Today (Tuesday, June 2nd), I had a conversation with a former high profile economist in Israel. The conversation touched on many subjects, one of which was tax evasion. To most people, not paying one’s full taxes does not seem like a big deal. But in fact, it points to a very deep flaw in our society: lack of concern for others. Because even if the government does not use the taxes it collects the way I think it should, it still spends it according to what it sees as the best policy for the public. If I don’t participate in funding the contribution to the public, I exclude myself from the public.
I once went with my late teacher, RABASH, to a doctor. It was a private appointment, which his health insurance did not cover, so at the end of the appointment I paid the doctor. When he sat down to write a receipt, I casually told him I did not need one. He looked at me very seriously and said, “Whether you need it or not, I need to write it,” because that way it is reported to the government and he pays his taxes for the fee I gave him. When we left his clinic, RABASH told me he was very impressed with the doctor’s approach.
That doctor, by his behavior, gave me an example of responsibility for the public. That is the kind of attitude we need to adopt toward the public today, and not only when it comes to taxes, but on any matter.
If we had regarded for the public, we would shame those who avoid paying their taxes. And because nothing is more important for a person than one’s self-esteem, the fear of the public’s contempt would keep people honest and would make policing redundant. Think how much federal or state governments would gain by this, how much they would save on policing, what they could do with the added money for the common good, or how much they could lower everyone else’s taxes if everyone paid their due amounts.
If we exercised socially responsible behavior, we would not suffer from half the problems that trouble us today. Road rage would be gone, crime would be radically reduced, mediation gaps would shrink to the minimum, consumer prices would drop, and everyone’s purchasing power would grow without earning another sent. Life could be so much better and easier if we would choose to shame those who behave irresponsibly toward the public, and praise those who behave responsibly.
Shaming is a terrible thing. But making a person ashamed of being bad toward the public is very, very good.