Fiscal policy

Great Deals on Good Wine and Other American Tragedies


Neil Macdonald, senior Washington correspondent for CBC News, complains about "almost ridiculous discounts" on "good wines" from online merchants who deliver them to his office a few days after he orders them without charging him for shipping or sales tax. The horror? Yes!

According to Macdonald, the problem is not that selling wine on the Internet puts brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop shops out of business, enables teenagers to catch a buzz off the latest boutique Chardonnay, or takes profits from government-appointed wholesalers (who frequently use the first two arguments). No, the problem is that "every dollar's worth of wine that FedEx delivers to my office means 10 cents that doesn't go to the state tax office." Those dimes add up, and "as the famed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, taxes buy civilization."

That's the short version. To appreciate Macdonald's argument in all its meandering, state-worshipping complexity, read the whole thing. You might want to drink a few glasses of Cabernet first.

NEXT: The Social Justice of $3,000 Battery Trays

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  1. Also, for every dollar you save at a brick and mortar retail outlet, that’s another 10 cents you’re stealing from civilization. We need to ban coupon clipping.

    1. I have a simple rule that’s as reliable as gravity. Anytime someone quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes, they are full of shit.

  2. The thing is, though, this is nuts. Every dollar’s worth of wine that FedEx delivers to my office means 10 cents that doesn’t go to the state tax office.

    It’s reaching the point here where actually paying sales tax makes people feel like chumps.

    But as the famed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, taxes buy civilization.

    Freedom and greed are essential market forces, but there has to be a limit. And in this gloriously free and consummately greedy nation, a reckoning is coming.

    I couldn’t decide which was the brain-hurtiest paragraph. I’ll put it to a vote.

    1. Could you possibly be any more clear about not having an argument?


      2. In a daze, Terri stepped back into the house and approached her daughter. Janet held the carcass out to her mother and Terri accepted it, taking a large bite out of Precious’ left front thigh.

        Behind them both on the television, Terri’s soap opera had gone to a commercial break.

      3. HH, you make me smile every time I read your comments 🙂

      4. Thanks for adding absolutely nothing to the conversation, Hobie.

        As usual.

    2. taxes buy civilization

      don’t buy civilization from amazon and have fedex bring it though

      1. It was a good RTS back when i was a youngbuck

        1. You are old indeed if you remember civilization as an RTS

      2. although actually I’d prefer many govt services were outsourced to amazon or google or India.

      3. “Taxes buy civilization…”

        …And, since civilization is so valuable to peaceful, productive people, they would voluntarily pay taxes.
        Oh Wendy Holmes. It’s so cute how we always finish eachother’s sentences.

      4. Amazon has a major distribution center just down the road, so on many items I actually do pay sales tax.

        The advantage is that even with ground shipment, I generally receive orders overnight.

    3. All of it?

      I swear, reading shit like this literally makes me feel stupid, because I cannot comprehend how their mind works. The logic fail is so extreme that it’s like reading the thought processes of a mountain goat.

      1. Canadians, dude. Canadians.

        1. Oh shit…I read “CBS”, not “CBC”. I should have seen the super-Scottish name and been tipped off that he was a puckhead.

          Ok, that makes more sense now. Many Canadians do have some really supine attitudes about taxation.

          1. Supine?

            I’d say they have rather Sabine attitudess to taxation.

          2. Hey! We have lower corporate income taxes, so, uh…take that!

      2. I can’t help but imagine old Neil naked and on his hands and knees wearing a delirious smile as Uncle Sam slams him from behind with a dick shaped like the statue of liberty.

      3. I swear, reading shit like this literally makes me feel stupid, because I cannot comprehend how their mind works.

        Imagine that you think that government does great things, but that people won’t voluntarily pay fees for these great things, so you must coerce them and threaten to throw them into a cage if they don’t comply, and if they find a way around it, including a way you yourself engage in, then you are all being terrible people for preventing further goodness happening via the government. Oh, and imagine you’re a virtuous person for thinking all these, and people who mouth words like “freedom” are evil.

        See? Not hard at all to understand them!

    4. Definitely the “taxes buy civilization” part. Everything else is irrelevant subjective bullshit, but it’s pretty logically self-evident that civilization precedes government.

      Of course, Epi’s right that in this Salvador Dali masterpiece of stupid, it’s not just one thing, but the government=civilization thing is my pet peeve.

      1. civilization precedes government

        Like most things people claim are self-evident, this is wrong. Just because the rulers don’t have titles and buildings to rule from doesn’t mean barbarians didn’t have government (and more to the point, taxes).

