Taxation, regulation, and the pursuit of litigation
By Robert Smith
Our country was established by visionary statesmen with a dream of a more perfect form of government, built upon the bedrock virtues of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the same country where these large ideas were conceived and practiced, we are now instead mired in the meddlesomeness of small men and women. The valueless triumvirate of taxation, regulation, and the pursuit of litigation now rules over our society.
Taxation in its most brutish forms was practiced by nobility (supported by "taxes" on peasants) and thugs (supported by protection money). As evident in these basic examples and in all forms of taxation, taxes typically come with an implied benefit (if paid) or the threat of violence or other painful outcome (if not). Financial penalty or even jail time are our governmental painful outcomes du jour.
In our modern tax system, a multitude of taxes are levied for purposes of government revenue, redistribution from the "rich" to the "poor," or modification of behavior (e.g., the cigarette tax). A part of the theory behind our own tax system is that we are all represented in government. "No taxation without representation" is the well-known rallying cry. In a perfect American tax system, our taxes would be free from the sense of coercion; in theory, if we were properly represented in government, then our taxes would be levied apace of our desires for government action.
As we know all too well, our tax system is in many ways more akin to the raw forms of taxes levied by nobility upon peasants and thugs upon their protectees. Our political elite use taxes in many instances to protect their supporters and punish their detractors, to coerce or steal from private enterprise, and to empower their government bureaucracies.
Even more insidious, over the years, many special interest groups have been funded by the denizens of government using everyone's tax money. These taxes are acquired for uses that in many instances have worked against the interests of the individual taxpayer.
Examples of funding the opposition are many. Most famously now are the election fraud by government-funded ACORN, direct funding of efforts by groups such as Planned Parenthood, taxpayer-subsidized propaganda from the likes of National Public Radio, and even the use of tax funding in support of labor unions, who many times convert the funding into electioneering services for cohort politicians. At times, the people's tax money is used as inter-politician bribes to acquire or maintain powerful government offices (refer to the Cornhusker Kickback among a multitude of other examples).
President Obama brought government tax abuse into clear focus when he used the people's money to bail out portions of the struggling auto industry. This bailout was to the detriment of the taxpayers and car company owners and to the benefit of the union auto workers as compensation for their support of Mr. Obama's government position. Furthermore, the president's actions limited the auto industry's autonomy from government and directed its activity toward the president's preferred production line, electric cars.
Regulation in its simplest form is laws and rules to organize or coordinate activities. Alternatively, regulation can also impose restrictions on an activity or control its outcome. As practiced today by our government, regulation reflects much more of the restrictive or controlling part of the definition.
The labyrinth of government controls stretches into many areas: the cost or availability of our energy resources (e.g., oil, gas, coal, nuclear, etc.); labor, through labor laws such as minimum wage laws and laws favoring unionization; land and property, through zoning and taxes; and technology, through environmental controls and limitations.
Of course, nobody would argue that the judicious application of certain controls is necessary. However, the overzealousness and complexity of these controls are detrimental to economic abundance and wealth-generation.
Most recently, the practitioners of governing can't seem to comprehend why our economic system is stalled. In addition to the ever-increasing baseline of government controls, the chaos the government regulators have caused in their attempt to establish further draconian controls related to carbon-regulation and health care, as examples, doesn't register as an impediment to the economy in their minds. Freedom to produce wealth requires that regulating controls be removed, relaxed, and/or limited, not increased.
Litigation is a means to an orderly society. Through an established legal system, no vigilante action is needed in response to being wronged or harmed by another. Unfortunately, many times, the harm incurred by a plaintiff is driven by the desire to be enriched at the expense of others or to limit or affect an activity. In extreme cases, litigation has even become a form of investment. Legal firms establish investor groups in hopes of extracting money from certain parties, such as a targeted industry, with the damage awards distributed to the lawsuit "investors."
On a national scale, the annual cost of the U.S. tort system equals an estimated $865 billion per year. In essence, the annual "tort tax" for a family of four in terms of costs and forgone benefits is estimated to be $9,827. Additionally, the U.S. tort system returns less than fifty cents of every tort-cost dollar to injured claimants, those it was designed to help, according to the Pacific Research Institute. Inherently, it would be expected that commonsense legal reforms would lower consumer costs, create jobs, reduce insurance costs, and increase business investment and innovation.
Our ability to think and act on our own volition -- to pursue happiness -- speaks directly to the ability to create and acquire -- to establish value for ourselves, our families, and our posterity. The "stuff" of ownership in one's own life is the outcome of liberty. There is also an inherent element of liberty that allows one to be left alone, or free from undue interference by other individuals, groups, or government.
Large men and women rise to the challenge of liberty and achieve their own American dream. A life lived freely does not come with a price tag or compensation package. The janitor, the laborer, the car lot owner, and the corporate CEO can all achieve this pinnacle of a life lived freely through liberty.
Small men and women, on the other hand, scheme to punish others' success and covet what others have made. These small people incite the force of government or the legal system to redistribute what others have acquired and to control others' activities or outcomes. They prey and feed on human weakness, and their tools, of course, are taxation, regulation, and litigation.
Our forefathers, statesmen all, gave a pledge of their very lives and sacred honor to realize for us a better dream. Though once their dream was realized, it has since morphed into today's nightmare of taxation, regulation, and the pursuit of litigation. It is time for that dream -- the dream of America -- to be reanimated from the distant past.
Robert T. Smith is an environmental scientist who spends his days enjoying life and the pursuit of happiness with his family. He confesses to cling to his liberty, guns and religion, with antipathy toward the arrogant ruling elites throughout the country.