Taxation has always been an integral part of a nation’s economic system, enabling governments to fund public services and fulfill their obligations. The Revolutionary War marked a turning point in American history, as colonists fought for independence from British rule. One significant grievance that fueled the revolution was the issue of excessive taxation. My aim is to remind readers just how low taxes were then, compared to our modern-day tax burden, and ask why we do not apply the same criticism.
Percentage of Taxes: Revolutionary War vs. Current Day
During the Revolutionary War, colonists faced high taxation on goods such as tea, sugar, molasses, and paper products. While specific percentages are hard to determine due to varying factors such as smuggling and regional differences, it is estimated that taxes during that period ranged from 1% to 5% of the total value of goods. These taxes were considered onerous and were a significant catalyst for the American Revolution.
In modern times, the tax landscape is far more complex. Income tax, sales tax, property tax, and corporate tax are just a few examples of the taxes levied by U.S. governments. In the United States, federal income tax rates range from 10% to 37%, with additional state and local taxes further affecting individuals and businesses. In Texas, we have the sixth-highest property taxes in the nation. The very notion of perpetual taxation of private property would be anathema to our Founders.
Our Current State Of Taxation
Why, then, do we put up with it? Why has there been no revolution? The main reason, as I see it, is that we have lost our concept of limited government. The emphasis on individual liberty and personal responsibility has eroded in the slow march toward big government over the decades. Ultimately, the people have chosen security over liberty, something Benjamin Franklin warned against in his famous quote. We have a massive welfare state, spend trillions of dollars starting wars in other countries, and we find ourselves $32 trillion in debt because of it.
The state level is not much better. Although in Texas we have a balanced budget, we have spent and taxed at insane levels for years. This past legislative session, we passed the largest spending increase in Texas history, growing state spending by 42% in one biennium. We have handed out taxpayer dollars to large corporations and have still yet to pass any property tax relief for Texans. All this is on the precipice of another recession, a time when we should be cutting spending and being good stewards of tax dollars.
The culture war has been a significant factor in distracting taxpayers by allowing politicians to give favors to their buddies, and for them to give solutions to problems with tax dollars. More conservatives have been concerned about the rapid degradation of the morality of our country, which is a major problem that needs to be handled. However, taxpayers need to understand it is a powerful smokescreen that has allowed both corrupt and complacent politicians the ability to tax us out of our homes.
How, then, do we restore the concept of limited government? We have to talk about it. We also need to understand that even social issues ultimately need to come back to the size and scope of government.
The size of government can only be objectively measured one way: spending. An increase in spending is a decision to grow the government. Government can only do what we fund it to do; in other words, by being complacent when our lawmakers grow government, we are giving them the “ok” to take more control over our lives. If those in government support leftist agendas, then rest assured that a well-funded government will use that power to push that agenda on its citizens.
However, a limited government, one that is so small we can barely feel it, has almost no control over our lives and is completely incapable of pulling us into leftist ideology. So, whether you are a social conservative, a fiscal conservative, or both, the one thing that guarantees a conservative victory on both fronts is a limited government.
This 4th of July, when you are watching the fireworks and remembering the birth of our nation, remember our Founders fought a war over a 2% tax on tea. What are you going to do in the next year to bring us back to the idea of limited government and individual responsibility?
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