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Taxes. Who doesn't love them?

Jokes aside, I'm writing this post as an act of laziness. Over the past weeks (since I've involuntarily stumbled into RSP), I've encountered numerous threads where the topic of taxation has been discussed in conjunction with problems of income inequality. I've been close to responding a few times, and I've always given up before I started because my point of view is sort of an oddball perspective, and because of that it's rather hard to explain it in a short response without appearing like a complete moron. And I'm far too lazy to respond in-depth whenever the subject comes up here, which seems to be quite often.

Hence, this post. Mind you, I'm not proposing any solutions here. In fact, I'm not even trying to convince anybody of my standpoint. This is merely the attempt to introduce a somewhat excentric point of view. I'm only saying "Hey, you could also look at it this way." That's all. Personally, I've encountered this idea many years ago in an old book, and for me it was quite eye-opening, not even because I necessarily agree with all its implications but simply because I had never looked at it this way... maybe you'll feel the same, maybe not.

Ok, so here it comes:

When my trashcan is full, I pull it up to the street and it gets taken away. I find, that's kind of a neat system. It surely beats the alternative where I make a fire in my backyard, then bury the remains only to discover years down the road that I've been poisoning the groundwater. In consequence, I have to pay taxes so that the trash collector who deals with my garbage can get a salary.

In other words, I pay taxes to relieve myself from my responsibilities. With the trashbin, it's easy enough to see that the alternative would be to personally assume the responsibility. But the same holds true in other areas. Say, my neighbor and his wife die in a car accident, and they leave behind their five year old son. I don't want the boy to starve. The other people in our street don't want the boy to starve. Now, we could take turns in taking him in, cooking food for him, and so on... that way we would be living up to our communal responsibility. Instead, we pay taxes so that an orphanage can do the job. The same goes for the new refugee in town. I think that politically persecuted persons should be granted asylum; if I want to live up to that standard, I could offer him my sofa as a resting place - instead, I pay taxes so that he can stay at a public safe house.

What am I getting at with this: Taxes aren't a political compromise of economy. Taxes are an economic compromise of politics. I pay taxes so that I can relief myself from my duties as a responsible citizen. I use money instead of my personal time and effort to let others do the work that needs to be done in my community. And, in consequence, I subsequently alienate myself from the work that needs to be done, up to the point where I'm so far removed from my communal responsibilities that I don't even make the connection anymore. I assume that this is the point where I would begin to believe that paying taxes was something akin to a charitable act - but paying taxes isn't the burden of the rich; it's rather their privilege.

So, I suppose that most political conservatives are now thinking something along the lines of "what kind of warped communist logic is this". The good thing, though, about this point of view is that it's completely inconspicious of communist subreption... because the most important proponent of this school of thought died half a Century before Marx was even born:
Rousseau wrote:
When it is necessary to march out to war, they pay troops and stay at home: when it is necessary to meet in council, they name deputies and stay at home. ... In a country that is truly free, the citizens do everything with their own arms and nothing by means of money. ... I am far from taking the common view: I hold enforced labor to be less opposed to liberty than taxes.
(Rousseau: The social contract, book III, chapter 15, cited via Walzer, M. 1983. Spheres of justice. Basic books, p. 171.)

In other words, when you ponder what such a subversive idea may do to a society, please picture the French Revolution rather than the October revolution.

Moreover, before you respond how dated this whole concept is - I know. Of course the notion that all communal work could be distributed among all citizens is absurd. As a private person, I can't enforce a no-fly-zone over Syria, and if I was directly responsible for nuclear waste disposal, my country would be truly fucked.

That said, there are lots of communal responsibilities that I can stand up to. There's lots of social areas where volunteers already contribute enormously (e.g. homes for the elderly, child care, refugee relief, asf.). On an even larger scale - and arguably pretty close to what Rousseau calls 'enforced labor' -, some countries do indeed have a working system for general conscription. And it could even be argued that the whole deal of Israelian kibbutzim rests on the conviction that communal responsibilities should be assumed directly rather than mediated by taxation.

