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Why the Rich Should Be Taxed More: Moral Argument for Progressive Taxation

I have a professional background in strategy and consulting and an education in economics, political science, and business.


Moral Justification for a Progressive Tax

A progressive income tax is a situation where tax rates increase as income increases. For instance, a person making $20,000 will pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than a person making $100,000. Almost all modern countries have a progressive income tax. Why should taxes increase with income? Why should the rich be taxed at a higher rate than anybody else?


Taxes on the Rich

The main reason the rich should be taxed at a higher rate is simple: They have utilized the system more. The two main factors that lead to wealth creation are (1) personal effort and (2) the socioeconomic system. Both are essential.

A person can work extremely hard and try their best to start a business or get a good job. But if that person is illiterate and has received no formal education, and if they live in a country with no electricity, rampant crime, and no paved roads, bridges, trains, or airports, no matter how hard they work, it will be almost impossible for them to amass significant wealth. On the other hand, an individual who benefits from a peaceful, modern, well-run society, but does not work at all, will also fail to amass significant wealth. So both individual hard work and the larger socio-economic environment are essential for personal wealth.

A high-earning individual has not only worked hard but has also benefited a great deal from the larger system. The community's infrastructure, security, and human capital (education and skills) are the background factors that have made their wealth possible.

By working hard within that system, they have utilized these factors more than someone else. They have directly benefited by attaining an education and by using the roads, bridges, and airports built and maintained by the state, for instance. And they may have benefited indirectly by employing people educated by public schools and purchasing from vendors who import goods through government-secured ports and shipping lanes.

Many argue that the wealthy have already paid their "debt" simply by engaging in market exchange: They paid a price for the goods and services they bought from other private individuals or companies. This argument fails to recognize that all of these transactions occurred within the context of a larger economic system that must be maintained. Without that system, none of those transactions would be possible.

Community, Exchange, and Wealth Creation

Without community, there can be no economic exchange. And with no exchange, no wealth. Therefore, the more wealth one has earned, the more they have benefitted from the community. They are relying more on the community and the system of exchange than a poorer person.

Thus, the dollar (or euro or pound) is not just a measure of exchange—it is also a measure of reliance on and engagement with the community and the community's larger socio-economic system. Basically, the more wealth one is getting, the more one is getting out of that system. So the rich, rather than being the most independent or disconnected members of society, are actually (at least economically) the most engaged with society.

The main question for policymakers is not whether the rich should pay more in taxes. The question is, what proportion of income is due to personal effort, and what proportion to other community-based factors beyond their control? That will determine the appropriate specific income tax rate. But there must certainly be a higher tax rate for higher incomes.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


secularist10 (author) from New York City on November 03, 2015:

Jeramey: Thanks! Glad you like it.

Jon: I think he was talking to me lol.

JON EWALL from usa on October 15, 2015:


You are most welcome!

Jeramey Conrad from Northeastern United States on October 15, 2015:

Excellent article! I appreciated all the time you took to make each point succinctly and well!

JON EWALL from usa on May 17, 2013:


The answer is simple, get the people back to work so that they can pay federal taxes.

Senator Coburn exposes WASTE ‘’ Back In Black’’ finds $9 trillion waste inside WASHINGTON Agencies


Where are the jobs? Check this site. http://majorityleader.gov/JobsTracker/

’Cut, Cap and Balance ‘


Barak Obama Campaign Promises


Obama promised hope and change will be coming to Washington


secularist10 (author) from New York City on May 17, 2013:


Certainly, everyone should contribute to the government to the extent they can. The question then becomes, who can?

If you actually dig into the numbers, you see that those 50% wind up not paying taxes because they (effectively) don't have enough money to tax. Half sounds like a lot; but when you then remember that the vast majority of all the income in the economy is earned by a small minority of people, suddenly it makes more sense. The distribution of income (which is taxed) does not correspond to the distribution of the population. If one guy has all the money in town, then most or all of the town's upkeep falls on his shoulders by necessity.

Zack Love on May 17, 2013:


This article is about the rich being taxed more. Okay. But what about the 50% of people in America that aren't being taxed at all?

Shouldn't there be a way that those people should pay something in taxes along with all of the people trying to do what's right?

secularist10 (author) from New York City on April 27, 2013:

"threat your neighbor as you would like to be treated"

Indeed, if I was down on my luck and in need of shelter, food or healthcare, I would want to be treated well. So I am willing to give money for that social good.

Theft is seizing property without consent. Taxation is by definition not theft because nobody is being forced to pay money to the government. They are free to move or renounce US citizenship any time.

Think about it: for a person to get rich off an economic system, and then not contribute back into it--isn't THAT the real theft? He has succeeded from the system built and maintained by others, but does not help to maintain it himself. Where is the difference with a person who wants a piece of fruit from the grocer, but is not willing to compensate the seller for his labor?

A progressive tax system say simply: you are welcome to work and do business here, but you must support the system that has given you that opportunity to succeed.

That seems quite reasonable.

JON EWALL from usa on April 25, 2013:


''This article is about philosophy and economic policy on a general level,'' think about it

'' thou shall not steal'', '' thou shall not covert thy neighbors goods'' thou shall not be envious of ones ...''

threat your neighbor as you would like to be treated,there are many more to think about as we travel on the journey of life.'' as for me and my family we will serve the lord ''AMEN

secularist10 (author) from New York City on March 11, 2013:

Some good points, Sanxuary. I don't think it's as totally bad as you indicate, but there are indeed massive inconsistencies and inefficiencies in the tax system that favor the wealthy, whether by design or not.

Corporate taxes are especially unjust, because the top 1% of corporations in America make the overwhelming vast majority of all revenue and profits (it's even more skewed than for personal income), and yet they typically pay a much lower tax rate--either through the official tax rate or the combined effect of loopholes, subsidies, etc--than medium and small businesses.

