We Are All Waiters Now
Thomas Geoghegan is one of my absolute most favorite writers in America and his latest is a must-read. A sample:
But what the Democrats don’t have is a serious commitment—the political nerve—to make people happier in the only way they can: by raising people’s taxes. How happy more of us would be if only we could pay higher taxes! More of us at last could joyfully retire.
It’s not Bush’s fault. It’s the Democrats’. They fail to grasp that in a rich country, if we spend them on ourselves, taxes make us happier. That’s the point of a new book, Happiness, by a British economist Richard Layard. You can find much of the same thing in John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society. Consumers can’t buy happiness—only taxpayers can.
Our New Democrats? They don’t get it. Kerry or Gore or Clinton will propose a tax increase, but only to be “responsible.” It’s a Boston Puritan kind of thing, like castor oil. We do it for the sake of rectitude. We do it because policy wonks at Harvard and Yale think we’ll be the better for it. God forbid it give us any pleasure. No wonder we keep losing: If we have to raise taxes, why make it so joyless?
We propose to rob Peter, in the top 1 percent, without ever getting any fun out of paying Paul. I say: Let’s give it to Paul, just to give him joy. Here’s how we have to sell a tax increase: Not to be fiscally responsible, but to be a little happier. Be like the Europeans. Have a little fun.