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Why I love Swedish taxes (vox.com)
91 points by ainiriand 239 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments



The linked article claims that they only pay 31% tax, but that's only a part of the tax they pay, not including VAT or the part of your salary paid by your employer, that you don't receive.

Martin Borgs made a movie about swedish taxes: Somebody Else Pays. It's watchable on youtube, with english subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdi-Lg9pwkY

I really recommend watching it.


It's not about what you pay or who you pay. It's about what you get for what you pay.

  Tax dollars are not burned — they are used to provide collective goods
  that are beyond the reach of any individual and benefit everyone.
In the US I pay multiple taxes (federal, state, local, property, sales, etc.), then pay again to put 3 kids through college, then pay again for health insurance, then pay again for all the medical bills the insurer doesn't cover.

Our household income is about 4x the US median, and it looks like we'd be better off in "high tax" Sweden.

I can only imagine that households with lower incomes would benefit even more.


This film is the flip side of some left leaning people saying Sweden is paradise because of more heavily subsidized child care, health care and public transportation. The film is heavy anecdotal stories and not much about statistics or economics. Is there some part of the film that points out something unique about Swedish government misspending? It is probably better to read some studies about the relative efficiency of government spending to understand various governments' spending policies.

In purely disposal income terms, ignoring crime and violence in the U.S., if you are above the median then you are better off in the U.S.


The best way I've found to compare taxes between countries with very different tax regimes is by comparing tax revenue as a percentage of GDP. Wikipedia has a nice table: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_reven...

Denmark tops the list, at 50.8%. Sweden comes in 4th, with 45.8%. The US is fairly far down and lower than almost all developed countries, at 26%.


Tax Revenue USD/Capita: https://data.oecd.org/chart/4Ont

Welfare Spending USD/Capita: https://data.oecd.org/chart/4Ons


In 2013, the United States spends $9350.80/head on social programs. The United Kingdom spends $8116.20/head.

Yet it's the UK that has healthcare free at the point of use. Where does that social spending go in the US? Why is it so inefficient?


That's exactly it. In many cases it seems Americans pay just as much as Europeans, but get much less value in return. They pay more for healthcare than anyone else, yet have shorter life expectancy. They even pay a lot of socialized healthcare (Medicare) which isn't accessible for most people. They pay for public education but complain about the poor quality. For higher education, the options are to go deep into debt or opt for a low-pay career. They pay for police that's likely to shoot them and take their stuff. And then they pay for an excessive military and government corruption. (Alright, slight hyperbole, but only slight.)

I think dogmatic belief that laissez-faire capitalism is always more efficient, has prevented them from looking for efficiencies elsewhere.


But then you don't account for fiscal evasion. For eg. in Italy the taxes on the lower wages are higher due to the impossibility to evade (they are detracted from the salary by the employer)


Somewhat speculative, but as a Swedish person living in the US, a huge difference between the gov't spending is that very little is means tested in Sweden. Doesn't matter how much your income is, you still receive child allowance, extremely subsidized child care, schools, etc.

As a consequence, the welfare system is as much of a transfer between rich and poor as it is between different parts of life. And I suspect the willingness to pay higher taxes is that (almost) everyone "benefits" from the it at some point (putting it in citation marks since there's no free lunch obviously).

In contrast, US has far more means tested programs like SNAP etc, and the things that the wealthy benefits from are things like mortgage interest deductions, which are not seen as gov't spending in the same way. Which I think goes a long way explaining the tax adversity in the US.


> very little is means tested in Sweden. ... As a consequence, the welfare system is as much of a transfer between rich and poor as it is between different parts of life.

This is an important insight. It is the reason the US social security system is presented as an "insurance scheme" that "everyone pays into" rather than what it actually is in practice: payroll taxes and payments to various people. Medicare pays out regardless of income.

I used to wonder why social security wasn't means tested (i.e why they should send Bill Gates, or even me, a check). Well, there's a lot of literature on how benefits are distributed and their popularity (hint: make it look like you're handing out to the middle classes). Without it, you get the US's punitive approach to much of welfare, the modern day equivalent of Victorian poorhouses.