        1. Irrelevant. You still need a developed society with certain levels of trust, etc to form anything approximating stable government, much less a Westphalia-style nation-state with concepts like citizenship, etc.

          To avoid this becoming a semantic argument, what I mean by society/civilization is a framework in which people cooperate peaceably to achieve mutual goals. Government would be a coercive institution which arrogates unto itself power over a certain tract of land/ethnic group that it can credibly enforce. Clearly, stable government has to emerge from a cooperative society of some sort (civilization) for the rather intuitive reason that government itself requires some level of mutual trust which only forms in at least somewhat helpful societies. Chicken/egg problem solved.

          Government plays a role in ensuring that what is created by civilization is preserved, but it is by no means the equivalent of or the predecessor to “civilization”.

          BTW, “barbarians” of France and Spain were actually very politically and socially developed.

          1. My thesis advisor always told me that before I dared submit a paper to a referee of a journal, I should always run a search for words like “clearly”, “evident”, “obviously”, and the like…because that’s where your errors are going to be. And so it is here.

            Governments don’t require mutual trust; indeed most forms of government thrive on general paranoia towards one’s neighbors, the better to isolate individuals. All a government/chieftainship needs is a willingness to obey; whether obedience is born of trust or fear makes no difference.

            1. Of course governments require trust, at least between its own members. Such trust is rarely cultivated unless through prior experience where mutual cooperation has led to a beneficial outcome. You’re not going to trust your life or goods with someone who you don’t know is trustworthy, are you? That being the case, it is *clear* (there’s that word again) that there must be some framework within which such mutually beneficial experiences could develop (this framework being society).

              Government itself may develop at odds with some aspect of society, work against it, and is apart from society, but stable government *must* derive from society and civilization, not the other way around. Certainly, it is self evident that taxes do not pay for civilization, since civilization is not the same as (and in fact independent from) government.

    5. I’d say the ‘brain-hurtiest’ part is the idea that ‘Freedom’ is a market force. The market IS freedom, or at least the mechanism for arranging freedom.

      1. But that’s not REAL freedom. Freedom means that you can take stuff from people to make yourself comfortable.

        That’s what such people believe.

        1. Ah yes, ‘Freedom’ as ‘Capability’. The reason I am unfree to be an astronaut.

    6. —“economic forecasters predict e-commerce will hit $250 billion within three years”—

      So, at a 10% tax rate, we can collect enough sales tax on all e-commerce to balance the California budget for this year.

      That is what I call “starving the beast.”

    7. Freedom and greed are essential market forces, but there has to be a limit. And in this gloriously free and consummately greedy nation, a reckoning is coming.

      Yes. And the government is the greediest bastards of them all.

      I was just talking to a client and friend of mine who is in his 70s, owns a small real estate company and has been building houses for about 40 years. He said, “everything the government touches, turns to shit.” I just smiled.

  3. Well, if Mr. Macdonald feels that way, then I suggest he stop ordering wine on-line.

    And if he feels we are insufficiently civilized, and would like to buy us some more, then I’m sure he can send a check to the State.

    1. If the guy would just buy his damn $300 Brooks Brothers shoes in Maryland – the sales tax on that alone could give him a free pass on online wine consumption for a year.

    2. I like to keep this link handy to provide to people who complain the government isn’t stealing enough from them.

      1. Usually they are complaining that government isn’t stealing enough from everyone else. Their revealed preference is for government to steal less from them — apparently because they are special or something.

        1. Lately it seems like the dirty hippies and self-proclaimed progressives of my acquaintance on facebook are tripping over each other in their rush to declare themselves willing– eager, in fact– to pay even more taxes. It’s kind of fun to get them all ruled up by referring to taxes as theft and then watch the stampede as they try to outdo each other in their self-righteous indignation, bragging about how they feel so embarrassingly undertaxed and unsophisticated, barely worthy of air to breathe compared to the noble, heroic Swedes.

          Because, you know, Somalia. And the children.

          1. Riled, not ruled. All riled up.

          2. Ask them if they voluntarily sent the federal or state government an extra check above the amount owed in taxes. You know, as a bonus or tip for good service.

            Hell, ask them if they used tax software to reduce the amount they would owe compared to using the 1040-EZ form. If so, then ask them why they paid money for the software and took extra time preparing their taxes to avoid paying extra taxes.

            And then if they didn’t send that bonus check to the gov’t, tell them to STFU because they are lying.

          3. One of the real benefits of growing up amongst the norwegians in northern MN is that there was never any respect for the f-ing swedes.

