Every time there’s a debate about taxes, there are people out there (for example Henry and Gregg Easterbrook) who say certain liberals who favor higher taxes are hypocrites because they don’t personally pay the higher taxes they espouse. No one’s stopping them from paying more in taxes. If they really believe taxes should be higher, they should personally pay more.
Part of my objection to this is put more eloquently than I could do in this Economist blog post. The primary point being, a single person paying extra in taxes makes no difference in the ways that matter (namely, in why the person believes in higher taxes to begin with). Not just little difference – no difference.
I don’t think that’s the nature of Easterbrook’s objection though – he seems to frame it on moral grounds, hence him thinking they’re hypocrites. Here I think he’s mistaking the moral for the practical. There are certain policies I support on absolute moral grounds, and on those I will not waver regardless of what the law actually is. Like, I think prostitution is wrong. I won’t hire a prostitute even where it’s legal. If I did, I’d be a hypocrite, because my objection is based on absolute moral grounds.
But taxes aren’t like that. I support higher taxes because of practical reasons. I don’t think higher taxes (compared to what we have now) is some absolute moral good, or that an absolute morally correct tax rate even exists. It’s all based on relative, practical, situational considerations. To me, it’s more akin to a speed limit. Personally, based on the data I’ve seen, I think a lower speed limit would be better. Something closer to 55. There would be fewer traffic deaths, and surprisingly, if engineered correctly, it would actually improve traffic times. Just because I believe that doesn’t mean I should be driving at that speed on highways to make a point even though technically I could. That would be pointless (and arguably unsafe). Because it’s not a moral principle, it’s a practical one that only makes a difference if everyone is doing it.
So yeah, not a fan of the people who want higher taxes who don’t voluntary pay higher taxes themselves is a hypocrite argument.
Speaking of driving, I had my first driving experience in London – we rented a Zipcar to go to the mall. A disaster. I broke the passenger side (that is, the left side) mirror. My problem is that I’m not calibrated at all to the spacing of the left side of the car when the steering wheel is on the right. I should have known I was in trouble when I first picked up the car then came back home to pick up the family. I very casually drove up the curb. Once we got started, every time I passed something, Jieun freaked out a bit about how close I was to objects on the left side. I don’t know why, but I dismissed her until I hit a wooden road sign with the side mirror and shattered it. From that point on, I was completely stressed, just knowing that I have no idea how close I am to anything on the left side. It doesn’t help that London streets are so windy and narrow. I also didn’t realize how much I have to retrain my reflexes. Like, to see what’s behind me, I instinctively look to the mirror that’s up and to the right. Obviously, that doesn’t work here. I realized after a while that I was instead looking to the right side mirror, which doesn’t show everything behind me. And I realized this I think the 3rd time a car passed me on the left and I found myself completely surprised that it was even there. Also, we didn’t have a GPS device, so we were depending on our phones that were rapidly losing battery.
So yeah, overall, a stressful disaster that’s soured me on driving at all while I’m here. We pretty much have to if we ever want to see certain places (e.g. “Koreatown”) but I’m not looking forward to those times.