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You're Going to Be the One Doing it Anyway

When I was a kid, my parents would tell me to do something reasonable like clean my room. I'd probably do it, or at least make a token effort. Sometimes I wouldn't do it, and my mom would do it for me. Or maybe I'd be out at school and she'd be sick of me having a messy room, so she'd just clean it without asking me to do it first. In school I'd be assigned stuff to do. Usually I'd do it, but when I didn't, there weren't really any consequences. I'd get worse grades, but the impact of one assignment on a grade always seemed so tiny, and I never really cared about grades beyond not getting in trouble with my parents.

I got used to the idea that if I was supposed to do something, but didn't do it, it didn't really matter. Maybe someone else would just do it for me, or maybe the problem would just go away. There are probably a million different reasons that people procrastinate, but this was probably the biggest one for me. It wasn't that I thought that I would prefer to do something later-- it's that I sort of subconsciously thought that if I didn't do it now, maybe I'd never have to do it.

In real life, though, this isn't how things work. If I don't do something right now that needs to get done, then I'm going to need to do it later.

I remember the first time I came face to face with this. Two thousand three was the first year I made a significant amount of money gambling online. I think it may have also been the first year my parents stopped filing taxes for me. They told me to take care of my taxes and even told me how to take care of them. April fifteenth came around, and I kept thinking about how I should realy get to those taxes, knowing I wasn't actually going to do them. On the sixteenth, taxes felt just like a missed assignment. Too late to do anything about it now!

In Taiwan, Every Receipt Is A Lottery Ticket


One of the more important challenges for running a successful modern nation-state is figuring out an answer to the question of tax coverage.

The vast majority of people believe in at least some taxes, and practical statesmanship sees that outside of a few rare cases (a state controlling natural resources), you need to have decent tax coverage to fund your treasury and run your administrative programs.

Again, this question is totally orthogonal to what should be taxed and what tax rates should be. Regardless of where you stand in political opinion and practical evaluation on those questions, if a country has poor coverage, they stand to get in lots of trouble. My personal opinion from the history books is that a main contributing reason to the German Empire losing World War I is having poorer tax coverage than the Allies.

Taiwan, and indeed, much of Asia had and has poor tax coverage. Again, it's not about the rates -- it's about getting people to pay the rates. In a country where there's many more small vendors and independent shops, it's easy for people to artificially decrease their revenues.

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