            Nicest people in the world, but man they had it in for the swedes.

    3. So did Mr. Macdonald just publicly admit to tax evasion? At least in this state, just because the retailer doesn’t collect the sales tax doesn’t absolve the purchaser from paying it. It’s the individual’s obligation to pay the tax, although most people either don’t know it or, like Mr Macdonald, simply choose not to.

  4. “Freedom and greed are essential market forces, but there has to be a limit. And in this gloriously free and consummately greedy nation, a reckoning is coming.”

    … lolwut?

  5. A Libertarian can be defined as somebody who wants as cheap a government as possible and then wonders why the government sucks.

    1. Oh, well if we just get the most expensive government possible everything will be dandy. Nice logic you fucking moron.

    2. Boring troll is boring.

    3. Wrong. Government ALWAYS sucks. The Libertarian takes satisfaction in knowing that a smaller, more efficient government sucks the least.

      1. All libertarians are not anarchists, even on this site.

        1. Then they are not libertarians.

          Libertarianism 101:

          No person or entity has the right to initiate force. No exceptions.

          1. Minarchism v. Anarchism

            And so it begins…

            … again.

            1. Until we throw all the statists into the ovens.

              1. Careful with all that talk of ovens, or you’ll end up looping round the Faye Horseshoe.

                1. Good point GOW.

                  No doubt there are times when my rhetorical exclamations do not do my argument justice.

              2. Is there to be some kind of authority or governing body that determines who is a statist that must be thrown in the oven?

                1. I nominate Epi.

                  1. There aren’t enough ovens. We’ll need a public works project to build more.

              3. Who is “we” kemosabe?

        2. That’s true, but you needn’t be an anarchist to believe that all government, even necessary government, sucks.

    4. Which explains why the Soviet government was of such high quality.

    5. A Libertarian can be defined as somebody who wants as cheap a government as possible but instead is forced to live with the most expensive and inept government in the history of mankind, and then wonders why people like Meta_Man can’t figure out why the government sucks.

      1. I know. It’s like I’m supposed to read his comment and then have the sudden realization that my small government tendencies led to the current clusterfuck. Dumbest troll ever, which is saying something.

    6. The reason it’s not working is because government’s not raping us HARD enough!!!

    7. A Meta_Man can be defined as a giant fag.

    8. A Meta_Man can be defined as somebody who wants as expensive a government as possible and then blames his employer when his paycheck sucks.

  6. If this guy feels so fucking guilty then he can donate some of his fat paycheck to the next bureaucrat he sees. Fuck him and fuck his goddamn authoritarian tendencies.

    1. and fuck his totalitarian comrades.

    2. Or he could just go to a wine shop and pay the tax. If he feels it isn’t enough tax, he could buy wine and ship it to me.

  7. Speaking as a Canadian, you have to understand the target audience: Canadians, most of whom still use “American-style” as a pejorative and believe it is their highest duty to pay all taxes with a glowing heart. I am sure the comments to follow this article on the CBC forum will bear out this attitude.

    Frankly, I find it all a bit sickening that my fellow Canadians still wallow in this inferiority complex re the USA.

    Also, Neil Macdonald is a tool.

    1. Wayward Dean
      at 2:30 PM ET
      Corporations, emboldened by the conspicuous global ‘anti-government’ political movement, goes for the final knock-out of the government which birthed their global rise to eminence!
      There is no co-incidence that this comes after the Bush Jr. regime.

      Since the end of WWII, when we were warned by the hero-general become president, the large limited liability corporations have been ‘putting the squeeze’ on the public sector; the erosion of the public sector has never truly been about high cost and poor service, it has always been about MORE PROFIT for the corporations.
      There has been a well orchestrated campaign undermining the credibility and ‘worthiness’ of the public sector, little by little inserting a cultural bias against the ‘evil inefficiencies’ of a economically significant public sector.
      This truly strategic approach has yielded great result for the anti-public sector establishment. With the virtual control of the monetary policies, and economic enslavement of the weaker national economies, at great cost to quality of life for their citizens, this same spirit as is behind the IMF, having refined thir technique, with well-documented experiments with the economies of the far east countries, New Zealand, and Canada, have successfully infiltrated Europe, the last strong-hold of socially responsible society, now the big one, the mother ship, so to speak, and home of the ‘capitalist’ system, the United States of America.

      Citizens, DON’T BE FOOLED by the false malignment of the public sector. The public sector is not for profit, not driven by corporate greed, but by quality of life for humans.
      What do you think happens when public service are privatized?
      Lower wage for workers mean less money driving the economy, and more into the pockets of corporations.

