To ultra-conservatives, taxes are theft by the majority to take what they have no moral right to: the fruits of another person's labors. Democracy is undesirable because, to them, it allows a majority (the average citizen) to impose their will (social programs) on a minority (the wealthy).

A cabal of billionaires has been working for the last several decades to create an ultra-conservative libertarian society. Some of their propaganda organizations are the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the Tax Foundation, the Leadership Institute, and others. They want to eliminate government-provided Social Security and Medicare, social programs, unemployment compensation, the graduated income tax, public schools and colleges, the United States Postal Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other programs that they believe are financed by taking money from the wealthy and giving it to the undeserved.

Ultra-conservatives want a return to an unfettered Lassaiz-faire capitalism that existed before the rise of labor unions. It was social Darwinism at its finest: robber barons, 12-hour work days, child labor, poor pay, cycles of recessions, unsafe working conditions and contaminated food. They only want a government for protecting their property and defending the country from foreign invasion; anything else is an abridgement of their freedom to make money by their own initiative any way they can. If you're not up to the task, that's your problem. Their attitude is that if workers feel exploited at their workplace, they can just look for another job somewhere else.

However, capitalism is a system devised by the very people that are bound to succeed in that system, that is, the brightest, the most aggressive, and sometimes the greediest. Without controls there is a tendency for employers to exploit their employees as the history of early capitalism has shown. Some people, like Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), who are champions of Laissez-faire capitalism, may say it's too bad some can't compete; it's just as well that they are winnowed out of society.

As to taxes, former Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. stated that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. However, the wealthy fail to realize they are profiting from a system set up by the framers of the Constitution that favors the land owning and monied class: those with the education and means to exploit the system. Also, they are not cognizant they are in that position by the luck of the draw; not everyone is born able to compete on an unfair playing field, and consequently the wealthy are ethically responsible to give back to society for the greater good of the country. Failure to do so only leads to more poverty, unemployment, crime, and eventually rebellion when things get out of hand.

Republican President D. Eisenhower had a 90 percent tax rate for the super rich during his administration. According to Eisenhower, the super rich could avoid the high taxes by investing their money in things that make America stronger. If they wanted to avoid high taxes, he said they could invest in business expansions and higher employee wages. The Eisenhower years generated enough taxes to launch and complete the labyrinth of interstate highways.

Ideally, we would have a society where we consider everyone as part of our human family and eligible for all rights and privileges. As with religious and secular humanists, we would have concern for all people without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or station in life. We would have free health care for all through a government single-payer system similar to other advanced countries. We would eliminate the retributive death penalty as the vast majority of the countries of the world have done. Right now we stand ignobly with countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, Uganda and others.

We would attempt to be inclusive instead of divisive. In sum, we would have a nurturing, peaceful and cooperative society, somewhat like the Nordic countries. Our brutally competitive society, with its winners and losers, along with unemployment, poor pay and racism is a prime contributor to poverty, homelessness, crime and a world-leading high incarceration rate.

David Keranen is a retired Bakersfield College math professor. In retirement he reads extensively, writes letters and articles, and plays occasional golf.