What is the best way to tax people?

Australian Coat of Arms (adopted 1912)

Image via Wikipedia

What is the best way to tax people? Countries around the world use different approaches. Which do you think is best? Or should their be no taxes at all? What does it mean for everyone to pay their fair share?

Australian has this cultural idiosyncrasy that suggests “you get what you pay for” or more simply “if you want it, you pay for it”. If you take this idea to taxation, I propose this — everyone pays a flat tax of 15% of their wages and another 10% on any item or service they purchase or use…except for a list of basic foodstuffs and essential services.

The problem is who collects the taxes, how are they divided and who gets the money. Right now, every level of government puts their hands into your wallet and takes a piece. If we were to implement a more standardised approach to taxation it would have to be collected and administered Federally but divided by State and County (not by city).

It’s not glamorous and I’m sure there are loads of problems and pitfalls but I think we need to start looking at how we are governed and how our money is being spent by those we elect. That’s the message I take away from the Occupy movement.

Who do you know that deseves a peace prize?

The 2011 Nobel peace prize was recently awarded to Tawakkul Karman, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, all leaders in their respective countries for promoting civil rights.

For today’s topic, consider a local peace prize for your workplace, town or your community. Who in your daily world deserves to be recognized for promoting peace and good will? If you can’t think of someone you know today, was there someone from your past who comes to mind?

As I started to think about today’s question, my first thought was that peace is unachievable…we nasty little human beings get in the way! But as I sat starting at the blank page, I began thinking about my religious studies, specifically Buddhism.

In Buddhism, peace, love, compassion and wisdom all start with the self. If we could just bring some of these things into our daily lives, and consider them when we interact with our “community” then true peace is obtainable. It all starts with you and me!

Today I did something I’ve never done before…I paid it forward. The young man in front of me at the lunch line only wanted to buy a packet of chips. He didn’t have enough cash and wanted to use his debit card, but since the transaction was less than $5 the clerk was going to charge him a 25c fee. The chips were only a buck twenty five and I had the cash, so I offered to pay for him. He was humble and gracious in accepting my offer and suggested that he too would “pay it forward” at the next opportunity. He said he worked at a local coffee shop and it would be easy to find someone he could help.

It wasn’t until now (that I’m thinking and writing about peace & Buddhist ideals) that it occurred to me that I did something wonderful for no other reason than it made me happy and it made the people around me happy. That happy feeling spread from me, to the man, to the clerk and to the other people in line. For the small price of $1.25 I helped my “community”.

What’s more important: electricity or the internet?

With the passing of Steve Jobs yesterday, the web is filled with remembrances of a pioneer and industry legend. It’s a sad day indeed. But it’s also a good day to look back and consider the history of innovation. And how all the inventions and creations of the last 100 years have impacted us. How would you compare the importance of electricity with the invention of the internet? or the cell phone? Can this kind of comparison be made? If you had to lose one of these inventions, which would you keep? And why?

The greatest thing about human beings (besides opposable thumbs) is out ability to think, be creative, solve problems and invent things.

Last year I wrote a paper about how the internet has impacted out ability to form social connections. I did not attempt to draw a positive or negative conclusion, I simply wanted to explore the notion that the internet has not impacted out social world, that it simply changed the dynamic.

Consider this question: how life changing was electricity in it’s first decade or two? I don’t think we’ll see the full impact of the internet for another generation. History is never written in the present. Our internet is a toddler, still trying to get a handle on walking. It’s not until age 5 that children really start looking around their world and ask the question Why? I believe my child will be part of the generation that asks Why and What-for? They will never know a world without the internet, without border-less communication, without a connected world.

Vintage cars

Image by macieklew via Flickr

I think a more interesting comparison could be drawn between the invention of the combustion engine (and the motorized vehicle) and the internet. Both have connected us with parts of the world that we might not have otherwise seen or known about. The have both expanded our horizons and I simply could not imagine life without either of them. Both of these inventions have provided a sense of freedom (something with goes back to yesterday’s topic) in the way we interact and move around within our world. What does that mean for those that lack either one or both of these items? I’m not sure I can answer that. Time will surely tell…

What is freedom?

What is freedom? When do you feel most free in your job? In your day? Least free? When is it better to not be free?

I can’t imagine what it means to be free. I don’t feel like I’m ever free from the responsibilities and constraints of life.

The only time I can think of when I’m released from “life” is when I’m lying back completely immersed in the bath. I can’t hear the outside world. I can only hear my breathing and the sound of my heart beating. Floating free! It’s even better if it’s almost dark. Removing as much outside sensation as possible — that’s freedom.

Maybe I should buy a sensory deprivation tank?

the Truth according to william shattner

Except from Up Til Now by William Shattner with David Fisher:

Later that night, as I lay in my warm sleeping bag, it suddenly occured to me why I was in that valley. It is a truthe that has never left me. I was there to understand that I didn’t ahve to be sitting outside in the freezing cold night at a monastery in the Himalayas beneath Mt. Everest to recognize and appreciate the wonderment that exists in every object. It’s with me all the time, wherever I am — even on the San Diego Freeway. It’s in out skin, it’s in our finger, it’s in every things. All you have to do is pause and contemplate that thing, whatever it is, and allow yourself to be astounded at its existance, and you are on the verge of the Zen feeling of being at one with the universe.

I read this today at lunch, while enjoying my $3.29 subway sandwich, and was struck by the “exactness” of it. It was a “YES…THAT’S IT!!” moment.

I love those moments.  I love having them while reading. It’s one of the sublime joys of reading.

Other than that, Shattner describes a feeling I want to have; or maybe I have had; I don’t know. That’s Zen for you!