Driver's Taxes and Other Money-Grabbing Schemes Throughout History

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by Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers

Recently by Mike (in Tokyo) Expatriation? Beware of the Culture Shock! Oh, and the Tentacles Too!

I think "Driver's Taxes" is a pretty good and descriptive name for this topic and article. Why? Because anything that has to do with your car; driver's license, automobile license plates, gasoline, random DUI and seat belt inspection stops; tolls; police hiding in wait to catch a bypassing speeder, etc., are all forms of taxation. I know I am speaking to the choir here at this web site when I say this but there are many of our own family members and friends who seem to fail to realize this simple fact of life; Driver's Licenses and the related costs are actually all taxation.

Indeed, things like driver's licenses; DUI and seat belt stops are not for the safety of the public, but merely just one of many back-door schemes by our overlords to tax us more.

Let me prove it to you so that you can prove it to your friends.

When it comes to the chicken and egg, I don't know which came first. But when it comes to cars and driver's taxes? Did you know that the forerunner of today's Driver's Licenses, I mean Driver's Taxes, came way before engines for automobiles were ever dreamed of? Yes, it's true.

But before I go into that, let me give a brief explanation of how I got onto this subject in the first place.

A guy wrote to me the other day about gun control. In his note he asked,

“If you agree that we need a license to drive, then why don’t you agree that we need a license for a gun?”

I wrote back,

“You might be surprised but I don’t think you need a license for a gun just as I don’t think you need a license to drive a car. Licenses are merely a back-door form of taxes levied upon us by our government. Don’t you know that?"

Just like I don’t agree with laws requiring the wearing of seat belts in cars or helmets when riding motorcycles.

I always wear a seat belt. I don't need a law. We know that wearing seat belts can save a life in a car accident but if some guy doesn’t want to wear a seat belt, then what business is it of yours or mine? It most certainly is not the governments business either. And it definitely is not a reason to tax us more money in order to put more police on the road to stop drivers who drive without their seat belts on and fine them. If Dick or Harry want to drive without a seat belt, then let them. I don’t care and it is none of my business.

Driver's licenses and things like seat belt laws have zero to do with protecting the public and everything to do with taxes. Driver's licenses and license fees (for passports, filing papers, dogs, cats, fishing, open fire, killing bugs, you-name-it, etc.) are all merely a form of taxation.

Just to drive home the point of how ridiculous drivers licenses are and to point out how they have nothing to do with safe driving and everything to do with another form of taxation, let me tell you the story of “rikishaw,” or, as you people in the west call them, "Japanese rickshaw." You know, the old style carts that were used in Japan long ago that were pulled by one skinny Japanese guy running in front?

Well, it used to be, over a hundred or so years ago, when rikishaw were quite prevalent on the streets and alleyways in Japanese towns, one needed a license for a rikishaw and a license to be a rikishaw "driver."

There was even a "Rikishaw organization" (probably filled with retired cops) that handled the licensing and registration of these vehicles all in the name of protecting the public. (As if some guy could out run the cops in some high speed chase after a hit-and-run accident with his unlicensed rikishaw!)

Today, now that these rikishaw are no longer popular, and not in much use (though they still exist mainly in tourist areas) there is no requirement for licensing rikishaw.

Think about it; if the licensing procedure for rikishaw were for safety of the public and the good of society, then this procedure would still be in practice today, would it not? But it is not. These rikishaw still exist! Why no licenses? This proves that the licensing was — and always will be — a scheme merely to fill government coiffures. It is no longer cost-effective to license these things. Automobiles make for a much more healthy revenue stream.

“Oh, but that was ancient Japan. The United States is different!" You say?

Well, hardy-har-har! Check your US (and UK) history and find the same taxation licensing story concerning horse drawn carts in the cities up until about 1910 or so (and still going on in Canada today!)

This rikishaw story should be proof enough to get people to see that, no matter the geographical zone or time in history, government will always look for new ways to tax the people through licensing.

