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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Slavery analogy misrepresents modern taxations

If taxes are like slavery, then I’ve been living on Mars.

In response to a recent column in The BG News on March 21st making an analogy between the income tax and slavery, consider the following scenario.

Imagine there are two individuals. One’s name is Tom, the other Ben. Imagine Tom owns Ben.

That is, everything Ben does is dictated by Tom. Now, multiply Tom and Ben hundreds of times. The relationship remains the same.

Now, one great year, through a long history of suffering, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed by Congress. And the Bens no longer belong to the Toms.

Question: After the passing of the Civil Rights Act, are Ben and Tom at the same starting point?

In other words, does Ben have the same opportunities (educational, health, job) to succeed in life?

Well, Tom has been profiting off of Ben for decades, educating his children, and establishing businesses. Ben has not.

It seems that Tom has a big leg up. Not because Tom worked any harder than Ben; but because of injustice.

Ben and Tom’s story is no doubt reflective of the history of slavery.

In fact, it is a very simplistic description that does not even begin to describe the repulsiveness and horror of what is slavery.

Redistributive justice gives us the potential to make things a little fairer.

Taxation can serve as the means to such justice.

Each of us gives a little of our income for a cause greater than ourselves: Justice.

We acknowledge that individuals oftentimes, like in Ben’s case, have little control over their destinies. One need only glance at statistics on intergenerational income mobility to see how wide and stagnant the gap in income inequality has become.

From this view, taxation is not forced labor or slavery.

It does not even approach the forced labor young women experience in the international sex trade or the prevailing slave labor in countries not limited to China, Brazil, and India. Rather, taxation is a moral requirement; it is thinking about “the other.”

It is the most BASIC advice we are given as toddlers: Share.

But beyond redistributive justice, to say that taxes are the equivalent to being “robbed” because one has not consented on paper is to overlook a massive coordination problem.

There is no way for our representatives to go to each individual house, have people check off whether they support a specific tax allocation, and then sign.

Sorry, just not practical. (Even if that was possible, and tax allocations were set, the minority of individuals who did NOT consent would be paying taxes they didn’t consent to.) Instead, we vote for the individuals that make our policies that fund public utilities (roads, bridges, dams, hospitals, firemen, national parks, medical research), and we can participate in state and local government in a variety of ways.

Democracy is by no means perfect. But that does not necessarily make taxation policies illegitimate.

On a deeper level, the divergent views between those who see tax-payers as being “robbed” (or insert any other coercive word) and those who see tax-payers as moral citizens of our country result from how one views humans. Are humans Atomistic? That is, do humans live unaffected by others and fend for themselves for the most part of their lives? Or, are humans Interdependent?

That is, are the directions of human lives largely affected by others? That’s a question for you to decide.

All I know is that I did not come out of the womb knowing how to read, write, or think. Someone else taught me these things.

Others did not have to share with me. But they did. “Others” helped me along the way.

They helped enhance “liberty;” not take it away. But to some people’s point of view, this might as well be the day I was “enslaved” and prevented from choosing whether I even want to read, write, or think.

These people must really think I’m from Mars or something.

Respond to Facundo Bouzat at

[email protected]

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