Roland Dürre
Monday February 22nd, 2010

A Rule of Justice?

One way or another, what happened around the “tax CDs”, no matter if they are real or probably only exist virtually, still causes an upheaval inside me.

Tax evaders are criminals. Criminals must be punished. If they committed a severe crime, they even must go to prison. We should buy the CDs.

That is what we hear around every corner and it seems to be the general opinion. Although the people I know and have been discussing it with do not share that opinion. They believe the state should not use more and more questionable methods and make denouncianism more and more respectable.

And then I think that the state and the public morals have just sought the easy way out. And I come up with strange ideas:

Is it really the tax evader who is doubtless the criminal? Or does not the state at least have a share in the guilt by taking away so much of the income from its citizens through a system that nobody can understand any more?

As I see it – and this is how I also read it, for instance, in my favourite constitution, the Bavarian one – the state has a number of duties. It must administer the power monopoly adequately. It should serve the citizens. It should give structure to the economic life. Education, safety and some sort of social network are part of its responsibilities. It has to provide a functioning infra structure …

And then one can think of stupid questions like these:

  • What if the state gets more and more negligent of its duties or fails to balance them? Is it then still allowed to cash in so much?
  • Is the state still allowed to accumulate this kind of debt? After all “in theory” (and most likely in practice, as well), future generations will have to pay it back.
  • Why should I pay for an infra structure I do not even need? An infra structure that will most likely be detrimental to us as an entity or even ruin us?
  • Why should anybody grant a subsidy for buying and driving a car to a total stranger (eventually, it was 25 citizens, each of whom gave 100 Euros for the 26th citizen to get his wreck premium)?
  • Why should I pay the state for providing infra structure if all its wants to do is privatize everything?
  • Why should I finance the war in Afghanistan, which in all probability will eventually be judged by history to have been totally useless, just like the other wars of the last 50 years, be it in Vietnam, Iraq, or elsewhere.
  • Should I pay for the pharmaceutical industry to make a huge profit, even though, as a matter of principle, I only take medication in an emergency and would never get a vaccination against swine infection?
  • Didn’t the church say a long time ago that a fair tax was ten per cent of your income?
  • Is it fair that I have to pay tax again on the interest of money that I originally already paid tax for?
  • And assuming that I want my property to go to my children, why do I have to pay tax yet again?
  • And is it really  my responsibility that everybody is employed, regardless of the fact that the system increases the price of the raw material labour to such an extent  that some things can only seem to work if done in illegal employment ?
  • How long before we will no longer be able to afford all these taxes and all this state while our general prosperity dwindles?
  • May the state really break the law in order to punish crime?
  • Or does it only break the law in order to accumulate (even more) money?
  • Does the state still represent the interest of its citizens? Or did it install an administration controlled by lobbyism of the powerful and individual interests of a party oligarchy?

Looking at all these issues, I am no longer sure if at the end of the road might not loom a rule of injustice. And I wonder why more and more Germans emigrate.

Our economical system made it possible for a manager to potentially earn not only 20 times, but even 400 times as much as his normal employees. And that you can become a billionaire within a few decades or even a few years if you are a race driver, golfer, soccer, or simply an author or entrepreneur.

In my opinion, it is a socially misdirected development that you can get absurdly rich because of a special talent, certainly some hard work and a lot of luck. But calling for the state to take this money away from the people by way of taxation out of jealousy cannot be the solution, either.

These are the kinds of ideas I have in weak moments.

I would almost be glad for some of you to prove my theses wrong once and for all. After all, I do not wish to fall victim to the virus “being fed up with the state”.

(Translated by EG)

9 Kommentare zu “A Rule of Justice?”

  1. Enno (Monday February 22nd, 2010)

    Leider haben Sie kaum Thesen, sondern überwiegend Fragen aufgestellt 😛

    Bezüglich kaufen oder nicht kaufen und Denunziantentum sollte man berücksichtigen, dass das in Form der Kronzeugenregelung doch schon Gang und Gäbe ist.

