NYTimes.com Article: You Are What You Tax

The article below from NYTimes.com
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Dear Everyone;

An excellent article on paying taxes for what you want to pay for - not what the legislators say you have to pay for.

Ron Getty
SF Libertarian


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You Are What You Tax

April 14, 2004

Take a break as you fill out your 1040 form, and play this
game: suppose you could choose which government entities
your tax dollars support - and in what proportion. Since
it's a thought experiment, let's assume that local and
state government functions are part of the list. What
percentages will you assign to which departments, agencies
and programs?

Some people will split their taxes between the local police
and national defense and leave it at that. Some will assign
it all to the Environmental Protection Agency. Taxpayers
from red states will choose differently from taxpayers from
blue states. But polling data tells us enough about the
government services people value to permit reasonably
confident predictions about the national results.

Police, fire, water and sewage, courts and prisons and
national defense will get far more money than they would
ever have the nerve to request. The allocations for
national parks, environmental protection, air-traffic
control and highways will probably be many times their
current budgets. But my first point (match my prediction
against your own choices) is that almost all the choices
will be for tangible services. Most of them will be for
services that fall under the classic understanding of a
"public good" - something that individuals cannot easily
provide on their own and that is shared by all (police
protection, clean air).

My second point is that allowing taxpayers to name where
their tax dollars go would put large segments of local,
state and federal government out of business. To see what I
mean, go to the Web and bring up the organizational chart
of any government department. Some of the boxes will catch
your eye as something you might like to support (mine
safety, the national archives) but there will be plenty of
other boxes about working groups, directorates for planning
or administration or diversity, offices of compliance
exemption or regulatory development, all of which sound
like a ton of bureaucracy for an ounce of output. Might you
use your tax dollars to support a mine inspector or an
archive curator? Quite possibly. Will you line up to
support any of the boxes that sound like gobbledygook?
Unlikely. Much of the apparatus of government does nothing
that ordinary people, making sensible judgments, would
willingly pay government to do.

Now what if taxpayers skip over the boxes that appear to be
useless because they do not understand their necessity?
Let's expand the thought experiment. Say that those ignored
boxes can advertise - but that the advertisements must meet
the same standards of truthfulness as the advertisements
for, say, antacids.

What a delicious prospect: a government office having to
explain itself in order to persuade taxpayers to support
its existence. The elements within the government that can
make a persuasive case will do fine. Americans are not
stingy or shortsighted. We will still have plenty of mine
inspectors and curators. But who will voluntarily pay for
the layers of bureaucratic barnacles that make up so much
of the organization charts? Who will pay for the billions
in subsidies that are doled out to agricultural, corporate
and nonprofit special interests? Who will pay for the
enormous pork-barrel projects?

The clich´┐Ż that 9/11 taught Americans to appreciate the
importance of government contains a nugget of truth. It
made us remember how crucial the core public services
really are. Perhaps this recognition will inform our future
choices - prompting us to support the government we need,
and helping us finally put an end to the government that
serves no purpose but its own.

Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise
Institute, is the author, most recently, of "Human
Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and