I've never been to a kibbutz. However, when I was at the right age, I was conscripted. I hated (almost) every minute of it. In hindsight, though, I learned a lot and wouldn't want to miss that experience... and I absolutely think that it teaches the exact 'public spirit' that is the core point of Rousseau's political philosophy. These days, I occasionally volunteer as a translator for refugees; I also pay my taxes... and I'm very certain that the former instills me with more public spirit than the latter.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
If you want to read more about this, I can really recommend Rousseau's The social contract. Similar thoughts can be found in Scottish enlightenment, for example in the works of Fergusson. Michael Walzer's book (also cited above) is also one that I can definitely recommend, even though the idea presented here is only touched on briefly (and Walzer is a lot less radical about it than Rousseau).
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Walking on eggshells is not my style
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How cute. Did you stumble upon this in the middle school library?
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I welcome you newbie with this uplifting message.

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Randombias wrote:
Taxes. Who doesn't love them?

Jokes aside, I'm writing this post as an act of laziness. Over the past weeks (since I've involuntarily stumbled into RSP), I've encountered numerous threads where the topic of taxation has been discussed in conjunction with problems of income inequality. I've been close to responding a few times, and I've always given up before I started because my point of view is sort of an oddball perspective, and because of that it's rather hard to explain it in a short response without appearing like a complete moron. And I'm far too lazy to respond in-depth whenever the subject comes up here, which seems to be quite often.

Hence, this post. Mind you, I'm not proposing any solutions here. In fact, I'm not even trying to convince anybody of my standpoint. This is merely the attempt to introduce a somewhat excentric point of view. I'm only saying "Hey, you could also look at it this way." That's all. Personally, I've encountered this idea many years ago in an old book, and for me it was quite eye-opening, not even because I necessarily agree with all its implications but simply because I had never looked at it this way... maybe you'll feel the same, maybe not.

Ok, so here it comes:

When my trashcan is full, I pull it up to the street and it gets taken away. I find, that's kind of a neat system. It surely beats the alternative where I make a fire in my backyard, then bury the remains only to discover years down the road that I've been poisoning the groundwater. In consequence, I have to pay taxes so that the trash collector who deals with my garbage can get a salary.

In other words, I pay taxes to relieve myself from my responsibilities. With the trashbin, it's easy enough to see that the alternative would be to personally assume the responsibility. But the same holds true in other areas. Say, my neighbor and his wife die in a car accident, and they leave behind their five year old son. I don't want the boy to starve. The other people in our street don't want the boy to starve. Now, we could take turns in taking him in, cooking food for him, and so on... that way we would be living up to our communal responsibility. Instead, we pay taxes so that an orphanage can do the job. The same goes for the new refugee in town. I think that politically persecuted persons should be granted asylum; if I want to live up to that standard, I could offer him my sofa as a resting place - instead, I pay taxes so that he can stay at a public safe house.

What am I getting at with this: Taxes aren't a political compromise of economy. Taxes are an economic compromise of politics. I pay taxes so that I can relief myself from my duties as a responsible citizen. I use money instead of my personal time and effort to let others do the work that needs to be done in my community. And, in consequence, I subsequently alienate myself from the work that needs to be done, up to the point where I'm so far removed from my communal responsibilities that I don't even make the connection anymore. I assume that this is the point where I would begin to believe that paying taxes was something akin to a charitable act - but paying taxes isn't the burden of the rich; it's rather their privilege.

So, I suppose that most political conservatives are now thinking something along the lines of "what kind of warped communist logic is this". The good thing, though, about this point of view is that it's completely inconspicious of communist subreption... because the most important proponent of this school of thought died half a Century before Marx was even born:
Rousseau wrote:
When it is necessary to march out to war, they pay troops and stay at home: when it is necessary to meet in council, they name deputies and stay at home. ... In a country that is truly free, the citizens do everything with their own arms and nothing by means of money. ... I am far from taking the common view: I hold enforced labor to be less opposed to liberty than taxes.
(Rousseau: The social contract, book III, chapter 15, cited via Walzer, M. 1983. Spheres of justice. Basic books, p. 171.)

In other words, when you ponder what such a subversive idea may do to a society, please picture the French Revolution rather than the October revolution.

Moreover, before you respond how dated this whole concept is - I know. Of course the notion that all communal work could be distributed among all citizens is absurd. As a private person, I can't enforce a no-fly-zone over Syria, and if I was directly responsible for nuclear waste disposal, my country would be truly fucked.