  2. Chris Wood (Tuesday February 23rd, 2010)

    I agree with Roland that his questions are mostly stupid.
    FDP is the only significant German party that is serious about reducing taxes. With this they fooled the electorate into getting them into the government. Since the election they have declined in popularity, as people have seen what stupid ideas they have. Recently they have regained 2% through a campaign against the unemployed. This has shocked very many, but convinced a few right-wing workers. Is Merkel now unhappy to have sided with the FDP? Perhaps it was a clever move to discredit politics right of the Christian Union. Anyway the great majority of voters must think that the current rate of taxation is about right.
    Here Roland reminds me of an Anarchist Hyde-Park speaker that I met. He really wanted to have no police. Having a judo black belt, he himself might have managed without police. Being a single self-employed goldsmith, he needed little infrastructure, (as long as rich people could find him). Being an independent alpha-animal, he thought everybody should be like himself. At the start of November, his group were planning how to celebrate their tragic hero, Guy Fawkes).
    I suspect that Roland’s polemic is dangerous. But perhaps his blog readers are too clever to fall for it. I shall try to answer some of his questions:-
    • If the state’s performance kept getting worse, we should all be in a mess. It would probably need more taxes, to have a chance to get us out of the mess. Anarchy would be the worst attempt at a solution. Perhaps it would be best to start a little war and then unconditionally surrender. Then another nation would have to solve our problems.
    • I am not a lawyer, but state debts do seem to be legal.
    That about the “following generations” is something of a red herring. The purpose of the borrowing was to maintain prosperity, (keep people in jobs). Following generations should benefit from this. Of course one may believe that the state overreacted to the financial crisis, but the experts seem to believe that the crisis management was quite good. (The mistake was to let the crisis happen). State debts will be paid back via increased inflation, which will come soon. This will reduce the value of people’s bank accounts, etc. So all people with money savings will contribute. This will be compensated by higher interest rates, but only partly, since interest is taxed. Something must then be done to make certain that interest is taxed fairly. This will reduce the incentive for people to save. In turn, this will limit new private investment. Probably poorer countries will be most affected.
    • Paying for what others need is solidarity, which is eventually good for everybody. It would take too long to explain why.
    Paying for what will damage us is bad. We have a political system which tries to avoid this. Of course it is not perfect. It involves people.
    • The car premium tried to avoid unemployment in the car industry, and to maintain a strong car industry for the time after the crisis. It seems to have worked to some extent. In coming decades, we need to reduce CO2 production and dependency on oil. But to do this drastically in a couple of crisis years would not be a good idea.
    • The state does not want to privatise everything. The idea behind privatising is that some things will then run more efficiently, but it is very difficult to get this right long term, i.e. to privatise the right things. Anyway some state control is always needed. The control is financed via taxes, in the hope of some degree of independence.
    • I suspect that occasional little wars are needed, in order for the good nations to keep in practise, and so that the bad nations do not think they can get away with anything. The Falkland war may have brought democracy back to Argentina. Similarly the Turkish invasion of Cyprus got rid of the dictatorship in Greece.
    Things seem to be getting better in Iraq.
    Getting rid of the Taliban regime was a good idea, if only for the sake of the Afghan women. Of course the difficulties were badly underestimated.
    • Yes, the pharmaceutical industry is a long way from optimum as regards keeping the world healthy at reasonable cost. But it is doing quite well for people in rich countries. In this it is like every other major industry.
    • The world has changed a lot since the church set 10% as the universal tax rate. There is a strong positive correlation between tax rate and living standard.
    • Yes, unearned income should be taxed. It would be reasonable to tax it at a high rate. It is dubious to tax pseudo-income produced by inflation. This is a sort of wealth tax, which discourages saving; see above.
    • Inheritance tax is good, because it reduces the disadvantage of children in poor families. Inheriting a fortune probably does not make people happy. The rules (in Germany) about who can inherit how much free of tax are very dubious. One can consider them as racist. Of course one can get round them by leaving money to charities.
    • Everybody should have work. Almost everybody likes to have something useful to do, and this benefits the rest too. I regard it as ridiculous that it is so difficult to find a job after one reaches pension age. OK, I would need some nice person to organise a job for me. Even when I was young, I was not good at being self-employed.
    • How long can the state collect the same taxes, while the prosperity declines? This depends how fast prosperity declines. Historically prosperity has tended to increase. Currently it is stagnating in Germany and the world, so current taxation rates can continue until things change.
    • I think a small injustice to avoid a large injustice is OK. I think whistle blowers are generally treated too badly rather than too well. But I can see why Germans worry about too much state control.
    Incidentally, I sympathised with the policeman who threatened a prisoner with torture, in order to try to save a victim. (I would not have sympathised with torture).
    • Germany has a good democracy, which could be better. Democracy works badly, but better than all the alternatives.

    Roland does not make clear whether he just wants to reduce taxes, or whether he wants refusal to pay tax in proportion to individual disapproval of how the taxes are used.

