A Bad Bargain

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841-1935) wrote in an opinion that “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society”. Well, since Holmes issued his fatuous dictum in 1927, the tax burden on Americans has rise from 10 percent of GDP to nearly 40 percent of GDP.

If taxes promote civilization, so do regulations, a fortiori. The federal regulatory burden, which was nearly zero in the 1920s is now so imposing that its myriad strictures reduce GDP by more than 10 percent. (I haven’t found an estimate of the undoubtedly huge State and local burden.)

So the total burden of government on the U.S. economy has increased more than five-fold in the past 90 years. Has the United States become a more civilized country as a result? I submit that since the advent of the Great Society, when the tax and regulatory burdens began to rise in earnest, things have gone to hell in a handbasket.

Government seems to be a bad bargain. I demand a refund.

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