Social Security takes this theatre to absurd lengths, by the way, even sending out letters purporting to show how much is "in your account", printing out the bonds that it purchases in putting them in physical file cabinets (I'm not kidding) and generally maintaining the fiction in full movie style. I can't tell you how many otherwise intelligent people I've spoken to who have been taken in by this ruse, and support social security despite opposing "welfare." I wish the government did more of it!


An advantage of universal systems is that because everyone is treated the same and benefits, it is less likely to create critics of the system from people who would only criticize it because it’s unfair that they don’t benefit. With less critics of the system, the system is more stable and less likely to be undermined and dismantled by future governments.

The progressiveness of a universal system still exists, whereby lower income persons benefit more than higher income persons, it’s just expressed via a progressive tax system, and not means testing.


That's a great point. Means testing is portrayed as fairness because only people that really need something will be the ones to get it...but that ends up being something that makes everyone who makes just a little too much to get the benefit really angry.


The universal approach is also immensely less complicated, both for the government and the beneficiaries.

It also doesn't create a "marginal tax" trap where if poor people get a higher income, they can lose 100% or more of it to lost benefits.


It fundamentally shifts the debate from "this is a human right" to "this is charity".


"These wilderness islands with haunting sea caves are accessible only by tour boat at a cost of $151 for a family of two adults and three children. There is no free 15-minute ride across the strait to Basswood Island closest to the mainland, nor a $10 shuttle between the islands, as there would be in Sweden where a heavily subsidized ferry system makes the Stockholm archipelago available to all citizens — as well as to American tourists."

Surprisingly, there are also fewer visitors to a wilderness island in the middle of Lake Superior in the sparsely populated northern Wisconsin area than to Stockholm, the capital of Sweden.


When I hear people describe how France is, they almost always talk about Paris. Same thing with Sweden and Stockholm.

Unsurprisingly, the capital city of a country during a vacation is nicer than your boring home town during a regular work week.


Then there is the USA, where the capital hardly breaks the ranks of the top 5 most exciting destinations.

Disclaimer... DC is my hometown so I am blase about all the museum and monuments.


Sure, but that's because the US has so much spread out. In the UK, almost everything internationally interesting is in London. Sure there's "Scotland" (a day trip to edinburgh), "Shakespereland" (day trip to Stratford on Avon), "Beatlesland" (day trip to Liverpool), and maybe Stonehenge (day trip to Salisbury) but the majority of things are in London. The Lake District or Scottish highlands are good, but you get mountains and lakes all over the world.

In the US the capital is Washington, and that's interesting to some extend, but you've got the big tier cities - NY and LA, and the next tier of touristy cities like Philly/Boston (for 'history'), San Francisco, Vegas and maybe Seattle and Chicago.

If you were to have the historical, financial, political and entertainment capital all in Washington, which is what you have with France, UK, Sweden etc, then that would be a far more exciting destination than just the political capital.


That is actually one of the things I love about the US, that the political capital doesn't (yet?) monopolize all the good stuff!


Maybe if there was easier public transport (e.g. buses and trains) more people could visit the park.


Bayfield, Wisconsin, population 530: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayfield,_Wisconsin

Stockholm, Sweden, metro area population 2.3 million: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm


Trying to pay for services through taxes in the US is like Tantalus trying to drink from the river. No matter how much money is raised, the "price" just goes up even more. Case in point: American health care. The US actually spends more, more, tax dollars per capita on healthcare than countries like the UK or Canada or Australia. OK, the US did put up the cash, so it should get universal coverage right... hahaha of course not. Likewise with the high-tax Bay Area, which has by far the worst roads in the US, with 71% in "poor" condition. Or high-tax New York City, where a single new subway station costs billions of dollars.


One issue with trying to reform the American healthcare to be more efficient is that as the system is now, healthcare spending accounts for 17.1% of US GDP[1] while in the EU it is an average of 10%. There is a word for eliminating 7% if your country's GDP: recession. If you were to switch to, say, a single-payer system then you would eliminate whole categories of jobs. You might be able to replace that with additional service but it would be very hard. Imagine someone who's made a career out of working for hospitals and calling insurance companies to cajole them into paying up -- what would they do?