  3. rd (Tuesday February 23rd, 2010)

    Leider überzeugen mich die Anworten von Chris nicht. Im Gegenteil, sie machen meine Sorgen noch größer. Denn er bringt auf vermeintlichen Sachzwängen aufbauende Argumente, die uns den Mut zu vernünftigen Reformen nehmen und so den vorhandenen Teufelskreis verstärken.

    Demnächst werde ich einen Artikel zu dem Thema schreiben, welches mich vielleicht am meisten beunruhigt:

    So wie es aussieht, wird ein nicht privilegierter Mensch (ohne Erbe und ohne besondere Ausbildung/Status) in unserem System es auch mit vielen vielen Jahr(zehnt)en fleißiger Arbeit nicht mehr schaffen können, eine vernünftige Rente zu erwerben oder einen entsprechenden Kapitalstock anzulegen! Und eine normale Familie hat gar keine Chance mehr. Darf das sein?


  4. rd (Tuesday February 23rd, 2010)

    @Enno: Nicht alles, was gang und gäbe ist, muss richtig sein 🙂

    Ja, und das mit Thesen oder Fragen, ich weiß es wirklich nicht. Aber ich bekomme immer mehr Zweifel.


  5. Chris Wood (Wednesday February 24th, 2010)

    I do not understand how my answers can worry Roland so much, if they are unconvincing.
    He should realise that no German government in the next ten years can make decisions that will ensure a comfortable old age for people now starting work.
    Particularly Germany, export world champion, cannot prosper independently of the rest of the world.
    The world has serious problems such as climate, overpopulation, resource shortages, ignorance and superstition. It will take good ideas and good management to overcome them. This may not happen.
    Germany has extra problems, such as a declining population of people at working age, and the poor education of people from poor families.
    That the world is full of weapons and has dreadful inequalities, may be a problem, or may help solve the problem of overpopulation.

  6. Chris Wood (Thursday February 25th, 2010)

    The world has less than 50 years to solve the serious problems, either gently or brutally, either by population growth reduction (see China) and clean energy, or by massacre and mass starvation, (not to mention biodiversity). If one looks at the relatively small problems that have been festering that long, the chances of a gentle solution seem poor:-
    • N. Korea with its nasty dangerous regime,
    • Burma, just as nasty,
    • India and Pakistan play cricket together but are bitter nuclear enemies,
    (both also have huge internal problems),
    • Israel and Palestinians struggling for survival,
    • Africa with rampant disease and various nasty dictators,
    • Afghanistan, just a mess,
    • Weapons and addictive drugs as huge (growing) industries,
    • No rise in the proportion of people living in democracies,
    • Increasing depletion of resources,
    • Nuclear proliferation
    You see, Roland, the current German tax system and debt level of the state are not very important factors regarding the lives of the next two generations.

  7. Enno (Thursday March 4th, 2010)

    Bin ich der einzige, der das Gefühl hat, dass es mir ganz ok geht?

  8. Enno (Thursday March 4th, 2010)

    Bin ich der einzige, der das Gefühl hat, dass es mir ganz ok geht?

    Die zunehmenden Fortzüge von Deutschen aus Deutschland finde ich momentan übrigens noch nicht bedrohlich und auch nicht so überraschend: .
    In den Zahlen sind doch von Jahr zu Jahr starke Schwankungen, da mag der aktuelle Ausschlag auch zufällig sein.

  9. rd (Thursday March 4th, 2010)

    Hallo Enno,

    den privilegierten Menschen (dazu dürften wir beide gehören) und natürlich auch den “überprivilegierten” Menschen geht es natürlich gut. Es gibt aber immer mehr nicht privilegierte Menschen auch in Deutschland. Und die bekommen immer ein Problem, immer mehr davon fallen den sozialen Versorgungssystemen zur Last. Und die Chancen für die Jungen sinken zurzeit gewaltig (Ausbildung, Altersversorgung …).

    Das Thema des Artikels war “Ein gerechter Staat”! Gerecht ist aber nicht, wenn es Privilegierte gibt, denen es immer besser geht und Unterprivilegierte, die keine Chance mehr haben, vorwärts zu kommen.

    Zur Migration:

    Mir geht es um den Trend. So hat sich z.B. die Situation in der Migration zwischen Deutschland und Österreich massiv gedreht. Wie ich jung war, kamen die Österreich in großen Zahlen zum Arbeiten nach Deutschland. Mittlerweile ist es umgekehrt.

    Den Link habe ich mir angeschaut. Und finde ihn schon bedenklich, erst recht, wenn ich die Sondereffekte wie Heimatdeutsche aus ehemaliger UDSSR abziehe.


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