Coming up to election time and the "evil govenrment, evil taxes" robo-emails are flying around the office.
They moved me to compose the following. My audience work in the financial markets. Hope you enjoy!
It’s taken me a while to compose this, but I thought it was worth the effort. What bothers me about much of what passes for political communication these days is not the nature of it, but rather that no one seems to put the time into developing their own ideas and thinking for themselves. I have no issue discussing how we can make our country a better place with someone who might have a differing view so long as the view is their own and honestly held. So here goes! What you see below was not cut-and-pasted from a website or received in a chain email. I actually wrote it myself.
I’m an immigrant to the United States. I’ve been fortunate in life to have experienced different countries, cultures and political environments and I chose to settle here, like millions before me, because this is truly the greatest country on earth. The values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have nurtured a society which has lifted standards of living and created prosperity for vast numbers of people.
Our economy is founded on the principle of capitalism, free markets and the rule of law. Each of these components works together and becomes part of a system by which capital, resources and labor can be allocated in the most efficient way. Our system has triumphed time and again against rival methods like communism, dictatorships and monarchies, delivering peace, happiness and material comfort where other countries have suffered wars, persecution and starvation. I don’t think there is any doubt that capitalism is the best economic model available to us at this time. Look at China, still nominally a communist country, but adopting market-based reforms to free its people from poverty and servitude.
Capitalism was born in Europe when the feudal system died. Freed from their masters, people found that if they pooled together their resources, they could achieve more than when acting alone. Joint-stock companies, the ancestors of the modern corporation, appeared in the very early 17th century, selling shares to raise money and appointing professional managers to employ the capital, direct the venture at hand, and return profits to the investors. Stock markets were created to offer a central location for the efficient allocation of resources. The genius of the method lies in sharing risk. Few individuals would dare commit the vast amounts of capital needed to open up a new trade route, for example, for fear that failure would leave them ruined. But if many people were prepared to risk a small portion of their worth, failure wouldn’t wipe them out. We could now take chances together that we couldn't take alone. As a society we benefited, and as a species we began the journey of discovery and development that continues today.
How do the concepts of pooling resources and risk sharing that are the hallmarks of capitalism affect our everyday lives? Imagine for a moment that we’re all homeowners in a suburban subdivision. Each of us tends our yards and mows the lawn, but our pool is cracked and leaking: the sidewalks are breaking up and making it dangerous for our kids to ride their bikes: and the filter on the pond has been broken for months, leaving the water stagnant and letting mosquitoes breed. At the next housing association meeting we can all agree to chip in a little cash to fix the cracks in the pool, since this is going to save money in the long term- we won’t have to keep buying water to top it up. We’re going to lay out a little to fix the sidewalks before someone gets hurt, and we’ll buy a new filter so we can enjoy being outside again in the evenings.
When I pay my taxes, I see them like a homeowner paying his housing association dues. Take the FDA for example. I don’t have a problem paying a few bucks a year to give me confidence that when I pop a pill into my daughter’s mouth, it’s been thoroughly tested and isn’t likely to kill her. I’m not a scientist and I don’t have the time, skills or experience to check out whether a medicine is safe before taking it. I’m pleased that we hire experts to figure that out for us.
How about the FAA? I fly quite a bit, and I have no issue with some of my dues being spent to ensure that the airline is maintaining the plane I’m flying in decent order, and that the air traffic control systems are working properly. Without someone qualified to do those things for me, I wouldn’t fly at all.
I lived in New York and in some ways will always consider the city my hometown. When declared enemies of our country hijack planes and fly them into tall buildings on our soil, killing upwards of 3,000 people, I’m OK with paying my share of the check to track down whoever was responsible and bring them to justice.
Reasonable people can reasonably disagree about where our priorities lie. If our community is short on cash this year, I may want to fix the pond filter first of all- because I live next to the pond and I love to barbeque. You may think we should focus on the sidewalks, because your kid loves his bike. That’s fine, let’s talk about it and agree what works best for us.
When a government is bad, people don’t trust the decisions being made on their behalf and this is the source of the attitude that "taxes are bad". What we need is a government we can trust, so we can have an honest discussion about where our priorities lie, start fixing our problems and make our country better for our children.