Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Predictions for an Obama administration; taxes; Egypt under the Ptolemies

Sometimes it is not sufficient for voters to hear merely that a candidate will raise their taxes. Voters often do not care unless the specifics of the tax burden are set forth in detail.

In the third century B.C., Egypt was ruled by Macedonians in the Ptolemy line who imposed a socialist style tyranny on their subjects. Their tax package sounds familiar:
Everywhere the government took rentals, taxes, customs, and tolls, sometimes labor and life itself. The peasant paid a fee to the state for the right to keep cattle, for the fodder that he fed them, and for the privilege of grazing them on the common pasture land. The private owner of gardens, vineyards, or orchards paid a sixth - under Ptolemy II half - of his produce to the state. All persons except soldiers, priests, and government officials paid a poll tax. There were taxes on salt, legal documents, and bequests; a five per cent tax on rentals, a ten per cent tax on sales, a twenty-five per cent levy on all fish caught in Egyptian waters, a toll on goods passing from village to town, or along the Nile; there were high export as well as import duties at all Egyptian ports; there were special taxes to maintain the fleet and the lighthouse, to keep the municipal physicians and police in good humor, and to buy a gold crown for every new king; nothing was overlooked that could fatten the state. To keep track of all taxable products, income, and transactions the government maintained a swarm of scribes, and a vast system of personal and property registration; to collect the taxes it farmed them out to specialists, supervised their operations, and held their possessions as security till the returns were in.
Will Durant, Life of Greece, pp. 591-592

While U.S. taxes are already quite burdensome, they will get worse and more oppressive under an Obama regime (and his successors). There will be very little left of our lives that is free from government taxation and scrutiny.

As is always the case in history, the story of oppressive government ends badly. Taxation and socialism eroded the industriousness of the people and the productivity of the land. Agriculture and industry decayed. By the end of the third century B.C., Egypt had been made "a Roman protectorate" [Durant, p. 587]. Roman emperors later fully absorbed Egypt into the Roman empire.

Ptolemy I of Egypt

Egypt would not reemerge as an independent nation until after World War I. [For those of you that rely on Oprah or the Today Show for your information, that time span equals roughly 2000 years - give or take a century depending on when you consider Egypt's independence to have finally ended.] 2000 years of subjugation is a long time. Taxation has consequences.

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