When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.
Act for the people’s benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 75, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Today’s chapter is one where it is tempting to just post Lao Tzu’s words, and let it stand alone. What more needs to be added? We know this, already. Right? But yesterday, we talked about the profound difference between knowing something and realizing it. And the problem is, we may know it; but, few realize it.
In Lao Tzu’s day, everybody also knew it. Taxes were collected by those in power to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayers, those not in power. And people went hungry; the tax burden was so high. But that was Lao Tzu’s day. Today, we don’t realize that the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same. Most delude themselves with the notion that taxes are not a burden any more. We don’t tax the poor. We tax the rich, those that can afford to pay their fair share (whatever that is supposed to mean), and the poor benefit from the goodwill of our rulers; because that money, collected from the wealthy, is passed along to the poor. We declared war on poverty, damn it, and no one is going hungry because of how high taxes are, any longer.
That is a delusion. The reality is that the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same. In spite of the rhetoric (lies) of those in power, taxes collected are still being used to enrich those in power at the expense of everybody else. And, because taxes are too high, people are, indeed, going hungry.
I can already sense the cognitive dissonance welling in up in people’s minds. That just can’t be. We have more people than ever on food stamps in my country; people can’t possibly go hungry. There are all sorts of government housing assistance; so, no one could possibly be homeless. And, I can’t seem to go more than a day without hearing some clueless, yet privileged, person who has never known what it is to choose which essential you are going to have to do without this month, because there wasn’t enough money left over from your paycheck after taxes, complain about “the poor” and their “smart phones”.
The reality is that the government with its largesse promising to “help” the poor out of their poverty has managed to ensure there are always going to be more and more in need of their handouts. When taxes are too high, people go hungry. Don’t just know it. Realize it. It is true because that is the way things are. It is the way things always have been. Taxes are not intended to enrich anyone but those collecting the taxes. The rest of us go hungry.
See how I am? I wrote five paragraphs on the opening line, alone. Then there is the second line: A government that is too intrusive causes people to lose their spirit. I was thinking of this while listening to our politicians babbling about what to do with the collection of our phone records. I posted an article by Sheldon Richman earlier about this. Some of our politicians can almost talk a good game. Like they know that the government can’t be too intrusive, or people will lose their spirit. But if you pay attention to them for long enough, you will soon see their true colors. They may “know” it, but they don’t realize it. Not really. And they don’t have any real intention of actually doing anything about it.
We have to get beyond knowing to realizing. If they really wanted to act for the people’s benefit, not just say they are, but actually wanting to do it, they would trust us, and leave us alone. But they don’t trust us. And they won’t leave us alone. So, they’ll keep paying lip service to those who raise civil liberty concerns, all while finding new clever ways to keep doing exactly what they have always done.
And people still go hungry, while getting more and more depressed.