Monday, November 15, 2010

There is a price for every delusion.

Image via Google Books
I read this quote in the preface to Cornel West's humane and insightful Race Matters, but Baldwin's words have import beyond the consideration of race relations. One of the greatest, it seems to me, failings of our society is that people want things, but don't want to pay for them: they want a civil society, with roads, schools, bridges, sewers, a justice system, safe food, clean water and air (and on, and on) -- but don't think they should be a whit of taxes. So we mortgage our future. Our children and grandchildren will work to pay back the Chinese for our refusal to pay for our quality of life today.

When the wealthiest one percent hold a quarter or more of all our nation's wealth, to imagine we can afford to extend tax breaks on that wealth indefinitely is a delusion. One for which our children will receive the bill. If you think taxation is a moral wrong, well, we're not going to agree on much of anything. We may agree that our government spends too much and that spending needs to be reined in; although, I suspect if you also think a progressive tax rate is socialism or fascism, we're going to disagree on what the top priorities of our spending should be on.

There's also the matter of religious delusions. Our kids pay the price for those as well. Whether it's hampering the progress of stem cell research because of a religious perspective on the rights of a blastocyst and the related dilemma of how many Christian souls can fit in a Petri dish, or the damage wrought on our educational, legal, and political processes by religionists, future generations will have to pay that price as well.
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