If people didn’t hate taxes so much, Listokin said, “We could disagree about where the balance [between spending and taxation] should be drawn, but it would be a disagreement of degree and not of kind. It would no longer just be...‘taxes are bad’ or ‘taxes are good,’ or ‘spending is bad, spending is good.’”
Instead, we would recognize taxes for what they are: the price of admission to civilization. Speaking by phone recently, Zelenak recalled an episode of a late-1940s radio sitcom called “Life with Luigi,” in which a recent immigrant from Italy living in Chicago encounters all sorts of problems while trying to file his tax return. At the end, Zelenak said, Luigi writes a letter home to his mother, and tells her, proudly, that of all the millions the American government had collected that year, he had contributed a full dollar and 56 cents.
“I get goose bumps whenever I listen to that,” said Zelenak. “I think it would be great if more people felt that way.”
Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. E-mail email@example.com.