Article written by Jacob Burke.
ECONOMICS — “Taxation is the price we pay for civilization”, is the narrative we oft hear.
Is this little phrase accurate, though? It is certainly very catchy, much like the “no taxation without representation” phrase before it, in the years preceding America’s foundation, which was also catchy. Obviously — say some — the bumper-sticker politics that young people plaster to their cars is a sign of humanity finally becoming concise in its enigmatic thinking. But this thinking is flawed: Taxation is not the price we pay for civilization. It’s the price we pay for war, and for bigger government. Taxes and war are the ingredients to the Cocktail of Chaos.
Throughout American history, taxation has always significantly spiked during times of war. In the 1940’s, the U.S. needed to fund its strongest war effort fighting Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. In the 50’s, its conflicts with international Communism began in North Korea. The Presidents of these times are commended by left-leaning individuals — on social media and in academia — for their “incredible handling of the economy”. In a recent PolitiCon debate, Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro and The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur were pitted against one another in a long-demanded hour-long discussion.
In the debate, a brief exchange on taxes occurred to justify Cenk’s healthcare position. (I have written an article discussing healthcare that you can find HERE!) Cenk and Ben exchanged ideas on the 40’s and 50’s and their tax rates, as Cenk cited the 90 percent top marginal tax rate that was used to fuel the war economy of the American 50’s. Cenk also cited that Conservatives glorify the 50’s and 60’s — two very significant war decades in the U.S.’s participation in the Cold War — to further his point that the GOP is fantasizing about the implausibility of taxes reaching those rates today.
Ben Shapiro responded to Cenk’s claims regarding the 90 percent tax by saying, “If you would prefer for us to destroy half of the world before we become the only country that didn’t have its industrial capacity destroyed — which is what happened in the 1940’s — this being the only productive country on Planet Earth essentially for the next two decades: I’m not with you there.”
Shapiro’s point rings true: indeed, the only conditions which justified the astronomical taxes of the 40’s and 50’s was war. There is a strong correlation in U.S. history between peaks in taxation and involvement in foreign affairs. There is also observable correlation between these variables in other countries.
A good example of this correlation is Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of England. Churchill was revered as a hero in his country for leading the British into many significant successful attacks on German forces, in collaboration with firepower from the American and Canadian fronts. Most notably from the Summer of 1944 and onward in the war.
Churchill was also renown as a hero to the ideas of Capitalism and for his understanding of the ails of Socialist economic policies. After all, he is famously quoted as saying:
“Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal-sharing of miseries.”
Many opponents of lax tax policies and even “trickle down” or “voodoo” economics actually use Churchill as an argument against “benevolent” Capitalism and in favor of serious tax hikes across higher income brackets:
Why is Churchill a part of the argument for them?
Well because as World War 2 developed, Churchill was forced to raise taxes in order to be able to sustain the economy and budget efforts for the War itself.
In the years 1944 and 1945, tax revenues skyrocketed in England in order to sustain efforts across the European continent. Churchill’s general philosophy on taxes was not reflected by this rates, because without the War, Churchill would have not raised them this high to begin with.
In fact, another famous Churchill quote goes as follows:
I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and attempting to lift himself up by the handle.
George H.W Bush paid the ultimate price for raising taxes during the 1990 Gulf War, which is what played the most substantial role in his re-election failure in 1992.
However, Bush and his party, which controlled Congress from 2001 to 2006, never asked for sacrifices from anyone except those in our nation’s military and their families. I think that’s because the Republicans understood, implicitly, that the American people’s support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has always been paper thin. Asking them to sacrifice through higher taxes, domestic spending cuts or reinstatement of the draft would surely have led to massive protests akin to those during the Vietnam era or to political defeat in 2004. George W. Bush knew well that when his father raised taxes in 1990 in part to pay for the first Gulf War, it played a major role in his 1992 electoral defeat.
War and taxation have even played a role together in the conflicts taking place in the Middle East today, which began as early as 2001. They continue more than a decade later, and do not look any closer to resolution. With the rise of ISIS, the instability of the Middle East is producing more conflicts — and the price tag is only getting heftier.
Americans are projected to have paid upwards of $6 billion on the two wars thus far, and the worst is yet to come. Regional complications incurred by Western interventionist policy has left the Middle East vulnerable to a harder, colder resurgence by militants.
So when you hear about taxation and civilization, think about what “civilization” means. When someone justifies taxing your property, and giving it away to bureaucrats who deploy thousands of people overseas to fight needless wars, and who pour billions of your taxpayer dollars into destructive policies with serious blowback, think about how that really makes you feel. Think about how illogical it is. Think about how un-American it is.