I’ve completed filing my US tax return, which is due on Monday for all 136 million of us eligible working adults who haven’t requested an extension from the IRS. I feel outrage at having to comply with such a behemoth taxation system, but not nearly as much as I should.

There are three main ways that average citizens approach taxes. One is to say that taxes are inevitably the fuel of modern democracy – they may be a slight inconvenience, but, if the government says it needs it, it’s our job to pay it. Another approach is that taxes aren’t high enough – if we want to ensure social justice and equality and make the world a better place, then we should be paying higher taxes to make it happen (especially the rich, who have too much money anyway). A third view is that taxation is inherently the wrong way to get something done – taxes are, for the most part, immoral, and therefore generally, lower taxes are better.

The tax burden is increasing in just about every Western democracy year upon year. I suspect that this is because most of us fall practically within the first category, a category I’d describe using the word ‘Apathy’. We simply believe that the government knows best how to “run the country” and, while we’d prefer taxes to be lower for purely selfish reasons, complain about taxes occasionally and feel concerned about a few issues that affect us, we’re content to let them get on with it.

Tax Freedom Day is the date in the calendar when the average citizen stops working to pay their taxes and starts working to pay for their other costs of living. In the United States this year, the Tax Foundation calculates that Tax Freedom Day will fall in two weeks’ time, on April 26th. For the indifferent, that means that almost one-third of the average American’s work life will be spent toiling away to pay their taxes. Americans will have had to work for the first 116 days of 2006 just to earn enough to pay their bill to the IRS. And this day is coming 3 days later than in 2005 and 10 days later than in 2004. No prizes for guessing the direction of that curve. Tax Foundation President Scott Hodge says that Americans will this year pay more in taxes than they do on food, clothing and housing combined.

And it isn’t just Uncle Sam with his hand in the pockets of the multitudes. In the United Kingdom for example, Tax Freedom Day won’t occur, astoundingly, until June 3rd.

So, is this a good or a bad thing? After all, tax money isn’t just taken and systematically flushed down some giant toilet, is it? It’s spent on the valuable infrastructure of a healthy social democracy. Because we need the stuff we’re being taxed to pay for, don’t we? Roads, and things. And police and court and … etceteras.

‘Course, we pay a lot of tax. Accounts Receivable Tax, Building Permit Tax, Capital Gains Tax, CDL license Tax, Cigarette Tax, Corporate Income Tax, Court Fines (indirect taxes), Dog License Tax, Federal Income Tax, Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA), Fishing License Tax, Food License Tax, Fuel permit tax, Gasoline Tax (42 cents per gallon), Hunting License Tax, Inheritance Tax Interest expense (tax on the money), Inventory tax IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax), IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax), Liquor Tax, Local Income Tax, Luxury Taxes, Marriage License Tax, Medicare Tax, Property Tax, Real Estate Tax, Septic Permit Tax, Service Charge Taxes, Social Security Tax, Road Usage Taxes (Truckers), Sales Taxes, Recreational Vehicle Tax, Road Toll Booth Taxes, School Tax, State Income Tax, State Unemployment Tax (SUTA), Telephone federal excise tax, Telephone federal universal service fee tax, Telephone federal, state and local surcharge taxes, Telephone minimum usage surcharge tax, Telephone recurring and non-recurring charges tax, Telephone state and local tax, Telephone usage charge tax, Toll Bridge Taxes, Toll Tunnel Taxes, Trailer registration tax, Utility Taxes, Vehicle License Registration Tax, Vehicle Sales Tax, Watercraft registration Tax, Well Permit Tax, Workers Compensation Tax.

Not one of these taxes existed one-hundred years ago, yet the United States was the most prosperous nation in the world, had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class on earth… and women weren’t even bringing home a salary. So what’s changed? By what criteria do we decide to take the coercive action of forcibly taking the fruits of a man’s labour from him?

What’s changed, I would suggest, is the influence of those with a desire to control others. The incomparable PJ O’Rourke wrote, “The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.” It is obvious to me that taxes only exist as they do because we have a lot of people around who want other people to be controlled. We call them the political Left. And what they want is to wrench control from individuals: the more we tax people, the more control we give to the collective and the less control individuals have over their own lives.

In a short space of time, the lethal combination of taxation and law has come to be seen as the solution to every perceived societal problem. People are poor? Just tax the rich and give the money to them. People are killing themselves smoking? Simply tax cigarettes to dissuade them from doing so. People want to drive around in automobiles? Fine, but they should have to pay through the nose for it. People die? Well, at least make sure the government gets a slice of their estate.

It’s never-ending.

And yet people are still poor, despite the gargantuan tax burden and years of redistributionist programs. If leftism had any of the solutions to the problem of poverty, the city with the fewest such issues would have been New Orleans, a city ruled by leftists for many many years. Yet it’s taken the Hurricane Katrina tragedy to spotlight just how wrong that theory has proved to be: even the left-liberal New York Times admits that New Orleans had the greatest proportion of its inhabitants living in poverty of any American city outside of Detroit (which, predictably, has also elected left-liberal Democrat leaders for many decades).

It’s worth dwelling on this point for a minute. Decade after decade, tax after tax, the federal government is sucking trillions upon trillions of dollars out of average American pockets to fund programs intended to ‘help the poor’. And, as Jacob G Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation has observed, “…now New Orleans. Here in its spectacular glory is the magnificent result of 70 years of the welfare state …. New Orleans is proof positive of the bankruptcy of leftist economic ideology. For it is the welfare state itself and its 70-year-old FDR-LBJ federal ‘war on poverty’ that have left those tens of thousands of people in New Orleans penniless, waiting for the federal government to come save, feed, transport and house them.” Yes indeed. Tax and spend policies have created a whole generation of dependants. And according to the ideals informing the proponents of such policies, New Orleans should have been a utopia.

It wasn’t. And that’s a hell of an understatement.

But it comes down to something more fundamental than tax. It isn’t simply a question of whether we can get Tax Freedom Day to fall on January 4th instead of June 3rd. It is a question of sovereignty. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.”

High taxation is just the most obvious symptom.
Powerful government is the disease.

John Wright