Local View: Follow progressives; regressive taxation has never worked
Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, was a Macedonian, and the Greeks despised him because of it. He was the first economist and favored a progressive tax system. He was also the first economist to write about the oil industry. He invented the word economics-Oikovoquika. The father of economics tells the story of the invention of commodities futures contracts and the first time the oil market was cornered.
The pre-Socratic philosopher Thales, one of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece, after getting a tip from an insider, knew that an oil shortage was shortly in the offing, so he bought all the future output of the olive oil trees in the city of Miles. When the season turned and the shortage of oil began, he cranked the price of olives through the roof. The public, however, wasn't at all angry that Thales was skinning them for the oil they desperately needed to eat and keep their lamplights on. Instead the people lauded him for his genius in making such a pile of money.
So Thales scolded them. "You despised me when I was a poor philosopher trying to give you invaluable wisdom for nothing, and now you're praising me for destroying the economy. You think that a good economy is one in which smart people with inside information make money off of money and get richer beyond their ability to even spend it. But making money from money is against nature," Thales said. "A successful economy is one in which money and the exchange of production results in a good life for all."
Today, we have good progressive Democrats like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, our new philosophers of "truth to power," who demand a return to progressive taxation and the repudiation of the failed neoliberal economic scam of supply-side tax cuts for the rich. Never in the thousands of years of economic history — from Sumerian Gilgamesh between 2800 and 2500 B.C. to the present — have economies been successful that pursued regressive taxation.
Now, even more neoliberal policies are being promoted worldwide as a cure, with rampant quantitative easing of dollar credit and debt creation and peonage and austerity measures forced upon the populations at the behest of the financial oligarchs and the 1 percent. No sovereign nation or individual should be obliged to be dependent on the U.S. by the World Bank, IMF, and Wall Street to pay debts that cannot be paid in the normal course of business. The bunkum of economic theory and its policy advocacy has become much like a novel, with the author hoping that the reader can suspend disbelief long enough to follow the fictitious financial world being forced on us.
The progressive public interest must focus on equitable taxation like taxing land rents, natural resource rents, and monopoly privilege, including extractive financial privileges, by keeping rent-yielding assets and activities in the public domain. The political problem of having untaxed economic rent — "free income" — is that government must make up the fiscal shortfall by increasing income, sales, and excise taxes.
We must join Ocasio-Cortez and the new blue wave of progressive Democrats in standing up and telling the truth, demanding a rejection of the fraud of neoliberal economics and demand, like Thales who established the phrase "know thyself," a progressive proportional tax structure and an exchange of production that results in the good life for all.
As the French poet Charles Baudelaire said, "The devil wins at the point where the world thinks he doesn't exist."
There is none so blind as he who will not see.
Tim Duff is a writer who lives in Ely and Tonka Bay, Minn. His debut novel, "The Find," is a family saga set on the Iron Range.