If you were wondering about the current state of our failed state, take a look at the above graphic from the Pew Research Center in Washington. Basically, the government takes in far less than it spends — you knew that, though. However, it takes in less and spends more today than it did just a decade ago. And not to any small degree, either. Obviously, this chart says it all — we need to either cut spending or increase tax revenues (or both) to keep the government afloat… if that’s something we care about at all.
Tax the Rich, Right?
Of course, for those of you interested in raising taxes, say, on the “wealthy” (since, screw them, right?), you might want to take a look at what happened when that was tried in the UK. Should you not have the energy to click the link, I’ll put it smartly: more than two-thirds of the UK’s richest folks left the country, or their money did, in order to avoid the highest tax rate. Instead of increasing tax revenues, the higher rate actually decreased them by billions of pounds. This is due to a variety of factors best explained by economist Arthur Laffer in his well-known Laffer Curve hypothesis.
The Real Issue
The problem, kiddos, is not that taxes aren’t high enough. It’s that the government is an endless maw into which the fruits of our labors flow and are ground into grist for the bread of government’s friends. It will never stop expanding to spend more, borrow more, inflate more, because it is, by its very nature, a system of entitlements for entitled people with no viable form of oversight. There is no real way to curtail spending as long as government can count on an endless supply of lucre from its various different money-extraction schemes. We try to reduce the ways government can tax us, but don’t realize it just borrows us into debt to fund fancy new offices for Senators and Congressmen. We try to monitor its use of our tax dollars, but we don’t realize that the Federal Reserve inflating the currency is simply an alternate form of taxation. We place all sorts of regulations on what can be spent on whom, where, and when, but never realize that the regulators are paid by the same people they are supposed to be watching. And then we complain when money disappears, or when the oversight committee itself siphons off funds to write reports about reporting on reports — just so it can fund itself more and more.
The great Roman quipper Juvenal was once asked by a friend of his how to prevent his wife from having sex with his male slaves when the friend was away from home. The slaves couldn’t very well resist, as the wife was the mistress of the house and could visit terrible punishment on them should they refuse. The master couldn’t simply do away the slaves, as they were protected by the wife, and besides, he imagined they performed at least some form of service for his household. They’d become ingrained in his way of life.
So, the friend wrote to Juvenal for his opinion on buying more slaves to guard the male slaves in order to stop the women from sleeping with them. Juvenal replied in a lengthy, biting letter, as was his wont, and famously asked his friend: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” that is, “[But] who will guard these guards?”
What to Do?
Government will always find a way to enrich itself and its cronies at the expense of the people at large. That is its nature. It can’t be expected to do otherwise, as the politicians who run government are beholden to their special-interest backers, just as the slaves are to the mistress of the house. That is, more regulations will not help, as watchmen will simply be bribed with no one to “guard” them. More taxes won’t help, either, as they’ll just encourage more corruption. The only solution is to dismantle government at every possible turn.
Juvenal should have advised his friend to free his slaves.