"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." – G. K. Chesterton

Archive for March, 2011

Chesterton on flooding

Wine and Water


Old Noah he had an ostrich farm and fowls on the largest scale,
He ate his egg with a ladle in a egg-cup big as a pail,
And the soup he took was Elephant Soup and fish he took was Whale,
But they all were small to the cellar he took when he set out to sail,
And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine,
“I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”
The cataract of the cliff of heaven fell blinding off the brink
As if it would wash the stars away as suds go down a sink,
The seven heavens came roaring down for the throats of hell to drink,
And Noah he cocked his eye and said, “It looks like rain, I think,
The water has drowned the Matterhorn as deep as a Mendip mine,
But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”
But Noah he sinned, and we have sinned; on tipsy feet we trod,
Till a great big black teetotaller was sent to us for a rod,
And you can’t get wine at a P.S.A., or chapel, or Eisteddfod,
For the Curse of Water has come again because of the wrath of God,
And water is on the Bishop’s board and the Higher Thinker’s shrine,
But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.



I thought I’d post this little piece of nonsense because there was some flooding in Culpeper this month.  The local parks were under a foot or two of water, as were the parking lot to my supermarket and a great many other places.  All in all it was minor flood and has left behind nothing permanent, except some plastic bags in treetops.  Nonetheless, it caused me to contemplate the meaning of things being under water.  We usually associate floods with destruction.  That’s certainly the picture that Genesis gives us.  Only Chesterton could read that passage and think about Noah using it as an excuse to drink and party.

Taxes, eh?

For every single year of my adult life, I have promised myself that I will get my taxes done early.  This year I actually did it for the first time.  I have completed form 1040.  I have completed Schedule A.  I have included my W-2.  I have included the relevant information from my 1099-B and the information about my mortgage.  I have put it all in an envelope and mailed it to the IRS.  I am finished with my taxes 45 days before the deadline.

Do I mind paying taxes?  Well, not really.  This year I paid $3538 in federal income taxes along with several thousand in state taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, sales taxes, real estate taxes, car taxes, and probably others that I’m not even aware exist.  Overall, it’s a pretty small amount compared to what I earn.  Most people on earth both past and present would be happy if they could pay as small a percentage in taxes as I do.

Indeed, taxes have had a big effect on the fate of many nations and it was rarely a good one.  High taxes have ruined nations as diverse as ancient China, the Byzantine Empire, pre-revolutionary France, nineteenth-century Russia, and many third-world countries today.  Whenever you have a monarchy or a small oligarchy that has the power to set tax rates and benefit from high rates, they tend to raise rates.  Once that happens, it’s game over for that society.  Here in the United States, we actually have sufficient limits on government and sufficiently active citizens that the government has some motivation to keep taxes low.  Hence our high standard of living.

There are, however, a few things that I would change about taxes if I could.  First, I don’t think that the tax code should be thousands of pages long.  Second, I think that the collection process should be more efficient.  For example, I live in Virginia and I have to send my tax return to the IRS processing center in Kansas City, MO.  There’s an IRS processing center in Atlanta that is much closer to my home, but obviously they can’t allow me to send my tax return there.  No, tax returns from the mid-Atlantic region must go to the great plains (and vice versa) in some cases, because that’s the way government does things.  And if you don’t like it, they’ll be happy to audit you.

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