April 15th — the dreaded, oft-assailed Tax Day — came and went with little more than a whimper from most folks. Our attention these days has been focused on more urgent matters: war in Iraq, homeland security and a slow economy.
On the whole, filing taxes last week was simply a tedious chore — not life and death — unlike so many of the issues before us.
But still we complain, and of course decrying what we must render to the government is nothing new.
From the fifth century, we have the Christian priest Salvianus writing about taxation: “But what else can these wretched people wish for, they who suffer the incessant and even continuous destruction of public tax levies.”
Salvianus also had a few words about the disparity he saw in how the tax burden is shared: “Taxation is made more shameful and burdensome because all do not bear the burden of all. They extort tribute from the poor man for the taxes of the rich, and the weaker carry the load for the stronger.”
That’s but one perspective. What is important for the 21st century? What can we learn from the fifth century?
History provides valuable insights into the problems that remain with us today. It helps frame situations into reasonable contexts. It helps us make sense of the madness that swirls around us.
And whether it is the madness of the daily drive to work or the consternation of writing a check to the government, nothing is so new that we haven’t seen it in our collective human experience.
The answers to our questions are out there. We just have to know where to look.