It is like the IRS pre-calculating your taxes or US society as a whole taking meaningful action on climate change: change would threaten a large number of people's jobs and those people are very motivated to resist it.

[1] http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.TOTL.ZS


Another way to think about it is, your country suddenly finds itself with an additional, disposable 7% GDP. Alternatively you can afford extra ~40% health coverage in the form of personal care, hospitals etc.

Edit: grammar, numbers ...


Except this isn't Age of Empires. That "7% GDP" is a bunch of unemployed people who have the potential to do useful things, but some-to-most their skills are geared toward navigating an inefficient system that doesn't exist anymore.

Some will be able to easily re-apply those skills. Some won't. Even the ones that will are going to be scared of the transition because losing your job is scary.

Of course, much of this would be offset by setting up services like the UK's 111 (medical advice hotline) and by being employed by companies like the one my sysadmin-for-the-federal-government father has always wanted to start but can't in case his cancer comes back. But those are both much more abstract and distant hypotheticals that don't yet have voters behind them.


That sounds very much like the the broken window fallacy


It is indeed very similar. And you would expect the local window-repairmen to be very vocally in favour of maintaining whatever system is causing broken windows.


That's the feeling I get about the US. They hate government so so much that they don't even try to run the things they do at least well.


The other angle is that Americans hate government more than Swedes, because US government really is much worse than the Swedish version.


The US discussion is totally binary. You are either pro-government or anti. There is no rational discussion about what could be improved in detail so nothing gets improved while it still costs a lot of money.


That is only true of the media, it isn't representative of general discussions. As such to many of us it feels like the argument is rigged and where either outcome is to the benefit of the ruling elites.


I don't think that's true. A lot of americans complain about government in general but they don't have any specific suggestions (other than not changing the programs that benefit them like social security, medicare or VA). Maybe they have been trained to feel helpless by the elites?


I don't think one can really accuse the ultra-liberal Bay Area of hating government...


Not the concept perhaps, but certainly the practical implementation in the US.


Let's not forget, the top marginal tax rate for someone living in the State of California is 39.6% federal + 13.3% California + 0.9% health surtax = 53.8%.

The top tax rate in Sweden is 57.10%.

For 4% more tax money, they get socialized education, healthcare, public transit, childcare, public parks and a litany of other services.

This comparison excludes payroll taxes / medicare, social security and sales taxes since I believe the Swedish numbers exclude those too.


Where do the top rates kick in? In the US, the top federal bracket is $418,000 for an individual.

In Sweden the top bracket kicks in $88,000 USD.

That's a big difference.


The comparison is flawed because your salary in CA will be much greater.


But so will your rent or housing prices.


Public transit is not socialized in Sweden. In fact it is quite expensive.


Why would you want to "pay" for any of that unconditionally and have your income delegated by someone else when the free market offers a superior solution?


I think you may have just nailed the fundamental difference between Swedes and Americans. The majority of Swedes are fine with having their income delegated by "someone else" if it means they'll both live a happy, healthy life.


Well, thats because it doesn't if you can't afford it and many people can't. Further, we all live in a community of other people and helping them will improve your life too. You still have to walk by the sick, poor and homeless on your way to work. I know I still ride the subway to work.


You wouldn't necessarily, but that's a false choice because taxes in the US are not 0%.


Yea, that comment almost felt like a joke. 4% difference (53.8% in cali!? holy cow) and s/he's complaining about people deciding where that 4% goes?


US Healthcare cost: 17% of GDP Sweden healthcare cost: 10% of GDP

Which is superior?


Cost is not the only comparison. The US scores last in this study of eleven countries. Sweden third. Having received healthcare in the US, the U.K. and Sweden, I personally prefer Sweden. But as the US is a very large place it is hard to generalise.

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/fund-reports/20...


The UK spends a tiny amount on health care - $1400 a year less per head than comparative european countries like Germany, France, Belgium etc, and $5,400 a year less per head than the USA. Yet it has better healthcare than the USA.


The U.S. health care system is much superior. When I was in Sweden, I asked my vet if she would take me on as a patient because vet care is better than people care. But at least the funerals are free.


