Well, it’s from the NYT, so colour this pachyderm unsurprised. According to the New York Times, paying taxes is pleasurable – and there’s some real live studies to back it up!
Upon closer examination, the study in question really had nothing to do with paying taxes: it has to do with charity. Scientists studied the brains of college women as they gave money to charities. The women started off with $100 and could choose to donate any amount to the charity of their choice. To eliminate the effects of social approval, the researchers would not find out how much money was given, nor the organisation to which it was given. They found that pleasure centers of the brain were activated when the participants donated money to the charities of their choice, despite the fact that the students reap no social rewards from the transaction.
Sounds like taxes are fun, right? Well, this little snippet tells a different story: “But these pleasure centers were also activated, albeit not as much, when she was forced to pay a tax to the food bank.”
Our taxation system does not work by requiring people to give 4.6% of their paychecks to the military, 3% to highway construction, and 8.5% to
welfare government-imposed charity. Rather, the government decides how much to tax people and the proper way to spend it, with no itemisation given to the populace. There is an unsubstantiated leap from findings that people enjoy giving to charity (and, to a lesser extent, receive enjoyment from having their money commandeered for charity) to the theory that people enjoy paying taxes. As Tammi pointed out, the college students are also disposing of money given to them: they did not have to earn it.
As for the idea of rational self-interest (i.e. good hormones) that arise from paying taxes: one need only look at Massachusetts to understand the absurdity of that claim. In 2001, Massachusetts lowered its personal income tax rate to 5.3%. The commonwealth allows guilty souls to voluntarily pay the old 5.85% tax rate. In 2003, only 0.046% of MA taxpayers opted to pay the higher rate.
We don’t like paying taxes. We do like giving to charity, as we are able to determine the most worthy of causes and the most efficient way to serve those causes. When pressed, we’ll happily dispose of our money ourselves.