One area of overreach is charitable giving. During their budget sessions, local governments often spend something on local charities. Sure, it is good to coordinate individual efforts for big disasters. But when government uses tax revenues to fund charities, it reduces the ability of individuals to donate to the charities of their choice. Consequently, consciences are violated as taxpayers end up contributing to charities they do not choose. Perhaps they disagree with the group’s philosophy, have a difference with its leaders, think it is run too inefficiently, or have moral issues with its objective – as many do with Planned Parenthood.
A much larger use of tax dollars is social services. In the old days, people took care of each other, and churches tended to what fell through the cracks. The family was a great system for assigning responsibility. Now, people are taxed to look after each other. One problem with that is administrators must be payrolled, and offices must be established to handle the work of charity, and that diverts potential funding for the needs of the poor.
A second, which is part of any large-scale government redistribution scheme, could be termed “erosion.” For any government service, or as the case now is, product; there are taxpayers who are hanging on to paying their own freight by the skin of their teeth. As government “builds capacity” for its programs, it becomes necessary to raise taxes, a prospect both Buncombe County and the City of Asheville have, according to recent headlines, been considering.
When tax rates go up, it will be the final straw for some people. One need not be a homeowner to pay property taxes, as landlords usually use tax hikes to justify rent hikes. Exercising their survival instinct, most people will avoid ruin by some form of legitimate evasion, like moving out of expensive jurisdictions, moving to a smaller property, or getting a fourth job. Some will decide it is too expensive to pay for one’s own home and get in line for the HUD housing for which they now qualify.
This is tempting when another phenomenon, which could be called “inversion,” occurs. That is what happens when members of the working class find themselves paying taxes to provide a better standard of living for those living off the system than they can provide for their own family. This explains why socialism “works” in homogeneous societies. When everybody is of the same faith, with the same work ethic, and similar levels of income, it is a no-brainer to pitch in for somebody down on their luck. There is more emotional baggage, like jealousy and contempt, when somebody who works like a dog for table scraps is taxed to provide parks and greenways for those in a subculture that prioritizes entertainment over work.
Another problem is the system is so large, it is difficult to hold anybody accountable. Bureaucracy sanitizes charity. Nobody is forced to see a brother or sister scrap their plans and spend time and energy mopping up after his antisocial choices. When somebody sees another sacrificing and suffering on his behalf, he is naturally motivated to ease the pain. He also feels the power of love in knowing somebody values him enough to give the very best. These days, anybody considering reaching deep into his heart and sacrificing his individual resources to lift another is probably scared stiff he’ll be arrested for practicing without a license.
One more unfortunate overreach of local government is corporate welfare. That is a euphemism for cronyism. Not too long ago, the Founders fought to wrest this nation from tyranny. The concept of self-actualization or entrepreneurship would have been a joke in European monarchies. Royalty was royalty, and knaves were expected to grovel for privilege. Today, the Founders’ vision is disdained because in intellectual circles it is considered erudite to apply the ad-hominem fallacy: Just because the Founders were not perfect, any idea they had must be bad, so big government trumps liberty.
Classical liberals, by definition, worked against privilege. Everybody had the same freedoms, and it was government’s role to step in if one party started stepping on the freedoms of another. Fraud, theft, slander, and similar evils interfered with citizens’ ability to enjoy the fruits of their own labors. Today, rather than eliminating unjust advantages, government creates them.
By deciding which companies get wads of tax dollars, government attempts to grow the economy. Huge corporations expand the tax base, but they also create demand for government services. If tax rates were fair, the great economic boons for government would only work if the new companies are lower-impact than the current population. The opposite is often the case, as big employers tend to need infrastructural improvements. What’s more, when a company can no longer survive off profits from sales or private-sector investment, it is probably a good idea for nature to take its course.
Perhaps one of the most pernicious problems with government giveaways is the age-old observation of easy come, easy go. It is easier to be spendthrift with others’ money than to waste hard-won earnings. The reason this is not part of the conversation is that Progressivism is oblivious to the concept of trade. Again, going back to the old days, people used to feel a remorse of conscience if they just took stuff from another. They bartered to help each other out. Money was just easier to carry in the pocket than cattle.
Now, oddly enough, the currency is seen as a panacea. The mass media broadcasts stories of creating wealth by moving currency around. This misses the concept of what an economy is. A people with a high standard of living do not, as the grantors of economic development incentives want us to believe, get rich by passing money around without any kind of discount for trading it for items off the shelf. Economies grow by adding goods and services valuable enough for voluntary trade