In Defense of Taxes

We agree there are “social goods” which require a collective effort to complete (like roads, hospitals, infrastructure, etc). If not, we must have a different conversation before this one, probably about the issues surrounding anarchism/libertarianism. It doesn’t matter what in particular needs this effort, simply that there is something is enough. We must then form a body to collect resources, in a fair way, from everyone. That’s taxes.

We vote in a flawed, yet democratic way, to decide how that money is spent. Even in the most idyllic of democracies, people will have a portion of their money spent on things they disagree with. Accepting compromise is a necessity of any democracy. That doesn’t mean we’re completely stuck with this situation, there’s a partial solution.

The government allows you to choose which social good your money goes to but then charges you a premium. You agree to put more money into society in exchange for having some control over its usage. This is charitable donations. The idea is that all charities perform a similar social good as the government. Many focus on alleviating the effects of poverty on specific groups, tending to the sick/injured, dealing with disasters, or foreign aid. These are all things the government would have to do if a charity didn’t. A tax deduction on donations allow you to claim a percentage of your donation. You have diverted some of the money that would have gone to the collective pool into your chosen social program. So long as it’s always just a deduction based on a fraction of your donation, you’ll be paying more money into the ‘social good’ then you would have with straight taxes. Additionally, the government can encourage certain charities by modifying what that percentage is based on the type of charity.

This is also why voting is important, regardless of your political affiliation. Your money is being spent by people and you really should try to influence how it’s used. Whether you believe in starkly honest voting or strategic voting, you definitely can’t sway the usage of those funds by not voting.

I’m well aware donations can be gamed by the rich/corporations to reduce their taxes. False charities and loopholes allow abuse. This isn’t a flaw with the idea itself, merely a facet of any human created system. There are always cracks in the machine.

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Letters Home #1

Dear Ana,

Ah, finally, a moment of peace. I survived the voyage, obviously, and am generally well. It’s taken me a week to finally start writing you (I know I promised I’d write as soon as I arrived). It’s just so… different here; I’ve been agog at the culture shock. This letter won’t get to you for weeks, if not months, because of travel time. Sorry.

But it’s so worth it. The people, the Beltoshee, have created an amazing culture. I’m sure you’ll get sick of me explaining their ways; *I’m* the anthropologist of the family. It’s just impossible to talk about anything without the cultural perspective. For example, where I’m living (and currently writing this letter). Approximately it’s an all women college dorm. But that’s inaccurate on many levels. “College students”, “dormitories”, and especially “women” are all conceived of differently here.

The first one is easiest; college students. A Beltoshee life is divided into 5 stages, 4 of growth and the final lasting until death. The fourth stage is from age 9-12, which is actually 18-24 by our count because they use a double lunar cycle calendar. Bizarre, I know. So this fourth stage is when they have become what we would call a young adult. They spend those 6 years studying their career path. This is how it’s approximately like college, the way it differs has to do with the social pressures. They’re very strict in the roles individuals must adhere to. One does not change careers mid life, you’re stuck with what you studied in these early years. No one out right prevents you from changing careers, but you’re shunned and looked down upon. Sure, it’s difficult to change jobs back home, but no one insults you for it.

Now for dormitories. Life is communal here, people seem to rarely live alone. Families have their own dwellings but they’re small and grouped closely together. I’ve yet to see something like a “living room” because everyone just goes to a communal space to lounge or be entertained. Ahlnaan (someone in their “fourth life”) sleep in a communal room to save space. Many who have spouses choose to continue to live in the dorm to help them focus on their studies.

And lastly the one that will be most confusing for you, although I imagine you’ve heard some rumours about this. Their definition of women has nothing to do with body physiology. At the end of their second stage of life (so 12 years by our count), they choose if they are male or female. As I stated earlier about their culture being very role oriented, their concept of gender is also very strict, it’s just not tied to biology. Men deal with things away from home, women with things at home. Unlike the sexist societies we’re used to dealing with though, they consider politics a part of house business. Running of the communities and all levels of government is restricted to women. The only political role done by men is diplomacy (cause, you know, it’s away from home). In this way, they are far more strict than we are with gender roles. And from what I’ve gathered it’s incredibly taboo to want to change that decision later in life.

Have to say that I admire the option to choose, but can’t imagine picking something so important at that young age.

Oh geez, I’m almost out of paper and I’ve been rambling about culture this whole time. I’m good, I swear. I’m making friends and not sticking my foot in my mouth too much. Say hi to the gang for me, and give mom and dad my love. Actually just show them my letters. I can only write one person, very limited paper. Must save most of it for my actual reports to the Anthropological society.

Your loving sister,

Catalina