If Deficits Don’t Matter, Why Bother with Taxes? by Peter St. Onge

Taxes still matter to the government, even though it increasingly funds itself with debt, because taxes are yet another way to control us. From Peter St. Onge at mises.org:

On March 18, Joe Wiesenthal of Bloomberg Markets had MMT economist Stephanie Kelton on the show. If you’re not familiar with modern monetary theory, they think governments should print more money because deficits aren’t a big deal. At one point in the show, Wiesenthal asked, “If we don’t need to worry about deficits, why do we have taxes?” Kelton’s response was illuminating.

Now, the traditional excuse for taxes is, paraphrasing Oliver Wendell Holmes, that they are the “price of civilization.” Skeptics point out that, historically, societies with very low taxes were often far more civilized—think the Dutch Golden Age, Islamic Golden Age, Victorian England, the pejoratively named “Gilded Age” in American history—that thirty-year golden age when almost everything useful was invented. And, yet, throughout that period, federal receipts were one-fifth what they are today.

Why so much civilization? Because much of what governments do today was done by charities or businesses competing for customer dollars instead of seizing their budget in taxes. When doctors, firefighters, and schools have to satisfy customers, things get quite civilized.

Still, even if we accept a “night-watchman state” argument for, say, national defense or salaries for Supreme Court justices, it gets tricky if government can simply print up the fresh money to pay for all that civilization.

Kelton’s answer? Taxes would still be needed, because they make us poor. And because they can punish people she doesn’t like.

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One response to “If Deficits Don’t Matter, Why Bother with Taxes? by Peter St. Onge

  1. Pingback: If Deficits Don’t Matter, Why Bother with Taxes? by Peter St. Onge | STRAIGHT LINE LOGIC – Additional survival tricks

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