That said, there are lots of communal responsibilities that I can stand up to. There's lots of social areas where volunteers already contribute enormously (e.g. homes for the elderly, child care, refugee relief, asf.). On an even larger scale - and arguably pretty close to what Rousseau calls 'enforced labor' -, some countries do indeed have a working system for general conscription. And it could even be argued that the whole deal of Israelian kibbutzim rests on the conviction that communal responsibilities should be assumed directly rather than mediated by taxation.

I've never been to a kibbutz. However, when I was at the right age, I was conscripted. I hated (almost) every minute of it. In hindsight, though, I learned a lot and wouldn't want to miss that experience... and I absolutely think that it teaches the exact 'public spirit' that is the core point of Rousseau's political philosophy. These days, I occasionally volunteer as a translator for refugees; I also pay my taxes... and I'm very certain that the former instills me with more public spirit than the latter.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
If you want to read more about this, I can really recommend Rousseau's The social contract. Similar thoughts can be found in Scottish enlightenment, for example in the works of Fergusson. Michael Walzer's book (also cited above) is also one that I can definitely recommend, even though the idea presented here is only touched on briefly (and Walzer is a lot less radical about it than Rousseau).


Even conservatives who pretend to not want the social contract really do want it. They just want to pay less than they are now and they usually want to get more than what their taxes can pay for as it is.

Federal taxes are not so bad but when you include state and local taxes the system lays heavily on the lower and middle incomes without providing them as much benefit as other countries with similar total tax rates.

Oh yea and

You can ignore jeremy completely (he's pretty worthless for any kind of dialogue lately). Koldfoot has a good point about a quarter of the time but there's a lot of nasty mixed in so you have to filter it out.

You may also be interested in Hobbes Leviathan and the "State of Nature" and why it is in our enlightened self interest to form governments and submit to state power (including taxation).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leviathan_(book)

You may also be interested in the Veil of Ignorance for designing moral, fair governmental systems.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veil_of_ignorance
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Randombias wrote:
I pay taxes so that I can relief myself from my duties as a responsible citizen. I use money instead of my personal time and effort to let others do the work that needs to be done in my community.
On the subject of taxes, a libertarian might tell you that your reliance on taxes to "do the work that needs to be done in my community" is the central lie at work here. Western democracies have been conditioned over the 20th century to believe that if you just give away 30%-60% of your income, then flowers will grow, and the poor will be fed, and the sick will be healed, and the sun will shine, and nothing bad will ever happen. As Western economies break down, that notion is being challenged. So I am pleased you have decided to really take a look at taxation as a mechanism for the supposed "public good."

And I'm sure some crusty old douchebags will bemoan your turn towards "the local collective" to address local ills, but I will not. If you and your immediate neighbors enter into a kind of social contract, if you will, to improve the lives of each other and at the same time yourselves, my libertarian mind says "Have at it!" It's just when that sort of camaraderie morphs into a forced existence of "producing for the good of the motherland" that I hope Uncle Joe Stalin doesn't poke his ugly head up & take control of your heretofore pleasant utopia.
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fightcitymayor wrote:
Randombias wrote:
I pay taxes so that I can relief myself from my duties as a responsible citizen. I use money instead of my personal time and effort to let others do the work that needs to be done in my community.
On the subject of taxes, a libertarian might tell you that your reliance on taxes to "do the work that needs to be done in my community" is the central lie at work here. Western democracies have been conditioned over the 20th century to believe that if you just give away 30%-60% of your income, then flowers will grow, and the poor will be fed, and the sick will be healed, and the sun will shine, and nothing bad will ever happen. As Western economies break down, that notion is being challenged. So I am pleased you have decided to really take a look at taxation as a mechanism for the supposed "public good."

And I'm sure some crusty old douchebags will bemoan your turn towards "the local collective" to address local ills, but I will not. If you and your immediate neighbors enter into a kind of social contract, if you will, to improve the lives of each other and at the same time yourselves, my libertarian mind says "Have at it!" It's just when that sort of camaraderie morphs into a forced existence of "producing for the good of the motherland" that I hope Uncle Joe Stalin doesn't poke his ugly head up & take control of your heretofore pleasant utopia.


I think part of the issue is reduced public service and an increase in paying for everything.

