April 14, 2009
Taxes: Nature’s Way

From such higher life forms as vampire bats all the way down to human beings, taxes are a necessary way of life:

It’s also hard to cheat when you live in a small band of big-brained, sharp-eyed individuals, as humans did for vast stretches of our past, which may help explain why we are so easily taxed. “There’s not a human society in the world that doesn’t redistribute food to nonrelatives,” said Samuel Bowles, director of the behavioral sciences program at the Santa Fe Institute. “Whether it’s through the state, or the chief, or a rural collective, or some other mechanism, food sharing of large nutritional packages is quite extensive and has been going on for at least 100,000 years of human history.” In hunting and foraging cultures, the proportional tax rate is so high, said Dr. Bowles, that “even the Swedes would be impressed.”

Take the case of the Ache tribe of Paraguay. Hunters bring their bounty back to a common pot. “The majority of calories are redistributed,” he said. “It ends up being something like a 60 percent income tax.”

Pastoral and herding societies tend to be less egalitarian than foraging cultures, and yet, here, too, taxing is often used to help rectify extreme inequities. When a rich cattle farmer dies among the Tandroy of southern Madagascar, Dr. Bowles said, “The rich person’s stock is killed and eaten by everyone,” often down to the last head of cattle. “That’s a 100 percent inheritance tax.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at April 14, 2009 11:59 AM
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Nice Vallejo!

Posted by: Mahakal on April 14, 2009 8:06 PM
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