Taking it to the limit

Here and abroad, governments frighteningly test what citizens can stand

A robber steals your money. A government taxes it.

The effect is the same. It’s gone.

Of course, in the case of taxation, you hope something good comes of it. Taxing is a necessary evil that produces communal good – roads, sewers, the protection of police and courts, and more.

In addition, taxation is a societal contract: In most cases, you are agreeing to it.

But there are limits to everything, and when you reach the limits of taxation, society’s contract frays.

Eurozone leaders, for example, recently decided to bail out Cyprus in part by requiring the island nation to tax bank accounts there up to 9.9 percent.

A man walks into a bank and pulls out a gun and demands money. Another man walks into a bank and pulls out a government order to hand over money. The effect is the same.

Well, except for the amount of fear they instill. In the case of the robber, employees and visitors in that bank are temporarily frightened. In the case of government taxation of bank accounts, the entirety of Cyprus is rightly afraid, and a tidal wave of fear is possible across various nations in the eurozone.

If their leaders can confiscate bank customers’ money in Cyprus, where can’t they take it?

It also makes you wonder if such government-approved larceny could spread beyond Europe.

Conservatives here, for instance, worry that a voracious government might, like the eurozone, eye the easy money in our 401(k) retirement funds. Sounds maybe a little paranoid – but ask the folks in Cyprus if it is.

“Many in Washington,” Investors Business Daily wrote in November, “see our investment accounts not as the expressions of well-planned, disciplined decisions but as untapped reservoirs of wealth they can drain to fix the problems that they caused.”

A starving animal will look for food anywhere.

Hopefully, even America’s far-left has its limits. Even rabid liberal commentator Bill Maher – who once wrote that “The next rich person who publicly complains about being vilified by the Obama administration (should) be publicly vilified by the Obama administration” – may have seen the light. Complaining about taxes on the wealthy, particularly in California, Maher recently changed his tune:

“You know what? Rich people ... actually do pay the freight in this country. ... I just saw these statistics. I mean, (top earners pay) something like 70 percent (of federal income taxes). And here in California, I just want to say liberals – you could actually lose me. It’s outrageous what we’re paying – over 50 percent. I’m willing to pay my share, but yeah, it’s ridiculous.”

Well, one supposes it depends on whose Oxnard is being gored. Little by little, even liberals in California are waking up to the audacity of government confiscation of wealth.

We hope that awakening isn’t coming so late that Washington or other liberal strongholds will have already hatched plans to seize more of our money. They’ve already pilfered our Social Security savings.

We also hope the people of Cyprus make themselves a human firewall against the spread of naked confiscation of families’ savings – in time to protect the crackling dry and tender financial reeds on the continent.

Indeed, a run on banks forced Cyprus to close them at least until Thursday. Reuters also reported that analysts feared the attack on Cypriots’ savings “could spark contagion across peripheral regions with the potential for widespread outflows of deposits.

“‘If I were a saver, certainly in Spain or maybe Italy, I think I’d be looking askance at these measures and think this could yet happen to me,’” Reuters quoted one global economist as saying.

Have they just run up against the limit of what even civilized people will accept?

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