Readers’ Forum: ‘It’s not a race!’ Why competition is valuable

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Competition should be seen as a good thing, BYU student Mason Lewis says. (Graphic courtesy of Mason Lewis)

So many aspects of our lives are affected by competition. It is a motivator that drives success and value, and this is especially true when it comes to our economy. This motivating effect is one of the key reasons the U.S. has been one of the most economically powerful countries in the world for years.

With President Biden’s recent announcement of a tax plan which would raise the federal corporate income tax rates from 21% to 28%, it is important to consider how this decision may affect us as a country competitively if implemented and why it is important. 

In my own life, competitions from mountain biking races to college applications have stretched me and helped me reach a greater potential because they made me recognize my shortcomings and motivated me to improve. Competition helps us become the best we can be.

But if we do not care about our performance or where we measure up in comparison with others, as Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “We can reach a ripe old age and look back on our lives and realize that we reached but a small part of our potential.”

For example, I recently attended my brother’s grade school fun run where an announcer said, “This is not a race!” Predictably, as students realized it did not matter how much effort they put in, they all slowed down and walked. It was disappointing to watch my brother and his friends, who were at first so giddy and full of excitement to race and stretch themselves, suddenly turn so apathetic toward this unfulfilling exercise. Competition is what drives both individuals and economies. 

Biden’s tax plan seems to forget competitiveness matters. If implemented and the corporate tax rate jumps from 21% to 28%, not including state taxes, companies would be more likely to move their headquarters to other countries where taxes are lower. Americans would lose jobs and the government wouldn’t raise money off of these companies as intended. Corporations would simply take their businesses elsewhere. 

One reason this tax plan sounds attractive to some is it promises to “make the rich pay their fair share” while lowering taxes and increasing benefits for individuals in the lower class. But a key issue with continuing to expand progressive tax systems is it eliminates competition by seeking to ensure everyone is as equal as possible.

This philosophy of “stealing from the rich and giving to the poor” is noble at first glance. The image of Robin Hood probably comes to mind. But when we consider we all have an opportunity — or at least we ought to, especially in this country — to better ourselves and our lives, then taxing and taking from those who have worked so hard to overcome challenges and get where they are is like stealing from the American dream.  

The best thing we can do is strive to work hard and take accountability for our lives rather than blaming others for our circumstances, even if at times others are partially responsible. As we do, we will be empowered to push through the obstacles in our path and become more aware of the opportunities that already lie ahead of us.

If we take control of our own lives and seek to create equal opportunities of success for everyone, our united push forward will help us to reach our highest potential as individuals and as a united nation. 

–Mason Lewis

Draper, Utah

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