I think that, theoretically, it may be possible to craft a flat tax that is not regressive. Realistically this is nearly impossible, however. How would you propose constructing it so that it is not regressive?
I must admit that when I wrote the phrase ‘I support a flat tax’, I was thinking along the lines of what Steve Forbs tried to run on in the 2000 presidential primaries- specifically, a 17% income tax without exemptions for medicine, education, or mortgages.
I can see how a consumption tax can be seen as regressive (I’m not exactly certain it is… this is somewhat tangential to my argument at the time, but if you want, I’ll go into this later), but mostly I reject it because it’s unfamiliar. ‘The best tax is an old tax’. I’m used to paying income tax, and while it might not be the best way, I do not believe shifting to a sales or VAT would be worth the adjustment costs.
Yes. Or rather, MY property, and my RIGHTS to my property, are moral. The issue was ‘what right does the government have to take my property (money)?’ That answer, is to provide me with services. Security, the rule of law, roads… hell, even public transportation or medical services. In each case, I am making a transaction with another entity.
Specific to the redistribution of wealth, I am making a transaction with another human being to give them money, and the state is acting as an intermediary. Now, if this was voluntary (me making a donations to the Shriner’s Hospital, for example), that’s cool. One assumes I’m engaging in a voluntary transaction, and I’m recieving something (piece of mind or whatever). However, if I am forced to do such… then we’re basically taking money out of my pocket and giving me nothing in return. Which is theft, and is morally inappropriate. Reprehensible, even.
Now, two arguments can be made that taxes for the purpose of wealth redistribution provide a needed service.
One, that welfare checks lower crime. I disagree with this,not because it’s not true, but because it’s basically bribing someone not to kill or steal my shit, which I feel is wrong, that I shouldn’t have to do that.
The second, is that I’m paying this money in return for the ability to live under this government (one assumes I’m there voluntarily and have decided this is the place I want to live, for whatever reason), and that the extra tax is just part of the deal. It’s worth pointing out that you can justify any tax with this rationale. But more, I dismiss it under the auspice that if it’s not providing something tangible (or even describable), it’s probably bullshit.
You are correct, there is much more poverty in HK than in Sweden. This would be a reprehensible thing if the people in HK were forced, generation after generation, into a hopeless cycle of poverty, with no hope of social mobility (as in pre and early industrial Sweden). However, that is not the case. There are opportunites for social advancement, and these opportunities shift the responsibility for rising out of poverty from the society onto the individual.
I can’t speak for the record in HK, but I do know that in the US, the VAST majority (I’m thinking 80-90%) of those living in poverty either
a) had a child before the age of 18
b) had a child out of wedlock or
c) didn’t graduate high school.
These are all more or less voluntary choices. I can accept that for some, the choices are harder to make because their immediate society doesn’t reinforce positive behavior. That’s why people are praised for getting out of the ghetto.
And about morality… I, perhaps, have a great deal of catch-up to do. I do not have the luxury of contempt prior to investigation. Therefore, I will learn what I can, where I can.
For the record, I’m really glad you post here. It provides variety from the otherwise right-battles-even-further-right fare that would otherwise occur.