We need to rejuvenate VISTA.
 
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maxo-texas wrote:
We need to rejuvenate VISTA.
Oh, no thank you, I never liked Windows Vista.
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Taxes should be regarded as tools. Like any good tool box, a government should have access to a variety of tools to achieve it's legitimate goals. Two primary uses for the tax tool include paying for government functions and regulating behavior.

We live in an era in the US where government is viewed with suspicion as to its motives and deep distrust as to its utility. I suspect this is in part due to the fact that modern Americans did not experience the struggles it took to arrive at this point nor a full appreciation of daily conditions which dedicated those struggles.

The emerging movement seems to be Libertarianism. Given the potentially tyrannical nature of government, this is a useful political pole to have in a healthy democracy. Libertarians don't like taxes or regulations.

Here's the thing. We no longer live in a society split between simple sustenance farming or nomadic herding. Ever since we got the idea of food storage and money, we've taken to specialization which has allowed our advances ever since. The simple fact is that no person has the time or attention to be aware or informed of all they need to know concerning their environment, what they consume, or how domestic or foreign friction is being resolved-among so many other things. It's why we have a representative democracy (and even career politicians are being overrun with the complexity of modern governance) and why we have regulatory bodies helping to ensure our food and air and water and even our bazillion consumer products are reasonably safe.

I was listening to a radio story in the last few days about infrastructure development in third world towns/cities. The point was made that when Manhattan was only occupied at one end they developed a plan for expansion to grow seven fold which worked very well for the expansion of gridded streets and sewers. In many third world countries, where populations are expanding rapidly, such plans have not been developed and the potential cost of building streets and sewers are far greater due to the haphazard layout of structures--and such problems are even seen in many American suburbs.

The Libertarian idea is great in principle. However, clean air, water, food and even sensible infrastructure isn't best achieved by the random decisions of over 300 million people. Taxes are a necessary evil to fund the functions of government (and it has to be necessary to avoid free riders) and to curb the behavior of individuals whose behavior could be injurious to their neighbors. We need to be diligent to excessive taxation and wasteful regulation but diligence is a price we pay for our democracy anyway.

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Rulesjd wrote:
Ever since we got the idea of food storage and money...
You clearly are not investigating a resource-based economy.
Rulesjd wrote:
We need to be diligent to excessive taxation and wasteful regulation but diligence is a price we pay for our democracy anyway.
Libertarians are the pro-diligence folks, and we say diligence in tax policy has long since flown the coop.
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galad2003 wrote:
Minor point because I am pedantic, you pay a fee to have your trash taken away. That fee may go to your local government who does all the work or to a private company. In my town, I pay the town and they pay a company to handle the trash. taxes may or may not subsidize this fee, but technically you don't pay taxes for garbage service, you pay a fee.

This is a service that could be completely private. So I think your example is a bad one.


You should not be so pedantic when you are wrong.

Some towns trash pickup is included in the taxes. (specifically property taxes) Some towns you pay a fee. Some towns you take care of it yourself (typically paying a 3rd party.) I have lived in two of these situations. Currently it is part of my property tax along with leaf pickup (I have to bag them.)
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[q="maxo-texas
Even conservatives who pretend to not want the social contract really do want it. They just want to pay less than they are now and they usually want to get more than what their taxes can pay for as it is.[/q]

Is that the nonsense they teach you in Liberal Econ 101? Sounds rather like it.....

The social contract is a fiction thought up by liberals and those with a weak economic understanding to try to guilt people into letting said liberals take some/all of their monies. It's rather like tithing to the church, really -- both depend on guilt and the "commonly accepted" principle that it's "the right thing to do". I actually believed it for a little bit, but then I grew up.

A small handful of things make sense to combine tax dollars towards (for example, national defense)--in fact they made such sense they were spelled out in the Constitution. Beyond that you've really got to convince me that I'm better off letting government take my money (at the point of a gun, interestingly enough) for some service than privately contracting it out thru private business.



Ferret
 
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Ferretman wrote:
[q="maxo-texas
Even conservatives who pretend to not want the social contract really do want it. They just want to pay less than they are now and they usually want to get more than what their taxes can pay for as it is.


Is that the nonsense they teach you in Liberal Econ 101? Sounds rather like it.....

