Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Making a list and checking it twice

My latest post on the Blog at Mises.org:








Making a list and checking it twice

Jim Fedako


It's that time of year here in Ohio: time to make a list and check it twice. Christmas gift list? Not in this instance. It's time for county auditors throughout the state to cause the publication of their annual lists of delinquent real property taxes.

Is the intent to shame the naughty into paying their fair share? To a point. However, I believe government posts those lists to incite a very different emotion: envy.

In his classic treatise, Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior, sociologist Helmut Schoeck exposes envy as a powerful, motivating political force. And it is.

The concept of a fair share implies the collective must suffer at the hands of government - suffer to pay the bill for the public goods the collective supposedly desires. Since it suffers, the collective envies those few tax rebels who dare to withhold from the group. And it's the fear of the evil eye from the collective -- likely the rebel's friends and neighbors -- that leads the rebels to finally pay-up.[1]

Consider this: Does the fact that a neighbor misses a house or car payment create the same level of emotion or suspicion in those aroused by tax delinquencies? I don't think so.

A question remains: Are these tax rebels really that naughty?

note: [1] Most tax delinquencies are paid before the property is lost.

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