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For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization Paperback – September 17, 2001
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
A fascinating…history of tax policy from Babylon to Bibi Anderson. (Kirkus Reviews)
This important, timely guide is highly recommended. (Library Journal)
For Good and Evil is, by any measure, a classic. It should be mandatory reading for every politician, economist, historian, and serious adult in the country. (Compass Magazine)
An acidly witty guide. (The Wall Street Journal)
About the Author
Charles Adams has degrees from Whittier College and UCLA, and is a certified specialist in taxation law. Other books of his include Those Dirty Rotten Taxes : The Tax Revolts that Built America. Adams lives in Buffalo, NY and winters in Phoenix, AZ.
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Here enters Charles Adams.
Our government in Chile decided to modify the tax structure of the country making it more heavy to us, the taxpayers. But not only that, it did it more complex, more hard to grasp and convoluted. This reformation in Chile is so big and twisted --and absurd--, that is more like a nonsense, a bad joke. And every single step of the discussion and the debate, every sympton of this social evil (when it is out of control), appears in "For Good and Evil." As long as we read the book we realize (we Chileans) that we haven't left any single sin untouched. With this reformarion, we, as a society, are guilty of every tax crime we have perpetrated.
I mean, against ourselves.
Charles Adams has written not only a highly informative book, full of insight and discussion, but also a beautiful one. He's a good writer, a very good one indeed. That's why the four hundred and eigty pages are not noticed. Sumer, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, the Middle Ages, the Russians, up to the present, go before us telling the story of the world from the tax perspective. And believe it or not, it works.
Which means: What the author tells us is happening today as it did yesterday and it will continue as long as we live on Earth.
Troughout the ages, taxes have had several branches: the collection, the collector or taxman, the tax payer, and the control system. Our Internal Revenue Service today, which is an extension ot the oldest control systems dating back to the time of the pharaohs, is more a police system than a service. It knows everything about us. It is today as it was in Ancient Egypt or Russia. What they do to us it's happening just in front of our very eyes, and we don't notice it. We breath it without knowing that is not fresh air at all, without taking into account that it isn't based on a very solid floor: that of the morality. Yes, virtue is one thing. Discution and fixation of taxes quite another.
To make this book works as an explanation of the rise and fall of almost every empire or democracy, or their crisis and periodic hard times, Adams found in taxes the bridge that links the power of the State with the individual. Taxes are the synapses between power and individual: too much or too little of a given neurotransmitter, we feel the effects. That is the reason why taxes should be under control, that's why we need to separate the power of spent from the power of tax, that's why not to control the intrusion (as it should be) of the State in our affairs is so serious.
We made it work this way, now we have to fix it.
I don't know what will happen in the U.S., but in my country the tax system is getting bigger and bigger, from the collection of taxes up to the very control of our lives. Nobody sees, I mean, the common guy like me, that this curious monster is not going to change. Take this into account: our IRS in Chile is the most modern and advanced public "service" we have had ever. Nothing compares. It crosses and observes everything.
Adams has given us this book as a concession to the good criteria and to the moderation that Montaigne told us about in his Essays, and that have to govern our acts. He tells the history and the story, but not only that. He gives us the solutions and the alternatives we have at hand. So this book is not only about the problem, is about the way to solve it. And the way to do it passes just through our dignity as citizens. It's not a choice we have, is a mandate: we have to do something --as history teaches that people did when their rights were overruled-- when taxes give way to robbery.
My underlines are hundreds. Here is my favorite and with it I put an end to my review: "Freedom from oppresive taxation caused the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and revolts and rebellions throughout history too numerous to mention. The War of the Rebellion, as it was officially called, has at its core what has been at the core of most rebellions from our earliest historical records, taxes."
Everyone wants to "soak the rich" or "feed the poor." These are emotional sentiments and they have no place in the tax code, yet they are everywhere. Taxes need to be like rights. They are color blind and w/o favor one way or the other. Everyone should pay the same rate. I don't care what the number is... but it should be the same for every person. Traditionally our government spending has been at about 18-20% of GDP. (excluding for a moment our current quandary.) So I think ever person should pay 19%. Fixed. Constitutionally never to change. Just like "religion" should not be in politics, morals and vote buying should not be in the tax code.
But what about emergencies? Well just like in your own home, if you have an emergency you deal with it. You borrow or you cut someplace else. And borrowing is just another way of saying "paying the tax later" so that means making cuts someplace, sometime else.
Based on the information in this book (which I found very well done and extensive) I believe taxes need to be flat and w/o any regard to race, gender, occupation, or how much a person earns. Just one number and everyone pays the same. (Note, this is my opinion based on the information in the book. I don't recall the author making any suggestions as to the tax code.)
You may come up with another idea, but the book provides plenty of examples of what doesn't work (and why.) I can only hope people learn from it and we can get a just tax someday.
It's all about other countries but Brazil, but the stories are really similar. It's so sad to notice how deceived that we are by our governments. During my reading I got really upset to notice that most of the time the history is twisted to be adapted to the interest of taxation.
I trully recommend this book to every student, lawyer and people that are interested in tax history.
If I had read this book before, probably I wouldn't have many difficulties to understand why people are so plundered by taxation and simply don't do so much to revert this situation.
Here in Brazil the taxation is an absurd. We fell robbed! But we are not doing our part on that matter: we keep paying and buing stuff with indirect taxation.
Well, don't miss that book. It's really provocative and thrilling. You wont't let the book until you finish the last line.