The social contract is a fiction thought up by liberals and those with a weak economic understanding to try to guilt people into letting said liberals take some/all of their monies. It's rather like tithing to the church, really -- both depend on guilt and the "commonly accepted" principle that it's "the right thing to do". I actually believed it for a little bit, but then I grew up.

A small handful of things make sense to combine tax dollars towards (for example, national defense)--in fact they made such sense they were spelled out in the Constitution. Beyond that you've really got to convince me that I'm better off letting government take my money (at the point of a gun, interestingly enough) for some service than privately contracting it out thru private business.



Ferret[/q]

Would you prefer private fire service? (the result was terrible)
Would you prefer private sewer service? (the result is often terrible)
How about private parks?
And private roads (every road a toll road)?
How about a profit driven privately run corporate court system?
Private police service?
Perhaps the legal system could be in corporate hands?
How about street signs maintained by private industry.
How about battered women being a privately run business?
How about food aid for starving children?
How about all schools run as private businesses? Wouldn't it lead to many completely uneducated citizens (unfit for work and likely to turn criminal or even rebellious?)
Let's just get out of the government support for agriculture. Because it did so well on it's own in the past with violent swings in basic necessities.

Lots of things make sense for the government to provide.

The other part of my comment was not directed at you in particular.

It was directed at the MANY conservative talk shows I've listened to over the years where they rail to cut taxes and services and then someone suggests implementing the cuts the army, airforce, and navy have asked for and the host or the listeners go apeshit- especially if they have a base in their district. Suddenly they flip from being arch conservatives to demanding the govment not cut contracts to their local businesses.

Private business often screws up many services. They underestimate actual costs, under bid, take the money, and then dump a huge shitpile on the public to fix or clean up. Private businesses often bypass safety regulations and leave many toxic waste dumps scattered all over the country. Private businesses bypass worker safety and overtime laws and dump that liability on the municipalities.

How many arenas have we built for private businesses that were supposed to be 'free' to the citizens that turned out to be incredibly expensive?

How often do sick broke conservatives suddenly find an interest in getting "free" hospital care (that someone else is really going to pay for in their insurance rates or taxes). Plenty.

How many conservatives ripped of by some criminal suddenly want a strong government to locate the criminal, prosecute the criminal, and restore their lost money. That's a big reason we don't have truly private banks any more.

And when they do work, private business often provides inferior service at grossly higher prices (old phone monopoly, current cable tv monopolies) with the alternative being *no* phone or cable service because no one can sink the investment costs except for the government or a private business that has an approved predatory contract.

The social contract is what prevents you from living in a state of nature. You may picture yourself as a rugged individualist but the fact is a group of rugged individualists would kill you and take your stuff or enslave you. But perhaps you prefer to live in a dictatorship with less freedom gambling that you'll be in the 1% on top.

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Pretty typical argument for taxation. I'm too lazy to do stuff, pay for stuff, or be charitable, so I'd rather just pay some big government to handle all that and force everyone else to do the same.
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maxo-texas wrote:
And private roads (every road a toll road)?


Oh noes ! MUH ROADS !!!!

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ironcates wrote:
Pretty typical argument for taxation. I'm too lazy to do stuff, pay for stuff, or be charitable, so I'd rather just pay some big government to handle all that and force everyone else to do the same.


yes, and a good one.

Private businesses do not serve all citizens. They cherry pick the most profitable citizens and leave the rest to rot.

Government is about fair and equal access to government services like fire protection, law enforcement, home safety code inspections, noise ordinances, home appearance standards (think of the expensive, abusive horror show most HOA are vs the light touch of city ordinances in HOA free neighborhoods), courts, parks, government service offices.

Private businesses are about profit- not about fair and equal.
They shaft a majority of citizens in favor of a tiny minority of citizens.
It's no wonder that a majority of citizens vote for government services over private services in most cases.
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jeremycobert wrote:
Oh noes ! MUH ROADS !!!!

