Taxes

If Taxes Are the Price We Pay for Happiness, Get Ready for Ecstasy!

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Via Instapundit via the great and generally underappreciated TaxProf Blog via Marketwatch comes news that the only thing separating the United States from Denmark are higher taxes and higher rates of happiness. Writes Thomas Kostigen:

It says social welfare programs include health insurance, health and hospital services, insurance for occupational injuries, unemployment insurance and employment exchange services. There's also old age and disability pensions, rehabilitation and nursing homes, family welfare subsidies, general public welfare and payments for military accidents. Moreover, maternity benefits are payable up to 52 weeks.

Simply, you pay for what you get. Taxes in the U.S. have taken on a pejorative association because, well, we are never really quite sure of what we get in return for paying them, other than the world's biggest military.

Healthcare and other such social services aren't built into our system. That means we have to worry more about paying for things ourselves. Worrying doesn't equate to happiness.

Denmark leads the happiness race among OECD countries (though Danish cartoonists trail the national average, one suspects) and the U.S. trailed Belgium and others while beating Britan and France. Note here that "happiness" is a code word for "life satisfaction."

Which is a code word for not very much. On a personal note, I get annoyed, if not angry (not happy) when my taxes increase. I've got healthcare and I'm building my retirement account (Sisyphus Capital, guaranteed low rates of return!), so that's not the issue. It's that I know I will be paying more for exactly the same outcome. See education if you've got any questions. I suspect I would be equally displeased if the increase came in whatever currency the Danes are using these days.

Note to Chaz. Schulz: Happiness is a warm puppy…with a 52-week maternity benefit.

Reason on happiness through taxation.

Something to make all but Belgians and the other blue-skinned peoples of the world happy. Smurfs getting what they deserve:

NEXT: The Decline of American Civilization

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  1. It’s a nonsensical measure without some process to judge whether the people who are happy are deservedly so.

    If three guys mug me and take $5000 away from me, the net happiness of our microsociety rises. I am less happy, but three other people are much more happy.

    But anyone who concluded that this was a desirable social development because of the increase in “happiness” would be a douchebag.

  2. Why didn’t I think of that?!

    I’m gonna start mugging people left and right. Imagine how happy I’ll be then! Plus, I’ll cut out the middle man! SWEET.

  3. I’ve been telling you guys this stuff for months, but you just don’t want to listen. Moderately higher taxes will barely affect the economy, and we will be better off because the bridges, schools, research and health care that the government spends its marginal dollars on are FAR more valuable than the crap middle and upper class consumers spend their marginal dollars on. It really is that simple.

  4. Chad, please let the adults talk.

  5. This reminds me of a U.N. study a couple of years ago. The U.N. was claiming that Iceland was the best country to live in. I wonder if they would come to the same conclusion today.

  6. Fascinating how they can do all these studies about happiness, and even call it “subjective well being” in their psuedojargon, and at the end of it all still treat happiness as some kind of collective phenomenon, blithely ignoring the key fact: happiness is subjective and individual.

    Speaking of happiness, I subjectively think that when faced with such infuriating ignorance, one has to step back and learn to enjoy the little gifts life gives us. Like how von Mises’s Human Action is just the right size to still be throwable, yet hefty enough to cause a concussion.

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  8. Taxe + Cougars = Happiness?

  9. grimaldius mensch | May 18, 2009, 8:22am | #

    Chad, please let the adults talk.

    About what? The infinite happiness we all derive from Chinese junk and SUVs?

  10. Be careful Chad, or your strawman will devour us all.

  11. because the bridges, schools, research and health care

    Let’s say I conceded that by spending money on bridges, schools, and research, the state could improve “happiness” in the aggregate. I don’t concede it, but let’s consider it true for the sake of argument. And we can throw in there libraries, museums, public parks, sports stadia, what you have you.

    That’s not what the linked article argues. So it doesn’t matter if a bridge is “better” than Chinese DVD’s.

    The linked article credits the additional “happiness” to transfer payments. Plain and simple. It argues that happiness is greater in Denmark because people without money are given money, and because they don’t have to worry about money they’re more happy. That’s it. There’s no qualitative judgment about whether a museum makes people happier than designer clothes. It’s nakedly arguing that people who feel more secure are happier in the aggregate, and that therefore if people don’t have to worry about supporting themselves by their own efforts they will be happier.

    That means that we’re back at my first post: it’s an utterly amoral argument, because it doesn’t consider whether or not the additional “happiness” gained is just.

