'Need' defined

The  ‘need’ word has infected political rhetoric. President Obama recently suggested that we should eliminate certain tax loopholes because some taxpayers are doing just fine and they don’t need tax relief, i.e. the money.  More troubling, he didn’t argue that the government had new and pressing obligations, requiring increased revenues, nor did he argue that the government’s need for the money was relatively greater than that of the taxpayers. He made the social justice argument. You should be allowed to keep the wealth that you need.

The government identifies monetary need in a curious fashion. Current spending (consumption) is generally regarded as meeting some need; deferred spending, such as savings and investment is not.  In fact, it is a marginally suspect activity.

So, to summarize; if taxpayers save or invest, rather than spend their money, it is evidence that the taxpayer doesn’t need (or never needed) the money. Ironically once the government acquires the money, spending is often characterized as investment . Apparently ‘government investments’  do pass the needs test.

The ‘need’ word has surfaced in other contexts. Gun owners are reminded that that no one needs a high capacity magazine. That may be news to the guy with a bear wandering about his campsite or to a woman dealing with a dangerous stalker. We are told the everyone needs health insurance, even those who are financially capable or those who are satisfied with the limited or carefully tailored coverage they already have.

Government ambition is pervasive. Increasingly, citizens are  required to pass some arbitrary needs test in order to exercise their first and second amendment  rights or to maintain their economic autonomy.

It is important to note that the loopholes that the president finds so distressing are very often the end products of previous government efforts to influence the behavior of the citizens. Now that he wants to influence them to behave differently, he employs political language creatively. He doesn’t argue  against individual rights or advocate for an expansion of governmental power.  The president simply dismisses those concerns as unimportant, superseded by social justice considerations, rather than the limits of the law.

The constitution guarantees the rights of the citizens.  The government, on the other hand, has no natural rights, only constitutionally-imposed duties.

If the president wants to argue that he needs additional revenue to meet the constitutional obligations of government, he should do so. We are free to amend the constitution and to  have our  Congress change the laws. But no president should promote  expansions of  limited  government authority in the name of need. The government is entitled to lawfully extract by taxation the monies necessary to meet their constitutional responsibilities. A taxpayer’s need (or lack thereof) for his own money isn’t a relevant consideration, nor a legitimate concern of  the  government.


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