Each year the National Priorities Project releases a visual illustrating how our tax dollars are spent. This is the one for 2013, sans medicare and social security taxes.
At the end of Sociology 101, I like to ask my students: “What is the state for?” This often takes them aback, as most of them have never considered the question before. Is it for defense? It is to maximize happiness or reduce misery? Is it for maximizing GDP? Protecting private property? Do we want to use it to influence other countries? How?
There are many questions to ask and they are not purely theoretical. I like how the spending of our tax dollars helps make the conversation more concrete.
Cross-posted at Business Insider.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.