More hospital beds, lower infant mortality, higher life expectancy, lower chance of dying before 60, higher quality of healthcare overall.

http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Sweden/Unit...

I can't see a single scientific measure supporting the statement that the US has a better health system than Sweden


You need to look farther than the sources you are quoting then. I would suggest talking to people who have lived in both countries.


Hmmm... not a very sophisticated article.

It seems rather apologetic. Income taxes aren't that much higher! But for some reason taxes are 23% of GDP in the US, but 43% in Sweden. So obviously taxes are much higher in Sweden.

Yes, there is a steep sales tax, but it's rolled into the price, so you don't really know what it is, so it's all good.


That was a very small section of the writeup, and I feel you've missed the point. The author isn't arguing that taxes are lower/the same as the US. He's stating very clearly that they are higher -- it's even in the title.

The argument is that we have the wrong mindset about taxes here in the US.


This article starts with a conclusion and works backwards without any legitimate attempt at analysis.

For example, I have no idea on what basis one could argue that a fixed "real estate fee" is more rational, effective or fairer than conventional property taxes.

> This is the same for everyone no matter what the assessed value of the dwelling. The fee is $12 a month for our co-op apartment in Stockholm. If we owned the same property in Madison, our taxes would be $18,000 a year.

Is their co-op apartment worth $2mm USD or something?

The argument that Sweden achieves better outcomes overall is valid, but that doesn't make every thing they do perfect.


> Is their co-op apartment worth $2mm USD or something?

As expats in Sweden, they might not live in Wisconsin often enough for it to be considered their "primary residence" or homestead, and might have to pay a higher tax rate because of that.

I don't know about Wisconsin, but in Michigan if you can't claim primary residency exemption, your property taxes automatically jump up by roughly 50%


If you "walk the beaten path" of life - get an education, have a family, work as an employee of some big company or government (or a university like Tom), etc. - then the Swedish tax system is nothing to complain about, really. You get more or less your money's worth.

But IMHO it does limit your freedom, in the sense that you have to pay for those on that path no matter what life choices you make.


I agree.

I am from The Netherlands and as a freelancer I am quite sure I pay more than 50% in taxes, when including VAT from goods bought in a store, property taxes, etc... And I also know I have less choices, less financial freedom. Last year I had to pay over 30.000 EUR income tax. Money that I believe I could spent much better.

A big problem in The Netherlands (and perhaps the same is true for Sweden) as that if you're single, you live alone, don't have kids, then a huge tax burden is put upon you. And you miss out on a lot of benefits (if you have kids, every 3 months the government sends you some money; if you have a wife, you are able to add both incomes and divide by 2 which will usually allow the highest earner to enter a lower income tax bracket, etc...).

And then there is the fact that I believe my government is spending a huge amount of money in the wrong way. But with regards to voting, I seem to be in a minority. I can't change the system with my votes.

I will be looking to emigrate from Europe and to pay tax in another country. A country with a much lower maximum income tax bracket (37% above ~115.000 EUR). This compared to 52% when earning above ~67.000 EUR in The Netherlands.


Sorry to rain in your parade, but I paid taxes in both NL and US (for the same job and status) and once you consider the extra burden in the US (health care, personal transport, insurance, property taxes if you own a house ...) it amounts to pretty much the same thing, probably less.

And obviously without any public service to justify it.


I haven't found that to be true at all.

I live in Canada for a while, then moved to the US. Even paying for property taxes, health care, college, I had a lot more money in my pocket. I would say my tax rate was almost 1/2 of what it was in Canada (obviously I took advantage of a lot of tax deductions in the US).


I ain't going to the US. I will emigrate to a developing country but with good public healthcare. Everything (electricity, public transportation, housing, food) will be a lot cheaper as well. So both lower taxes as well as lower costs of living.


Don't forget to factor that in lots of developing countries your salary will probably be a lot less too.

Edit: I feel like I should expand here. I live in São Paulo, Brazil. Rent is through the roof if you want to get two work in less than 1 hour. The goods are very expensive, everything is taxed 100% when imported, plus there are a lot of taxes added to the local products price.

