The Honourable Thief By Anirudh Anilkumar

The Writiesta Writing Competition had a lot of writers showcase their talent. We have selected 5 best entries for the same.

This one, written by Anirudh Anilkumar is one out of the 5 best entries.

Dictionaries define thieves as people who steal another person's property, especially by stealth. And stealing, in turn is taking that which isn’t by law, yours. The most interesting part of this definition, is how the State determines what’s yours. And what isn’t. So that brings about a very pertinent question, one that many would have asked themselves at one point. Is the State a thief?

Since the State is the organisation that formulates and writes laws, as well as is the body responsible for altering and enforcing them, is it not strange, that they get to decide whether they are thieves? Consider an average citizen in India today. They earn money, enough to get by. However, never quite enough to have a firm foundation, one from which to take that frightening, yet much sought after step into the higher rungs of society. Thirty percent. That’s how much of the foundation is taken away. By a body that decides whether what they themselves are doing, is legal or not.

Income tax is accepted as a routine part of one’s existence, these days. However if that final part of the definition were to be altered so as to bring a neutral third party’s definition of property, then the State would be reduced to nothing more than a thief. For what is income tax, except stealing by the State?

This is the point where readers pooh pooh this idea, think to themselves that this income tax is what pays for infrastructure, what pays for the salaries of the civil services and policemen who enforce order, why, it is the very bone of the government body, what enables subsidies to be possible for the underprivileged. It is absolutely justified, the reader would think to themselves, with conviction. Why, even the developed nations or so called superpowers have income tax.

But all of this is just the attempts of an honourable thief, to convince themself that they aren’t all that bad. The tax percentages are the same in India as well as in the so called superpowers. However, strangely enough, the infrastructure provided varies considerably in these two situations. Ah, but give India some time, the reader might think. Soon, it will catch up. Superpower 2020, they mentally exclaim. This is when people who swear upon unshakeable truths, who claim that the Indian civilisation is the oldest civilisation, who make claims that Indians had spaceflight during the Mahabharata, conveniently mention that after all, we have only been free for 72 years.

Alas, the tax is not justified on these grounds. And as for the salaries of government employees, what it actually enables, is guaranteeing pay for policemen et al, as long as they show up in uniform everyday. As opposed to the person paying the income tax, whose earning is linked to their daily performance, the targets that they meet on a daily basis. And as for subsidies, thanks to taxpayer money being utilised effectively, the dead are still alive in the form of fake ration cards, and the dying die, due to lack of resources, since they aren’t technically alive in the eyes of the State.

So income tax, is a thief. But it is an honourable thief, for it tries to pay the victim back. At the very least, it provides bumpy roads, delayed trains and overweight men in uniform to patrol places of residence. But maybe if the State were out of the picture, this honourable thief could finally begin paying his dues. At this point, the reader might think, the State was elected, and so they can be changed. This is true, of course. But what doesn’t change, no matter which organic life form occupies the shell of the State machinery, is what powers it. The honourable thief will have to pull the carriage, no matter who the carriage driver is.

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