In North America, if we care to look around objectively, we often find a great number of things that people are really ticked off about, particularly when it comes to government or corporate issues. Somehow, though, people aren’t doing much about what’s bothering them. In the late 18th century, however, during a time of great upheaval in the United States – at that time it was still a colony of Great Britain – people got angry and started doing something about it. Hence, the American Revolution, often thought of as the first war ever fought purely for idealistic reasons, though that’s not necessarily entirely accurate.
In order to really see the difference, however, we need to look at the reasons people were so willing to fight back back then, and then compare them to the situations people face in the modern age. The American Revolution became a reality when colonists decided they no longer wanted to be ruled by an absent government that was levying taxes on them, without providing any real benefit in the way of governing and protection. Considering the lack of trained militia within the population of colonists, and limitations on arms and ammunition, it’s rather a surprise that independence was won. Determination and resolution count for a lot, though, and at some point the people willing to fight outweighed not only those who were not, but also those who were loyal to the Crown.
The first truly big issue was the newly lowered Sugar Tax – yes, lowered. It was cut in half. The problem was more to do with the fact that the colonists felt the British government had no right to institute new taxes, and were rather in the habit of smuggling molasses to avoid the tariffs anyway. Suddenly it seemed as though King George was getting serious about forcing the colonists to start paying. What many colonists may not have realized, or if they did they cared little about the information, was that they were paying lower taxes than those who were living in England. Taxation without elected representation had become the new issue.
Strangely, at that time in history there was the Window Tax. People were taxed a flat rate on their homes up to having ten windows, and then the tax doubled if they had between ten and twenty windows. This was standard throughout England, Scotland and the Colonies. This tax wasn’t even blinked at in most cases. People simply built their houses with less than ten windows, or bricked over windows they felt weren’t so necessary, to avoid paying the additional tax. In this day and age, most people would be horrified by the notion of paying a tax based on the number of windows in their home. Granted, at least in Canada, property taxes change with the number of bathrooms within a residence, and even the roughed-in plumbing for additional bathrooms. Canada, however, is still technically a dominion of the British Empire, though we don’t have a lot of interference from them these days. The point is, what would have us screaming in outrage today, was something people willingly accepted in the 1700s.
Conversely, things that were not tolerated, and in fact led to the Revolutionary War, are now worse than commonplace with the current governments. Taxation is enormous. It’s usually hidden, mind you, but anyone with a computer can discover how much tax is being paid every time they fill up their gas tanks, or buy a package of cigarettes. According to the U. S. Department of Energy, 13% of what you pay at the pump is going toward taxes. 65% goes to crude oil. The remainder is for marketing and refining of the product. That’s in the United States, however. In Canada, where a lot of crude oil comes from, citizens pay approximately 31% toward taxes every time they pump gas, and it also depends on which province you live in – taxation rates are not only controlled federally, but provincially as well.
Alcohol is another area that’s heavily taxed, but since it varies drastically by state and/or province, it’s not something that can be listed here with any detail. In addition to the tax rate per gallon, however, there is also the tax you pay whenever you go to a restaurant or bar/pub. Well, that’s how it is in Canada anyway. Any time there’s a good or service being purchased, there’s a tax on it. It’s called the HST here now, and is taxed at 5% federally. Different states in the U. S. have different sales tax scales, definitions and platforms, but it’s still rather common to be taxed for everything that might be considered a luxury. A couple of odd notes there when it comes to Canada, though. Canadians were told when the tax was introduced many years ago that it was a temporary tax – something many Canadians were rather cynical about. In addition to its supposedly temporary status, though, it was meant to be on services and luxury items. Luxury items turned out to include toilet paper and deodorant – not really items that are considered a luxury in modern society – more like necessities. Yet, a package of six or more donuts was considered a family purchase and was therefore not taxed with that particular tax.
If we compare the taxation rates we’re forced to pay now, with what was being paid in the late 1700s, starting in about 1765, we’re being swamped in taxes. Not only are luxury items being taxed, along with property, but every dollar we make has yet another tax on it. The tax the Americans were trying to avoid disappeared for a very short time, in fact, and it just kept getting worse. Now in 2014 people are being taxed by their federal, state and municipal governments, and usually for services that are not even being effectively serviced. Taxes pay for roads that aren’t maintained, bureaucracy that’s incompetent, and bail out companies that should never be bailed out.