Sanxuary on March 10, 2013:

Lets see, for the last 9 years the wealthy have paid about the same as the lowest paid people in America. The Corporate Tax is 35 percent and you have to look really hard to find a Corporation exceeding 15 percent over the last 20 years. The majority have paid less then 10 percent and some had years the Government paid them. All this tax free corporate profits, going to some wealthy person paying a low tax rate. Yet they are still so greedy that they send it to off shore bank accounts to escape taxes. Currently, there are trillions in off shore accounts that are incapable of being spent because they will be taxed. In 2004 they had a one year amnesty at a 5 percent tax rate that lead to thousands losing their jobs, so much for trickle down economics. So they will not pay their employees or give them any hours or benefits, especially after having their taxes increased. There hope is that we will blame the Democrats. These people rent are land for almost free, take are natural resources for free, pollute and kill people indirectly everyday, use all are infrastructure and they do not even pay there taxes. The one thing they will do is buy any election and choose your candidate. A lot of people are looking for someone to blame, I think you got your answer.

Sanxuary on March 09, 2013:

Tax Corporations and close loop holes and off shore accounts. They often pay no taxes at all and use all infrastructure for free. These people do not hide money they do not have to. They simply pay no taxes and currently taxing the rich is the only way to get any of this revenue. In facts billions can not even be spent because it is sitting untaxed in overseas accounts and is banned from the Country until it is taxed. We should be outsourcing rich people who do not want to pay their taxes by making them move to the Cayman Islands. They should be living in Vietnam where they make their shoes and paying them low tax rates. If they hate Americans so much that they use our infrastructure and out source our jobs we should make them chase their own money elsewhere. Their so damn smart let them prove it elsewhere. You do not have to be real smart to by the government and loop holes but if you can not bribe your employees, you got problems.

Pat from United States on January 14, 2013:

If we close the loop holes they will pay their share. We seem to forget the taxed brackets are based on income.

secularist10 (author) from New York City on December 09, 2012:

Jon, if you think I'm an Obama supporter, you're the one who needs to "wake up." I don't support any of these people. Literally years of conservative and right-of-center economic policy (beginning with Reagan and continuing under Clinton and all Presidents since the 1980s, and under both Democratic and Republican legislatures) have resulted in a fundamentally flawed economic system marked by massive income disparities. The middle and lower classes have stagnated or gotten poorer during this time, while the very rich have done exceedingly well. This flawed economic policy is also what led to the financial crisis and economic crisis that this country is still going through.

I could not care less about the vicissitudes of day-to-day Washington politics or endless election cycles. I have little use for the Republican or Democratic parties. What I do know, however, is that arguments against progressive income taxation, which happen to be in vogue right now among conservatives, are fundamentally flawed and represent wrongheaded economic thinking.

This article is about philosophy and economic policy on a general level, not specific details of a particular President or member of Congress.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you as well.

JON EWALL from usa on December 07, 2012:


Under the Obama administration, the size of government has increased 25% and today the government controls 60% of the economy. What Obama spends DOES NOT HELP THE ECONOMIC CONDITIONS.

Pelosi spoke today ripping Boehner and the Republicans. Pelosi said ''we need jobs in order to get more revenue''. Wake up, the Democrats have had 2/3s control of our government since 2007-2012.BLAMING THE REPUBLICANS FOR THE FISCAL CLIFF is for idiots to believe and die hard Democrat followers ( liberal & conservatives).


. https://hubpages.com/politics/PRESIDENTBARACKOBAMA...



‘’Taxes do not constitute "money taken out of the economy," because the tax money is then spent on THINGS ? ‘’ WHERE IS THE TAX MONEY COMING FROM, it’s coming from people working ( jobs) and corporations, small business profits or borrowing. There are 23 million workers that are not paying federal taxes .They are not qualifying for tax cuts that have been championed by the Obama administration. Obama pledges not to raise taxes on the 98 % ( a phony number ), 47% don’t pay federal taxes. The middle class working has always carried the tax burden, the rich pass the tax burden to the poor and middle class. Obama wants to build UP the economy from the middle class up, that will never happen because the rich control the money AND THEY ARE THE ONES WHO CREATE JOBS. The President’s plan is not capitalism, his plan is socialism and is a failed plan.


President Barak Obama delivers the State of The Union speech


For all the negotiations, the Democrats and the President have yet to submit a plan as of 12/07/12 to what they will cut to avoid the fiscal cliff. The Republican plan has been submitted two times since the election. The President again is blaming the Republicans and the media is assisting in reporting the lie


House Republicans have now passed 38 jobs bills that are currently stuck in the Democrat controlled Senate. Obama has been silent on the issue, wonder why?



secularist10 (author) from New York City on December 05, 2012:

Jon--I certainly won't disagree with trying to end wasteful spending. There is plenty to be done on that front. But even if all wasteful spending was eliminated, we still have a huge deficit and debt problem--it is caused primarily by the entitlement programs and defense spending. Cutting waste alone will not solve anything, despite what many Republicans seem to think.

"take more money out of the economy, how does that help the middle class and the poor?"

Taxes do not constitute "money taken out of the economy," because the tax money is then spent on things. So it is put right back into the economy in the form of roads, bridges, schools, defense, small business loans, etc. The issue is HOW that tax money is spent.

fictionwriter67 on December 05, 2012:

Amen Jon Ewall. You couldn't be more correct.

JON EWALL from usa on December 05, 2012:


IT'S A SIMPLE SENARIO. Sent the money to the government , reduce the deficit ? take more money out of the economy, how does that help the middle class and the poor? After $1 trillion in stimulus spending the economy has not changed much.With out jobs, tax cuts mean nothing.




Renewable energy money still going abroad, despite criticism from Congress


GOVERNMENT WASTE, the past 5 years, the Social Security Trust fund has paid $400 billion to dead federal employees.

WASTEFUL spending is the main problem.

secularist10 (author) from New York City on December 05, 2012:

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the conversation.

Yes, there is a significant dose of emotion in these kinds of political controversies, unfortunately.

Graham Gifford from New Hamphire on December 05, 2012:

Interesting hub and interesting comments. I think this is a hot-button topic and I enjoy the discussions that grow from such topics. When conversations like this take place it's a great way to better understand the various thoughts and opinions that others have and what their opinions are based on...facts, emotions...

secularist10 (author) from New York City on December 04, 2012:

Fiction writer:

No, not all rich people are business owners, and not all business owners are rich.

