There are two distinct classes of men…those who pay taxes and those who receive and live upon taxes. — Thomas Paine
Living in a shamelessly socialist country I am occasionally surprised by the candor of members of the local tax consuming class even if they do fall far short of the truth of Thomas Paine’s remark above. Paine’s insight tends to erode willing participation by the mules pulling the gravy train. Never the less Costa Rican bureaucrats often let slip truths that would be hooted down if made in made by a U.S. counterpart.
Today the online English news website, A.M. Costa Rica ran an article about the new System de Tecnología de Informacíón para el Control Aduaneroa, (say that three times fast), the new import tax system. TICA for short. The acronym is also the local slang for a Costa Rican woman. Cute, eh?
The new system is a high tech effort to collect more taxes. There is great economic incentive to avoid Costa Rican import duties because they are amazingly high, as much as 100% on many items. The techno system is the latest escalation in the battle between smuggler and tax collector.
Much of the article reads like a press release from the Customs Bureau. It described a new Techno Bus now wandering the country to train customs agents in the latest tax collection techniques. What struck me, however, was the revelation that the bus is not only for training customs agents. (emphasis is mine)
“The bus also will be used to indoctrinate school children in the need to pay taxes. This is one of the big projects that the Ministerio de Hacienda plans for the next administration, to create a spirit of cooperation among young people so they will willingly pay taxes. The customs department is an agency of Hacienda. It seems the department is moving briskly into the new millennium with high tech tracking gear that will assure that nothing enters the country unmonitored or untaxed.”
They intend to train the sheep to step up proudly for shearing. The idea doesn’t bother anyone. That’s the kind of candor you will never hear from agents of stealth socialism in the States. The IRS, for instance, will never tell us that one of their big plans this year will be to brainwash our children into becoming obedient taxpayers. We will never hear that a program like DARE is an official effort to weaken family loyalty and create a generation of snitches in the hopeless but irresistibly lucrative drug war. At least we can admire the honesty of true socialists.
The Costa Ricans are a naturally peaceful people. I’ve heard reports of an almost crippling politeness. Ticos often making promises they know they will not keep to avoid hurt feelings. They take childhood indoctrination for granted. They don’t seem to mind. It doesn’t bother them that no item arriving in the country will escape a crushing import duty. Perhaps it’s because they have been so thoroughly indoctrinated themselves. Perhaps it is because they know that many items will arrive untaxed through informal channels.
Like the Costa Rican customs office, government institutions everywhere have an educational agenda. They are neither interested in nor systemically capable of teaching independent thinking. Here at least the socialist institutions are honest about their goals. Indoctrination, not education is the object. A country of obedient taxpayers is greatly to be preferred over a country of independent individualists.
My native country on the on the other hand has slipped into an unnamed, stealth socialism that is at odds with our traditions and what we believe to be our national character. Powerful tax consuming groups like teachers and other public employee unions have reaped huge benefits from a coercive system. What we’ve gotten in return is a poorly educated but thoroughly indoctrinated herd of taxpaying sheep.
Public education is the chief vehicle of indoctrination. Like all government undertakings, it is coercive from top to bottom. The law forces students to go to school. The law forces taxpayers to pay for it. Teachers and administrators are all paid with these taxes. Government employees decide every detail of the curriculum.
Children are institutionalized in public schools as early as age four. They spend more time in school than most convicted violent felons spend in prison. Many and particularly boys receive powerful psychoactive drugs to control their behavior. All begin each day by taking a government approved loyalty oath.
Such an environment will not produce adults with a healthy mistrust of official power. A curriculum produced and presented by government employees will never wander far from the smooth, straight path of naive trust and solemn reverence for authority. It will never wander far from indoctrination.
When students fail on test after test the call goes out for more money to better teach the basics. When will we recognize it as simply a call for more money? Greater government involvement in education will only intensify ignorance and strengthen trust in official authority. Programs like No Child Left Behind are quickly morphing into No Child Left UnPsychoanalyzed, No Child Left UnDrugged, and ultimately No Child Left to Think for Himself.
If we are going to train ourselves to be obedient taxpayers, the least we can do is be honest about it. Government bureaucrats can only indoctrinate, not educate.