I have a good salary for the place and even so, if my wife wasn't working we wouldn't be able to afford our two bedroom apartment within a 30 minute commute to the city center.


Yep, but I aim to get a well-paying remote job, hopefully through Toptal. Currently I am preparing for the interview with Codility.


I'm a Dutch freelancer too, but my experience is very different. As a ZZPer I get a lot of tax cuts. The new DBA law does make it harder, and I may need to start paying the same taxes and premiums everybody else does, which might cost me 30% of my net income. Quite a bit, but that also emphasizes the sweet deal I got so far.

The VAT just means I can deduct way more VAT than normal salaried employees.

I do have a wife an kids, but the money I get for the kids isn't that much in comparison to my income, and I assure you that kids are far more expensive than that. My wife's income is slightly higher than mine, so that has no impact on the tax bracket I end up in.

Netherland isn't perfect (I'd really like to see a left-wing government here for a change; we'd been having right-wing or centrist governments for decades, and the current trend is even more right-wing as well as xenophobic), but I'm not sure where I'd want to emigrate. Sweden is among the top contenders, though.


One of my favorite anecdotes about the government in the US is the TRAX system in Utah. It was initially built under the support of a tiny liberal core of SLC combined with the promise of the winter olympics. But they did something unheard of in the US: they 1) designed it well, addressing real transportation needs, without any frivolous details, shady contracts, or massive stations named after politicians, 2) they built it extremely quickly and under budget, and 3) once built, they continued to operate it with high service levels and low costs.

And because of it, something else happened that was unheard of in the US: Republicans voted insatiably for more of it. Every single vote they put on a ballot was thrusting the system further and further into red country...places where republicans win over democrats with 90% of the vote or more. And they all passed.

This is why I can't get on board with any part of the left in the US, despite ideologically identifying more with the Western European green parties. The left wants more, but won't address the gigantic fucking elephant in the room, the fact that we suck at government and aren't doing anything to fix it. And because of it, I don't blame the right at all for feeling the way they do. The government sucks, and they have never experienced anything better, so why should we vote for more of it? Fix the government and they'll be begging for more.


Utah is also doubling down on public transport with the Frontrunner regional rail service that connects Utah and Salt Lake county, with further extensions in development. As a former Utah County resident, I was pleased with the service and used it frequently, even though I had a car. They're continuing to expand the line.

Utah really does have a strange political balance -- maybe a unique one. Very ideological and partisan on some issues, and yet extremely pragmatic and practical on others, willing to get behind compromises that would be dead on arrival in most places in America's hyperpartisan climate, especially Republican-controlled ones.


At the national level, it's usually the right that is obstructive in making government work better. Like letting Medicare negotiate drug prices so costs are contained. Or defunding regulatory agencies that protect consumers so they can't do their job. I agree though that the left doesn't push for efficiency remotely enough. Procurement is a big mess.



It's an interesting article, but left me feeling that what's "special" about Utah is less the qualities or decision making of their government then it is the willingness of the population to make an active effort to help people in their community on a purely voluntary basis.

Everywhere I've lived has really felt like the opposite - you're on your own. Of course, a strong social support network works better - but we don't have that kind of culture in the US.


If this were a suburb of Stockholm or any other European city of 250,000, there would be train service and bus service several times an hour. These are the choices Europeans have that we don't, because they devote more of their income to collective goods.

I'm really not sure what America spending their infrastructure tax dollars on highways and roads instead of buses and trains has to do with tax rates. Sweden could have lower taxes and still spend their money better.

It would be much more apt to compare Madison with e.g. Malmo or Uppsala and middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin wilderness with the same in Sweden. I'm sure he'll find remote areas of Sweden just as inaccessible as the remote areas of the US he is using as a comparison point.


I'm from Sweden, and I've visited the US several times, and one of the first things I noticed was the poor state of the roads.

I've been to Seattle (didn't drive, but rode along in cars a couple of times), and NYC (drove from downtown Manhattan to middle of nowhere Pennsylvania and back to Newark). Even the freeways around NJ and PA were in a sorry state.

So if the US spends money on their roads, I'd hate to see what happens with things they don't spend money on...


