Saturday, January 10, 2009

Membership Dues

There are many sophisticated ways to write about taxation and I doubt that this is one of them. Still, I'd like to make a few simple points on the matter using membership dues as a simile.

I don't mind paying dues as long as: a) I can afford to pay them and b) they provide things I like. So, when I could afford to play golf (which I can't anymore) I was very interested to find a golf course I could join. By "join" I mean paying an amount of money which would entitle me to the benefits of the golf club. There is nothing ideological about this scenario and I would like to think that it is a generalizable thing to say about most people.

This seems to be why no one complains about public benefits and programs that they use. I don't see many people railing against libraries or firefighters. We largely get mad about paying for things we find unimportant or think could be better spent elsewhere. This means that no one is wholeheartedly against an institution (be it a government or a country club) charging a membership fee for things we like. No one wants to dissolve the state completely. Even an anarchist would simply like to see a conglomeration of people that occurs in, what seems to them, a better way. Conglomerations, governments, country clubs, families, churches, dating and what have you are the water we swim in. There is no way out. The question is simply a matter of what we think we need and how we are to pay for it. And I do mean "we." This includes the 'I' and the 'we'. There is no 'I' outside of the 'we', I think.

When those "things we need" are inalienable rights, then, we find ourselves in a very difficult predicament. This is because certain things, like life, are provided by extension of certain services, like medical care. So, to say that it is an inalienable right is one thing, but to say it is something we should charge for as part of the membership package is another one altogether, at least to many people. There are many more issues to discuss here. Nothing stranger (at least to me) then why we never seem to object to public parks. Although I do think that beauty is an inalienable right too. But that is for another time.

What does not help the matter, is to send people to this corner or that and assume that by inhabiting that space (e.g. liberal, conservative, anarchist, socialist, and so on) they have said everything we need to hear. This is messy stuff and I think that walking away from shallow corners and empty allegiances and opening up some free space to think deeply about these things is a good start.

No comments: