Stockholm Syndrome With Government?

Over in a comment at Catallarchy, I came across this from Constant:

To give an example, I am not personally bothered by taxation. I don’t get an adrenaline rush (in a bad way) from taxation, but I do get a bad adrenaline rush from being mugged. My feelings about taxation that I feel each year as April rolls around are about the same as my feelings about paying rent. It’s something I have to do. There’s little point in having strong feelings about something so regular and so inevitable and so I don’t. But my conclusions about taxation are that it is theft. Similarly, if I were taken hostage, I would likely develop Stockholm Syndrome. Feeling warm fuzzy feelings about someone who can and is likely to kill you is a defense mechanism that probably pays off in increasing your chances of survival, by getting him to warm up to you in response. Among most people there is something much like Stockholm Syndrome with respect to the state. People have accepted and even have warm fuzzy feelings about the government, for no other real reason than that the government has got them in its immense power.

Could this explain why so many people, even though they’re regularly faced with evidence that government is full of liars, cheats, and thugs, and can’t do anything right– still think government is good? They’ve been under the boot so long that they’ve grown to feel that there must be a boot on their neck, and they’ll just hope that the wearer doesn’t start adding weight?

  • MichaelW

    The comments I hear most often, as to why someone does not get terribly exercised about taxes, is thus: “Look at all that I get for my taxes! I have paved roads, street lights, fire and police service, etc., etc.”

    My counter-argument, of course, is “how much do you really think all of that should cost you, and, more importantly, do you have any clue as to how much you really pay in taxes?”

    Invariably, those quizzed have little comprehension of what they are taxed beyond their tax bracket. They always fail to include things like sales tax, property taxes, phone and cable surcharges, tolls, etc. And almost nobody counts things like the additional FICA payments “contributed” on one’s behalf by one’s employer. Even when faced with hard evidence, people still deny that consumers pay corporate taxes as opposed to the corporations themselves.

    The genius of the tax system is that it is spread out over so many things, with the one big tax being on income, and thus the only tax that it is ever focused upon for any change. Heck, we were still being charged a tax for the Spanish-American War until last year.

    In short, while the commenter’s insight is lamentable, it’s not really surprising considering how hidden taxes are.

  • Adam Selene

    It’s actually more insidious than just accepting government because of its immense power. We have gone from being a people that feared and detested government, that moved West to escape government, to being a people that want the seduction of government largesse. We say government is full of whores, yet we are the whores ourselves. We take things like a neato light rail system or medicare benefits as the price for being bent over and screwed by the government.

  • Rick Wolff

    I must confess, every April 15 (and every time I see the word FICA on my pay stub), I think of the challenge by Bob Schultz and his crew to hold off my taxes until Congress points to the exact statute that requires my compliance. For all I know, it may actually exist. But whether it does or not, I pay, because I’m afraid of what happens when I don’t. As I lick the government stamp and slip my government document into the government mailbox, I recall fondly the days when government feared the people.