Why do we, and I in particular, blame the government for all the ills that beset our society? Are all of us not equally responsible?
I blame the government because it alone has a monopoly over the legal use of force. This force can be used for both good and evil. Authority goes hand in hand with responsibility. We, as individuals, enjoy no such powers and cannot be held responsible.
Let us see how the government uses this force. The foremost use of this power is to tax us. No one pays taxes voluntarily. If we donâ€™t pay our income tax, we will be fined, and even jailed. Continue resisting and we risk getting shot.
If we import, manufacture, or trade we have to pay customs, excise, and VAT. If we donâ€™t, consequences will be the same as for the non-payment of income tax. This power to forcible extract money from all of us by use of force, or the threat of its use, is an immense and unimaginable power. The government becomes a partner-in-profit with all of us.
Yes, you pay your taxes if you are a businessman, but even if you are an ordinary citizen, you cannot escape the taxmen. Tax on your salary will be deducted at source and go straight to the government. And if your salary is below the taxable limit, you still have to pay. You pay each time you make a purchase.
Everyone pays. Even beggars. You pay when you buy kerosene to cook; you pay when you
use a bus service - the bus ticket factors in the import duty levied on the vehicle as well as the tariff on petrol. You pay when you buy clothes - VAT is chargeable on everything.
This partner - the government - does all its collections at no risk to itself. It does not share in your losses. And if you loose your job, just try and ask the tax department to return the taxes you had paid in the earlier years. You have a better chance of a trip to the Mars than getting anything back from the tax authorities.
With all these collections you would think that your government will have more than enough for all its needs. Unfortunately, the government never has enough. Therefore, in addition to its tax collections, governments will raise funds by taking on debt as well. The loans the government takes will have to be repaid, by taxes on us and on our children in future.
Even this is not enough. When the government has taxed us to the limit, raised all the debt it can, it just prints more notes. The more currency the government prints the lesser value it has. Inflation results. The effect is the same as if the government had reached directly into our wallets and bank accounts and snatched a portion of our wealth.
Let us see what the government does with the treasures that it grabs from us:-
It establishes itself as a monopoly provider of roads. Roads which get washed away with the first monsoon showers. Roads which are in such short supply that traffic jams became a norm.
It acquires a semi-monopoly on supply of electricity. At least the roads are â€˜freeâ€™ but for electricity we pay twice over - monopoly rates to the â€˜Nepal Electricity Authorityâ€™ and again by way of taxes to cover the losses of the â€˜Authorityâ€™.
A quasi-monopoly in telecom services, allows government to repeat with telephones what it does with electricity. It charges too much for too little services. Ever get â€˜network busyâ€™ message on your cell phone? It should read â€˜government busyâ€™. And so it goes on, government runs business after businesses - airlines, newspapers, cement factories, banks etc - with our money, losing vast amounts and producing shoddy goods and services.
Forget about running businesses, bandhs and extortions tell us that government has failed to do even its basic duty - providing us with a secure law and order environment. Corruption in government departments and severely delayed rulings by the courts highlight the massive failure of the government in providing us with justice.
Are we then wrong in blaming the government?
(The writer can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)