Death and taxes may be inevitable, but it is only the latter which gather vocal apologists. Tax, these enthusiasts aver, is a good thing because it makes good things happen: hospitals, schools, roads, clean water and government inspectors maintaining standards.
Certainly, taxes may provide services at better standards and lower costs than could be obtained by individuals acting on their own. Rubbish collection is one example, military defence another. It is very probably true of public health, where small contributions can obtain considerable communal benefits. However, in the UK only a minor proportion of taxes are spent on such matters. Healthcare, education and defence account for 36% of spending. Another 36% is taken up by welfare and pensions, which in older times were considered a personal responsibility. The last third is general government activities. For example, “Protection” relates to police, fire services, courts and jails. “Interest” is the cost of government spending more than it raises in taxes. The “Other” category covers a very wide range of interventions, some 28 in total, several with welfare connections.
Proponents of higher taxes might be motivated purely by the overall advantage of government procurement of services as opposed to private provision. On the other hand, it might be due to the wish to obtain benefits. Could other motives explain support for higher taxation?
Chien-An Lin and Timothy C. Bates at the University of Edinburgh decided to find out.
Each is to count for one and none for more than one: Predictors of support for economic redistribution
There is a great deal in this paper, so I have had to summarize, and to concentrate on the main findings, particularly of the first study, and not the second replication.
They recruited a representative sample and then gave them questionnaires to complete. They set standards so that anyone who answered quickly and without thought was excluded (no one did that). They tested every questionnaire for consistency (Cronbach Alpha) and all of them are sufficiently consistent, so the answers are not distorted by a few freak questions. I have put in all the detail because these scales are not well known, so examples are helpful.
A total of 403 participants were recruited using Prolific Academic (268 females, mean age 37 years, SD = 12.19). We pre-registered a criterion that subjects who completed the questionnaire less than 20 seconds would be excluded. No subjects met this criterion. The racial mix of the sample was representative, with participants identifying as White (n = 366; 90.8%), Black (n = 14; 3.5%), Mixed (n = 14; 3.5%), Asian (n = 6; 1.5%) and other (n = 1; 0.2%), 2 participants (0.5%) chose not to answer.
Attitudes toward redistribution were measured with the 11-item support for economic redistribution scale Sznycer et al. (2017). An example reverse-scored item is “Wealthy people should not be taxed more heavily than others”. Each item used a Likert response scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The Cronbach Alpha of economic redistribution in our sample was 0.90.
Communal fairness and instrumental harm were measured using the Oxford Utilitarianism Scale (Kahane et al., 2018). This 9-item instrument consists of two subscales: Impartial Beneficence, which we use to assess communal fairness; An example item is “It is just as wrong to fail to help someone as it is to actively harm them yourself”) and Instrumental Harm (example item: “It is morally right to harm an innocent person if harming them is a necessary means to helping several other innocent people”). Scores were on a Likert scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). In our sample, Cronbach Alphas were 0.63 and 0.69 for Communal fairness and Instrumental Harm.
Compassion, envy, and self-interest were measured as in Lin and Bates (2021).
The 10-item dispositional compassion scale Goldberg (1999); Sznycer et al. (2017) reliably (Cronbach Alpha = 0.80 in our sample) assesses compassion based on Likert responses from 1 (very inaccurate) to 5 (very accurate) to content such as “I suffer from others’ sorrows”.
Self-interest used a single item: “Imagine that a policy of higher taxes on the wealthy is implemented. What overall impact do you think the higher taxes on the wealthy would have on you?” with responses on a 1 to 5 scale: My own economic situation would 1: significantly worsen; slightly worsen; stay the same; slightly improve; 5 significantly improve.
The 5-item Malicious Envy Scale (Lange & Crusius, 2015) scores items from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree) with example content including “If other people have something that I want for myself, I wish to take it away from them”. The Cronbach Alpha of Malicious Envy was 0.80 in our sample.
Wealthy-harming preference was measured using a scenario choice Sznycer et al. (2017). Scenario one (wealth harming) was “The top 1% wealthiest individuals pay an extra 50% of their income in additional taxes, and as a consequence of that the poor get an additional £100 million per year (the extra 50% in taxes paid in former fiscal years leaving the wealthiest with relatively less taxable income)”.
Scenario two (helping the poor) was “The top 1% wealthiest individuals pay an extra 10% of their income in additional taxes, and as a consequence of that the poor get an additional £200 million per year (the extra 10% in taxes paid in former fiscal years leaving the wealthiest with relatively more taxable income)”.
Finally, support for coercive redistribution was measured with a 19-item coercive redistribution scale generated for this study (see supplementary material detailing development of this scale and the refined, 5-item short version used in study 2). Example items include “People questioning redistribution of wealth should be punished” and “If the wealthy try to avoid tax, it would be permissible to use mild torture to reveal the money they are hiding from the poor”. Responses were on a Likert scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Factor scores on the first component of a factor analysis of the 19-item coercive redistribution scale were used to score subjects.
