How is taxation different from stealing? What right does the government have to take some of our money? No taxation without representation? What difference does representation make?
It's Tax Day in America! American attitudes towards taxation are quite fascinating. Two strong cultural strands of thought come together to form our thoughts on taxes.
First, we don't trust in government—political scientists have been clamoring over growing resentment towards government for decades. Second, we have deeply seated libertarian sentiments: we don't want government to invade our sovereignty or our bank accounts, and we think that people should pull themselves up from their bootstraps, so we shouldn't have to pay money to support them. In addition to the sheer fact that many Americans are not doing so well financially, it's no surprise then that Americans hate taxation. From both political and philosophical perspectives, I'm particularly curious about how to change attitudes towards government using taxes as a proxy.
Vox recently ran an experiment on what their readers think of taxes after being differentially primed—emphasizing different parts of the tax code. The Brookings Institution's Vanessa Williamson and Curtlyn Kramer write the following short post about their findings. We can ask whether we think taxes are fair, but also, how well do we even know our thoughts about taxes? Are our beliefs on this rather significant topic so easily shaped by our environment and priming?
Here's the full link to the Brookings post: