Dollars and sense: Why are some people morally against tax?

May 23, 2012

As the U.S. presidential election campaigns heat up, the economic debate is dominated by bailouts, austerity and, inevitably, taxation. Now a new study published in Symbolic Interaction asks why tax is such an important issue to voters and explores the moral ideas which underpin their views.

Americans are famously hostile to taxes even though they are not heavily taxed in comparison to Canadians and the British. In their study Dr Jeff Kidder and Dr Isaac Martin, from Northern Illinois University and the University of California-San Diego, explore how feelings of exploitation lie behind this hostility.

"Everyday tax talk among the middle class is not simply part of a wider ideological view about economics or free markets," said Kidder. "Tax talk is morally charged and resonates with how Americans see themselves and their place in society."

The researchers conducted 24 semi-structured, open-ended interviews with taxpayers in the Southern states who owned or managed small businesses to discover how they talk about taxes in everyday life. Entrepreneurs are a which is typically strongly anti-tax, while the Southern States provide many supporters for the radical .

Respondents saw themselves as morally deserving and hard-working people, sandwiched between an economically more powerful group that manipulates the rules for its own benefit and a subordinate group that benefits from but escapes taxation.

"We found that people associate income tax with a violation of the moral principle that hard work should be rewarded," said Kidder. "Our research shows that when Americans lash out at 'takeovers,' 'massive taxes' and 'bailouts,' they are looking at these issues from the perspective of a hard-working middle class besieged on all sides. Tax talk is about dollars, but it is also about a of what is right."

It is typically believed that those who are anti-tax will also be hostile to government aid for the poor and minorities. However, rich recipients of bailouts were also disparaged as people who did not deserve money because they did not work for it.

"A lot of the tax talk you will hear from politicians this election season makes no sense as arithmetic," Martin said. "But it makes sense as an appeal to the moral sensibilities of small business."

"Our research shows that tax talk is not actually about individual self-interest, but about our respondents' sense of the proper relations among groups," concluded Kidder. "It's a view summed up by one respondent: Don't take my paycheck."

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User comments : 27

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dogbert
2.7 / 5 (21) May 23, 2012
Is Phys.org becoming a political forum?

The obligatory characterization of the Tea Party as "radical" and the unfounded assertion that being anti-tax means the person is against aid for the poor and minorities is more indicative of a political agenda that a study.

That government in America has grown too big and that the growth of the welfare state harms people seems to escape the authors of this study.
Sean_W
3.3 / 5 (14) May 23, 2012
Taxes are theft from peopleand companies who innovate, create wealth, work hard and create jobs for others. The proceeds of this theft are given to people and companies who don't do this and is presumed to be charity. Unlike real charity, these government handouts are meant to generate political capital and dependency on the state. Also unlike real charities, government programs can reproduce at will and are not limited to contributions but can raise their budgets merely by increasing the rate of theft and by borrowing in the name of their livestock (i.e. us). Few want the racket to end because so many benefit from it (or think they benefit from it and that they can't get by without it). But it will end because the number of states which can bailout others when they collapse is finite. People who riot because they don't want spending cuts will be worth watching when all the wealth has all been stolen and there are no rich people to eat as they often recommend doing.
ryggesogn2
1.9 / 5 (11) May 23, 2012
People are morally opposed to their wealth being plundered for the benefit of a few, politically connected green energy companies, among hundreds of other special interests.
But now ~50% of the US pay ZERO income tax and the majority of income tax is paid be a small minority.
kaasinees
3.3 / 5 (14) May 23, 2012
Taxes are theft from peopleand companies who innovate, create wealth, work hard and create jobs for others.

Are you kidding me? Why would someone create more jobs when they could just increase the virtual number on their bank account?

In my country they privatized almost everything that should was once socialized, guess what my country is going to shit. People are getting arrested for massive fraud etc.

Capitalism doesn't work, there is a reason countries like Norway are the better countries to live in.
ryggesogn2
2.5 / 5 (12) May 23, 2012
increase the virtual number on their bank account?

Because the prices will rise as well.
This is called inflation and it is created by the govt creating more money, not wealth.
Capitalism is the ONLY system that has been demonstrated to work. Without capitalism, even Scandinavian countries would have collapsed, and they KNOW it.
KingDWS
3 / 5 (8) May 23, 2012
II have this discussion with my daughter she can't seem to get it that the more socialized the country the more control the government has over you as an individual. The one thing you do not see in socialist countries is any large entrepreneur base. The individual through conditioning over the years looses the screw it let's do it or how hard could it be attitude it takes to create wealth. That also requires a situation where the company can have the same attitude without being over burdened by taxes regulations or overhead. Before it starts that does not mean people or companies require the ability to rape and pillage people places or the environment in order to do so. Like it or not there is a reason why the US has been the economic engine of the global economy. It is the can do or try it attitude instead of the attitude where someone won't-can't because it is easier to sit back and think the government will provide. No I am NOT an American nor do I think they are better or perfect.
kaasinees
3.2 / 5 (11) May 23, 2012
Like it or not there is a reason why the US has been the economic engine of the global economy.


