To receive a gift is a precious moment; no less the giving of one. To give willingly, without expectation of return provides a momentary glimpse of the greatness that is inherent within mankind. The gift embodies self-sacrifice. Whether it is from a known loved one, or a total stranger; whether in time of plenty or time of need, it is a beautiful act.
Nothing denigrates a gift more than a sense of an entitlement to that gift. With our children, it is this delicate balancing act teaching this. There is a sense that you cannot give the same thing, the same way, too often or it becomes an expectation, and loses it’s nature as a gift. Thus we avoid giving gifts when asked, we are creative in our giving, and we speak disapprovingly into those times where a child reacts negatively when gift is expected but not received.
The perspective of the gift sheds an interesting light on the contention within our culture over the provision of public services. The vast majority of those producing wealth in this, and other nations feel to one degree or another that they are happy to help out through taxation others in need. What grates is not that this help is given, but that it becomes expected, demanded. The gift they give is not honoured; at some point it is no longer a gift.
Government inserts an immense dissociation between giver and receiver. There is no ‘person’ giving, just the amorphous, bottomless pit of money that is the government. Critically, there is no relationship, and without that relationship, there is no sense of the sacrifice involved. The gifts people receive become perceived merely as outworking of the system.
Confounding the issue further is the systemic lack of a discrete point at which people’s obligations as members of society end and their generosity as gift givers begins. There is no clarity, just an ever changing taxation system that morphs to reflect the political aspirations of the government of the day. This ambiguity about what is appropriate leads to the situation we see where those who are paying in to the system feel they are paying in too much, and those that are receiving from the system feel that others are paying in too little.
Part of the beauty of land tax is that it clearly indicates this boundary. We are paying the community for the right to sole use of a limited and valuable resource. There is no gift involved; the returns from this are equally distributable to all. We already get our return from our expense in the land we occupy; what happens to the money is then the choice of the community. Gift giving returns to the personal, relational act that it is supposed to be.