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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We should have taxes because governments cannot exist without them. Without government, we would be missing most—if not all—of what makes for a civilized life, perhaps even have complete anarchy. Most of us do not want to live in a world without schools, police officers, firefighters, military, highways, streetlights, road signs, or court system.  Taxes pay for all of those services. I understand there are people who want a smaller government, but without taxes, there is no government at all. It takes money to pay people to perform all of these functions, and it takes money to purchase the land and equipment needed to carry out all of these functions. Even if we were to strip away various programs such as Medicare or Social Security, even if we were to help no one with cash assistance, we would all still need to pay taxes in order to have a government.

Taxes also are a means of instituting government policies. What gets taxed or what gets a tax break has a profound effect upon people's choices as individuals and as businesses. Choices and behaviors we seek to eliminate can be taxed at a higher rate than choices and behaviors we wish to encourage. Cigarettes and alcohol are taxed excessively for that purpose. In the United States, capital gains are taxed at a lower rate to encourage people to invest their money in the stock market. Taxing also can accomplish a redistribution of income, such that those who have the most must help those who have the least through the payment of taxes. Thus, we also use taxation as a means of implementing economic and social policy.