Taxing Families

Libertarians usually point to government as the source of high taxes.  But in many developing countries it’s the family that is most taxing.   In his amusing account of a "year in Casablanca," The Caliph’s House, Tahir Shah recounts what happens when his workers lost their homes and moved into his palatial estate.

I began to witness firsthand the ancient employment system of the East.  It’s sometimes known as "living off Abdul’s job."  As soon as someone gets work, everyone else gives up their jobs and leeches off the employed member of the family.  The longer you are employed, the more money you need, merely to support the hangers-on.  Anyone with a nice home and full-time job has a vast cast of characters living off them.

Before there were governments there were families that taxed (see Schoeck’s classic Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior for "taxation" in primitive societies).  Creating a market economy is about much more than eliminating regulation.

Addendum: Michael Greenspan has another nice illustration from Rhodesia.


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