When business owners are taxed more, it doesn't necessarily inhibit economic activity. If those tax monies are used to pay for superior roads, bridges and schools, then the net effect will actually be MORE prosperity, not less.

If higher taxes on the rich always led to the kinds of job losses you describe, then we would see it in the real world. We don't. There are other industrialized countries with higher taxes on the rich, but they do not have higher unemployment rates. Moreover, in the past, when the US had much higher taxes on the rich, unemployment was not higher on average.

There are many factors at play. The economy is far more complex than you seem to think.

fictionwriter67 on December 04, 2012:

Who are the rich? Business owners. Most people work and make an earning in a business. When business owners are taxed more, they have less money for their business. Prices go up, and do you know what happens to you . . .

You lose your job.

Then what do you do?

JON EWALL from usa on November 22, 2012:


''However, Jon, don't make the mistake of thinking the rich are job creators.''Indirectly many of the rich do help create jobs by their purchasing products built for sale to consumers.Taxing the rich will not solve the nations main problems of spending and borrowing by the Obama administration and Congress.


secularist10 (author) from New York City on November 21, 2012:

Corporations are double-taxed as you pointed out. However, I was referring also to small businesses that have to pay DOUBLE payroll tax--specifically, self-employed people who are treated by the system as both an "employer" and "employee" simultaneously. As both the employer and employee, the self-employed person must pay both the employer's share of the tax AND the employee's share. It's a crazy system. This disincentivizes small business activity and makes life harder for the self-employed worker.

This is one example of many of a *regressive* tendency in the tax code.

Now, I could be convinced of a reduction in the official corporate tax rate if and only if: (1) taxes were raised on rich individuals/ households to compensate, and (2) the loopholes, subsidies and corporate welfare were eliminated.

Everyone likes to point out that the US has one of the highest, if not the highest, corp tax rate in the rich world. However, rarely do they mention that, after accounting for loopholes, exemptions, tax shelters, corporate welfare, government subsidies and everything else, American corporations actually pay a much lower EFFECTIVE tax rate.

However, Jon, don't make the mistake of thinking the rich are job creators. They are not, as I explained in my most recent hub. Jobs are created all over the economy, from rich to middle class to poor. The rich are not the special job creators just by being rich.

JON EWALL from usa on November 21, 2012:


''Right now they are, in effect, double-taxed'' First taxed on profits. Than the same money is paid out to stock holders ( mom and pop investors )is again taxed.

''The US could lower taxes on the rich''. Don't mix the rich up with corporations who put people to work. The problems are caused by the government taxing them higher than the competition (world ) and burdening them with more regulation in these troubled times.The government interest on the national debt is $1 billion a day. Taxing the so called rich ( job creators ) $800 billion will only take care of 8 days payment.It's all a haux, government spending and waste need to be taken care of first.

YOU TUBE videos uncut and not edited





GOVERNMENT WASTE, the past 5 years, the Social Security Trust fund has paid $400 billion to dead federal employees

We the people need to get by the propaganda of the day!

secularist10 (author) from New York City on November 21, 2012:


Thanks. You're absolutely right, those loopholes must be closed and it would generate a ton more revenue.

However, your proposal is to lower taxes? Taxes for the rich (both income taxes and capital gains) are at the lowest they have ever been. Lowering taxes further is not the answer. To try the same thing over and over and expect a different result is not an effective way of doing things.

The US could lower taxes on the rich, but there will always be another country that has even LOWER taxes. So that will not solve the problem of capital flight. Instead, the US must make itself more competitive through improving education, infrastructure, labor market regulations, financial markets, and others.

So when it comes to outsourcing American jobs, taxes will not solve that issue. It may make a small difference, but the primary reason for outsourcing is because there is a much lower standard of living in poor countries and workers are willing to work for a fraction of what American workers are.

I agree with ending subsidies and corporate welfare, waste in the bureaucracy, unnecessary wars, etc. But when it comes to taxes, the most important thing the government could do would be to better incentivize small businesses and sole proprietorships--major engines of job creation. Right now they are, in effect, double-taxed.

Tammy from North Carolina on November 21, 2012:

Interesting argument. I think that if the United States government would close the loopholes that allow the wealthy to hide their assets in foreign accounts, there would be much more money collected in taxes in this country. Half of the world's wealth is in offshore accounts because they sit there tax free. While the wealthy pay lots of taxes here in the United States, the government can't collect on those assets. I think if the Feds were smart they would LOWER taxes (especially capital gains) and the wealthy would invest in this country rather than foreign countries and have more to spend in this economy. We would also stop losing so much employment in this country that is being shipped overseas for the same reason. Even companies that are in the United States are keeping assets in tax free offshore accounts. GE is one company that does this. It is legal tax evasion.

I think the government should do as Jon suggests and stop the waste, subsidies for large oil, stop wasting so much in wars that don't belong to us, and other expenditures. I think they should create a tax structure that doesn't drive all the business away, or at least make it illegal to fund countries like the Cayman Islands. Great thoughts here!

JON EWALL from usa on November 21, 2012:


''By employing millions of people to do low-wage jobs, '' Today 23 million out of work don't sound like a low wage job except for getting an Obama '' living 99 week wage''.The problem with the Obama/ Democrat plan is that HE/THEY want to pick and choose, that's not the way our government is meant to work for the people.The choice is capitalism or socialism.

secularist10 (author) from New York City on November 21, 2012:

So you think half the adult population is not working?

How do you think the richest Americans get rich? By employing millions of people to do low-wage jobs, Jon.

I couldn't care less about Obama.

The 1% are not "keeping the country afloat." The country actually did much better in the past--with more income equality, a larger middle class, greater upward mobility, more job opportunities for the poor, and more income growth--when there were fewer rich people, and less concentration of income.

The facts don't lie, Jon. (And these facts are actual history, not projections.)

See my latest hub for more on the role of the rich in job creation: https://hubpages.com/politics/The-Rich-are-Not-Job...

JON EWALL from usa on November 20, 2012:


''Jon--they don't pay tax '', they would if they had a job! Just think how happy they would be if they didn't need uncle Obama. Let's be fair to the one percent who are the ones keeping the country afloat.Without people working, they aren't making money and profits.


secularist10 (author) from New York City on November 20, 2012:

Jon--they don't pay tax because they don't have enough money. You can't tax someone if they don't have anything to tax!