I don't understand the point of your image, the vast preponderance of roads are built by private companies with public monies. If your beef is with using public monies, shouldn't your meme match your point?
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Randombias wrote:
In other words, I pay taxes to relieve myself from my responsibilities.
I don't agree with this. I don't know if disagreeing blows up your conclusion because I haven't thought it though that far. You aren't relieving yourself of responsibilities, you are converting your responsibilities into a transferrable responsibility medium... money. You went to work, exchanged your labor for value certificates which you gave to someone else to do this work. Your responsibility to do something about your trash is satisfied by YOU. That you instead did the labor in your career field and converted it to exchangeable labor coupons didn't relieve you of your responsibility, it relieved you of doing the direct task, so it could be done on a more efficient scale by dedicated laborers on the task. That is the basis of the monetary system and for taxes.
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galad2003 wrote:
costguy wrote:
galad2003 wrote:
Minor point because I am pedantic, you pay a fee to have your trash taken away. That fee may go to your local government who does all the work or to a private company. In my town, I pay the town and they pay a company to handle the trash. taxes may or may not subsidize this fee, but technically you don't pay taxes for garbage service, you pay a fee.

This is a service that could be completely private. So I think your example is a bad one.


You should not be so pedantic when you are wrong.

Some towns trash pickup is included in the taxes. (specifically property taxes) Some towns you pay a fee. Some towns you take care of it yourself (typically paying a 3rd party.) I have lived in two of these situations. Currently it is part of my property tax along with leaf pickup (I have to bag them.)


So what I said covered two out of three of the situations you listed and I used the word may. That's cool, be a dick. Personally, having lived all up and down the East coast I have always paid a fee to have my trash taken away, usually included in the water bill. It has never been included in my taxes. Nice to know that some places are different.


Look, tone does not come across well. You were the one who admittedly was being pedantic. I was intending my comment more as a humorous correction to your correction. I was not trying to be a dick.

Also is this "fee" voluntary? In other words do you have a choice to pay it or is it required as a homeowner? I think you may have a choice of level of service, but I think it is a required fee or tax.

Now the water bill is a fee since I can choose to be disconnected from the water. (I suppose) but in all practicality it is also a tax.

All government services could be provided privately, with various levels of success/difficultly.

Sorry if I came across as a dick.


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Welcome to RSP. I would ask you to excuse the mess as we're currently remodeling... but it's always like this.

Your premise is sound. But the problem beyond that is two things: how much should people expect the government to do for them, and how are those tax revenues harvested? CAN the government provide trash collection? Yes. SHOULD the government provide trash collection? That's where the debate is held. Like you, I suspect most people would think it's a good idea.

CAN the government mandate health insurance for everyone? Yes. SHOULD the government mandate health insurance for everyone? Ehhhhhhh.....

So yes, I agree there is a social contract. But just because the contract exists doesn't mean the contract is free of negotiation on what should or should not be included.
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I think the government should make public health laws that outlaw storing or dumping of waste materials outside approved areas and let the households deal with it.

That's how my area does it and we have two (maybe three) competing companies. As a result, we get very good and relatively inexpensive service. And, they will pick up out of the ordinary items without special arrangements.
 
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Steve K
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Without taxes how would cops be able to stop brothers?
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Xander Fulton
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Astoria
Oregon
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ironcates wrote:
Pretty typical argument for taxation. I'm too lazy to do stuff, pay for stuff, or be charitable, so I'd rather just pay some big government to handle all that and force everyone else to do the same.


It's not that I'm "too lazy", it's just that the value of the amount of my time it would take ME to do it ends up considerably less than the dollar value the government asks to 'do it for me'.

That, and it also means it gets done better, as I have no interest in learning many of the skills I'd need to properly contribute to the neighborhood sewer repairs, road repairs, etc.
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Born To Lose, Live To Win
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South Euclid
Ohio
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Knewt wrote:
Without taxes how would cops be able to stop brothers?
Was this post just a heads up to new people to let them know you don't like black people? Don't see much other purpose for it.
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Steve K
United States
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TheChin! wrote:
Knewt wrote:
Without taxes how would cops be able to stop brothers?
Was this post just a heads up to new people to let them know you don't like black people? Don't see much other purpose for it.


What? Take you're pick: taxes help print money for banksters. Taxes help drones zap wedding parties in the Mid East. Everyone gets something.

Anyway, let's hear about how asset forfeiture is publicly spirited too.
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Daniel
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Santee
California
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Taxation is theft.

https://mises.org/library/taxation-robbery
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