A Fair Share

“Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.” That was said by an American named Robert Goodloe Harper a little over two hundred years ago.

Although, I rather like Andy Taylor’s version: “Millions for Charity, but not one penny for tribute.” (a.k.a. Andy Griffith in ‘Opie and the Bully,’ 1961)

Which makes me wonder, when does a tax rise to the level of being tribute?

James Madison rightly pointed out that:  “The government of the United States is a definite (limited) government, confined to specified objects. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

For years that principle was generally adhered to especially since progressive taxation and thus the government’s access to easy money (easily taken without much popular opposition) was largely prohibited by the Constitution’s provision that (federal) direct taxes be proportioned to the census thereby ensuring a flat rate of taxation. That ensured that everyone’s rate would be low and that if anyone paid, then everyone paid and paid the same rate; now that’s a fair share. The people with the most to protect would still pay the most (10% of a million dollars is far more than 10% of a thousand dollars), but the rest would also have an interest in keeping the tax rate low to spare themselves too.

That’s probably why Benjamin Franklin had this to say about entitlements, “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”

Of course Benjamin Franklin wasn’t opposed to helping the poor, though he, like many Conservatives today, would disagree with how Liberals today want to “help” the poor.

Franklins was noted for saying, “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”  I couldn’t agree more.

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