I’m proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is – I could be just as proud for half the money. – Arthur Godfrey..

Taxes are often defended as the price we pay for a civilized society. Yet financial newsletter writer Mark Skousen contends the opposite: that taxes are the price we pay for FAILING to achieve a civilized society.

In a civilized society citizens do not have to be forced to be responsible for the themselves or for their neighbors.  Charity is expected, not forced by government.

In our less than perfect world where we need protection it makes senses to equalize contributions for defense, property protection, courts and some infrastructure.  Our republic recognizes the need for a limited government. Where we stray is when goods and services are labeled as rights.  In order for these to be considered rights, it requires a transfer of money from one citizen to another.

The constitution recognizes the rights to a free press, free speech and freedom of religion.  These are truly rights.  There is not a price tag associated with them.  Transportation, a comfortable retirement, health care, food, and a minimum income have price tags and as such are not rights but consumables.  As consumables they must be paid for by someone.  These ‘rights’ require money extricated from someone else and thus requires the force of a government. This requires government to become a usurper of property rights rather than their protector.

Once we use government to distribute commodities and services then government becomes a means to wealth rather than an enabler.  Government rather than private initiatives becomes a source of wealth.

We are at a crux where we must face the limits of government.  While the debate is often framed between those who want the government to do good for the citizens and those who want to protect the rich, this is a ruse and the voters know it.  The debate over how much we want government to control our lives and decisions is about power.  The ruling class is not just those who draw a check directly from the government but includes those know well how to use the government to obtain preferences in the market at the expense of their competitors.  This is what drives the lobbying industry.

This struggle is about whether power should rest in the hands of the people or in the hands of an elite who use this power to try and buy off just enough voters to stay in power.

We like to think the government is just protecting the environment when we see incandescent light bulbs being outlawed. What I see is an industry that has succeeded in getting the government to pass a law eliminating a cheap light bulb so they can sell one that costs ten times the price, not to mention a bulb with a much higher cost to dispose of safely.

When we see how our tax dollars are being spent today there is little that is civilized about it.