In yesterday’s post Can money buy happiness, people seemed to agree that money doesn’t buy happiness directly, but it can buy choices, security, freedom, etc., which can help happiness.

This question isn’t for the book, but for my own curiosity. I was talking with several people from European countries this February. We compared tax rates, and when you add in state, federal, FICA, and sales taxes, I pay as much of each dollar in taxes as they do.

Among the things they get: national health insurance (or in some countries, national health care directly), guaranteed mortgage payments on their home made if they’re past retirement age so they know they’ll have a place to live, six to eight weeks a year of vacation, nanny care for new mothers, etc.

We don’t spend our tax dollars that way. We spend roughly 20% on military, 20% on interest payments on our national debt (increasing at record rates, by the way), and 20% on Medicare. Everything else (education, social programs) all squeezes into the remaining 40%. (See here for reference.)

Once we’re done paying our taxes, if we want any of the freedoms and choices that some other countries have, we must pay for them ourselves with after-tax dollars. (Security’s a fine example. 20% of tax dollars go to physical/military security, but not other forms of security like housing, food, or education/prep-for-future.)

In America, we’ve very successfully adopted the knee-jerk idea that “taxes are bad” so we never look at the other side of the equation: what our tax dollars actually provide.

So here’s the question: if we had social programs provided by or supervised by the government that provided things that gave you more time, choices, or freedoms, would you be willing to pay more in taxes? If so, which choices or freedoms would you want provided? If not, why not–are the choices/freedoms not important to you, are you already happy, etc.?

Can taxes buy happiness?

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