NPR's Planet Money did a awesome segment on a trial program in California to pre-fill out your tax returns. I recommend the read or a listen to the podcast. http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2017/03/22/521132960/episo...

The reception publicly amongst people in the trial program was that it was very helpful. Hopefully one day we can see more states try this out for a nationwide push in the future.


Reiterating the point a few others have made, there are places in the US where you have subsidized, frequently used ferries (Seattle area, for instance). The ferries exist where the people exist.

But the American hostility to taxes is rooted in a pretty strong failure to see their useful results. If someone is in California, paying nearly Europe-level taxes, but don't have nearly Europe-level public healthcare, roads, and transit, something's wrong.


The author is seriously mistaken. The total tax burden in Sweden is among the highest in the world. To see how this works, suppose that an employer wants to pay an employee $100. The first thing they have to do is pay the employer tax of $31.42. Then the employee has to pay their income tax on the $100, which can be as high as 55%. So of the $131.42, the employee gets $45. Then, they can consume that $45, but for everything they buy, they have to pay 25% sales tax. So of the $45, $9 goes to sales tax. So really, they get to spend $36 of the $131.42. Really, the tax on income is about 72.58%. Some calculations put it as high as 76%. Read skattebetalarna.se for details.

Basically, the government keeps all the money. Swedes have no money. I lived there for 10 years. Swedes are always struggling paycheck to paycheck. There is less income inequality than in the U.S. The medical system is very bad. People have no desire to work because it is difficult to get ahead because of the high taxes.


That is misinformation. It doesn't work like that. You are taking the highest marginal rate, and applying it to the full amount. The tax burden increases on a higher income, but the the higher rates only apply to a portion of the higher income.

The VAT isn't 25% on everything. 6% is on books, magazines and newspapers, culture evens, national transport. 12% on food, restaurants, hotel and artwork sold by the artist.

https://www.verksamt.se/starta/skatter-och-avgifter/moms/oli...

Effective income tax isn't as high as the picture you paint. http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/09/effective-...


I lived there for ten years. I ran businesses, paid taxes, and even filed taxes for the companies I ran. It is not misinformation. What is misinformation is Americans claiming that they know about what is going on in countries they have never lived in.


If you prefer more extortion, that's fine; stop pushing it on others. No one is stopping others from voluntarily paying more in taxes if that's your belief, but personally I'm tired of paying for wars, the slaughter of innocence, police brutality, and a long list of items I'm told are all part and parcel of living in a "civilized" society.


The more underfunded the government is, the less it can invest in schools, mental health care, the environment, infrastructure, a competent bureaucracy and so on. All things that are necessary for economic growth. Americans' allergic reaction to paying taxes is just one more reason why the country is circling the drain.


"Competent bureaucracy" is essentially an oxymoron. "Things" necessary for economic growth are infinitely more efficient when directed by the market, not by forceful removal of my property for "them" to decide how best it can be utilized. Why is my body (which extends to my means of production) not my own?


> "Competent bureaucracy" is essentially an oxymoron.

That's the belief that underpins your opinion but that is far from a fact. It's also a belief that tends to be self-fulfilling -- you get the government that you believe you should have.


It's a belief based on historical data and personal experience. The "state" and it's blind followers have one of the highest death tolls attributable to it, that's an objective truth. It's fascinating that so many people are fine having their lives decided by others, under the illusion of "authority".

Let's bomb some more kids in the middle east for no reason, shall we?


It's belief based on a small dataset that doesn't represent all democratic governments that exist. If anything, your experience is probably based on significant outliers.


Slavery, Prohibition, Women being unable to vote, Gays being unable to marry; the list of inequities imposed on others due to democracy, and faith in the State to "do the right thing" is long. The aforementioned aren't small data sets, nor are they outliers. That's not even mentioning how many murders the State has contributed to (see: Germany and Russia for significant contributions, in the millions of murders) under the guise of "protecting it's people". (see: USA's actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc.)


Slavery, murder, theft, are inequalities that humans do to each other which the state exists to prevent. This argument is a poor one. You can't simply pick and choose the negatives without balancing it against the positives.


Competent bureaucracy is what they've got in Sweden. You obviously don't believe public goods exists. That's stupid.


