Friday, July 12, 2013

Thugs Anonymous

Yesterday I was washing our car and listening to a small, pocket-sized “transistor” radio, as they used to be called.  On came the local news.  One item dealt with the Cincinnati Zoo.  There is a proposal to put a tax levy on the ballot soon for the zoo.  In the typical and now a bit annoying “sound bite from someone to make the story more personal” style, some voice popped on for a few seconds to say something like, “I think the zoo makes a contribution to our city and deserves our support.”

I like the Cincinnati Zoo.  I have visited it occasionally throughout my now not so short life.  It is enjoyable.  It is even historic.  I think having a zoo is a good idea.  But I wouldn’t want my grandmother to be evicted from her house by the sheriff to have a zoo, or anything else, for that matter.

The tax levy for the zoo will be a property tax levy.  Every year such a levy is in effect, if you don’t pay your “zoo tax” your property will be confiscated and sold.  News reports about such property tax levies almost always imply that they are not very much.  But the size of such a tax is not the problem.  The many problems with such taxes is that they harbor all sorts of unseen negatives.

For example, takes the size of the levy.  No matter how small, for someone, somewhere, the smallest extra tax can be the one that put things over the edge for someone of limited means.  Then many of the same people who want to tax you for a zoo want to tax you to help the homeless.

But even for those who can easily afford such a tax, there are many unseen consequences.

When we tax our neighbors for a zoo, we are telling them, under threat of taking away their houses and property, that they must like what we like.  This is arrogance at its worst.  There is simply no justifiable way to claim that spending money for a zoo is better than spending money on, say, a family vacation, a book, an electronic device, all the imaginable other possibilities, or even saving it for retirement.

As sane, socially acceptable, and sanitized as it might seem, forcing people via tax levies to buy what you want with their money is the worst possible use of democracy and little more than legalized thuggery.  And yet we do it so often, so glibly, and often so smugly.

A zoo is nice, and so are many other things.  But treating your neighbor like your slave is not.

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