Should we be grateful for taxes?

Chris Fitzsimon of N.C. Policy Watch, the liberal counterpoint to the John Locke Foundation, claims that “Civil Society is supported by … taxes” in an op ed published in the April 15 News & Observer. “Today is tax day, so get ready for the annual onslaught of government-bashing and wild exaggerations about the taxes we pay from folks holding protests on streets paid for by tax dollars while being protected by law enforcement officers funded by our tax payments,” he wrote.

His premise is based on the false belief that government equates to society. It does not. His confusion is natural, as Thomas Paine noted two centuries ago in Common Sense.

Society is produced by our wants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Fitzsimon takes particularly umbrage at those pesky senior citizens who dare to protest.  “Many seniors in the crowd will complain about the government that just paid for their latest visit to the doctor,” he said. “Many speakers with degrees from state universities will rail against the taxes that paid for much of their college education.

“Many of the people carrying signs blasting big bad government will have recently cashed their Social Security check or pension payment from the State of North Carolina.”

He seems to say how dare they actually claim the “benefits” that they paid for all their working lives.

Fitzsimon rambles on, reciting a litany of “services” the State provides us for our tax dollars, from senior medical care to trash collection.

Dr. Mike Munger, Duke University political science department chair,  thinks the list of government services Fitzsimon thinks we should be grateful for is “curious.”

“First, some of the items are not services at all but are mandated by silly law,” he wrote in a letter to the editor published April 18.

“Second, many of these services are financed by additional direct fees, not taxes.

“Finally, his recitation of how ungrateful we are reminded me of letters I have come across in my academic research on slavery. Slave-owners in the old South were genuinely surprised, and hurt, when their ungrateful slaves ran off after the Civil War. After all, the slave-owners had fed, clothed, housed and in some cases educated the slave in blacksmithing or other trades.

“The point is that the slave-owners came up with elaborate lists that said, ‘Look at all the things Master does for you. Why aren’t you grateful?’ And those lists looked, well, pretty much exactly like the Fitzsimon article.”

Game, set, match to Munger.