Remember that Monty Python episode about the Ministry of Silly Walks? Well, throughout history, and still today, every country has their Ministry of Silly Taxes.

Did you know that you need a license in Japan to be a sushi chef? It's true. In Japan, you need a license to slice raw fish.

You can bet that if the sushi restaurants in the USA were to become so popular that they stood on every street corner, the government would increase taxes on them by requiring a special license to slice fish; and why not? They tax you to go out on the water to catch them!

Throughout the history of man there have been all sorts of ridiculous taxes levied on people by their overlords. The government claims they are doing it for the good of society, but it's all a money scam.

Here's a short list of some of my, er, "favorite" taxes through time:

In the first century AD, Roman emperor Vespasian placed a tax on urine.

European governments placed an absurd tax on cleanliness during the Middle Ages. It was a "Soap Tax." This tax remained in effect in some countries for hundreds of years. England, for example, didn't repeal its soap tax until 1835!

Did you also know that in 1660, England placed a tax on fireplaces? I guess that's where George Harrison got the line about taxing the heat in his song.

In 1696, the King of Jolly Old initiated a "Window Tax," that placed taxes on any dwelling by the number of windows they had.

One of the dumber ideas the King of England and his court had was in the 1700s; they placed a tax on bricks! Yeah, you know; rectangular blocks of ceramic material used to build buildings? Well, this didn't work out so well as the builders quickly figured out that they could just use bigger bricks and pay less tax. The brick taxes weren't repealed until the 1850s.

These taxes are pretty dumb, right? Well, they get dumber. Let's let our imaginations fly on some more stuff that has been taxed. I mean, "Licensed" in order to protect the public.

Sometime in the 16th century, the geniuses that held the King's ear in England decided to tax playing cards (you know, poker, Texas Hold'em, Old Maid?) They got away with this for a while, but sometime in the early 1700s, they drastically upped the taxes on cards and dice. Soon after, criminal elements in society began making forgeries to avoid paying taxes. Fake poker cards and dice? Heavens! See? I told you the taxes were for protecting the public. This playing card and dice tax wasn't repealed in England until, are you ready for it? 1960.

And how about hats? Did you know that England had a hat tax in the late 1700s? To avoid paying the "Hat Tax," hat-makers, in the early 1800s, began calling their creations, "Head-gear." You just have to love the ingenuity and spirit of the independent businessman! By 1811, the "Hat Tax" was in the dustbin of history — unfortunately the concept wasn't.

The taxes listed above make us laugh at our British friends. But, frankly speaking, Americans are not really in any position to laugh at anyone. Why? Americans can't laugh because the USA has more than its fair share of ridiculous taxation ideas and schemes as well as absurd laws.

Did you know that the IRS taxes stolen property? Yep. On your 1040, you know, that TV you stole from the neighbors when you broke into their home while they were on vacation last summer? You are supposed to report that to the IRS as income or you are breaking the law! However, if you did report that, it would be self-incrimination under the 5th Amendment and you might go to jail. But fear not! Our masters have thought of everything! That's why you, dear Quick Fingers, have the option of reporting your thefts as “other income.”

You can't make this stuff up.

And that’s the way it is with taxes, licenses, whatever folks. If, someday soon, flying vehicles become popular and there’s one in every garage, do you think that the government will be licensing them for our safety? No way! They will license them because they will see it as just another profitable revenue stream. Just like fining people for driving without seat belts, helmets, burnt out taillights, blah, blah, blah.

They can call them "licenses" all they want; I hope this proves to dear reader that licenses (for driving, dogs, cats, fishing, open fires, raising animals, etc.) are all a form of taxation.

Undoubtedly, the only thing throughout man's history that taxes have proven to be really good for was the inspiration of a great Beatles song.

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He is the president of an Internet & Cross Media advertising/marketing agency and a media production company named Universal Vision. He writes about marketing, the Internet and Social Media at the Modern Marketing Japan blog. His book, Schizophrenic in Japan, went on sale in 2005.

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