Death and Taxes…

They say there are only two things that are for certain in life – death and taxes.

Simple question. I live in the United States. For my most basic needs, I have to spend money. What if I don’t want to have a job, what if I don’t want to participate in “money”?

There is one way to get out of money – being homeless. You can’t really “own” a piece of land. At the very least, you must pay property tax on land. So really, it’s more like leasing. Even if you do “own” it, imminent domain can take it away.

So, unless you want to wander around homless (and many do), you have to participate in the system.

The question: how is this not slavery?

Albeit a very comfortable form of slavery, I can’t see how this is not an evolved form of slavery.

11 Comments

Adam

There is a comfortable form of slavery?

That’s a rhetorical question.

What separates tax payers from slaves is what taxes provide that uncompensated hard labor alone did not. Here in the US, participating in the system (paying taxes, et al.) gives government the means to provide an improved quality of life for participants such as access to an education, parks and recreational areas for leisure, assistance for low-income earners and the disabled, etc. The slaves’ quality of life wasn’t improved by their enslavement. They didn’t get to go have a picnic in massa’s garden, or sit in massa’s school rooms, or any help when they were hurt or not capable of working.

Zaskoda

Awesome reply Adam, that’s exactly what I was looking for. Now for a retort!

Even for slave classes, labor wasn’t purely uncompensated. It was not financially compensated, but slaves were – at the very lease – housed and fed. While slaves suffered extreme abuses, there are many recorded cases of slaves being very well taken care of. I’m not trying to justify slavery, just expose a gray area.

On the flip side – consider the way many (perhaps even most) Americans live – piles of debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and are unable to actually build wealth. Many don’t get proper medical care. Meanwhile, they work for companies owned by individuals who live extravagant lifestyles.

So, that “gray area” doesn’t mean whole lot by itself. But I see one more crucial piece that brings it all together. We lack the option to opt-out.

What if I don’t want access to education, parks and leisure, low-income assistance, etc. What if I do not want to participate in the “system”. What if I don’t want government run fire stations, police departments, and libraries?

They key point here is that I do not have a choice. I am not allowed to attempt to build my own existence outside of the “system”. I am not allowed to work with others to build a different system. To some degree, I have to submit.

Adam

Slaves couldn’t vote to change their situation. We can. Also you’re free to live anywhere in the world you’d like. Now that doesn’t mean any government will take you, but massa ain’t forcing you to stay.

Zaskoda

You’re absolutely right. We can vote. But how much “freedom” does voting itself bring? Corporations still have more influence over government than the voting public. We can’t even end the prohibition of a harmless plant, the possession of which keeps putting people in jails – and my taxes keep funding the process. I work, my money goes to the government, and it helps pay for putting what I consider to be innocent people in jail. Decades of protests, riots, demonstrations, and it hasn’t changed. And that’s just one very simple issue.

Sure, I can leave… to whatever countries might accept me. Am I any more “free” in these countries to remains outside the system? It’s not just the US, that just happens to be the country I understand the best because I’ve always lived here.

There isn’t one “master” anymore. If you can get to the top, you can play massa too. And it doesn’t matter who’s back you build your wealth on. There are plenty of people who have to buy food, water, shelter, and other things we used to get directly from nature. So if any of your workers want to leave, it’s easy enough to pass the work on to another in need.

Don’t get me wrong, the society we’ve built is absolutely amazing. The joys and securities I’m able to explore as a member of this team are wonderful.

It just occurs to me that I didn’t get to opt in… and it’s not particularly easy to opt out. Something seems wrong with that.

Zaskoda

No, I saw the movie. Alaska is just about the furthest you can get away. However, you can homestead w/out being caught in the tax trap eventually. I also went to visit Alaska last summer. Definitely our last frontier.

But yeah, Into The Wild… The Magic Bus

Adam

The things you seem to desire here are things McCandless was in need of and what drove him to try to separate himself far away from the system thus creating “Alexander Supertramp.”

I think the quality of life we, as participants in commerce and earners/users of currency, have right here, right now, in this nation, is pretty fantastic compared to other human inhabitants of this big blue planet. Sure it’s not perfect, and our voice to better our well being in our democracy sometimes falls on deaf (or corrupt) ears. The machine keeps running, and I’m more happy to be a part of it almost every day, and the days I’m not are inconsequential when I read about what is going on in Iran, China, Darfur, and North Korea, to name a few.

P.S., What actually happened to Chris McCandless as portrayed by Krakauer and Penn is not completely accurate.

Zaskoda

And the irony is that Alex managed to kill himself by making a foolish mistake. The world we’ve built around us in unbelievably safe. I imagine that a person appreciates this more once they’re raising children as well. ;)

I’m pretty sure the commerce model is broken. At least the notion of corporations. Sure, we’ve grown into a massive empire as a result… but what good are we as a whole? We pillage resources. Most of the “work” that we do for a living really doesn’t serve any greater good. The amount of energy we waste doing things we don’t want to do that serve no purpose could be spent on really wonderful things – like getting ourselves into space.

How long will our good fortune really last? Economically, the land we stole of the natives is amazingly rich. We have enough food to take care of ourselves 10 times over. We have enough fuel to sustain ourselves for a very long time. We’ve exploited immigrants (first legal, then illegal) for cheap labor since our inception. We’ve rapidly grown, which is the only way to benefit from our debt based economy.

But now what? If we can’t sustain growth at the levels we have before, our debt will catch up with us. There exists far more debt in our country than we have actual dollars to pay it off. Because we apply interest to loans, and all money is loaned from the central bank, debt will continue to increase – even if our economy or our population does not. This is not sustainable.

And what will happen when we can’t enjoy this artificially high quality of life anymore? What will our children see? Will we start to see the violence that’s currently in so many other countries? How will our government respond? Will we someday see martial law? We did just finish building concentration camps across the nation for *some* reason.

I hope I’m paranoid, but I don’t think we’re on a sustainable positive path. I also think it’s happening just slow enough that we’re the frog in a slowly warming pot of water – never aware of when it reached a boil.

You need to tell me about Krakauer and Penn sometime.

Adam

So what are you doing or are going to do about it? Your opinions and supporting information seem very well thought out and researched. I listen to a lot of such thoughts from sources that range from whack job nut cases to credible, neutral news outlets, but mostly they just spew opinion and angst then do nothing else to fix what they’re concerned about. This country has sustained for over two centuries in the power of the people despite the course it’s taken. With that in mind, why should I believe that the course can’t be changed by participating in the government of the people?

Adam

Oh I forgot one thing. I’m curious about the concentration camps you mentioned. Do you have some supporting facts you can share?

Zaskoda

I’ve been talking with a group about starting an intentionally community. We talked a bit about structures that would actually be more “free”… and what would help make it work or not work. We’re not sure where the “right” place is to do this. There are a lot of them happening right now, many of them in Central America.

Burning Man is a good example of an experience of interacting w/out an over abundance of commercialism. Granted, you still *pay* to go. However, it’s a brief look inside cultural development that’s driven by something other than profit. There’s something about it that… suggests there may be other ways to build culture.

The detention camps are easy to google for. It’s hard to find a good fair article because the news created so much conspiracy theory. Here’s one that got some upvotes on Digg:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/02/04/ED5OUPQJ7.DTL

(hope that autolinks ok)

Personally, I believe there is a very good chance that our economy won’t recover. Even if it’s just a slim chance – what happens if it doesn’t?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *