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 »

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Tax Exemptions for Charitable Institutions

If you believe in the supernatural and on that basis obtain a paying job, as a minister, priest, pastor, whatever, you don’t have to pay income tax.  If you establish a group of like believers and buy a piece of land and/or a building for meetings, you don’t have to pay property tax.  And if your group buys stuff, like computers, billboards, and so on, you don’t have to pay sales tax.   You’re a charitable institution.

What’s charitable about killing people who don’t believe what you believe?  What’s charitable about telling half of your group that they’re subordinate?  What’s charitable about telling another portion of your group that they’re sick?  What’s charitable about discouraging rational thought unless it supports your beliefs?  What’s charitable about telling all of them they’re sinners just by virtue of having been born?

If we’re going to exempt people from contributing to the upkeep of our roads, hospitals, schools, and so on because of their (presumed) ethically good behavior (an interesting idea, by the way), then let’s at least be consistent: let’s exempt snowplow operators, doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters, police officers, counselors, plumbers, electricians.  And so on.

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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 »

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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?

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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.

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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 »

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What’s Wrong with Profit?

Many would say it’s simply undeserved.  By any standard – be it need, ability, effort, or accomplishment/contribution.  In this respect, one might be tempted to compare profit to the ridiculously high salaries of sports stars.  And senators.  But salary is not profit.  Even if a salary is ridiculously high, it is still a salary, a payment for services rendered; and as such it is, in theory, deserved.  Or at least earned.

Profit, on the other hand, Read the rest of this entry »

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God Promised

With such regularity, it really should be the refrain of every national anthem, we hear something along these lines: ‘The land is rightfully ours. God promised it to us.’

Yeah well, God lies. Or at least he changes his mind.

Consider this: Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »

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The Pill for Men

‘Outrageous!’ That was the word used way back in ’85 in response to the expectation that men take a contraceptive that had a side-effect of reduced sex drive. Hello. Let me tell you about the contraceptive pill for women. Side-effects include headaches, nausea, weight gain, mood changes, yeast infections, loss of vision, high blood pressure, gall bladder disease, liver tumours, skin cancer, strokes, heart attacks, and death. Oh, and reduced sex drive. (Thing is, and get this – do not pass go until you do – Read the rest of this entry »

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