Thursday, 6 April 2017

Thought 506: The Problem of Taxation - Importance of Morality

As a benefits claimant I am acutely aware that my current livelihood depends on taxation. 

Yet I recognise that taxation, achieved under duress, i.e. the threat of punishment, is not voluntary and, being effectively coercive, is a violation of Natural Law. 

While right-wing minded people have a huge gripe with taxation, and understandably so, left-leaning individuals often think that, to an extent, you get something in return through public services and the security provided by the Welfare state. 

One of the socialist tenets is that we are stronger as a collective - the 'will' of which is mediated it through democratically elected 'representatives' - than as atomised individuals seeking to fend for ourselves and that there is morality in taking care of the vulnerable and those generally unable to be economically active. 

In other words there is a greater interest at stake than that of individual wants. 

Yet, in reality, public services that run on taxed money are not used to the same extent by everyone and some indeed may be financially contributing to them without benefiting from them or even whilst possibly disagreeing with their very existence, as I do schools, the police and the military.

In addition public services are centrally enforced creating what are in effect monopolies that are free of the laws of supply and demand and, so it is claimed, the need to perform adequately since guaranteed an existence. 

It is rather like being regularly forced to hire a particular computer technician to fix your laptop's problems when you have
  1. no need for such a technician, your laptop being in good repair or
  2. you feel that the technician is doing a bad job and/or charging too much but there being no alternative, i.e. competition, you are stuck with his mediocre/overpriced service.
Socialists would argue that there are some key areas, such as healthcare, that are so vital that it would not be wise to leave them to the private sector, partly for concerns of affordability and accessibility, but also because competition in such areas would be ill-advised due to the need for such services to be large scale. 

They will point to the inequities and inefficiencies of the American private insurance healthcare system to support their argument. 

The alternative appears to be increasingly allowing private corporations take a hold of things whilst in practice still benefiting from public money and still largely monopolistic since having to make a profit.

While private corporations might be more accountable than state monopolies through the power of the purse, this would not be the case if they act as State-approved monopolies or cartels that avoid the economic laws of competition. 

In addition, when handed over to private hands with a profit motive and a need to make gains for shareholders, concerns of accessibility and redistribution will fall by the way side, only those who can afford it being able to access these privately-run services.

And in turn, there is no guarantee that the profit motive translates into a better service - rather it might lead the company providing the service to cut costs at every corner, underpay staff, provide shoddy training, limit investment and so forth. 

Should the private corporation fail to make a profit from the service and even lose money then the service will be shut down completely so that whatever benefit the service they provided had for people, it will come to an end. 

This is indeed what capitalism entails since it is nothing more than
"a system of economics in which production is based on profit for those who control the capital." (Carroll Quigley) 
In other words, the common good or the welfare of customers is not, despite what corporations claim, their priority but rather the profit to be made from them buying their service or product, even and especially when there is a lack of practicable alternatives due to the formation of private cartels and monopolies. 

Right-wingers will argue that it is up to individuals to decide for themselves what they spend their money on and that each individual is best judge of what is best for him, not politicians chasing after the common good. 

It remains that we are now in a situation where public, taxed money is being used precisely to dismantle public services and provide corporate welfare, transferring wealth from public to private hands and from the bottom to the top, as was so evidently the case with the 2008 bank bail outs that should have been allowed to fail under strict capitalism. 

This shows that the great problem with taxation is that there is no direct oversight on how tax money is used, whether by the Right or the Left, since this is decided by people in power, and that the farces that are elections cannot be regarded as binding decisions on 'elected' officials to use the money in certain ways. 

As ever with these right-wing, left-wing disagreements, is that they lose sight of what ultimately decides the good or bad outcome of any economic or political system: its level of morality. 

If capitalism truly played by free-market rules without State support and gave up on the desire to kill all competition and if socialist ideals were achieved through voluntary rather than coercive means then this would indeed benefit the common good.  

In other words, as I've written before, the value of any system of power organisation is determined by its level of morality. 

However, it could be argued that power itself is the problem since, in its political usage, power as a concept means nothing less than the ability to make others do what they would not otherwise do, i.e. coerce them. 

And we all know that power corrupts and those who are vested with it rarely do so without harming others. 

All the same, if we were evolved enough as a species to give up on will-to-power and act morally enough for a stateless, anarchic society to work then it might well be the case that we would be evolved enough for systems such as capitalism and socialism to be less problematic than they are now since people in power would not be tempted to abuse it with immediate beneficial consequence for those living under them.