Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was a Supreme Court Justice who said taxes are the price we pay to live in a civil society. For Holmes, Tax Freedom Day arrived on January 21st.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was a Supreme Court Justice who said taxes are the price we pay to live in a civil society. For Holmes, Tax Freedom Day arrived on January 21st.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who once said that taxes are the price we pay to live in a civil society.

The year Holmes was appointed to the Supreme Court (1902), Tax Freedom Day in the United States arrived on January 21st. Canada’s tax burden was similarly low. At the time, there wasn’t any income tax in the United States, or in Canada, nor would there be for many years. When a permanent income tax was introduced, it happened in the United States some years prior to Canada’s Parliament moving in that direction, and when Canadian income tax was finally established, it was supposed to have been a temporary war tax. It was even called the “Temporary War Income Tax.”

Tax Freedom Day is the day of the year when people stop working for the government, and start working for themselves. Prior to Tax Freedom Day, all the money someone earns goes to various levels of government in the form of taxes. The year Holmes was appointed to the Supreme Court, the total and complete amount of money an individual needed in order to pay every kind of tax there was, to every level of government, added up to less than 6% of his or her total annual earnings.

This is the background in terms of taxes and a civil society Holmes would have been thinking about when he made his famous statement about taxes being the price we pay to live in a civil society. Holmes worked three weeks out of 52 weeks to pay for government.

In stark contrast, Canadian Tax Freedom Day now arrives well into June. Yet there are elected officials at the provincial, federal, and municipal levels of government who sincerely believe that to make society increasingly civil, the government should be taxing more and spending more.

Ed Stelmach became Alberta’s Premier in 2006, part way through the 2006-07 fiscal year. The year before, the cost of a civil society in Alberta was $27.2 billion. That’s how much money the provincial government spent in total. By the time Mr. Stelmach resigned in 2011, the cost of a civil society in Alberta was bumping against $40 billion – the price had increased by between 40 and 50%.

Then Alison Redford took over. Redford’s initial budget as Premier called for such proliferate spending that the National Post called it Alberta’s first NDP Budget. Her stated spending target for 2013-14 exceeds $43 billion, plus the cost of her election promises. It is estimated that her promises will cost between $4 and $7 billion.

If you add it all up it means after five years of Mr. Stelmach, and just two years of Alison Redford, the price of a civil society in Alberta has grown by 60%. If you toss in the Redford election promises, the price of a civil society in Alberta will have increased by almost 85%.

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Click here for more information about the history of Tax Freedom Day as described above.

For More About Alberta Spending…

NATIONAL POST: Alberta’s First NDP Budget

PUBLIC SECTOR WAGE GROWTH IN ALBERTA (PDF) — University of Calgary School of Public Policy

FINANCIAL POST COMMENT: Alberta’s Next Spree, Redford’s spending will hurt the rest of the country

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