And I mean that non-ironically. I don’t like paying taxes, but I am proud to do it. Taxes are not only necessary to maintain the way of life we value. They are a direct investment in the very concept of civilization. Taxes are the explicit statement that we are a community and we have a communal responsibility to each other. They are also the explicit recognition that no one is in this alone, that no one is solely responsible for his or her own success, and that we are, to some measure, dependent on each other.
Yes, I inveigle against waste and fraud, just like everyone else. Perhaps even more so, because they are a violation of this trust, that the communal burden be fairly borne and communally valuable — that no individual benefit unduly. But the current fetish on minimizing taxes (even at the cost of undermining society) boggles my mind. It reeks of hubris and solipsism.
Taxes are a burden but not all burdens are bad. Jingoists like to lecture us “Freedom isn’t free” — and indeed, it isn’t. Part of the cost — not the lion’s share, but not a negligible one — is directly an economic one: The taxes we pay. You cannot defend a nation, or provide speedy justice, or protect the innocent, for free. You cannot offer hope and opportunity, or discover new cures, or build a better future, for free. The American project, whatever that turns out to be, is bigger than any one person or any one group. Taxes are part of the sinew that binds us into one nation.
Taxes help make clear: We are all in this together.
So again, I say, Happy Tax Day!
(For your amusement, here’s a link to the original income tax forms.)