Over 20% of the income is earned by 1% of the people.

JON EWALL from usa on November 20, 2012:


'' It does not provide enough revenue. '' It was reported that 49% of the people do not pay federal income taxes. How fair is that to whoever are paying taxes.IS THAT FAIR? Barak Obama Campaign Promises 4 YRS. AGO


The reform legislation that Obama and the majority

democrat party….

secularist10 (author) from New York City on November 20, 2012:

Clover, what you are describing is called a flat tax. Everyone pays the same percentage of their income. A flat tax is not viable. It does not provide enough revenue. And, as I argue in this article, because higher earners use the socioeconomic system to a greater degree than lower earners, they should have a higher tax rate.

A flat tax does not make sense, which most experts agree on. It would only make sense for a country with a very small government that does not have any significant bills to pay (military, social welfare, etc).

Maybe a Hong Kong or a Monaco, for example.

Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on November 19, 2012:

If the tax rate was a percentage, let's say 10%, than everyone would pay their equal share. Millionaires would wind up paying more then. It makes sense, which is why they won't do it.

secularist10 (author) from New York City on November 19, 2012:


Of course making money is a good thing. Everyone should make as much as they can. It benefits them and it benefits everyone else in society, through both private and public (i.e. taxes and transfers) means.

Taxes are simply a tool to execute public goals.

I agree there is significant waste in the US government today. It's unfortunate. Although even if we got rid of every last dime of waste, we would still not solve the fiscal problem. The source of the fiscal problem (when it comes to spending) is the entitlements and defense.

secularist10 (author) from New York City on November 19, 2012:


If everyone benefited from the system to the same proportion, that would justify a flat tax. But in reality, the rich benefit much more than the poor on a *proportional* basis. That is why they owe more proportionally.

"The rich person who lives in a gated community could claim a reduction in the portion of taxes that service the police, because he's hired his own security force"

But again, if he has gotten rich, he has gotten rich by utilizing/ working within the system. The system covers everyone, rich and poor alike. Now, if he lives in a totally disconnected realm, and his income is completely disconnected from the rest of society, then you have an argument. But of course in that case, we're basically talking about another country or state altogether. So any way you slice it, the rich person owes to the system, whichever system he lives in.

But assuming we're talking about the same society, because the police are a part of that system, and the rich man has benefited more from the system than the poor (again, overall), he owes more back.

Here's one way of thinking about it: an individual poor person benefits from the police protection. So he gets one unit of human benefit. The rich man employs 1,000 of these poor people, so he gets at least 1,001 units of human benefit (his thousand workers plus himself). If it weren't for the police protection, he would not have a labor force. (That's a narrow way of looking at it, but you get the point.)

"The community is provided with jobs and a way to make a living, so they can also pay taxes and enjoy the roads."

Yes, and the rest of the community also owe taxes to support the roads, just not as much, proportionally.

Insane Mundane from Earth on November 19, 2012:

Where is that zero-point energy at when you need it?

JON EWALL from usa on November 19, 2012:


May I add '' THE TRUTH''

1.2009-2012 Administration Oil Strategy Contributes to Price Increases


The Truth on big oil earnings. The big government wants ‘’ fairness ‘’


Government Subsidies: To oil/gas $ 4 billion To alternate energy $90 billion

Obamacare, Taxing jobs out of existence



Renewable energy money still going abroad, despite criticism from Congress


JON EWALL from usa on November 19, 2012:


'' I am a writer and blogger in search of the truth.''

Morality has nothing to do with taxaction especially when government is envovled. What is ones fair share? The rich guy makes money, because he has money to make more money. Making money is a good thing, why? Good olde uncle sam ,#1 on the take away list,takes 35% off the top, that's good for the people. Profit supports the government, the only problem giving the government money is that they waste more.

GOVERNMENT WASTE, the past 5 years, the Social Security Trust fund has paid $400 billion to dead federal employees.

Senator questions $18B for job training, as study suggests rampant waste, abuse


COBURN REPORT 9 million ways to balance the budget CUT WASTE



Obama’s Tax Increase Would Kill 710,000 Jobs


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S National Debt Crisis ’Cut, Cap and Balance ‘’bill that was sent to the Senate on July 19,2011. https://hubpages.com/politics/PRESIDENTBARACKOBAMA...

Aaron on November 19, 2012:

I didn't read every comment here but I don't see an argument for progressive taxation- I see an argument for a flat tax. Obviously the rich man paying the same tax rate is contributing more absolute dollars to his use of roads and so forth than a poor person. His house is larger so his property taxes are disproportionately benefiting the school system, etc.

What you seem to have done is set up a straw man where everyone pays a flat fee for taxes.

Your argument can also be turned around in this way: The rich person who lives in a gated community could claim a reduction in the portion of taxes that service the police, because he's hired his own security force, and most of the police's activities are in poor parts of town. Since the poor are disproportionally utilizing the police, they should be paying more for that protection.

The main problem though is that very few people start their own businesses, and those that do provide jobs for everyone else. I get your argument about greater consumption of resources, but that train of thought shouldn't end at one stop- The community is provided with jobs and a way to make a living, so they can also pay taxes and enjoy the roads. Why should this moral gratitude be unidirectional?

If you hire me to develop a website, you have put money in my pocket at the rate we agreed upon. It's a hit and you get rich. Why should I have any right to demand that you not only pay your fair share, but more than your fair share, to offset say, my water bill, or (insert whatever social program here)?

JON EWALL from usa on September 27, 2012:


A very good observation, they really are different in many ways.We the people send our elected public servants to Congress. they determine what is '' fair '' for each taxing group to support the government.Government has a way to raise money to operate when Government needs money besides incoming taxes, they float bonds.Now comes the rich guys who says how much of tax exempt bonds can I buy to help you out.Nice guys,the interest on the bonds is tax exempt.In many other tax laws similar situations occur to reduce their tax rates.If the rich guys have money to invest, that's a good thing.