Using the force of the state to further other's goals is something I am entirely against because historically we can see how much damage it's done, calling that stupid isn't constructive.


I don't feel the need to be constructive towards the whole taxes=theft crowd. Engaging them would just encourage them.


It seems to be common that those that haven't experienced a reasonably competent bureaucracy do not believe one can exist.


"'Things' necessary for economic growth are infinitely more efficient when directed by the market". This. I think you just touched the essentiel cultural difference.

IMHO the market is a good tool but it is very far from perfect. Its main weakness is the strength it gives to the signal price. The market is a global race to the lowest price and highest ROI. "Things" like infrastructure, health, environnement are expensive with a low (short/mid term) ROI. The market will never favor them.


> Why is my body (which extends to my means of production) not my own?

You believe your means of production are entirely self-contained which is entirely false. You need all of civilization for your production to be useful. It's not unreasonable to have to pay for that civilization.


So you're saying I'm indentured to my society? This is sounding increasingly similar to slavery. Using force against someone else to get what you want isn't morally acceptable, and it certainly isn't altruistic; if you disagree with me on that, that's fine.


Of course not. But if you use society to make money then you should pay for that usage. If you want to opt-out of society, you have that option.


If you've been educated in a school, travelled on a road, drank water from a tap, watched TV running on electricity, or worked on a computer that communicates across the globe to other computers then you absolutely have taken advantage of a society with a central authority and should conribute to it.

To believe otherwise is absurdly individualistic and self-centred. We are a social species and everything good we have done come through collective effort.


But in practice, more tax money just gets allocated to homeland security, military, police, domestic surveillance, and things that generally don't benefit most tax payers


Based off data that I've seen, increasing investments into the U.S. public education system by the government doesn't seem to have made significant improvements to the quality of education. There are those who feel that this funding actually removes, or at least lessens, the incentive to improve.


> Americans' allergic reaction to paying taxes is just one more reason why the country is circling the drain.

A big component of the founding of this country was as a reaction to taxes. In general taxes have lead to many wars and revolutions in the past.


Our taxes should be democratically decided so they should not be extortion, at least not on average. But maybe they are not democratically decided. I know it isn't feasible for many people, due to things like family ties, but moving to a country where government spending is more aligned with your values would actually be a good way to vote with our feet.


I can't agree with this, for example just because we "democratically" decide slavery is OK doesn't make it moral, or even acceptable. Yet people seem to act as if something democratically agreed-upon has moral force behind it. And to say we have to leave a country because we disagree with policy is ludicrous. It's identical to the right's call, "If you don't like it, you can get out!" which is utterly absurd.


If you ever wonder why more people don't subscribe to your viewpoint regarding taxes, consider leaving out the part equating it to slavery. In case it's not obvious, voters legalizing slavery give no choice to the indentured which is completely different from marginal tax rate increases.


The point of that example was showing there is no moral force behind something simply because the vast majority of people agree with it.

However, with your argument what choice do I have when it comes to paying Federal or State (where applicable) Income Tax? None. I pay it, or else get thrown in a cage/have my property stolen.


If you're a slave, you can't leave under any circumstance. You literally belong to someone else and there is no recourse at all.

If you don't want to pay taxes any more, move to somewhere where they don't have taxes. Alternatively, run for office and eliminate taxes in your jurisdiction.


I think you'll find that most people don't believe that taxation (with representation) is immoral. if that's what you believe, that's fine, everyone disagrees on the morality of some aspect of society.


For those interested, here is a more comprehensive view of the difference between taxation in Scandinavian countries and the USA:

https://taxfoundation.org/how-scandinavian-countries-pay-the...

Sweden itself would be marked by much higher VAT/Sales taxes -- which collect about 9% of GDP in SWE vs 2% of GDP in the US -- as well as higher income taxes, collecting 22% of GDP vs 15% in the US. Also, despite much higher corporate statutory tax rates, the US does not raise a larger % of GDP from corporate taxes. I was also surprised to see the top income tax rate in SWE phase in at only 1.5x the median income vs 8.5x in the USA. They also have higher income taxes on middle and low earners. Because of this, more of the difference in total tax burden seems to fall on the middle class than is commonly thought.


