I was having a pleasant back-and-forth on one of my more conservative friend’s Facebook page which led to a probably overly-long-for-Facebook comment on my part. But, it seems like a good enough basis for a blog post. Also, a periodic reminder to seek out people of good will who have different opinions. Try not to get mad at each other. The discussions will be good for you.
Anyway, the subject of taxes came up. I mused about the relationship between taxes and happiness indexes because high-tax areas often seem to be areas where people rate themselves happy. He correctly pointed out that those indexes are subjective and also observed that he and I are happy living in low-tax Indiana. Which led to this, from me:
I think a fair amount of my happiness comes from having located in the People’s Republic of West Lafayette. It’s not very high tax or liberal compared to your average college town, but compared to the rest of Indiana probably more so.
Part of what makes me happy about the community is that there isn’t a lot of (noticeable anyway) dysfunction in the people with whom I come into contact. West Lafayette is a bubble. Tippecanoe County is less so but still a bit of a bubble when compared to the rest of Indiana.
The question is whether spreading social services more broadly can, in effect, expand and strengthen that “bubble?” Or, to get out of using the mildly pejorative “bubble” characterization, can spreading social services more widely reduce the dysfunction in the general population? Can taxing the rich and spending it on the poor effectively improve education, improve health, strengthen families, make people more productive, and make communities happier places to live? How much can you tax before the good things produced by the spending is outweighed by the unhappiness created by taxing and taking peoples’ money?
Then you get to the moral question — even if you generate significantly more happiness through taxing and spending, is it morally justifiable to take from the few and spend on the many? On this point, I’m probably never going to have a meeting of the minds with the “taxation is theft” purists. But, as to the previous point, I think there is a lot to discuss and to be learned about what sorts of social spending is effective and about when you hit a point of diminishing returns with respect to taxation.