by Simon Black
In 1927, US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote that “taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”
This quote is enshrined at the Internal Revenue Service, and it’s a rallying cry for people who constantly argue for higher taxes.
Almost everyone completely misunderstands what he meant.
First of all, tax rates in the United States were about 3.5% back in 1927, just a tiny fraction of what they are today.
And Justice Holmes actually wrote that famous statement as part of a larger argument that taxes can sometimes penalize and discourage productive activity.