  12. There is no justice when poor people have to worry where their next meal is coming from.

  13. There is no justice when poor people have to worry where their next meal is coming from.

    It’s coming from where they least expect it: my fist in their teeth.

  14. I think you’re being too generous, calling it an “amoral” argument, Fluffy. Politicians who steal from the rich to buy the votes of the poor (and funnel said monies to privileged insiders) hardly qualify as amoral.

  15. It’s coming from where they least expect it: my fist in their teeth.

    So much for non-initiation of violence.

  16. There is no justice while the rich still have heads on their shoulders.

  17. There is no justice while the rich still have heads on their shoulders.

    Better to tax them at 95%; that way they can help buy food for the poor.

  18. DO NOT FEED THE TROLL. It only increases its happiness.

    Mock, yes, increase your happiness, but no feeding please.

  19. DO NOT FEED THE TROLL.

    I’m of the school of thought that Chad is a spoof. Thus, my happiness is increased when you guys fall for and feed it. Well played, Chad.

  20. Healthcare and other such social services aren’t built into our system.

    Could have fooled me. Last I looked, government-supplied healthcare and other social services were consuming ever larger chunks of our GDP.

    So much for non-initiation of violence.

    They started it by confiscating my property.

  21. You can always tell the troll Chad from the real one, can’t you?

    95% tax rates would be too high for the super-rich. 70%, including capital gains, would do nicely.

    It argues that happiness is greater in Denmark because people without money are given money, and because they don’t have to worry about money they’re more happy

    That’s because it is true. Numerous studies have shown that having decent (food, water, shelter, etc), along with reasonable political and social security, makes people happy. Beyond that, more wealth barely impacts happiness. Being richer than your neighbors, however, does make you happy, but at their expense. This is obviously a zero-sum game that the government can do nothing about.

  22. I’m happier that I’m smarter than Chad.

  23. There is no justice when I have to worry where my next alcoholic beverage is coming from.

  24. Having my balls licked makes me happy.

    Are you listening, Mister President?

  25. I said you have a right to pursue happiness Chad, I didn’t say you have a right to catch happiness.

  26. Well played, Chad.

    Which one?

  27. Which one?

    There is only one Chad, and Tony is his prophet.

  28. Something I’ve hypothesized for years is that (ideal) central planners want to maximize global utility at the expense of individual rights, while libertarians want to maximize individual rights, regardless of what happens to global utility.

    Of course I’m in the latter camp because I believe people have rights that cannot be taken away by anyone, whether by a dictator or by mob rule; but I also suspect from a utilitarian POV that the natural equilibrium point reached through human attempts to maximize global utility is much lower than the average outcome when trying to maximize individual rights. By that, I simply mean that central planning attempting to maximize global utility won’t work for practical reasons, and will result in a much lower standard of living for everyone.

    The world would be a much better place if more people were to read The Road to Serfdom.

  29. So Thomas Kostigen wants to decrease the size of the US population to the size of Denmark and make it just as white?

    I suggest the minorities start running now (along with a lot of whiteys).

  30. Something I’ve hypothesized for years is that (ideal) central planners want to maximize global utility at the expense of individual rights, while libertarians want to maximize individual rights, regardless of what happens to global utility.

    I’m always surprised when I see people arguing against libertarianism on utilitarian grounds. (“Aha! I have contrived a case where the free market would produce a suboptimal result!”) Are many (or any) of us utilitarians? (I’m certainly not.) Do they even make utilitarians any more?

  31. Does anybody else hate how the lefties have co opted the word ‘justice’ and now throw it out to mean a non-belief in property rights and the right of the government to take what it wants, whenever it wants it.

  32. I also remember that I would taught by all my liberal teachers that Americans are inherently unhappy, and nothing you can do in our system will make you happy.

    I guess this is because they feel they are underpaid for their IQ, but what they teach could have an influence on these polls…

  33. “I said you have a right to pursue happiness Chad, I didn’t say you have a right to catch happiness.”

    What I find interesting about people complaining about their right to pursue happiness being infringed is that an awful lot of them seem to be sitting on the couch waiting for someone to bring it to them.

  34. “That means we have to worry more about paying for things ourselves. Worrying doesn’t equate to happiness.”

    This is the obnoxious idea behind the article, more so than the pro-tax bemt. That being responsible for one’s own welfare is the cause of unhappiness. This is an unworthy thought for someone who considers himself an adult, it is a desire to retreat to childhood when some authority figure cared for you. The problem is when you were a child your parents loved you, the government does not love you and really does not care that much for your welfare just your dependence.

    It always saddening seeing somebody argue that an easy slavery is better than a harsh freedom.

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