Thursday, April 12, 2007

Non Sequitur City

Sub-headline from an article about a survey on taxes: "An MSN-Zogby poll says that many Americans think they’re paying too much in taxes even though research shows the average tax burden is light compared with other developed countries."

Interesting. I've also heard that for some reason, paraplegics would like to get the use of their limbs back, even though other people are totally paralyzed from the neck down. Oh, and people who have lost an eye would like to get their 3D vision back, despite the existence of blind people. What is wrong with these people?


Gil said...

It seems that some people think that the best way to appraise your situation is to compare it to others, rather than to use your own judgement about what makes sense.

For them, everything seems to be about envy and relative position, rather than the satisfaction of individual goals.

They don't expect people to be happy knowing that others are doing better, or to be sad knowing that others are doing worse.

Kevin B. O'Reilly said...

How is it a non sequitur? "Too much" is a relative judgment about a person's tax burden, and other developed countries' average tax burdens is one measure to look at to *compare* how much is too much. Perhaps it's a lousy measure, but it does not strike me as a non sequitur.

Re: Gil, whether they should or not people use comparisons all the time to judge things. It's not always in the direction of envy, however. It's not a matter of keeping up with the Joneses per se, but just as often, "Oh, man! The game looked great when I saw it on Jones' new HD TV. I'd like to have that experience in my home. I'm going to buy one too."

James said...


Comparisons are fine, but making the wrong comparison is not. Specifically, in deciding whether or not I like something, I compare it to the next best alternative. That means I compare my present tax burden to lower taxes and decreased government spending, not to the average tax rate elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I thought after Bush's tax cuts people would stop complaining about paying too much in taxes. I lie. I never thought that because I knew that the tax cuts were designed so he and his greedy friends could stuffed their alrealdy stuffed pockets before they left their earthly trough.

I'm also appalled by the mostly silent acquiescense on the part of economists who never uttered a word when Bush claimed the tax cuts were good for the economy. I suppose the war in Iraq is good for the economy as well. Yes, it's good for the economy of other Bush-Cheney associates, such as the multi-national corporations Blackwater, Halliburton, etc. It clearly stinks for the rest of us who also could have benefitted from those billions of dollars that were intentionally wasted in Iraq.

Kevin B. O'Reilly said...

James, comparing your present tax burden to an alternative tax burden under a hypothetical U.S. government with lower spending is one way to look at it. But why not compare your tax burden to other countries? You certainly could compare the U.S. with some lower tax countries, right? Why is that a non sequitur?

Anonymous said...

It really is a simple non sequitur. It is sort of like saying, "Many Americans would prefer higher incomes despite research showing that American incomes are higher than average."

By the way, all those news stories complaining about high gasoline prices? I bet most Americans would like to pay lower prices for gasoline, despite evidence that gasoline prices are low compared to other countries.