When Words Lose Their Meaning….

by Don Boudreaux on December 9, 2010

in Myths and Fallacies, Other People's Money, Taxes

Here’s a letter to the Los Angeles Times:

You write that “Washington’s compromise on estate taxes provides an unnecessary handout to a few thousand wealthy families” (“The state of estates,” Dec. 9).

Whatever are the merits, or lack thereof, of a tax on estates, you are deceptively wrong to call a decision not to raise that tax a “handout.”  Because taxes are paid from resources created and earned by private citizens, resources that are not taxed are not “handed out” to the people who created or earned them; these people already rightfully own these resources.

It makes no more sense to describe government’s (non-)act of not raising taxes as a “handout” than it does to describe my (non-)act of not stealing your purse as a “handout.”  Failure to understand this fact creates the mirage that government is the source and original owner of all wealth.  Not only is such a notion of the state utterly false empirically, it is also – because it is a close cousin of the notion of the divine right of kings – the seed of tyranny.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

Here’s an article I wrote years ago on this topic.

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