Fiscal Conscription

It’s income tax time. Do you know where 9.2% of your taxes will go?

Well, let’s just say that you bought the bullets. (Out out damned spot, you say?)

Then again, $2500 (if your taxable income is about $25,000) might buy more than a few bullets. Maybe you can pay for a whole box of screws for one of our nuclear submarines. Or maybe you even can buy a bit of gas for one of those fancy helicopters.

Sure, better your money than your life, but wouldn’t neither be better still? Wouldn’t it be good if at least you had a choice about serving the military?

I mean, it wouldn’t be so bad if it really were the Department of Defence. There are many arguments in favour of waging a war and, in truth, I find a few convincing; sometimes killing is the best of a bunch of really bad options.

But we live in a world in which countries routinely sell weapons to their enemies. Read the rest of this entry »

Property Tax

Property tax (money one must pay to the government based on the land, and the building/s on the land, that one owns) is odd in that unlike sales tax (money one must pay to the government based on the goods and services one purchases), it is payable every year, not just once when you buy it. It is, in this respect, more like income tax, which is payable every year. But if you don’t pay your property tax, you lose your property; if you don’t pay your income tax, you don’t lose your income. (Well, you might, if you’re imprisoned, but that’s an indirect result, whereas losing one’s property for failure to pay one’s property tax is a direct result). What justifies this difference, this having to keep on paying property tax even though you own the property (that is, even though you’re not renting, not paying to use someone else’s property)?

One response may be Read the rest of this entry »

Income Tax Deductions

In Canada, if one agrees to pay someone else’s way in life, one gets to pay $7,500 less in income tax. I’m referring, of course, to the spousal deduction.

If one decides to make some people and pay their way, one gets to pay $7,500 less per person in income tax. The deduction for kids.

What’s the ethical basis for these deductions? If you’ve agreed to pay someone else’s way in life and therefore pay less income tax, who picks up the slack? Me! How is that fair?

Maybe we can answer that question if we first answer the question ‘Why are there any deductions at all?’ That is, why shouldn’t we all just pay a percentage of our total income, period?

Are the deductions corrections for other errors? University tuition is too high, so those who pay it get to deduct a certain amount on their income tax as compensation? Well, fix the high tuition! And in the case of spousal and dependent deductions, what error is being corrected?

Or are deductions a sort of social engineering? Is the spousal deduction meant to encourage men to have wives? Why? Why is it such a good thing to have, or to be, a ‘kept woman’? And is the species in danger of becoming extinct? Is that why we need to encourage people to make more people?

Who Owns the Water?

I am intrigued by struggles over ownership of water – not so much the issue of whether or not Canada should sell its lakes, but whether or not they are Canada’s to sell. Similar struggles arise in our international deliberations over blame for air quality. What intrigues me is not that we are struggling with ownership of water and air, but that we are not struggling with ownership of land.

We accept the concept: someone owns the land and when you want some, you have to buy it from the owner, who bought it from the previous owner, and so on. But ‘and so on’ to what? To the first person who simply said, without any justification whatsoever (not even recourse to the irrelevant claim of being there first – certainly not recourse to the stronger claims of having maintained or improved the land), this land is mine and you have to give me money if you want to do anything with it.

Is this inconsistency due to our being ‘solids’ as Star Trek Voyager‘s Odo might note (solids who, nevertheless, need both gases and liquids to survive and, further, who are actually partly gas and mostly liquid)? Or is it an indication of our bias toward the visual – we can’t see air, nor can we draw lines in water? Whatever, it is certainly not the result of rational consideration.

How many specialists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Every now and then, perhaps with Hegelian predictability, there is a swing in academia toward the holistic approach, toward systems theory, if you will. In this anti-atomistic, anti-reductionist view, the essence is the process, not the structure; what’s important is not so much the thing, but the relationship between the thing and other things. I think of Fritjof Capra’s work of fifteen years ago, The Turning Point, and I wonder if perhaps quantum physics will provide the necessary weight once and for all for critical mass so the pendulum will stop, making the atomistic view history.

Given this, it’s too bad people think ‘jack of all, master of none’; Read the rest of this entry »

The Political is Personal

Back in the 60s or 70s, one of the insights feminism gave us was that the personal is political. It’s been a valuable insight. Many of us now routinely interpret personal interaction politically: we try to understand the influence of race, class, and gender; we try to determine the nature of the power differentials.

I suggest that the converse is an equally valuable insight: the political is personal. Read the rest of this entry »


Congratulations.  Now there’s a word we misuse a lot.

‘I’m getting married!’ ‘Congratulations!’  Why?  Why should this be cause for congratulations?  Is it a good thing?  Half of all married couples end up divorced.  (The other half just couldn’t be bothered.)  Is it an achievement?  There are no qualifications except being a certain age.  Which generally happens without any effort.  So you’re entering into a legal contract with another person.  Big deal.  Bet you haven’t even read the contract.  So you’re going to a church for some obscure sacrament.  What, Christmas and Easter wasn’t enough?

What’s getting married really about?  Proof you’re not gay after all.  Proof that you’re all grown up, gonna settle down, maybe start a family (like having a kid means you’re no longer a kid is the logic, I guess).  Proof that someone somewhere somehow found you loveable long enough to agree to marriage.  Yeah right, whatever.

‘I’m pregnant!’ ‘Congratulations!’  What?  Again, is this necessarily a good thing?  ‘Cause it can seldom be called an achievement.  I mean I’m sure you have succeeded at sexual intercourse before.  So now you got lucky.  Should we congratulate for luck?

‘I won the lottery!’  ‘ Congratulations!’   It sounds right.   But it sure takes the wind out of the congratulations we give to the person who wins a triathlon or a Beethoven competition.

On Demonstrations

Though I consider myself to be rather socially conscious, and while I have written many letters and cheques, I’ve never been part of a demonstration. For a number of reasons.

Let’s consider first to whom the demonstration is directed. Perhaps primarily, it’s meant for the people in power. It’s meant to send them a message. But what possible message could be sent by a mass of people, some carrying placards, many shouting their contents. What’s in a phrase, or even a complete sentence? If the goal is change, presenting claims without evidence, without argument, is surely insufficient. Do we really expect others to change their minds, their policies and practices, without evidence or argument? Do we really want them to be so stupid?

Perhaps the message is not in the placards but in the masses, in the show of numbers. Why are numbers important? Are we thus insisting the majority should rule? First, a demonstration, consisting of self-selected people, is hardly representative enough to justify claims of being any majority. Second, why should the majority rule? I know that our system of democracy is based on this principle, but consider it for a moment. ‘Majority rule’ is really an appeal to popularity, a bandwagon appeal. Should the opinion of the majority rule, no matter how ridiculous, immoral, or simply unsupported it is? Read the rest of this entry »

Free to be – Offensive (You are such an idiot.)

What does it mean to say you’re offended?

If it means merely that you disagree with what I have said, then surely we have a right to offend. Surely the freedom of speech allows the expression of dissent. Even if your disagreement includes any number of unpleasant emotions (embarrassment, shame, displeasure, irritation, annoyance, anger, distress, outrage, shock, fear, disappointment, frustration, envy, humiliation, guilt, sadness, anxiety, discomfort, disgust, a vague sense that my words are inappropriate or indecent, whatever the hell that means). Though often there is no awareness of disagreement; there is only the unpleasant emotion.

If ‘offend’ is the verb form of ‘offence’ as in ‘offences’, then to offend (also) is to do wrong. But, why, how is it wrong for me to express a view with which you disagree? Are you hurt by dissent? Harmed in any way? Disagreement aside, can words harm? Well, yes. Insults, in part, can cause psychological injury, which in turn may or may not cause physical distress. If I call Dick an idiot, and you disagree, do you feel hurt? Probably not. (Though I suppose it depends on whether Dick is your boss or your son.) But if I call you an idiot, you may feel hurt. Your blood pressure may rise. (Though that may depend on whether I’m your boss.) (Or your son.) So the real questions are do you have a right not to hurt in such a way, do I have a duty not to call you an idiot, is it wrong for me to do so? Read the rest of this entry »

Freakonomics’ Big Revelation

So I just read Levitt and Dubner’s Freakonomics, in which they present the astounding connection between access to abortion and crime: twenty years after Roe v. Wade, the U.S. crime rate dropped.

Astounding indeed. That men are so surprised by that! I mean, just how clueless are you guys? —about the power, the influence, of parenting, about the effect of being forced to be pregnant, to be saddled with a squalling baby you do not want, on an income you do not have, because you’ve got a squalling baby you do not want… What did you guys think would happen in situations like that? The women would get “Mother of the Year” awards for raising psychologically healthy adults?

What I find surprising is that access to abortion isn’t related to infanticide. Pity. Given the Freakonomics boys.