Well known misconception. Europe has a larger economy and is many times smaller, dont forget japan or middle eastern countries that make the economies world wide run in the first place.

The USA is only good enough for bullying around.

Capitalists are stupid.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (10) May 23, 2012
Europe has a larger economy

Which is imploding because their govts don't know how to stop spending and their people don't know how to work.
Europe has been carried by the USA since WWII with the Marshal Plan and then defense against the USSR.
Just wondering if any of you socialists understand what motivated Sweden to repeal its wealth tax?
malapropism
3.8 / 5 (5) May 23, 2012
Taxes are theft from peopleand companies who innovate, create wealth, work hard and create jobs for others. The proceeds of this theft are given to people and companies who don't do this and is presumed to be charity

This is an extreme generalisation that is at least partially untrue. Taxation is necessary (a necessary evil perhaps) for the support of services that nobody will otherwise provide. For example, road construction.

Now, before you rail that road construction can be well performed and supported by private industry (quite right) perhaps you ought also to consider that the administration around road construction also needs support. An example here may be the regulatory framework of checks and balances that keep roads from being forcibly constructed through, say, your home. Would private enterprise fund this? I doubt it; but taxes will.

Only a fool would say that there is no need for any taxation and only a fool would characterise all tax as theft.
barakn
3.9 / 5 (7) May 24, 2012
The Romans had private fire-fighting companies. If you didn't pay them, they'd come and burn your house down.
zaxxon451
3.9 / 5 (7) May 24, 2012
Taxes are theft from people and companies who innovate, create wealth, work hard and create jobs for others.


Despite the total inaccuracy of this statement, this kind of foolish sentiment continues to be crammed down our throat by corporations and politicians.
Consumers create jobs, not rich people. Hiring a new employee is the very last resort of a business owner.

Suggested reading, "Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline" by Morris Berman.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (6) May 24, 2012
The words "morally" and "deserving" are linearly independent, and intersect at meaning coordinate (0,0)

"Respondents saw themselves as morally deserving" - Article
runrig
not rated yet May 27, 2012

This is an extreme generalisation that is at least partially untrue. Taxation is necessary (a necessary evil perhaps) for the support of services that nobody will otherwise provide. For example, road construction.

Only a fool would say that there is no need for any taxation and only a fool would characterise all tax as theft.


Surely the 1st duty of any government is the defence of its population. Taxes are therefor certainly a necessary evil, disregarding the moral obligation to take care of the weaker members of society. So who's going to pay the some some $968b ( FY2001 ) defence budget? - then you have the pensions of those military and civil workers. Both these groups add up to near 50% of the US budget.

Yet US middle classes think them hard done too in paying for this ?? Seems strange to me.
ryggesogn2
2 / 5 (4) May 27, 2012
Consumers create jobs, not rich people.

Please, tell me how a consumer can create a job when no one has created anything to consume?
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) May 27, 2012
"It is absolutely necessary that this question of legal
plunder should be determined, and there are only three
solutions of it:
1. When the few plunder the many.
2. When everybody plunders everybody else.
3. When nobody plunders anybody.
Partial plunder, universal plunder, absence of plunder,
amongst these we have to make our choice. The law can
only produce one of these results."
"Nothing can enter the public treasury,
in favor of one citizen or one class, but what other citizens
and other classes have been forced to send to it."
The Law, Bastiat.
Roland
not rated yet May 27, 2012
"Taxes are the price we pay for civilization." But here in the US, some people apparently think civilization includes things like a War in Iraq, a War in Afg, and a War on Drugs. If that's their idea of civilization, they can darn well pay for it. I refuse, as much as I can (turns out it's quite a bit). Best to cut spending on that stuff, but since it's politically impossible, the only alternative is tax avoidance.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) May 27, 2012
"Taxes are the price we pay for civilization." But here in the US, some people apparently think civilization includes things like a War in Iraq, a War in Afg, and a War on Drugs. If that's their idea of civilization, they can darn well pay for it. I refuse, as much as I can (turns out it's quite a bit). Best to cut spending on that stuff, but since it's politically impossible, the only alternative is tax avoidance.

