This is about civilization and taxation and duty, but first a brief word about dog scrotum:
One of the most elegant vulgar jokes ever written goes as follows: Q: Why does a dog lick its balls?
A: Because it can.
Like much humor, it’s funny because it is unexpected but obvious truth. It subverts the complexity of veterinary physiology and cuts right to the explicit nub of it. And what’s not just funny but hilarious is the implicit logical extension. If you, fella, could do the same, you would, too. Because…duh.
Now let’s look at a slightly different question: Why do Americans pay their taxes? Here are some possible answers:
Pick one, or mix and match. The follow-up question is, why do Greeks, Russians, Serbs, Spaniards and Brazilians evade taxes on such a grand scale?
Are they inherently less aware of financing their governments? Are they without a sense of the social contract? Are they ignorant of the value exchange, what the government provides with their tax payments? Come on. You know the answer:
Because they can.
It’s not as if the civic duty to pay were some sort of tacit agreement, some unspoken compact. Apart from being the historical and immutable economic model for government, it is the law. But in those countries, the economies are so shadowy and the bureaucracies so helpless and the cultural of impunity so ingrained that tax evasion brings little risk of detection, much less jail. In direct proportion with laxity of enforcement around the world, civic duty goes begging.
Civilization is the subordination of personal interest to the interest of the community, and it works pretty well -- unless nobody’s looking. Then it tends to be every man for himself. Shorting the tax man is no different than flicking boogers on the carpet, speeding on the interstate or failing to sort your recyclables. Never mind the other folks, never mind the rules.
Now then: what if the economic model were based on a quid pro quo that wasn’t a law, wasn’t a rule, wasn’t a deal, wasn’t a contract -- legal or social? The model depended on a value exchange involving you personally, but you had never, ever been asked for your consent, let alone your signature on the dotted line.
I have just described the media economy.
It is a tax. For hundreds of years it depended on your attention, however grudging, in exchange for free and subsidized content. It was a fair tax. It was a good tax. It was an enormously lucrative tax for all four parties -- media, marketers, agencies, consumers -- who depended on it. But the consumers never agreed to pay it. No, they didn’t opt out, which suggested satisfaction, but that was just an assumption….
….because they couldn’t.
Now with ad blockers the captive audience can liberate itself from ad taxation, and with breathtaking speed and righteousness, it has. The industry has responded with anger, denial, accusations of immorality and a continued delusion that all they need to do is improve the user experience for the historical quid pro quo to be restored.
As if. For the first time people are free to live the dog’s life, and it feels so good.