOTE: I know it can’t work that way.)
Statists scream “anarchy” at 15% government. It may even seem low to you. But I oppose “government entitlements” in every way, shape, and form. They are both oxymoronic and a blight on humanity. Governments offer grants and deductions for things like education and home ownership. Why? Because we know that subsidizing something produces more of it. BUT WE SIMULTANEOUSLY subsidize poverty and single motherhood!
WTF: When Thinking Fails. How well does this schizophrenia work? Just look around.
So note that my 15% tax rate means social safety net not included. So the true rate of what I deserve to keep is:
85% – (my conscience):
And the self-tax should be about twice that 15% government rate. It is not where it should be, to my shame. And if my taxes ever were slashed to 15% but alms-giving didn’t vastly increase, I would be a horribly selfish person and a terrible U.S. citizen.
Which brings us to Tyler. (I include the non-mandatory “conscience tax” because I hope he has a happy, productive, and serene life.) Tyler, here are your just desserts:
90% – (state and local government + your conscience)
You deserve everything you earn, minus ten percent federal tax. Then minus state and local taxes, appropriate to where you choose to live on the liberty/socialism axis. Finally, minus whatever your conscience demands. Abundant evidence suggests that the greater this final tax, the happier you’ll be.
(BTW, Tyler, ever notice how desperately unhappy progressives are?)
So, non-federal taxes could range from 0 to 90%. People have different tolerances for sacrificing liberty for security, and vice versa. It’s a spectrum. Just find like-minded people and move to their neighborhood, or invite them to yours.
We started with examples of people deserving every bit of their earnings. We’ll end with those who “deserve” none of them. In fact, I’m only aware of these two. And boy, are they are opposite examples of humanity.
0% : You are a Shaking Quaker. You are industrious, inventive, honest, humble, compassionate, and self-sacrificing.
0% : You are Michael Moore.