If you’re toiling over your tax returns as the filing deadline approaches, why not pause to read Yaron Brook’s take on why you would be justified in feeling resentful of the tax code’s many manipulations. This op-ed was written in 2008, so some of the political references are dated, but the principles remain exactly the same in 2017.
Here are a few highlights:
Tax policy works by attaching financial incentives to a long list of values deemed morally worthy. If you want to maximize your wealth come tax time — and who doesn’t? — you must look at the world through tax-colored glasses, “voluntarily” adjusting your behavior to suit social norms and thereby qualifying for tax breaks. In this way, the social engineers of tax policy preserve the impression that you’re exercising free choice, while they’re actually dispensing with your reason and your judgment.
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Over the past century, such social engineering has inflated the nation’s tax laws to an estimated 66,000 pages of statutes, regulations and rulings. At the core of this unreadable agglomeration is the most arrogant scheme of all, the progressive income tax. Its basic idea is that the more productive you are, the more you should pay in taxes. If you dare to suggest that penalizing success is neither a moral ideal nor a practical tax policy, you will be told that all such questions must be decided by reference to the good of society.
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Here’s the point: Government’s job is not to dictate your values but to protect them. In a free country, you choose values and then use your own money as a tool to achieve them. But a value-rigged tax policy reverses this cause and effect — it uses your money against you, bribing you with tax breaks that let you keep some of your earnings in exchange for abandoning your preferred values.
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In place of the limitless variety that emerges when individuals plan their own lives in a free society, tax laws strive to impose a dreary sameness — as if every individual should get married, have children, buy a home and save for retirement on a government-approved schedule — and as if every company should look to bureaucrats for the one true path to selecting real estate, equipment, fuels, employees and financing. Such artificial homogeneity has no place in the tax policy of a government dedicated to protecting individual rights.
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Imagine reasserting ourselves as rational, sovereign individuals, whose rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness include the right to choose values without asking society’s permission — and without chasing our own money, like lab rats sniffing cheese, down the twisting corridors of a labyrinthine tax code.
Read the whole thing here.