A very good friend of mine once made this comment (the title) in passing. At the time, I didn’t really want to bother tossing in my thoughts because, one – they weren’t really talking to me, and two – the conversation had quickly moved on. Plus – the statement is a kind of an exaggeration anyway and there really isn’t much point in debating something that is mostly an overstatement. However, I have now had plenty of time (a year or so) to think about this concept and I feel that it is a common belief and therefore, deserves a response. Most importantly: I used to think the very same thing.
“I used to think the very same thing.”
It turns out to be a complex issue so I am going to try and break down the many aspects below (although there will surely be more reasons I don’t cover). Also, my thoughts are not meant as an attack on the statement or anyone with a different viewpoint – rather – a clarification. Please let me know if anything is confusing.
A Classic Misconception
Basically, the statement -“Conservatives don’t want higher taxes because they are all rich” is a misconception. Firstly (and most obviously), all conservatives are not rich. I am prime example of a conservative that is not rich (nor do I hate homosexuals, think everyone should be forced to hold Christian beliefs, etc.). In fact – I don’t know of any conservatives that are against raising taxes simply because they are wealthy.
The “Big Government” Reason
If you read anything conservative, you have have probably felt the angst towards “big government.” You may be wondering, what does “big government” have to do with taxes?
To most conservatives, “big government” is a moniker for federal government programs (usually mostly, or completely funded by tax dollars). The main beef about federal government programs is that they are inefficient and frequently waste large amounts of (tax payers) money. Furthermore – because these programs are funded by the government through taxes – average people are forced to pay for them, whether they need the service or not.
“…most conservatives believe that any service beyond defending liberty and providing justice do not fall within the jurisdiction of the government.”
In contrast, private businesses works in the opposite way – they provide something you need or like – and you choose to invest your dollars (you want their goods or services more than you want your cash-money). Essentially, you vote for their company – with your dollars. A private business must compete with other businesses to earn your vote (and turn a profit) , thus – they must not waste money. Even so – if they (private businesses) mismanage their funding, they go bankrupt or they are forced to re-strategize.
In a big government situation their is no competition. Public consensus chooses for you whether you are going to pay for a good or service, whether you want it or not. If the government doesn’t handle their funding well – they ask for more funding on the next ballot.
As a side note – conservatives view the government as inadequate at dealing with certain problems. Not only are they slow to respond, but control is often unlocalized (think Hurricane Katrina). The main issue here is that individual responsibility is pushed aside to make way for the federal system’s intervention. But since when does a policy maker in Washington understand the direct needs of the man on the ground?
I can think of a classic example of this from one time when I worked for Blockbuster Video. The corporate execs would make nit-picky decisions about how the CSR‘s were to handle each customer (at one point – they told us the exact words to say and the exact movements to make). Then – the regional manager would sneak up to your store and watch you to make sure you were doing “the nine steps” (true story). The outcome? Store workers felt like the execs thought they were a bunch of pea brained yokels who’s combined IQ might be enough to tie their shoe – if they didn’t drool all over themselves first.
Conservatives believe that if we are to live as free people, not only must we learn to make choices on our own, but we must be held responsible for the outcome of those choices. This is one of the fundamental flaws of Socialism which I will get into a little later.
So, back to Taxes: Conservatives, in general, are against big government because the idea of being forced (through taxation) to pay for something destroys personal choice and because the government is not efficient at managing money or providing services. I will also add that most conservatives believe that any service beyond defending liberty and providing justice do not fall within the jurisdiction of the government.
Economic Reasoning for Lower Taxes
Another reason most, if not all, conservatives are against higher taxation is because it has a detrimental effect on the economy.
The central concept is that by lowering taxes (giving people more money) – they will invest that money. This investment could be in a variety of formats. Some people may lower the prices of goods or raise wages. Others, purchase cars and houses. Still others place that money in banks. Whichever way, this investment of money creates jobs. (Just think of all the different jobs that go into creating one house: lumber, hardware and tools, architects, financial loans, excavators, contractors, designers, etc…) Jobs help people make more money.
Conservatives are against raising taxes because the more money the public has – the more that gets invested – the more jobs created. And the more people that have jobs, the more wealth created and the healthier the economy. Not to mention – though positions do not equal happiness – it is satisfying to see some monetary outcome for your personal hard work.
The Demoralization Factor
I mentioned Socialism earlier and you were probably wondering how that factored into, “why conservatives don’t want higher taxes”…
Conservatives don’t want higher taxes because they penalize hard work. This is a fairly deep concept so please allow me to explain the foundation of this reasoning.
Firstly, most conservatives believe that we, as human beings, are not prone to doing good. In other words – our default action is not a noble one. Without a good reason not to, we almost always automatically choose the easiest road possible. As you can see – this becomes a major problem in a society of free people. Thus, laws were created. A system that promoted doing good. (Notice that I say “promoted,” not forced.) Hard work and innovation was understood early on to be of good value both individually for people and also for society. Thus, hard work must be rewarded with an honest wage. Once people receive their paycheck – they are free to choose what they want to do with that money – invest, donate, etc.
The problem with socialism (and don’t be fooled: government taking money from you to pay for society is socialism.), is that it takes away this reward and the freedom to choose. Even worse, (as I alluded above) it does not hold individuals responsible for the outcome of their choices. Socialism tries to equalize by redistributing wealth. Workers no long have a choice of what they wish to do with their earnings. Instead – the government takes those earnings through high taxes and decides for them “what’s best for society”.
Here, some people will argue, “But the government in America IS the people!” In concept this is true – but in real life, we all know how quickly the government responds to individual requests: like a sloth in a tar pit.
Summary and Conclusion
So, why do Conservatives oppose high taxes?
- Tax funded government programs are clunky, wasteful, and inefficient.
- Higher taxes hurt the economy.
- Higher taxes demoralize and penalize hard work and innovation.
(to list just a few…)
The point of this discussion was not to change your opinion. Rather – it is to clarify misconceptions about a point of view. Also, it’s very important to decide what you believe and whether a presidential candidate agrees with your view on this issue when you go to the voting booth. For instance – if you totally disagree with this article and think socialism is a great idea, Hillary Clinton may be a swell candidate for you. As I’ve discussed before, she clearly has a socialist viewpoint:
- I Want To Take Those Profits – Hillary Clinton
- Clinton: Shared Prosperity Should Replace ‘On Your Own’ Society
I disagree with Mrs. Clinton because I personally prefer to collect the full earnings for my own hard work. I also prefer the freedom to choose where, when, and what I wish to invest my earnings into. I don’t believe that it is the job of government to “fix” society through tax funded programs. That is why I (and most conservatives) oppose raising taxes.