Now that we have big governments and high taxes, we don't need private charity. Long ago, if your conscience dictated that you should help the poor you would have to take some personal responsibility for your own moral code. Whether you helped or not would depend on your own personal character and integrity. This was very inconvenient, because you'd have to make the effort of finding avenues to do your bit in contributing to society. Worse still, you'd have to be a Good Samaritan, and you'd have to notice people suffering around you and personally stop to help them. How embarrassing. Surely it's better to just raise the tax rate, because that way you can leave the matter to your accountants and never have to help anyone yourself. That's why helping the poor is now done through taxes. If you're a billionaire and you want to help more, all you need to do is campaign for the government to raise taxes.
Helping those who are less fortunate used to be a moral instinct for human beings. In days gone by, if you came across someone suffering, you would stop and figure out the best way to help. I know, shocking. It sounds so random and inefficient. Luckily, times have changed. These days, there is a welfare state. Since you pay your taxes to fund a social-welfare safety-net for all those who are down and out in society, if you come across someone passed out on the pavement you can just cross the street and walk on by on the other side, secure in the knowledge that there are institutional channels for dealing with such situations. Usually, by the time you get there someone has already called the authorities so at this point there's nothing more you need to do.
This new civilised reality has several attractive features. Firstly, it is very orderly. Everything can be planned in advance. If you come across any social problems, you just need to assure yourself that you paid the correct amount of tax unlike those miscreants who squirrel their money away in tax havens. Then await instructions from the government. If further help is needed from you, like your tax code has to change so you can give more, someone from the the Inland Revenue will write to you and you can pass the letter on to your accountants or whoever sorts your taxes. Better still, appoint your tax reps to deal direct with the tax office, then you never have to think about it at all. The tax system allows you to carry on your life with no need to help anyone, ever. How cool is that.
If you're a billionaire and you feel that the tax money you're contributing is not enough to fix all the social problems, you can start a campaign for the tax rate to be raised. That way, the authorities will be able to levy higher taxes from everyone which is definitely more efficient than billionaires having to give privately to charity. It's also really cool because instead of just privately giving as much money as you want to help others, you can put pressure on the government to force all the other billionaires to step up to what you consider to be the best rate of giving. In this way you can spread your preferences about how much to give to all your fellow billionaires by force. How cool is that. A little bit of helping, together with a little bit of exercising power over other people by forcing legal changes upon them. This is the reasoning behind the campaign to pay higher taxes.
You don't help by giving more. No, you help by demanding higher tax rates. You don't stop avoiding taxes and instructing your accountants to take advantage of all the tax breaks. No, the way to prevent tax avoidance is 'through international tax reform efforts'. Of course it is. Maybe we need a global tax rate, and a global government, with a global army to police international tax avoidance? We could raise more taxes to fund the global government! This way, no individual billionaire has to take personal responsibility for his own choices about whether to help others or not. He can pay taxes to the global government and be done! He would be content in the knowledge that other billionaires are paying up too, as there is nowhere for them to hide.
This is the best way forward, in order to make use of the government-funded systems that are there to help people. Systems are superior to puny individual efforts. You can't just privately follow the dictates of your own individual conscience: you need a system that involves everybody else. Perhaps a toll free number that poor people can call, or an email address where they can write, to set in motion the system that has been organized to help them, funded through taxes. Such systems absolve us all of personal responsibility for the well-being of our fellow man. We call this Progress.
In this way, Progress displaces the role of private charity. Mandatory taxation transforms the relationships and interactions between individual members of society. Tax-funded welfare states prove the strength of the Social Conscience.
What about private morality and individual responsibility? These old-fashioned values used to trigger in each person a desire to make the right choices and do the right thing. But in the new age of Progress, what's more important is ensuring the morality of systems such as capitalism, or the meaning of social responsibility, or community responsibility. Systems do not require each person to do the right thing. Indeed they do not require any form of individual response or action at all. Instead, they require the society to pass the right laws that will ensure that everybody will do the right thing by force: paying taxes is not optional.
The duty to pay taxes is not a moral duty reflecting a desire to help the less fortunate; it is a legal duty breach of which will land you in the slammer.
In a progressive world the only remaining moral obligations are those imposed on institutions, not on any individual person. Thus 'society' is becoming increasingly moral by the second. Institutional duties can be as onerous as we like, because at the end of the day, every individual can go home safe in the knowledge that they personally don't have to do anything to promote institutional duties. The government will sort it out.
Update: Another benefit from displacing charity with taxes is that nobody ever has to suffer the ignominy of feeling beholden to others. If you are the recipient of public largesse you don't have to write to the welfare office or the Taxpayer Alliance to say thank you. Gratitude is abolished. That's Progress.
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