Romney: Redistribution does not get people back to work


Willard Mitt Romney


The Obama's don't want this video to be seen in 2012


secularist10 (author) from New York City on September 25, 2012:

Jon, that link is hilarious, lol. It's like a caricature of every conservative stereotype. There are meaningful differences between socialism, communism, progressivism and others (that's why they have different terms).

But that's beside the point anyway. The term "progressive taxation" does not refer to "progressivism" the political ideology. It is simply a reference to the fact that the tax rates "progress" up the income scale. Progressive taxation existed long before the "progressivism" political ideology.

JON EWALL from usa on September 24, 2012:


‘This article is about progressive taxation in a general sense,’’ here’s a great link to who and what progressives are in a progressive type government. Who are the progressives in the government?


secularist10 (author) from New York City on September 24, 2012:

Thanks, Insane.

Yes, indeed that's another whole challenge.

Insane Mundane from Earth on September 24, 2012:

I enjoyed reading this Hub and the comments below it.

Personally, I think a progressive taxation is a good idea.

I never understood why millionaires complain about taxes. Dang, talk about greedy!

I usually stay out of politics, but I just thought that this was a really good Hub over this subject.

Now that we got the top covered, if we could just find a way to eliminate the problems featuring the government sponges & leeches that abuse the welfare system & disabilty claims!

secularist10 (author) from New York City on August 21, 2012:


The reason certain goods are made public and others are not is because society has come to the conclusion (sometimes through bitter experience, sometimes through the foresight of political leaders, sometimes through violence and civil discord, etc) that certain goods and services are just generally "in the public interest" so to speak, and others are not.

For instance, you mentioned firefighters. Interesting story. In some jurisdictions in 19th century America, fire protection was privatized. So different houses paid different fire stations for protection, as any other privately traded good. The result was that when a fire broke out in House A, a fire company would rush to the scene.

But House A was not that company's client, House B, next door or down the street, was. Maybe House A paid a cheaper fire company that was much farther away and took longer to get to the scene, or maybe they did not have fire protection at all. So the fire company, instead of putting out the fire, would just wait around watching it and wait for House B to catch on fire, and then spring into action. By then maybe an entire city block was in flames.

Entire sections of a city could be destroyed, while the resources to put out the fire stood idly by. You've surely heard of the "tragedy of the commons." This is an example of the reverse--a tragedy of privatization.

Society has concluded that certain goods are best treated as public goods. Even if the rich can pay for their own services, simply by virtue of not being available for everyone, everybody, including the rich, is dragged down.

I think everything should be traded privately to the degree possible. One reason is that, yes, that produces the most fairness possible. But certain goods--physical safety, fire protection, education, etc--are actually best treated as public goods.

I didn't say that everything is privatized. I said that everything is privatized, depending on one's definition of the term "private," which was simply in response to your point that a government-run park that charges fees (taxes) is functioning on a par with a private park.

"Now tell me, if the wealthy man should pay more because of his use of the highway, then why should the poor man not pay more for his use of government-provided food?"

Remember taxes are not paid for a specific project. The whole discussion is just using specific projects for explanatory purposes, but the tax is for the whole package--all government goods and services.

Now, if you question the validity of welfare per se in light of this conception of fairness in taxation, then I go back to my previous point: a public good.

Since Queen Elizabeth created houses for vagrants to sleep and work, it has been understood that the state and society has an interest in large segments of the population not falling into a quagmire of disease and hunger. It benefits everyone, including the rich, to have a healthy, well-educated, well-fed population. This is aside from the ethics argument of helping those in need. There is a legitimate state and public interest here.

The wealthy may whine on April 15th, but they do benefit very much, in fact more than the poor. So it is not a contradiction.

JON EWALL from usa on August 21, 2012:




President Barack Obama – [ F ] Address to Joint Session of Congress


Congressman Ryan said in acceptance speech ’’ we will tell you the truth’’ was an interesting highlight of his speech. In order to clarify the misinformation about the Ryan plan by the other party, check these links.


Ryan and Van Hollen Debate Medicare Proposals 6/3/11 '' THE TRUTH ''


Rep. Paul Ryan defends GOP budget plan


Spunk Nellie from New York, NY on August 21, 2012:

secularist, I was not suggesting that a park or any other public institution was "free," (hence the quotations I placed around the word.) I simply meant that it was provided by the government with the taxes collected from the people within its jurisdiction, at little or no additional ('additional' being a key word here) cost. If something is publicly owned, then taxes are the only form of payment required to use the good or service. Examples are libraries, fire department, police, etc. No one has to pay the fireman any extra to come save his life.

Now you suggest that perhaps someone whose house burns down more often should pay more in taxes for the service that the fire department provides. This is where we disagree: you think that someone whose cat gets stuck in a tree 50 times a year should pay more in taxes than someone without a cat (all else being equal.) After all, the fire department does indeed cost money to the taxpayer, and you suggest that those who utilize it most should pay more to it.

Now, if that is the case, why do we have government controlling the fire departments in the first place? Wouldn't it be more fair and convenient for people to just pay up directly to the fire department for each use of it? Why should the money go through the government first, then to the fire department? I am not necessarily suggesting any action on the part of the government here, I am simply trying to help you fully understand what you are implying when you say that those who use a highway, police station, or fire department more than others should pay more. It is contrary to the whole concept of regulation and government.

In response to one of your other points, not everything is privatized. Air is certainly not privatized. Those who plant more trees produce more air. Does that mean that those who produce more air should have access to more of it? It certainly does not. We all breathe roughly the same amount of air no matter how many trees we've planted. Air is a public product. Should air be privatized (as in, we pay for each breath we breathe?) Perhaps. It would certainly lead to more trees being planted. But I digress.

Now, you say that my example of welfare doesn't "wash," and you gave the explanation that it is "assistance" to the people. Of course it is assistance to the people. Everything the government does is ultimately supposed to be for the assistance of the people (with varying results.) Now tell me, if the wealthy man should pay more because of his use of the highway, then why should the poor man not pay more for his use of government-provided food? Maybe he pays with his vote, as you suggest. But is that ideal? Actually, the specifics of welfare are beyond the point. What I am really saying is: You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t say that one class of wealth should pay more for something (the highway) because they use it more, and then say that they should also pay for something (food stamps) that they don’t use at all. It is completely condradictory.

secularist10 (author) from New York City on August 21, 2012:


This article is about progressive taxation in a general sense, not dealing with the specific topics currently facing the US. But that aside...

