Friday, April 27, 2007

Igg, Ogg, and the Creation of Taxes

“Igg? I’m tired of all this huntin’ and gatherin’.”

Igg looked at Ogg. “Me too,” he sighed.

“So what say,” Ogg continued, “We raise all these plants and animals ourselves? No more rushin’ around!”

“Now that’s a plan!” agreed Igg. And so agriculture began.

Wisely, Igg and Ogg weren’t quick to quit hunting and gathering, since at first they were largely unsuccessful. They realized eventually that timing played a crucial role.

“Igg? How are we gonna know when exactly to plant?” asked Ogg.

“Hmmm...I know a guy who can read the stars to calculate the seasons...” suggested Igg.

The ancient astronomer got the job, under the title of Priest.

Igg and Ogg prospered, encouraging others to follow their example. All the Priest’s friends got jobs, creating organized religion.

One day, Igg and Ogg toured their plantation along the riverbank and noticed a disturbing trend--less and less water reached their crops. Taking a walk upstream, they soon saw why: many new converts to agriculture were diverting the river’s water to irrigate their crops. When questioned, these new farmers invariably replied, “We have to make a living too!”

On the way back downstream, Igg and Ogg talked to several other farmers who also complained about the dwindling water supply. Consequently, Igg and Ogg organized a meeting of all the riverside crop growers. After considerable debate, the farming community realized that water rights must be controlled by a central authority, thus creating law, government, and bureaucracy. Civilization was born.

The new village thrived at first, but some of the farmers failed to honor the water rights agreements. Igg and Ogg called another meeting, and soon enforcement of the law fell to the newly created police force. Further, to ensure the fairness of police enforcement, a new judicial system and penal code arose. The village rejoiced.

Unfortunately, so did the nomads in the mountains above the village. “Look!” they advised each other, “These people work all year and create all this food in one place, ready for the taking! Mount your horses!” And so they did, in a devastating raid. War had entered the world.

The village did not rejoice. “All our hard work! Our families will starve! We must protect ourselves!” Another village meeting instituted an army.

But Igg and Ogg had an additional concern. “The village has priests and governors and legislators and police and justices and lawyers and soldiers and commanders,” explained Igg, “But the village needs these people to commit so much time to their professions that they can no longer realistically take the time to raise their own food.” After a long silence, Ogg suggested,” Suppose each farmer raises a little more than needed for mere self-sufficiency? Then, the surplus could go to the professionals necessary for the security of the village.” Long debate followed, but necessity instituted the plan. Taxes had entered the world. And to help keep tax records, mathematics and writing soon followed.

Life was wonderful thereafter. People invented leisure time and explored human existence by creating and practicing various arts and sciences. People also continued to learn to work together, specializing in various trades, providing new products and professional services. Education strove to ensure and expand village life, thought, and culture. But, unfortunately, greed was not limited to the mountain nomads.

“It’s YOUR money!” proclaimed Ugg in his bid for village government. “Every year since this village started, more and more of your hard earned money goes toward supporting Big Government!”

Igg listened, confused. “But those taxes pay for the services necessary to run this village,” he countered.

“Wasteful spending! Tax and spend! Tax and spend!” continued Ugg.

“Shouldn’t we then trim the waste, if that’s so, rather than cut revenue?” asked Igg.

“You see,” explained the Priest, “Cutting taxes will actually increase government revenue.”

“So, if instead of tithing,” retorted Igg, “People only gave five percent, church revenue would increase?” The Priest kept quiet.

“Cutting taxes stimulates the economy!” shouted Ugg. “It creates jobs!”

“Given certain circumstances, I suppose that’s theoretically possible,” mused Igg, “But such a blanket proposition makes several unsupported assumptions. For example, won’t trimming spending also cost jobs? And doesn’t government spending ALSO enter the economy?”

Ogg had doubts too. “Cutting taxes means cutting services,” he explained, “Services we instituted with good reason. Important, necessary services.”

Ugg didn’t seem to hear. “This slow economy means we MUST cut taxes NOW! The more cuts, the more the stimulus! And private industry in this great village of ours can best provide services to our wonderful people!”

Igg turned to Ogg. “Does he mean that cutting all taxes would best benefit the village?”

Ogg considered. “Well...if not by taxes, the village would need to exploit natural resources, or consistently plunder other villages, or institute slaves to produce excess revenue.”

“And privatizing government services,” added Igg, “Would mean that police, justice, armed forces and so forth would only be for hire. Further, the large landowners would benefit most from lower taxes, at least in the short run, because only those families could afford education. Our village’s professional talents would atrophy.”

Ugg’s enthusiasm had now attracted quite an audience, drawn by promises of invading the mountains to conquer the nomads, cutting the forests to increase village resources, and asking all citizens to sacrifice for the good of the village in order to make tax cuts possible and to eliminate government interference in their affairs. Nationalism was born.

Igg and Ogg looked at each other once more, then turned and walked toward the forest, while it would still be possible to hunt and gather.


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