      Fucking Canada. Why is it allowed to exist?

      1. Because it’s America’s retarded cousin. And, unless you are a Kennedy, you don’t lobotomize your retarded relatives.

        1. If you read her writing you’d know that the ‘retarted’ was a cover-up for her ADD, and promiscuous behavior.

          Only the Kennedy boys were licensed to be sluts

      2. It makes a good buffer state between us and Denmark.

        1. Buffer state between us and Ms. Palin?

      3. Fucking Canada. Why is it allowed to exist?

        To demonstrate how to privatize air traffic control and… that’s about all I’ve got.

        1. gas masks, incandescent lamp,Java programming language, alkaline battery and lithium battery , anti gravity, insulin…

        2. Fucking Canada. Why is it allowed to exist?

          You forgot the ability to order poutine at the Costco food court.

          And lots of wildlife and untouched great scenery due to virtually everyone not wanting to be Canadians.

      4. Somebody has to harvest the baby seals.

      5. Because even if we’re stupid enough to go to occupy Iraq, we’re not nearly self-hating enough to occupy and pour resources into Canada for any period of time.

      6. Hockey?

      7. Because Canada is a giant lab that does nothing if not vindicate smaller government. Compare Alberta with Quebec, and you’ll see socialism beating capitalism over the head with gusto.

    2. Canadians, most of whom still use “American-style” as a pejorative

      Yet some of the same Liberals still find it offensive when someone wonders if a guy who hasn’t been there for thirty years is really the right guy to lead the country.

  8. Are you sure this isn’t Norm McDonald?

    1. Neil is Norm’s brother. Norm is pretty awesome and seems to lean libertarian. It’s a shame his brother is a complete tool.

      1. Yes, I knew that but Norm would say the same thing, and we would laugh. Because it’s crazy. By the way, if you’re a Norm fan, his new sports show on Comedy Central is very funny.

        1. No the fucking fuck it is not.

  9. I’m assuming that, like every other state in this great nation of ours, it is the buyer who bears the obligation to pay sales tax on internet purchases.

    I wonder if the blogger in the link reports these purchases to the tax man, or if he’s a dirty tax cheat.

  10. Is there anyone in history that is more full of shit then Oliver Wendell Holmes?

    1. Not really. We mocked him here.

    2. Brennan.

    3. A few years ago a guy in North Carolina drove off the road into a hog waste reclamation pit and drowned in it.

      Other than that I’m not sure.

      1. The driver is proof that 3 generations of imbeciles was truly not enough.

    4. But Al Gore, Joe Biden, J. Danforth Quayle, Jimmy Carter, James Dobson, John Walsh, James Brady, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jackson Pollock, Arthur Schopenhauer, Jack Kerouac, and Michael Moore are just a few of the many, many people who are more full of shit than Oliver Wendell Holmes.

      1. dude don’t rag on nietzsche

        1. Nietzsche was a mental masturbator. Only Kant surpasses the vulgar loudness of Nietzsche’s childish mental navel-gazing.

  11. Contra O.W. Holmes, taxes are what we pay because we aren’t civilized. Civilized people (adults at least) would willingly pay for the goods and services they consumed. Barbarians, on the other hand, want you to pay and aren’t beyond using force to make it so.

    1. When OWH said this, taxes were very low, and America was more civilized. Except for the Jim Crow thing.

      1. Yeah, you eliminationist stooge, and high taxes got rid of Jim Crow.

        1. Yeah, and the second we lower taxes to say …10%, most of the NBA and NFL will be hauled away in chains, as their reappointed white masters whip them along hallowed trail so they can work in the otherworldly horror mines of the Koch brothers.

          Speaking of the Kochs, my 60+ year-old father started spouting some conspiratorial gibberish about them the other day (not that I give two fucks about some billionaires who probably created more jobs than B.O. the pres can physically lie about creating). That’s when I knew Rachel Maddow must be stopped…or at least ignored en masse.

  12. It is shocking – truly shocking, these cheap wines will ruin my high brow Marxist lifestyle. How am I supposed to sip my expensive wines discussing the wonders of Swedish social democracy or the courage of Hugo Chavez, when any person can afford the same fancy wine I drink.

