Westerners have been taught from day one that high taxes and government inefficiency are simply the “price we pay for civilization”. If you believe that, allow me to share a story you may be familiar with…
Human beings have been running for sport for centuries. Ever since the legend of Greek messenger Pheidippides running the first “marathon” 2,500 years ago, man has sought to push himself hard and faster.
By the turn of the twentieth century, the fastest mile run on record sat around four minutes and twenty seconds. It had dropped over time and new athletes continued to trim a second off the record off here or there. But one feat remained elusive: the four minute mile.
Runners said it couldn’t be done. Doctors said it could be downright dangerous. In line with that thinking, the idea of seeking such a feat was not widely held. However, in 1954 Roger Bannister completed the first sub-four minute mile in just over [3:59].
Since then, dozens of runners have beat the four minute mile, and the record has decreased by about seventeen seconds. Once one person did it, others followed. But the feat seemed unattainable until one person actually did it.
I call this the Four Minute Mile Effect. Far too often, we accept the limiting thinking and propaganda put forward by governments and various social institutions. We figure that our way is the only way. We conflate fact with opinion.
It’s a great recipe for keeping government in power taking more and more of your money, but not a good recipe for personal or economic freedom.
One example of such limiting think is the idea that, without high taxation, people would starve and innocent grandmothers would live in alley ways. “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization”.
Here in Singapore, things are quite civilized. I had a late lunch at the Marina Bay Sands mall overlooking Singapore’s famous Merlion and Collyer Quay. The view is one of the best in the world. The mall itself can easily compare with any other luxury mall on earth; it’s probably even better than my favorite malls in Hong Kong.
And yet taxes in Singapore are rather low. New corporations pay zero tax on their first $100,000 in profits for three years and single-digit rates on the next $200,000. Yet, for some reason, the city-state isn’t filled with haggardly-looking beggars.
I always tell people that before criticizing the lifestyle we talk about on this site, analyze whether what you believe is fact… or just an opinion.
For example, fast food workers in The Land of the Free are on strike seeking $15 an hour wages. Somebody forgot to tell them that, in most cases, they add no value to the purchase process at their jobs. I’ve been to McDonald’s restaurants in Europe where most people place their orders via automated kiosks, and the line cook hands it to them… no middleman needed.
The social justice crowd doesn’t realize that people who don’t enhance customer experience (when was the last time the guy at Burger King was really friendly?) can easily be phased out. Whether that’s good or bad, it’s a monetary truth based on human nature.
Meanwhile, Singapore has no minimum wage. The economy here is hot thanks to the government encouraging a global banking sector and entrepreneurship rather than discouraging it. Unemployment in Singapore fell to 1.8% last quarter.
Maybe the wealth confiscators in the west really don’t know how to stimulate an economy. Bowl me over with a feather.
The idea that a high minimum wage and paying unproductive parts of a supply chain makes the economy better for everyone is garbage. So is the idea that those of us in business should be forced at gunpoint to pay more than the market will bear.
The same thinking goes for any number of other every day situations. In the west, promoters of natural medicine are commonly knocked as “charlatans” or “frauds”. Governments have shut down innumerable companies that sell supplements, usually torching their entire inventory in the process. Farmers of organic foods and raw milk have been targeted, and sometimes bankrupted, by governments in the US and Canada.
But go to China or other parts of Asia and tell them there’s a natural remedy for arthritis and they’ll… just look at you. They already believe there is. In fact, such ideas are rooted in their holistic culture.
For some reason, the USSA is bankrupting and locking up people who make such claims, while China is encouraging it. When over a billion people disagree with your government’s logic, perhaps the government policy you buy into hook, line, and sinker – because the FDA would never lie – is merely an opinion, not the highly-researched statistical fact they want you to believe it is.
Most of the what governments do is crap they make up as they go along.
I was waiting for the train into the city from Singapore airport yesterday and I noticed something interesting. It turns out that the Singapore government offers much more lax rules on importing food than many other countries.
Want to bring five kilograms of seafood in? No problem. Fruits and vegetables? Why not. Eggs, plants, and seeds are permitted under certain circumstances.
Yet in the United States, I’ve been harassed for bringing back chocolate.
There’s a natural tendency to suggest that “that’s just the way things are done here”, and sweep it all under the rug. I recently got a tongue-lashing from a reader of this site who suggested that my “anti-American ways” as status as a “foreign agent” (ummm….) meant I should “never set foot in the United States.”
It wasn’t knee jerk reactions like that that helped Roger Bannister break the four minute mile record. Nor will such thinking stop high taxes or help government inefficiency.
When one government gives its citizens a little freedom, it shows that such freedom can be spread. Of course, most governments don’t want freedom to spread. They merely want to keep their power intact.
The fact that most Americans truly believe their country is best at everything is evidence enough for me that the country is the modern-day USSR – brainwashing its citizens into ignoring facts statistics. It’s not just the US; most governments are eager to keep their subjects away from greener pastures.
If countries had tried to implement zero tax rates and gone broke as a result, I’d believe that no Four Minute Mile Effect existed for high taxes. However, somehow countries that haven’t spent dizzying sums fighting endless wars are able to lower their high tax rates and spur growth.
Barely fifty years ago, the world told Singapore its options on the world stage were limited. After all, what can you really do with less than 300 square miles?
Today, Singapore’s status as a global financial center, foreign talent hub, and newly minted richest country in the world show it can be done. It just requires an understanding of the Four Minute Mile Effect.
And an understanding that prosperity and freedom are connected.