There’s an old saying that goes “there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.” It would seem that some people have never heard that phrase.
This story conveys the opinions and political views of the writer, not necessarily that of the Essential Millennial.
If I hear one more person complain about having to pay taxes, or specifically that taxes are immoral, just one more time, my ears are going to start bleeding. Right now, the world is going through extraordinary times and it requires extraordinary measures (such as the implementation of a UBI). However, as we all know, these programs don’t pay for themselves. It requires funding that can only come from either budget cuts, raising taxes or creating new taxes. And this doesn’t sit well with the wealthy people who pay the majority of income tax. As the title so boldly states, however, they need to shut up and stop complaining about it.
The tired, overstretched libertarian narrative that “taxation is theft” has never sounded quite as stupid as it does when someone uses the addage in 2021. Here’s why:
The taxless libertarian utopia would be a disaster
Libertarians long for a world where the government is as small as possible and its functions are limited to pretty much constructing/maintaining roads, providing water and electricity, and managing a police force and emergency services, such as fire departments.
The rest, as the school of thought posits, is merely a breeding ground for corruption and inefficiency and the free market will provide us with privatised alternatives that will thrive through “competition” (well… those of us who can afford all these private services at least). Sounds like a spectacular idea, right?
Until your roof collapses over your dinner table and kills a member of your family, because the government doesn’t enforce building regulations… until the cost of attending university is three times higher, home ownership becomes more expensive and farmers can’t produce enough food to feed the population, because we’ve eliminated education, housing and agricultural subsidies. There is a lot more behind the functions of government – countless things that you just take for granted – that extend beyond the welfare cheques and RDP houses that you hate to pay for. The idea that you’re somehow special and less dependent on the government to survive than anybody else is absurd, narcissistic and simply false.
But, by all means, go return to the state of nature that Thomas Hobbes so aptly described as “nasty, brutish and short”. Go and experience life without access to running water, without the benefits of human cooperation that is facilitated by a collective that can only exist, organise and thrive as a consequence of the functions of the state. I’m sure the free market will provide… and there’s no doubt that the people with a monopoly of force (the guys with the biggest guns) will look after you for literally no reason.
Get over it
Nobody likes paying taxes. But who likes paying rent? Who likes having to exercise and strictly monitor their diet? Perhaps some people are okay with the latter… but it’s a basic fact of life that we have to do a lot of things that we don’t want to do. Part of growing up is coming to accept this. And the idea that there are people in their 50s that still haven’t grown up is rather concerning and speaks volumes about libertarianism.
Everything has its own taxes
We get upset about taxes on our income, but there are plenty of other taxes that we pay without realising it. Everything comes with a price. If you’re in a happy relationship, for example, disagreements and general frustration are the tax that’s levied on you for the happiness, support and security you receive from your partner. If you want to be rich and famous, rumours and gossip are the taxes you’ll be paying. If you have plenty of things that other people want, theft is the toll that you pay for the privilege of abundance.
Oh, and let’s not forget that every person in this country is a taxpayer… VAT is a tax. If you buy anything, you pay VAT. so jump off that high horse if you think that you’re the sole provider towards South Africa’s state coffers.
Count yourself lucky
Now here is perhaps the most telling point. People tend to see non-tax payers as second-class, entitled citizens who are no more than a leech on society. In the tax year ending in 2022, the tax threshold will be R87,300 and the average annual tax rate for the top marginal income bracket on South Africa’s tax tables from 2020/21 on those earning above R2 million per year was 36.7%.
Think about that for a second. An annual income of R87,300 is R7,275 per month. The monthly income (after tax) on the highest income bracket is R103,803. So the highest earners, even after tax has been taken off of their salaries, are earning more than 14 times than those earning below the threshold. Even those middle income earners, making between R250,000 and R300,000 per year, are taking home R18,041 every month at least, almost two-and-a-half times what the lowest taxpayers in our country take home. If you feel marginalised or that you’ve been hard done by, you need some perspective.
Caveat: You’re allowed to hate corruption and inefficiency
With all this said, I’m fully aware that this story will be met with animosity and responses from people who assume that I’m condoning state inefficiencies, various cases of corruption and cronyism, and general government incompetence. This is a cheap tactic to deflect from the moral of the story. I do not think it’s acceptable for any government to steal and/or underperform. When the government does this, however, democracy will do the rest… eventually.
We’re already seeing a massive spike in dissatisfaction among ANC voters who are in support of ousting corrupt party officials like Ace Magashule. But the idea that you’re somehow entitled, that you’re a leech on society, if you’re not a taxpayer needs to stop. If you hate what the government does, direct your anger at the government, not at the powerless people falling below the threshold that live far more difficult lives than you and I can even imagine.
So we find ourselves at a potential turning point in human civilisation, right now. That’s not to sound alarming, at all. It’s just true. There are monumental challenges ahead, even after Covid-19 becomes an issue of the past. We have to resuscitate the global economy, we have a climate crisis to deal with… inequality and the gap between the rich and the poor is growing ever wider and deeper, we need to figure out how we’re going to handle new technologies and regulate data collection/privacy… the list seems to go on forever. Our generation, millennials, are facing problems on a far grander scale than any generation has had to face… including the Greatest Generation’s fight against fascism in World War 2.
The grand solutions that we need are probably going to require tax hikes that nobody wants. But it’s time to grow up, accept it’s necessary, shut the fuck up and stop complaining about taxes.