Saturday, April 18, 2015

Death and Taxes

Confessions of Ignorance has hit a bit of a doldrums this month and the responsibility lies quite literally with death and taxes. My aunt's death, and my taxes. I'll get back into stride soon, but I thought I could at least explore this famous phrase. Many if not most people know the quote:

"in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes".

Fewer probably know that it was written by Benjamin Franklin in a letter to one Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789. Here is the whole sentence, which I believe is slightly less well known:

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

And I bet fewer people still know that Daniel Defoe of Robinson Crusoe fame actually beat him to the punch. In 1726, he wrote:

Things as certain as Death and Taxes, can be more firmly believ’d.

This was from The Political History of the Devil. I think it lacks the punch of Franklin's aphorism but Franklin had some extra time to think about it.

All of this can easily be found in Wikipedia, but you hadn't thought to look there, had you?

Here's another little thing about taxes that I found at Wonkblog about the skyrocketing complexity of the federal tax code. Read it and weep.


  1. Sorry about your aunt (and taxes). Sigh... It's nice to find pithy sayings when we need our comforts, isn't it?

  2. It was actually great to find time to get together with my sisters and reminisce as we went through some of her possessions and planned the service for her. Taxes were another matter, as my finally breaking down and getting a tax preparer to do them did not go as well as I'd hoped.