Taxation, Charity, and Healthcare

Editorial cartoon from www.mediabistro.com

Editorial cartoon from www.mediabistro.com

Considering the current political scene, I find myself often thinking about taxes, taxation, and the economy.  The way I see it, there are two fundamental conditions under which people allow themselves to be taxed: that they have representation on the body that taxes them, and that they in some way benefit from the government’s use of their money.

The first condition had Americans quite literally up in arms 230 years ago, when patriots took arms against the British throne.  As the history books tell us, the British Parliament imposed taxes on the colonies, despite the fact that the colonies had no representation in Parliament.  This sentiment and the subsequent conflict gave birth to our nation and shaped its early development.  For a nation built on ‘No Taxation Without Representation’; a nation conceived in fear of an over-powerful central power and designed to prevent one, a lot has changed since the Revolution.

Today we are embroiled in another debate, one centered over the second condition of taxation: that tax-ees in some way benefit from the government’s use of their money.  This is not one that will be fought with muskets.  It may not even be fought at all.

Traditionally, when more privileged persons give a portion of their income, wealth, or possessions to help the less fortunate, it is called charity.  Charity stems from human compassion, and occurs when one realizes that they are comfortable enough to share what they have, so that others may be slightly more comfortable. The key to charity is that it is voluntary.

Recent trends in the federal government appear to be attempts to redefine charity.  The latest proposals for funding Barak Obama’s health care program involve adding a further tax on those making $350,000 or $1,000,000 or more.  This money would fund the federal health care program designed for those who do not have any or adequate health care.   The implications of adding a federal option to compete with commercial health insurance programs are a topic for another post.  In any case, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that someone making $1,000,000 or more doesn’t need health insurance from the federal government.  The bottom line here is that Barak Obama is asking (making) the more affluent members of society give “a little bit more” in order to fund a program that they will not benefit from.  In turn, this added burden could lead to a reduction in traditional charity, and even in the risky entrepreneurial investment that contributed to the power of the US economy.

Such sentiment constitutes a redefinition of charity, where the ‘compassion’ and ‘voluntary’ elements go away, and the government steps in and forces the giving.  At the same time, it constitutes a violation of the conditions in which citizens allow themselves to be taxed.  Votes alone cannot reverse this triend, as the portion of society being wronged is a very small fraction of the whole.  On the other hand, the influence and power held by that small fraction is immense.  Society must hope that these citizens take up the fight in the ways they know best in order to reverse this wrong before it becomes insurmountable.

One final thought: true charity is the product of a healthy economy; government-forced charity is a barrier to it.

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1 Response to “Taxation, Charity, and Healthcare”


  • For someone who admits to being selectively naive about politics, the latest developments regarding taxation and healthcare have caught my attention and have me worried. Jim, you very succinctly summed up what needs to be done:”Votes alone cannot reverse this triend, as the portion of society being wronged is a very small fraction of the whole. On the other hand, the influence and power held by that small fraction is immense. Society must hope that these citizens take up the fight in the ways they know best in order to reverse this wrong before it becomes insurmountable.” I, for one, will be one of those citizens.

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