Civilization includes energy and some level of security from attack.
Ignoring the Taliban and Iran won't keep them in Afghanistan anymore than ignoring Hitler kept him in Germany.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) May 27, 2012
"It is not because men have made laws, that personality,
liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is
because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand,
that men make laws. What, then, is law? As I have
said elsewhere, it is the collective organization of the individual
right to lawful defense."
"Thus, as the force of an individual cannot
lawfully touch the person, the liberty, or the property of another individualfor the same reason, the common
force cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, the
liberty, or the property of individuals or of classes."
The Law, Bastiat.
Legitimate taxes are those that fund such defense.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) May 27, 2012
"The delusion of the day is to enrich all classes at the expense of each other; it is to generalize plunder under pretense of organizing it.
Now, legal plunder may be exercised in an infinite multitude
of ways. Hence come an infinite multitude of plans
for organization; tariffs, protection, perquisites, gratuities,
encouragements, progressive taxation, free public
education, right to work, right to profit, right to wages,
right to assistance, right to instruments of labor, gratuity
of credit, etc., etc. And it is all these plans, taken as a
whole, with what they have in common, legal plunder,
that takes the name of socialism."
The Law, Bastiat.

I suspect most are opposed to any type of plunder. Whether is is by organized crime or the organized state.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) May 27, 2012
"The American tradition rests its case squarely on the premise that the human being is endowed with rights by his very existence; that is what makes him human. Hence, any political action which attempts to violate these rights violates his human-ness, and thus becomes "evil." "
"ncome and inheritance taxes imply the denial of private property, and in that are different in principle from all other taxes.

The government says to the citizen: "Your earnings are not exclusively your own; we have a claim on them, and our claim precedes yours; we will allow you to keep some of it, because we recognize your need, not your right; but whatever we grant you for yourself is for us to decide.""
http://mises.org/...evil.asp
zaxxon451
not rated yet May 31, 2012
Consumers create jobs, not rich people.

Please, tell me how a consumer can create a job when no one has created anything to consume?


Please tell me how a business owner is going to have money to hire a new employee if there are no consumers of his product? No consumers = out of business

Cutting taxes does NOT create jobs. An increase in consumption drives the creation of jobs. And this is only when the business owner sees that he is missing out on profits by not hiring a new employee.
zaxxon451
3 / 5 (1) May 31, 2012
"The American tradition rests its case squarely on the premise that the human being is endowed with rights by his very existence; and thus becomes "evil." "
"ncome and inheritance taxes imply the denial of private property, and in that are different in principle from all other taxes.

The government says to the citizen: "Your earnings are not exclusively your own; we have a claim on them, and our claim precedes yours; we will allow you to keep some of it, because we recognize your need, not your right; but whatever we grant you for yourself is for us to decide.""
http://mises.org/...evil.asp


Earnings are absolutely NOT entirely your own. You act as if business owners make their profits in a vacuum. The rich are in their positions of wealth because of uncountable members of society. For them to imagine otherwise is the height of hubris.
COCO
1 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2012
every thing is political - NIST created a new brand of physics with their 911 myths - we see each day news about Iran that is not factual laong with many articles from PHYSORG - I am not sure even if you actually have a law in the US that compells you to pay taxes - I know you have enforcers but that is not quite the same. Keep up the dialogue - all is connected.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Jun 04, 2012
And this is only when the business owner sees that he is missing out on profits by not hiring a new employee.

Employees are only hired IFF the new employees can create MORE profit.
If owner of the business is making a profit with NO employees, why should anyone be hired?
A farmer could hire more workers if he decides to expand. A farmer could also expand by purchasing more, better tools that increases his productivity. This is called capitalism.
Terriva
1 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2012
Employees are only hired IFF the new employees can create MORE profit.
The problem of capitalism (laisess-faire economy being more specific) is, it operates mainly with current and local prices only, so it tends to ignore various large scale / long-term synergies so it fails in strategical decisions. This is the reason, why the free-market economy tends to instability and it oscillates in periodical economical crises. The centrally driven socialistic approach is over-regulated / over-dampened instead. This energy dissipation could be removed with thorough hierarchical application of both approaches at the scope of their optimal effectiveness: the free-market economy works well at the communal level, the planned economy works better at the global level.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2012
planned economy works better at the global level.

Since when?
Terriva
3 / 5 (2) Jun 04, 2012
Since it's planned so from its very beginning. Whole the governmental politics of foreign affairs and military operations are organized in socialistic, i.e. centrally planned way.