"Something is unbalanced when 50% of the people are not paying federal taxes"

That's right, and what is unbalanced is the distribution of income. Half of people don't pay taxes because they don't have enough money to owe taxes. The vast majority of the income in the US is concentrated in a small minority of people. That is why they pay most of the tax bill.

I certainly agree that there are significant inefficiencies in the way the government operates in the US. And no, raising taxes on the wealthy alone will not solve anything. But the conservative notion that raising taxes is never acceptable is not rational either.

All reputable moderate sources (i.e. neither staunchly liberal nor conservative) indicate that both spending cuts and tax increases will be needed to restore fiscal balance.

There are plenty of other countries that have much higher income tax rates on their wealthy citizens, yet these countries are wealthy, industrialized and prosperous. Their governments do not have huge debts. The difference is that they manage their finances better, have less corruption and more transparency and run more efficiently. Government services are more effective and efficient, and get the job done better than in the US.

"Governments don’t create wealth, it’s the PRIVATE SECTOR ENTREPENEAUR."

Governments alone do not create wealth. But entrepreneurs alone do not create wealth either. As I said in the article, a smart, hardworking individual will not amass significant wealth in a society with no basic infrastructure, no running water, no basic police protection to protect private property and human life, etc. Both sides of the coin are needed.

And not just any government, but smart, efficient government. And not just any individual effort--intelligent, clever human effort (which in turn requires an educated population with good skills).

JON EWALL from usa on August 20, 2012:


‘’A progressive income tax is a situation where tax rates increase as income increases.’’

‘’Moral justification for a progressive tax’’

It appears that the whole discussion is about the rich , why they have more and what is their fair share to support the government. Congress, our elected officials decide the tax rates of all the different wage classes.

The government’s tax collectors ( IRS ) ARE RESPONSIBLE TO COLLECT THE TAXES. Something is unbalanced when 50% of the people are not paying federal taxes. The possibility of becoming rich has many factors to contend with on the journey to becoming rich. One should consider how the rich either make their money and how the rich utilizes their money. Today unemployment is 8.3% meaning that somebody don’t have a job. The opportunity to make money to becoming rich or being able to support oneself in society is a major problem for families .The government needs more revenue to function and provide services to the citizens. The government has a fiduciary responsibility to spend the taxpayers money in a responsible way so as not to over tax the people.

G.O.P. Senators Face Risks Over Proposal on Tax Cuts


The Senator Coburn report '' WASTE IN GOVERNMENT'' http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/rightnow...

Billions of Dollars Are in Play Over Health Care Law


Potential impact of Obama's 'Buffett rule ' President Obama’s


U.S. families lost 39% of net worth in three years (2007-2010)


Consider that today it’s the rich who are buying government tax exempt bonds to support local governments. It’s the rich who have money to spend in the economy to create jobs. It’s the rich who support charity giving. Raising taxes on the rich is not a solution to turn the economy around. Inadvertently raising taxes on the rich filter down to the poor and the middle class. Governments don’t create wealth, it’s the PRIVATE SECTOR ENTREPENEAUR.

secularist10 (author) from New York City on August 20, 2012:

Ok, that's an interesting point. But somebody has to pay for these things. It has to be the taxpayers.

"Sure, it's still run by the government, but the government is essentially charging money for the use of the park."

But that's what a tax is, essentially--it's the price we all pay to keep society running. You can think of government as a large company that charges fees (taxes) and provides services (security, education, etc).

Somebody once said that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. It's true.

"That purpose of a public resource is to provide a free (although paid for by taxes) resource for use by the general public."

But you just said it right there--it's paid for by taxes. Lol. It's not actually "free." Nothing is free. Anybody who walks around a public park and thinks "Wow! How nice of them to create this free park for everyone" is clearly deluded. Somebody has to pay for it. It's more fair for those who make more use of something to pay more for its maintenance than someone who makes less use of it. That's just simple fairness.

Why should someone who lives in San Francisco pay to maintain Central Park in New York? They make no use of it, so why should they pay for it? If you're talking charity, that is another topic altogether.

You can call it "privatization" and I suppose in a certain sense it is. In a way, everything is privately owned depending on how you define the word private. All the air on planet earth is privately owned collectively by the humans that inhabit the planet, for instance.

The point is not to break everything down and itemize who's using what and how much (for example, I don't have a car, so I shouldn't pay to maintain roads, etc). The point is that the state provides a whole system, an ecosystem basically, that includes all of these things together as a single package.

So even if I don't directly use roads myself, I still rely on them indirectly because the food I buy is transported over them. And so on, and so forth. It's a complex whole system, and the rich have made more use of it directly and indirectly.

The comparison with welfare doesn't really wash because the whole purpose of welfare is by definition to give people assistance (with or without strings attached, is another issue).

Spunk Nellie from New York, NY on August 19, 2012:

I wasn't really advocating for a privatized road system, I was just attempting to to convey that the very nature of a public resource (like the highway) dictates that the resource may be used by any legal citizen with no obligation to pay for their usage, no matter how much they use the resource. To say that those who use the highway more owe more to the builders of the highway (the government) contradicts the true purpose of the highway (and any public resource.) That purpose of a public resource is to provide a free (although paid for by taxes) resource for use by the general public. If you suggest that those who use the resource more should pay more for their use of it, you are--in effect--advocating a privatization of sorts for the resource (highway.)

For example, if a local government were to charge certain people who use a public park more in taxes because they use it more than everyone else, is it still a public resource? Sure, it's still run by the government, but the government is essentially charging money for the use of the park. The only difference now between this public park and a private park is that the money charged to use the park is paid for in taxes instead of up front. Is it essentially a private park, except for the fact that it is run by government instead of by private ownership. Can you see the point that I am making about the nature of a public commodity versus a private one?