  13. From Wikipedia (“Messier 94″)

    M94 contains both an inner ring with a diameter of 70″ and an outer ring with a diameter of 600”. These rings appear to form at resonance locations within the disk of the galaxy. The inner ring is the site of strong star formation activity and is sometimes referred to as a starburst ring. This star formation is fueled by gas that is dynamically driven into the ring by the inner oval-shaped bar-like structure.[9]

    A 2009 study[10] conducted by an international team of astrophysicists revealed that the outer ring of M94 is not a closed stellar ring, as historically attributed in the literature, but a complex structure of spiral arms when viewed in mid-IR and UV. The study found that the outer disk of this galaxy is active. It contains approximately 23% of the galaxy’s total stellar mass and contributes about 10% of the galaxy’s new stars. In fact, the star formation rate of the outer disk is approximately two times greater than the inner disk because it is more efficient per unit of stellar mass.

    There are several possible external events that could have led to the origin of M94’s outer disk including the accretion of a satellite galaxy or the gravitational interaction with a nearby star system. However, further research found problems with each of these scenarios. Therefore, the report concludes that the inner disk of M94 (NGC4736) is an oval distortion which led to the creation of this galaxy’s peripheral disk.

  14. In this country, though, a large and growing population of tax avoiders is helping strangle its own governments.

    He says that like it’s a bad thing.

  15. Freedom and greed are essential market forces, but there has to be a limit. And in this gloriously free and consummately greedy nation, a reckoning is coming.

    It’s not greed when the government does it.

  16. a reckoning is coming.

    Bring it, tough guy.

    1. A reckoning is coming, Mr. MacandCheese, but it’s heading in the opposite direciton you think it is.

  17. Oliver Wendell Holmes was a fag.

  18. Foster Brooks’ liquor taxes financed the building, launch, and maintenance of the Hubble telescope.

    1. Without high taxes on the rich, the poorest 5% of the population would spontaneously combust. Also…the government secretly maintains a temple of Set-Rau, channeling the ancient energies of the Magis Cowl to keep Cthulu and his hordes from entering our innocent realm. Without social security funding this impossibly expensive facility, our world would be overrun, and the dark god would bathe in a sea of puppy, kitten, and infant blood.

  19. According to Macdonald, the problem is not that selling wine on the Internet puts brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop shops out of business, enables teenagers to catch a buzz off the latest boutique Chardonnay,

    Wow, this is drug-war win today!

    Legalization is just around the corner– please ignore the societal indignation over teenagers who might be ordering discount wine.

  20. You have to keep in mind that he works for the CBC, which is a Crown Corporation. So he is basically a government employee, with 2/3 of the CBC’s money coming from taxes.

    They are always screaming for more money to produce programming by and for the greater Toronto area. So his basic mindset is that more taxes means more money for him and his network.

  21. This is what happens when you major in communications.

    Parents! Don’t let you children major in communications! For the love of God, don’t!

  22. “taxes buy civilization”

    Funny, I thought taxes BOMBED and DRONED civilizations…

  23. A lust for power and greed are essential government forces, but there has to be a limit. And in this gloriously power hungry and consummately greedy nation, a reckoning is coming.


  24. You can think generally we should have lower tax rates and also think it’s important to have consistent tax rates. Not taxing a product when it’s bought online, when you do tax it if it’s not, distorts markets and is unfair to the people who aren’t selling that product online.

    1. Nonsense! Sales taxes fund local government. The brick and mortar business pays taxes to fund the locality in which it is located & online businesses pay taxes to fund the locality in which they are based. Regardless many (if not all) states that levy sales taxes also levy taxes on items purchased out of state, they just have no ability to strong-arm out of state merchants into collecting it for them. That residents of one state are not paying taxes on online purchases is a matter between those residents and their state government, not the merchants of other states.

  25. Of course, what MacDonald is missing (among other things) is that the shipping was not actually free; rather it’s included in the price he paid for the wine. In most cases shipping costs roughly the same as sales tax would so it’s a wash.

    Of course, that does suck for online stores that are affiliated with brick and mortar establishments, as they have to both ship and charge sales tax.

    1. Of course, that does suck for online stores that are affiliated with brick and mortar establishments, as they have to both ship and charge sales tax.

      That is why chumps buy from Guitar Center instead of their online parent corporation, Musicians’ Friend. When you are buying guitars in the $1000 range, no sales tax can easily save you a cool Benjamin.

  26. The “famed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes” had no issue with mandatory sterlization, so I’m not going to look to him to tell me anything at all about civilization.


    1. You know, zee velfare state vould actually be affordable if it sterilized zee freeloaders.

  27. You know, zee velfare state might actually be sustainable if vee sterilzed zee freeloaders.

  28. Stop spoofing my villains!

  29. Voluntary trade created civilization, coercion created wars.

    It’s the CBC, newspeak is the norm over there.

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