Why Red & Blue See Taxes Differently

L: I find it fascinating (now that I'm over my election trauma) that Democrats and Republicans think of taxation in totally different ways. Jim and I agree that government and regulations have a place in society, and as a moderate Democrat, I can also agree that government-run programs are not a panacea and that excessive regulations ARE a problem. But, when it comes to taxes, we totally disagree on what "taxes are too high" means. Now that I've found a magic book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt, I at least have some insight into why this is true.

[The following is just me channeling Dr. Haidt. And by the way, I have his permission!]

Dr. Haidt's theory is that there are at least 6 moral foundations that people use to influence their decisions. (Earlier in the book we've already learned that people don't use their rational minds to make decisions. Rather they use their pre-frontal cortex to defend (rationalize) the decisions that have already been made in a far more emotional/intuitive part of the brain.)

Of these moral foundations, two of them are most important in making decisions related to taxation. The first is the Fairness/Cheating foundation, the second is the Liberty/Oppression foundation. The Fairness/Cheating foundation is about proportionality. "It is about making sure that people get what they deserve, and do not get things they do not deserve." (p.212) Everyone gets annoyed when people cheat and get something they shouldn't, but conservatives hold this value very highly--much more highly than liberals.

Applying the Liberty/Oppression foundation is even more instructive. This moral foundation evolutionarily arose to protect against bullies and tyrants. It has now generalized to being wary of abuse of authority. Both conservatives and liberals react to this, but in different ways. Conservatives have the "don't tread on me" version--"don't tread on me with your liberal nanny state and its high taxes, don't tread on my business with your oppressive regulations, and don't tread on my nation with your United Nations and your sovereignty-reducing international treaties." (p.204)

Liberals use this foundation "in the service of underdogs, victims, and powerless groups everywhere...which leads to favor[ing] higher taxes on the rich, high levels of services provided to the poor, and sometimes guaranteed minimum income for everyone." (p.204)

So now you that you've learned this, where do you think the compromises can be located (should anyone ever live in that world again) between these two world views? We're all in this together so we may as well sort it out.

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