Because the highway is public (free to use assuming one pays taxes) anyone should be able to use it however much they want to, and should not be obligated to pay more if their use is more frequent that others'. What if we made those who use welfare pay more in taxes for it than everyone else? After all, the impoverished use welfare much more than I do. Why should I have to pay for their extensive usage of the program? Shouldn't they have to pay more for it, since they utilize it more? After all, you say that the wealthy should pay more for the highway, since they use the highway more than you or I. How is this any different? That is, of course, a rhetorical question. I don't want to make this debate about welfare. But hopefully you see my point.

secularist10 (author) from New York City on August 18, 2012:

I welcome debates in the comments. You can email me if you want by going to my profile page.

There are plenty of problems with a privatized road system. Probably the biggest one is that it will never get built because the economics of it don't make sense for private investors. It's either a money losing venture, or if it does make money, it makes money over such a huge timescale (say, decades or centuries) that it is not worth it from an individual investor's point of view. But governments, which last very long, are in a position to get those economic benefits.

And anyway, the benefits to the economy as a whole of having a free road system for everyone far outweigh the costs. This is an example where the most efficient, value-generating path is not necessarily the private one.

"Second, the wealthy man already pays far more for the highways he uses than you or I. The top 1% of earners pays 37% of the American government's total income tax."

That's precisely the point. It's a progressive tax system. I'm defending progressive taxation. But again, he is not paying more for the same product. He is using that product more than the typical person.

The top 1% of earners *should* be paying much more in total income tax, because they have much more of the total income.

"...you seem to imply that the free market is somehow sponsored by the government. It is not. The government, in fact, is sponsored by the free market."

Both are essential; they both support each other. The government does "sponsor" the market in various ways, through all of the ways I have been talking about--infrastructure, public education, police, fire, national defense, pollution regulations, food and drug regulations, etc. These things make market exchange as we know it possible.

Go to a country like Somalia or Afghanistan, where the central government is weak, incompetent and useless, and see how well the market functions. See how prosperous the people are with no decent roads or bridges, no consumer protections, no functioning police forces. You see, it's not as simple as you think. The only people who gain prosperity in that environment are thugs and criminals, from drug dealers to corrupt bureaucrats, because it's the law of the jungle.

So the market is not "independent" of the government at all. There is a direct correlation among countries today, and within countries over time, between effective and efficient governance, and the amount of trade and prosperity that occurs in that country.

You rightly point out the flaws of the government. This is a major reason why the US economy is suffering. If you look at countries like Sweden or Norway, with much larger public sectors, they actually are very prosperous in large part because their governments function more efficiently and with less waste. So, again, it's not as simple as you want to make it out.

Spunk Nellie from New York, NY on August 18, 2012:

secularist, I wish there was some sort of direct message system on HubPages where I could contact you directly and not have to clog up your Hub's comment feed. Unfortunately, there isn't, so I guess I'll have to respond here.

First of all, the whole point of a "public" construct is that any legal citizen can use it, as much as they want, for "free." If you would like to make things perfectly fair toward everyone, so that those who use the highway system more have to pay more, then make the highways completely independent of taxpayer money and sustain them completely off of revenue, charging for each mile of use. But then you realize that, of course, the highways would be somewhat of a privatized construct.

Second, the wealthy man already pays far more for the highways he uses than you or I. The top 1% of earners pays 37% of the American government's total income tax. Even though public structures are, by nature, "free," the wealthy man is overpaying for his use of them anyhow.

Thirdly, when you talk about "trade within a larger system," you seem to imply that the free market is somehow sponsored by the government. It is not. The government, in fact, is sponsored by the free market. The only system the wealthy man is "benefiting from," as you talk about in your last paragraph, is the free market. What I don't understand is, why should a wealthy man pay more taxes if the system he is "benefiting from" is independent of his government (and so often hindered by it?)

secularist10 (author) from New York City on August 18, 2012:

Thank you, Steg. I appreciate it.

As I said in the article, the wealthy individual has actually benefited MORE than another individual from the system. Take roads and highways: the average individual benefits from them several times per day, as they drive from home to work, to run errands, etc.

But the wealthy individual, if he owns a company and employs several thousand people, benefits thousands of times per day from the roads and highways. Each of his employees uses those roads, several times a day. Multiply that by thousands of employees, and we see just how much that one wealthy individual is benefiting from the road system. His employees' work would not be possible without that system, and therefore his business, as he runs it, would not be possible. Thus he is utilizing the system more.

Remember, if this individual's wealth comes from his business, then we must look at his business as well as his own personal life (where he himself only uses the roads a few times per day).

Regarding trade, also as I said, this is trade that is made possible within that larger system.

Go back to the previous example. The businessman is transacting with each of these people--that means thousands of transactions every single day (i.e. paying them for their time/ work).

By contrast, the typical employee is only transacting once or a few times per day (they may buy some groceries, etc, but nothing on the scale of the business owner).

And that is just his employees. I'm not factoring his trade with vendors, business partners, etc.

So the businessman is engaging in much more total actual trade than the typical person. Trade requires an economic system. The trade occurs within that economic system. The more trade you are doing, the more you are benefiting from that system.

Imagine a person who lives on an isolated island and once a year he comes to the mainland and buys a few things. He is barely engaged with that economic system, so why should he be expected to contribute to its maintenance as much as another person who is trading within it constantly, year-round?

Spunk Nellie from New York, NY on August 17, 2012:

You seem to suggest that a wealthy person should pay more taxes to the government because he has benefited more from the public. 1.) The wealthy man has benefited virtually the same amount from the government as anyone else in his nation (in terms of infrastructure, law enforcement, etc.) 2.) You also seem to suggest that he benefits that the wealthy man receives from the public are one sided. Does not the public also benefit from the product that the wealthy man offers? You make it sound as if the wealthy man is collecting taxes by force, not engaging in trade with the general public.

However, despite my tripes, I appreciate a well thought out, engaging, and clean article. Although I disagree with you, I respect you for making a coherent and sturdy argument. Voted up.

secularist10 (author) from New York City on July 05, 2012:

True. Historically in the US most wealth was not inherited, but created. What's interesting is that in recent years, inheritance (of money, privilege, status, access, etc) has become a much greater factor in people's economic lives than ever before. Amazingly, today there is more social mobility in much of Europe than there is in America, the land of opportunity.

