posted at 12:03 am on May 4, 2010 by Doctor Zero
A while ago, InstaPunk wondered if reviewing elementary concepts, as I often do, is an effective use of conservative energy. To explore the idea further, he put together a provocative list of basic ideas that should be understood as common sense by most people, inviting his readers to suggest more. Can these concepts be conclusively “proven?” Is it possible to explain them persuasively to people who don’t already accept them? Is it worth directing heavy intellectual firepower at such obvious targets?
I thought the first item on InstaPunk’s list presented an interesting opportunity to illustrate my perspective on the importance of the basics:
Corporate taxes are paid by individual taxpayers. In other words, when high taxes are leveled against corporations, they pass those taxes on to their customers. The strategy of soaking the corporate world for tax revenue is a mirage, because individual consumers will ultimately pay the bills.
Could this assertion be proved by acquiring clear, printed evidence from the files of corporations? Companies are understandably reluctant to release such data. They would be justifiably concerned about suffering political attack for publicizing their methods of passing tax costs along to consumers… especially under this Administration, which sees the business community as a forest of pockets to be picked, and knees to be broken. The documentary evidence probably wouldn’t be anything as pithy as a memo from Joe in accounting to Phil in marketing, telling him to jack up prices five percent to cover the hit they’re going to take from the latest round of corporate taxes. It would more likely take the form of quarterly reports and spreadsheets, a cocktail of kryptonite and Quaaludes to the average voter.
Even if precise documentation could be provided, it’s important to realize the average voter just doesn’t think about politics or economics in precise terms. Those who don’t study these matters as professionals, or enthusiasts, find them repellent and dull. However, they don’t want to come off as uninformed in polite conversation, especially when elections draw near. They construct a set of attitudes, instead of concrete arguments. This construction is often based on raw materials provided by the mainstream media, including pop-culture entertainment.
One of the sins of Big Government is that it requires knowledge of a vast array of subjects, in order to make an informed voting decision. This is built right into the concept of Big Government, and has nothing to do with the party running it at any given moment. If you’re thinking about a major purchase in the free market, you would be wise to study the object of your desire – hit some Web pages, read some magazines, visit a few dealers to hear competing sales pitches. To cast an intelligent vote about a fourteen trillion dollar central government, you must acquire a detailed education about hundreds of topics, then make lady-or-the-tiger choices between a handful of candidates. Very few people have the time or ability to pick through fields of misinformation and harvest such intelligence. Instead, they tend to support parties and candidates who appeal to the conventional wisdom they have accepted.
I don’t think conservatives will win the crucial debates ahead of us by throwing more chaff into the cloud of data howling around ordinary Americans. Our goal is to change attitudes and assumptions, and show people how to make sense of what they see around them, and what the media chooses to show them. That’s why I find it so rewarding to return to basic concepts. There’s nothing I love more than learning I’ve helped someone see the great issues of the day in a new light. The old light is growing dim enough to conceal the edge of the cliff we’re approaching. Too many essential truths have become “obvious” enough to turn invisible, because nobody thinks about them any longer.
So: how can I demonstrate to the layman that corporate taxes are paid by individual taxpayers? By asking them why the corporations would do it any other way. Why would any businessman be willing to meekly absorb costs, when recovering them from his customers is possible? If they’re forced to absorb these costs, what will happen to the quality and supply of their goods and services? You don’t need a packet of secret corporate documents to prove this to yourself. You only need to invest the slightest amount of thought to the concept of running a business, at the lemonade-stand level.
When you understand the nature of something, its behavior becomes predictable. Many of the bad ideas percolating through the American mind are born from fundamental misunderstandings about the nature of the free market, and the people who inhabit it. Demolishing those illusions requires patience and logic. The rapidly degenerating liberal state was sold to the public with a mixture of hope, rage, envy, and shame. Quibbling with particular aspects of its comprehensive failure is less productive than bringing our fellow citizens back to the basics of capitalism and liberty, then helping them build forward to an understanding of the nation as it should be. People must learn to see the invisible truths for themselves.
Cross-posted at www.doczero.org.
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