In my mind there are two main problems with US culture that cause government dysfunction:

1) The mixed demographics means racists don't want to have their taxes going to provide services for "those" people.

2) Uncritical reverence of the military means they get too much funding.


Heh. In the UK people are mostly complaining about chavs receiving welfare even though these are essentially the same ethnic group and in some cases just the poor branch of the family.


That's because the UK is a society rife with systemic classism and hereditary privilege.

It breeds shitty attitudes.


No worries, after Brexit we will kick them out too back to their ... oh wait


If you count expenditures Americans have to pay to private companies that Swedish people don't, eg thousands of dollars for health care, $100k+ for college, day care, private transport, etc, I think you'll find Americans pay the same or more just to get by in life. Whether it goes to the government or to big corporations, that money still leaves your bank account.


You might try living in Sweden before making such pronouncements.


This article is disinformation.

> It turns out the average Swede pays less than 27 percent of his or her income in direct taxes.

I have no idea where this number came from. Maybe you can get it by including children and others who are not part of the workforce. The average income tax in Sweden is 43%, according to [1], which looks a lot more plausible; county taxes alone (paid by all workers) are in the range 30-35% [2], and that does not include mandatory payments for social security etc, which are handled by the employer. You get to see the full impact as a business owner. Sole proprietors end up forking over roughly 2/3 of their bottom line.

Living off investments? Capital gains tax is 30%, independent of holding period, and even currency exchange is taxable (which is a problem because the chronically falling Swedish krona makes it a "gain" to just hold e.g. dollars or euros in an interest-free trading account).

> Tax forms come already filled out

If you are a salaried employee living and working in Sweden, don't run a business (or even have an occasionally income-generating hobby) and have no investments, then you can probably just sign the thing and be done. In that case, the government knows everything about your finances, and if you think that's a good thing... good for you.

> There is no property tax

The "conservative" government which abolished it is gone, the current socialist one is raising taxes again and is widely expected to eventually reinstate a wealth tax, which would also act as a property tax unless property is explicitly excluded - which is unlikely, given years of hand-wringing over the high level of real estate prices and related household indebtedness.

> Sales taxes in Sweden are higher — but less noticeable

Sales taxes in Sweden are insane: if you sell a good for X, you need to add 25% of X to the price and hand it over to the Swedish state. It's "less noticeable" by law, just like the mandatory contributions to social security handled by employers, because it would be unwise to keep reminding tax payers how much they are being charged. If you consider this a good thing... I consider you a paternalistic jerk.

> We get cash instead of deductions

This is just plain false. Deductions for home improvements, recycling, investments in special business categories, depreciation of equipment for hobby or business use... I could go on. It's all there. My most benevolent guess: the author doesn't know Swedish and simply doesn't have a clue.

> High taxes give me more choices and freedoms

Author is a socialist. He may not be wrong on a personal level - it is quite possible that he, in particular, gets more from the system than he pays into it - but that simply means that others are being made to pay for his choices and freedom.

[1] https://www.va.se/nyheter/2016/12/29/siffrorna-avslojar-vi-s...

[2] http://www.scb.se/hitta-statistik/statistik-efter-amne/offen...


> Author is a socialist.

And? It's not the dirty word you think it is.


One of the most important moments during the political year in The Netherlands is 'Prinsjesdag'

>After lunch, the Minister of Finance proposes the next year's national budget [...] The presentation is followed by a cycle of parliamentary debates on the budget. [...] It is the most important moment for parliamentary policy making, as MPs can amend the budget to finance specific plans.

The government also provides material for schools to present to kids during class [2] where it's usually discussed the different budget chapters.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prinsjesdag

[2] https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/prinsjesdag/inhoud/...


Well, it doesn't change the fact that they're still taxes. Just because the guy who robs you offers you 10% of what he robbed from you doens't mean he's a source of income or good in any manner.


High taxes are only happily paid in a homogenous society. The tax you pay goes to people like you, who go through the same kind of life as you. In less homogenous societies, the thought of the taxpayer is "that money is going to be wasted by someone who is not like me"




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