And yes, the conservative position does often view wealth accumulation as the highest (or a very high) goal in life. They need to understand that everyone does not have to be super ambitious and competitive for the country to do well. Poor people and middle class people are part of society too.

Jane Bovary from The Fatal Shore on July 05, 2012:

In the conservative argument, there seems to be a lot of moral value attached to economics. Rich - morally good/poor - morally bad. Rich people - winners/poor people - losers. The poor are made to feel inadequate and valueless. The rich, hard-working and deserving. Yet where is the moral superiority in inherited wealth, often passed down from generation to generation?

secularist10 (author) from New York City on May 18, 2012:

First of all, budget cutting and government waste are a completely separate topic from all this. This is about the moral justification for a progressive tax.

A progressive tax system gives room for personal incentives. Personal incentives are not at odds with a progressive tax system. The two can exist simultaneously.

A tax system where everyone was taxed 100% would not allow for personal incentives, for instance.

Regarding job creation, the impact of tax rates on jobs is mixed at best. I specifically detail this fact in the other two articles in this series. Unemployment does not go up with tax rates.

And anyway, small business owners usually do not qualify as "rich" and therefore are not affected much by all this.

bigbadcorp on May 18, 2012:

So how exactly does a progressive tax system "allow" for personal incentives? "Personally", as a small business owner, lower taxes mean that I can hire more employees - you know, job creation. Additionally, no one seems to talk about government waste here. Or is budget cutting off the table?

secularist10 (author) from New York City on April 10, 2012:


"a hard worker that reaps the benefits of his talents and knowledge should pay more taxes than a person who is less apt to work hard or is less talented."

He pays more in taxes, but he also takes home much more money at the end of the day than that other person. So it's fair.

"Most self made Millionaires and Billionaires did not complete there schooling."

I don't know where you heard that. There are a few notable ones like Bill Gates who dropped out of college. But that is college--there are VERY few self-made people who dropped out of high school. And anyway, we aren't just talking about self-made millionaires and captains of industry here. We're also talking about managers, lawyers, doctors or others who completed lots of schooling, both public and private.

"A guy that works 16 hours day and is held up in his office all day is not reaping the benefits of the infrastructure any more than a 9-5 is"

Actually, he is. As I said in the article, the dollar (or whatever unit of currency) is essentially a measure of utilization of community factors. That guy himself may not be driving more total minutes to and from work, but the monetary compensation he is receiving from his firm comes, ultimately, from greater utilization of those factors. It is an indirect benefit, but a real benefit nonetheless.

His firm uses telephone lines and fiber optic cables to communicate via phone and email with other companies; they may import or export goods through state-controlled or state-monitored ports and shipping lanes; they may employ dozens or hundreds of workers who would not be employable except for the skills they learned in the public education system; etc, etc.

"And he is sacrificing his home life to do so. So he should pay more for this?"

But that is his choice. There are other people who make millions by doing much less intensive work. Presumably, if that individual is "sacrificing" his home life, that is his free choice and he enjoys what he does for a living. If not, he is free to quit.

"For Capitalism to work people need incentive to make more money to in turn pay more taxes."

For capitalism to work people need both incentives and a strong socioeconomic system marked by the rule of law, protection of property rights, reasonable government oversight and regulation of industries, well-maintained and modern infrastructure, a well-educated and skilled workforce, and many other things that only a public sector can provide.

A progressive tax system allows for personal incentives, so that successful individuals can enjoy the fruits of their labor, as well as the maintenance and continued existence of the larger system.

secularist10 (author) from New York City on April 10, 2012:

Colpolbear--thanks a lot! Glad you liked it.

MG Singh--thanks for coming, and for the mail. I don't know how feasible non-monetary obligations would be. In some countries there is mandatory military service. But I think it's better to focus on money for these things because that is a far more flexible and universal medium for value exchange.

secularist10 (author) from New York City on April 10, 2012:

Sooner and Mtbailz--thank you very much. Good points.

HSchneider--thank you. It's easy for many to forget those background factors and how essential they are. They are often hidden from view, but they make the whole thing possible.

Stigma31 from Kingston, ON on April 10, 2012:

So, let me get this a hard worker that reaps the benefits of his talents and knowledge should pay more taxes than a person who is less apt to work hard or is less talented. Most self made Millionaires and Billionaires did not complete there schooling. And the fact they did so well for themselves they hired several people and gave them jobs, most well paying jobs (Waltons not included in this statement, they are just evil) they should take a bigger hit to there income. So it is better not to work hard and do well for yourself and others because you will pay heavily for this? A guy that works 16 hours day and is held up in his office all day is not reaping the benefits of the infrastructure any more than a 9-5 is? And he is sacrificing his home life to do so. So he should pay more for this? Now on a global scale I might agree with you, but you seem to be talking about taxes which are country centralized. If there was a world tax, then sure I can see well off countries should help support the less wealthy countries. Now, wealthy people get tax breaks, which I do not agree with, the percentage should be somewhat equal across the board. For Capitalism to work people need incentive to make more money to in turn pay more taxes. Not the opposite.

MG Singh from UAE on April 10, 2012:

More tax for the rich is not enough, some social obligation should also be imposed.

colpolbear from Pennsylvania on April 10, 2012:

You did a really great job with this. I actually hadn't looked at this specific issue with your perspective (although I did agree with it.) Fantastic Hub!

Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on April 10, 2012:

Excellent Hub, Secularist. Those who have been able to earn more in society have a greater obligation to it. They are able to do so by the structures the society has developed and must run. They need a fiscally healthy society to sustain their industries and buy their products.

Mtbailz on April 10, 2012:

Great Hub. People tend to forget this fact. Money made is directly correlated with resources provided by society and the government. Well written. Voted up and interesting.

Sooner28 on April 10, 2012:

Most of it is beyond the person's control. Nobody gets rich on their own. Able employees, and a strong society are needed, as you mentioned.

There's also the whole people dying prematurely from air pollution, or living in extreme poverty unnecessarily, while people like Mitt Romney make more money than they know what to do with. The system is skewed, and if it doesn't change fast, protests are going to get worse.

Voted up and sharing.

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