So, sex and compassion do not have significant effect on whether respondents are willing to be coercive to achieve redistributive taxation. These “mild torturers” were motivated mostly by malicious envy, instrumental harm, self-interest and (least of all) communal fairness. The paper looks at the basis of “communal fairness” in more detail, and it has a sting in the tail, in that you have to be accepted into the commune before you can benefit from the proclaimed fairness. For example, communal fairness is a good explanation of honour killings: they are justified because they preserve the purity of the commune.
All these studies together account for over 40% of the variance in support for redistribution, more than achieved in any previous study.
In summary, not all requests for redistributive taxation arise from noble motives.
Unfortunately, some Montessori organizations are caving in to the social justice movement. Two major Montessori organizations, Association Montessori International/USA (AMI/USA) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) have supported or sponsored conferences that featured workshops or lectures on understanding structural racism, diversity, anti-bias, LGBT students, and much more. These conferences were put on by an organization called Montessori for Social Justice. The website for the AMI/USA conference in 2018 states that Montessori for Social Justice is “dedicated to promoting anti-bias, anti-racist Montessori education. They bring together Montessorians of all trainings to work towards educational equity and the success of all children.” Another Montessori organization, the Montessori Foundation, has formed a task force to address and act on several issues such as eradicating prejudices, establishing a social justice curriculum, and so on.
Well, this is news to me. I had no idea that Montessori is a biased, racist educational system or that it isn’t for the success of all children. I frequently get emails that mention ending systemic and internal racism. Americans, but especially Montessorians, as educators, should recognize that the answer to ending racism is right under their noses. Here is the explanation.
Racism claims that a person is determined by physical factors out of his control, such as skin color. It holds that a person’s values and the content of his mind are either determined before birth or are controlled by his social group. Racism is deterministic; it does not accept free will. It does not recognize any ability of a person to think for himself, come to his own conclusions, and form his own character. Racism is the lowest, crudest, and most evil form of judging and relating to others.
The antidote to racism is individualism. Individualism is the moral stance that recognizes the moral worth of the individual. It holds that each person develops his own character by the thinking of his own mind, not by the color of his skin or other irrelevant factors.
What can be done to end racism? The United States has already done a massive amount to end racism, as it was founded on the principle of individual rights. It was the first country created that recognized individual rights — that each individual has a right to pursue happiness as long as the rights of others are respected. Yes, slavery existed in 1776, but slavery was not unique to this country. It was worldwide at the time and, indeed, is still found in parts of the world today. But it was the idea in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal that led to the Civil War and ended slavery in this country. After that, because people were allowed to associate with each other freely, it took time (as it always does), but they eventually discovered that skin color does not determine the character of a person. This change in attitude is why this country elected a black president twice. It is why we have a Supreme Court justice who is black. It is why Oprah Winfrey, a black woman, is one of the richest persons in the country. It is why we have had entertainers like Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, and the Supremes. It is why we have popular commentators, like Thomas Sowell, who are admired by people of all races. And so on.
It’s decidedly instrumental in influencing children’s attitudes toward racism. Education needs to center on developing the child as an individual. When the child is viewed as an individual, is treated as an individual, and educated as an individual, children end up viewing each other as individuals rather than as members of certain races. Racism ignores the fact that humans have a rational faculty. Racism invalidates reason and choice and replaces them (as Ayn Rand said) with “chemical predestination.”
The Montessori Method does not ignore the rational faculty. In fact, the entire method was developed to assist the child in creating a clear, reasoning mind based on the facts of reality. Furthermore, Maria Montessori did not think human beings are determined. There is no doubt that she thought humans have a free will. “Free choice is one of the highest of all mental processes.” “A child chooses what helps him to construct himself.” Based on this view of human nature, Montessori students are held responsible for their own behavior and are treated as individuals. Since individualism is the guiding principle in Montessori, the children judge each other based on behavior and attitude rather than race. The overall result in the children is a benevolent attitude toward their classmates. They accept each other as individuals, each with his own personality, each with his own strengths and weaknesses. Individualism is the norm, and they learn to value others’ differences. Montessori education is not racist.
Eradicating racism was inspired by the Declaration of Independence. It has been done anywhere where people judge each other as individuals with their own minds and treat each other accordingly. It has been done in Montessori classrooms, where the child is treated as a distinct person with a free will. There is no point in being a Montessori educator unless Maria Montessori’s principles are adhered to and supported explicitly. Instead of workshops on social justice topics, Montessori organizations should feature seminars on the value and role of the individual in eliminating racism, and should glorify and celebrate the fact that the Montessori Method is based on individualism.
 However, not every Montessori school or teacher supports the social justice movement. If you are considering sending your child to a Montessori school, investigate its position carefully.
 Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, (New York: Dell Publishing, 1967), p. 271.
 Id., p .223.
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