Making America Great Again
By getting rid of death and taxes
It is often said that something is as sure as “death and taxes,” meaning that nothing is more sure than death and taxes, including, for example, the sun coming up tomorrow. This is hyperbole. Taxes have only existed as long as human beings have been around, whereas the sun has been coming up every morning since the planet was formed. Just think of all those billions of years without taxes. Death, in fact, did not exist on earth until life formed, millions of years after the earth coalesced from primordial bits of dust. So death is not certain. I know what you are thinking. A technicality. Death is certain for all living things. Besides, we are talking about civilization, not the cosmos. Taxes are a feature of all governments. And death is inherent in life itself. Maybe not—at least as far as I understand the current political debate.
First of all: taxes.
One would think—if one stopped to think—that there might be a level of taxation that is just right, not too much to cripple the citizenry and not too little to provide for necessary services. So much is implied by the so-called “Laffer curve.” (I thought when I first heard about it that “Laffer” referred to it being some sort of joke; but no, it is named after Arthur Laffer, who noticed, evidently for the first time, that if the government appropriates in taxes all of a person’s income, that person will not bother to work in the first place. On the other hand, if you don’t tax him at all, the government makes no income from his labor.) So, up until recently, everyone agreed that the proper amount of taxation is somewhere in the middle. But the middle leaves plenty of room for fighting about where exactly is the sweet spot for taxes.
In general, liberals think that government is obligated to provide for the citizenry. Conservatives think that government intervention is usually destructive, and so, the less government, the better. Less government requires less tax to sustain it. Some conservatives say that the only legitimate purpose for government is to provide security, ie. police and the army. But within conservative circles, the debate has changed. The consensus now is: the proper degree of taxation is always less.
Currently, there are many members of congress that have signed a pledge not to raise taxes. No matter what. Some might make an exception in the case of a dire military threat; but some would not. If you listen to these members carefully, you may conclude that they think that no taxes are best. There should be a greater reliance on charity. (“People helping each other.”) Perhaps there is a theoretical need for government to pay for roads and sewers and such; but in practice, these expenditures can be delayed indefinitely. In the wake of the coming election, these tax “conservatives” have become more strident; and there are some who have suggested eliminating the Internal Revenue Service altogether. Maybe it’s worth a try. Maybe no taxes is just what we need to make America great again.
I’m reminded of an old joke about a man who trained his dog carefully to eat less and less and was on the verge of getting him to live on nothing at all when, unfortunately, the dog died.
Eliminating death: a harder problem.
First of all, I should point out that not all living things suffer a natural death. I am thinking of some trees, possibly certain large fungi, and, of course, bacteria. Bacteria can look forward to splitting in two, which is not the same thing as dying. (How would you feel if instead of dying, you could split in two?) I suppose you could make the case that between accidents of one sort or another, and taking into consideration the fact that the sun is going to swell up at some point in the future and swallow the earth like a grape, everything is going to die eventually; but now we’re back to talking about the cosmos.
If we could eliminate death, the economy would benefit—for the same reason that immigrants sustain the economy. More mouths to feed, more hands to make things. Of course, there would be the usual dislocations. Funeral parlors would go the way of the buggy whip. Old age homes would either expand prodigiously or disappear entirely depending on whether or not disease was conquered along with death. It is very American to want to avoid dying– ever since Ponce de Leon wandered around Florida looking for the Fountain of Youth.
Some facts you might not know:
- If you exchange the blood of a young person with that of an old person, in some very important and obvious ways, the old person grows younger. (Also the young person grows older.) If you don’t believe this, you can look it up. See my post, “How to Grow Younger, the Vampire Solution.” This may be why Dick Cheney has so few young people in his coterie. The implication of this effect is that there is some chemical in blood that can make people younger. Scientists are testing out particular candidates now.
- Life expectancy has doubled approximately in the last century. If it keeps doubling at that rate for the next few centuries, we will be living so long we will be competitive with the Redwoods of California, (although they will still be much bigger.)
- Telomeres, which are the ends of our chromosomes, shorten every time a cell divides. Consequently, the cell and its progeny have a limited existence. And, therefore, so do we. However, there are ways to lengthen the telomeres, including exercise. I could write a whole blog post on the significance of telomeres, but I won’t because I don’t understand it.
- There is even an immunosuppressant drug, Rapamycin, that seems to extend life—along with other such substances, some of which are in red wine.
In short, there are scientific advances, already in motion, that will extend life, and may very well conquer death someday. I think, deep down, we may be there already.
When I was a young man, I was a hypochondriac. Every time I got sick, and some times when I was not sick at all, I imagined that I had a fatal illness. Over and over again, I thought I was going to die, and then I did not. However, I am capable of learning from my experiences. After all those false alarms, I did not die. Therefore, It is reasonable to expect that in the future also I will not die. That is the way scientists think.
Q.E.D. DEATH AND TAXES ARE NOT CERTAIN.
“Making America Great Again” refers to a time in our fabled past when there were no taxes and every man made his own whiskey. And every person was free to roam from sea to shining sea. We can make America great again if we elect as President a forward-looking person who is not willing to take death and taxes for granted. Death and taxes can be made to disappear. All it takes is the proper attitude and hiring the right people. (c) Fredric Neuman Author of “Come One, Come All.”