On the Other Hand...

Imagine Freedom

by Jim Davies

Today I invite you to let imagination rip; for imagination is the most powerful single influence, I think, in all of human progress.

Just one century ago, the idea that you or I could fly through the air in a controlled vehicle at will would have been ridiculed: it was then possible only in fiction - and in imagination. But because a few well motivated individuals imagined it and worked on it and invested in it and persisted when failure dashed their hopes time and again, we can now take it as a granted fact.

A century and a half ago, for one American in ten the possibility of freedom from 100% slavery was possible only in imagination. But they did imagine what it would be like; they yearned for it, and they and others worked for it. The whole genre of "negro spiritual" music is one product of that imagining. And of course, what they imagined came to pass. As it happened, emancipation coincided with a devastating war; but slavery could have been abolished easily without it, by Northern governments acting alone to repeal their laws that enforced the return of escaped slaves to the South.

There are many other freedoms that we can see presently only with the eye of imagination. We can still only imagine a world free of war. One free of mass starvation. Free of poverty. Free of oppression. A world where we are free to live our own lives, our own way - however bizzare that way may seem to others.

Tolerance & Tax

I'd pinpoint tolerance as the most important single ingredient in the brew we need to prepare so as to make such imagined freedoms happen.

That may surprise some, but I think it's correct. Take the last named, above: all of us want to run our own lives our own way, but only a few of us will let the other guy run his life his own way. We try to limit him; we force him to modify his lifestyle to please our taste; we interfere. And of course, he does the same to us, so everybody loses. We are, in a word, intolerant.

Unfortunately there are thousands of ways in which most people are intolerant of their neighbors, and we could spend all week trying to list them. But I've picked out one big one, because it provides the means to exercise so many other kinds of intolerance: most of us will not tolerate the idea that once a person has acquired money by honest means, he is entitled to keep it.

So vigorous is that intolerance that most people surrender some of their own money to exercise it! - I'd suppose that exercise must, being so costly, give them a tremendous "high", but generally, it's a Faustian bargain.

This refusal to tolerate untrammelled property ownership is otherwise known as a general support for the principle of taxation. Every year or so, most people trot along to the polls, touch their forelocks, and elect someone to continue the wholesale confiscation of close to half of everything everyone earns.


Now suppose, imagine, that that intolerance could be dispelled, so that each of us could keep everything you or I had earned; that taxes were abolished. Of course, it's horribly difficult. So was building the first airplane. So was abolishing the prejudice in favor of slavery! But imagine it anyway.

First, poverty would dramatically diminish. The cycle of poverty is driven largely by tax-funded programs that pay unskilled girls to have babies, and that prevent unskilled boys obtaining their first job, and that brainwash both to believe "that's the way it is". Fact! Absent taxes, people would be as generous to the unfortunate as they have been throughout history - but nobody would be so dumb as to volunteer their own money to make the problem worse.

Second, the frequency of warfare would plunge; governments would no longer have the resources to fight them. Now, to the extent that other nations did not abolish taxes, so allowing aggressive governments to continue, we cannot rule out the possibility of attack - and so defensive wars might occur, and would be well funded, as the need arose, by voluntary means. But since every American war since 1812 has been offensive, not defensive, the horror of frequent war would be vastly reduced.

Third, every one of us would be immeasurably richer.

Vast Wealth

I refer not just to the obvious increase in after-tax income; a near-doubling, overnight, counting taxes on property etc as well as income.

Rather, I refer to the enormous release of wealth-creating energy that would take place and bear fruit in the several years following abolition.

Millions of well-talented people who are now doing utterly useless jobs in government employ - i.e., work that nobody would pay for, if we had the choice - would be obliged and enabled to put those talents to work in the marketplace. Instead of the Nation's most gifted graduates being swallowed up by the sink-hole of tax-funded bureaucracy, they would instead produce goods and services that we WANT to buy, by individual purchasing decision. That's wealth!

Then, wealth would explode for another reason: the crippling trade regulations that those same bureaucrats are now imposing, would be removed. Therefore, our creative energy would operate freely, to its full potential. Within a very few years, everyone who worked for it would be a millionaire.

In the 1840s, people couldn't imagine how society could function without slavery. Today, they can't imagine how it could function without taxes. Both were, and are, dead wrong; they have too little imagination. Try harder.

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 193

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