Canadian legislation is nowhere near as difficult to deal with for Canadian businesses, as American legislation is, yet most Americans view Canada as a communist or socialist country that they want nothing to do with. In Ontario it costs $60 to register a business for five years. That’s $12 per year. The form takes five minutes to fill out, and you do it online. Still, despite certain simplicities in the governmental structure, Canadian citizens pay for it in taxes, just like Americans do.
What’s sad and scary about the whole thing is the fact that we’re all just lying down and taking it. There is the odd protest about this issue or that issue, but in general we’re being walked over by our government in every imaginable way. They aren’t performing the services they’re supposed to be performing. They go out of their way to make things more difficult for the average citizen than they need to be. Every state and county has a new set of rules, and a lot of times those rules conflict with one another. So the question is, why is this being allowed? Why is it that the country which fought for independence is now so complacent and compliant?
There’s an expression that applies here: It’s all in what you’re used to. If you’re used to a window tax, you don’t think anything of paying it. If you’re used to an income tax rate upwards of 50% when you start raking in a decent income, you pay it. People no longer think about it. They’ve been indoctrinated into the old adage of ‘not rocking the boat.’ People are trained to memorize their lessons in school, and are not trained to question their teachers. Questioning is actively discouraged, and is considered disruptive to the class. Critical thinking is a lost art. When people sit down before the month of April to fill out their income tax forms, generally there’s a sense of anger, with a bunch of grumbling complaints about how much they have to pay that year. Yet they don’t stop to ask, where exactly is this money going? Why am I not complaining about that bill for the $10,000 hammer that was supposedly purchased by my government?
The thing is, people are confused by economics. Vast financial reports are intimidating to almost everyone, unless they work in the industry. Sure there are a number of factors involved in the economy, but in truth it’s not as difficult as they make it out to be. The simplest rule of economics should always have been, “Don’t spend more money than you have.” Instead what’s happening is our governments are purchasing everything on credit. They borrow money to pay for wars they can’t afford to fight and shouldn’t be involved in in the first place. Then there’s an interest payment on that loan. Who pays for that? Why, the taxpayers of course. By all means, spend many billions of dollars we don’t have sitting around in the bank, so we can go to war with a country because we want to control their oil. That makes loads of financial sense, right?
These days we live in a society of instant gratification, and it has become a financial trade-off because of that. We use credit cards to pay for things we’re too silly to save up for. Generally it won’t ruin a person’s life if they can’t have that flat-screen TV for another six months, but like children they want it right this minute. We are turning into infants in a wide variety of ways, though, and that relates directly to our current tax situation. We’re handing over control of our lives to a government entity that is often controlled by large corporate entities, and we’re paying them for the privilege of not having to think about anything. We’ve given up responsibility for our own lives. When we question it we’re given a patronizing pat on the head, and told everything will be fine – they’ll take care of everything for us.
If our governments were doing what they were meant to do, which is working for the people, we’d be doing alright. If our own best interests were really being cared for, government would not be an issue. Instead, decisions are being made that go completely against what the voting citizenry has stated they want. The gun-control debate in 2013 is a very good example of that. The vast majority of American citizens wanted the loopholes closed on gun purchases and background checks. The legislation was shot down. Now, whatever your personal opinion on gun-control, the fact that the government did not listen is the real issue there. There have been a large number of politicians that made it very clear they thought themselves above the people who voted them into power, and that they did not have to listen to those people or abide by their wishes in any way. So why aren’t these government employees being fired by the people who hired them? That’s what elections are supposed to be for. An election is simply the democratic hiring and firing of a public service official.
Well, here we get back to indoctrination and complacency. People, from the time they’re old enough to go to school, are taught that they’re only one voice, and their voice will not count for anything. Voter turnout is exceedingly low, and voter apathy at an all-time high. Nobody believes they can make a difference. Well, guess what. Nobody believed the colonial rebels were going to make a difference either. No one thought they stood a chance when they first started their war of independence. Only about 40% of the population in the colonies were Patriots who were willing to fight for the freedom of the country. 20% were apparently Loyalists – those loyal to King George and wanting to remain British citizens. The remainder either didn’t care or just didn’t want to get involved. So, in the end it only took a minority of the population to bring about the biggest change to ever take place in the country. That’s all it ever takes, but there have to be people who are willing to stand up, speak out, and fight back.
Latest posts by Rain Stickland (see all)
- The Hypocrisy in My Fellow Lefties Needs to Stop - November 16, 2016
- Windows 10 Just Made Life Easier for Hackers - September 6, 2015
- Economic Lessons We Teach Two-Year-Olds, but Forget Ourselves - August 18, 2015