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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.

Originally posted to pangle on Tue Mar 04, 2008 at 10:12 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That's a great argument for minimal government. (0+ / 0-)

    However, it doesn't follow from the above conclusion, 'government is good,' that more government is better.

    "[G]lobalization is...increasing the efficiency of resource allocation through stronger capital markets" - Barack Obama

    by burrow owl on Tue Mar 04, 2008 at 10:13:37 AM PST

  •  If only everyone saw their responsibilities (7+ / 0-)

    the way you do!  Very nice diary!  I may copy and send as an email to a few choice folks!

    "Stupidity is the great equalizer!" - NonnyO

    by Pandoras Box on Tue Mar 04, 2008 at 10:14:28 AM PST

  •  Yes, it's like a HOA. But in my experience (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    el dorado gal, Naniboujou, DBunn, Pinecone

    it was a constant battle with the conservative homeowners in my complex who wanted as little as possible to go toward reserves for long-term maintenance (Eg. roof replacement) in order to keep monthly dues as low as possible.  They didn't want some future owner to get the benefit of their $, even though putting $ into a reserve account earlier would have been leveraged by earning interest, thereby costing owners less outlay when those large expenditures had to be made.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Tue Mar 04, 2008 at 10:24:50 AM PST

  •  I don't know if I have made any converts... (11+ / 0-)

    ..out of the people who have been bombarding me with emails about how taxes are evil. But it has stopped the emails, at least for now....

  •  Oh sorry should have added... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pandoras Box, Glacial Erratic

    Pandoras Box and others, please feel free to circulate if you'd like.

  •  Thank you (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cathy Willey, Pandoras Box

    You wrote a good letter. I think the best part of what you laid out is the understanding of many of the people that are so against taxes.

    I am always trying to convince my Republican acquaintances of the necessity for taxes to pay for much needed repairs to bridges, dams and roads, not to mention new schools.

    I have never understood how they could be so for responsibility but be against raising taxes. Especially since many of my Republican friends are fiscally responsible and hard-working people. Your explanation makes a great deal of sense. If you don't trust where your money is going, you may end up not wanting to give any at all.

    I think the best example can be seen in the tax money on houses given to public schools. So many people are very upset with how their money is being used, or misused, to fund public education, and have instead decided that no money should be given. I think more and more people have become aware that lobbyists and large corporations have taken control of our taxes and are using them to support themselves rather than us.

    Of course, the problem is that by choosing to give little or no money we are just exacerbating the situation.

    I see no way to fix this other than a complete flushing of the government, which is, unfortunately, unlikely.

  •  Clever linkage (4+ / 0-)

    Connecting the concept of investors pooling risk and resources in a corporate venture, to citizens pooling risk and resources in a civic venture, is indeed original. I imagine it has the email-forwarding crowd nicely stumped. You are showing how progressive ideas are in accordance with their own values. Nicely done!

  •  Financial markets (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Silverbird, slksfca, Pandoras Box

    I've worked in the financial markets all my life. I currently work at a hedge fund.

    Financial markets could not exist without insurance (pooled risk), underwriting (pooling resources to raise capital) and the rule of law (collectively agreed standards that permit confidence in contracts).

    It absolutely drives me crazy that Republicans have laid intellectual claim to "capitalism" and "the markets" when they are founded on collectivist principles.

  •  My family was always glad to pay taxes. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slksfca, Pandoras Box

    Of course they survived the '29 crash and depression, so paying taxes meant they had a job!

    I work for attorneys who are always filling their client's heads with anti-tax talk (avoid the 'death" tax by doint this . . .).  What they don't realize is they are the freeloaders who are taking advantage of people who do pay their fair share of taxes.  The wealthy and the corporations no longer shoulder their share of our tax burden.

    We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. -- William Faulkner --

    by Silverbird on Tue Mar 04, 2008 at 11:27:32 AM PST

    •  Jeezus (0+ / 0-)

      How much of the tax burden would you have the "wealthy" and the "corporations" share? All of it? Have you bothered looking at the IRS published data to see how much the "wealthy" already pay? Please, what exactly is their "fair share"?

      Here's another thing - all that work done by tax attorneys in in finding LEGAL tax avoidance measures. How exactly is taking advantage of those LEGAL means being a freeloader?

      Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. -Frederic Bastiat

      by jqmilktoast on Fri Mar 07, 2008 at 08:29:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Where does the dollar get its value? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pangle

    A dollar bill is just a check drawn against the U.S.Treasury's account in the Federal Reserve Bank.  Why is it accepted all over the world?
    Well, I could start floating checks written against my bank account, and maybe people would accept it as payment because they know that I'm "good for it"... even if the bank account dries up, they can come to my house and I'll give them something of value for that check.
    Why do folks everywhere accept the dollar?  Because we're good for it.  We pay our taxes voluntarily and (mostly) are proud to do so.  Any income I enjoy is due only partly to my magnificent accomplishments (my powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men). It's mostly because I was lucky enough to be born in this country and was able to enjoy all the things that my father's taxes (and my grandfather's taxes) have provided: good schools, good roads, safe food and water, clean air, respected banks, etc.

    Don't be a DON'T-DO... Be a DO-DO!

    by godwhataklutz on Tue Mar 04, 2008 at 01:41:32 PM PST

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