FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Tax Against Tyranny

The governments of the world can be seen as belonging to either of two categories. There are those that depend on taxes for their spending and there are those that do not. And the extent of its dependence on taxes will largely determine the form of a particular government.

The collection of taxes has never been popular. And introducing new taxes has more than once brought down a government, or led to revolt and even revolution. Taxing the nation means taking a part of the wealth produced. But the part appropriated should not be excessive, as overtaxing inhibits investments and growth. So that a short term gain from an increase in the tax rate contradicts the long term gain due to increased wealth being taxed at the same rate.

The necessary “fine tuning” of the tax rate and the consensual disapproval of taxes in general often result in governments having to pay their budget deficits with borrowed money. This inveterate borrowing in turn allows governments, in a bid to restore lost popularity, to cut taxes for certain strategic sectors of society. However, borrowing relies on the lender’s confidence in the borrower’s future capacity to pay. This also applies to government borrowing but, as the limits of debt are poorly defined (1), the lender’s reaction often comes too late, after the limits are passed.

Deciding who bears the burden of financing the state is a fundamental function of parliamentary representation. The question of who is taxed, how and how much is (or should be) a subject of great importance in electoral debates. On a par with law and order, education and welfare, war and peace, that is with all the different ways of spending what is reaped. Fair taxation is essential to the notion of res publica, the idea of a commonwealth shared by all citizens. And so, refusing taxation has proved to be the most effective, perhaps the only way of opposing tyranny. Unless, of course, the tyrant ensures that refusal is impossible.

Communist regimes managed to eliminate taxation by a total control of production, exchange and finance, with government expenditures as an integral part of the process. The highly centralised planning put in place by the communists was inherent to the mechanical age. Coal and steel are best produced in a planed and centralised manner.

For this reason, the totalitarian economies were fairly successful for a while, but they were totally unable to adapt to the electronic age. The decentralised nature of electronic software production, the garage start-ups and the high school entrepreneurs quietly pushed state control of production into the landfills of history. Initiative and inventiveness can neither be planned nor extorted.

The top down control of bureaucratic tyranny could not survive in a changed environment. But military tyranny is as thriving as ever, because warlords only need guns and ammunition to maintain their dominion. The rest can be procured by force. And, in the same way, tyrants are able to rule by might, when they do not depend on civil society for their incomes. An army can buy the arms it needs to impose its will thanks to “blood” diamonds, coltan, copper, oil, etc.

If the Burmese generals stopped receiving royalties for gas, oil and timber, they would fade away almost over night. But, as no one wants to give up their consumption of gas, oil and tropical timber, it just won’t happen (2). And, to make tyranny even easier, Burma is ethnically divided. So the army just looks after its own and can oppress or neglect the other inhabitants. In the same way, dozens of corrupt cliques are in power all around the world, funded by the royalties they receive.

Beginning with the Magna Carta, English history is a tale of rulers submitting to the will of the people in exchange for badly needed cash. And, to a large extent, it was George III’s need of money and Lord North’s intransigence that led to the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America. While, in France, Louis XVI’s empty coffers obliged him to assemble the Three Estates that deposed and then beheaded him.

These nations are justly proud of their rebellious past and of their forefathers’ brave stands against tyranny. But what of to-day? What pressure can be brought to bear by the taxpayers on a government that grants rebates and borrows all it needs on the world’s currency markets? Powerless at home and hooked to minerals and fossil fuels abroad, what remains of our heritage?

KENNETH COUESBOUC can be reached at: kencouesbouc@yahoo.fr

Notes

1. The capacity to repay depends on excess income, the part that is over and above the cost of the necessities of life. When incomes are stable, increased borrowing means reduced spending on necessities. But it is always difficult to assess how far the reduction can go.

2. During the Cold War, dictators were funded to put down the reds or the imperialist puppets, depending on which side was paying. Nowadays, funding is essentially commercial, with a few exceptions due to the War on Terror. And events in Iraq have demonstrated once again that it is easier and cheaper to payroll a tyrant than to subdue a nation.

More articles by:
July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
George Ochenski
He Speaks From Experience: Max Baucus on “Squandered Leadership”
Ted Rall
Right Now, It Looks Like Trump Will Win in 2020
David Swanson
The Intelligence Community Is Neither
Andrew Moss
Chaos or Community in Immigration Policy
Kim Scipes
Where Do We Go From Here? How Do We Get There?
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail