Zoo Station

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Taxes, Taxes, Taxes Pt. 1

Posted by Chance on July 12, 2006

Dan Trabune has started visiting the site and has brought up many good questions concerning taxes and what they are used for. He asked this question in response to a previous post

It’s a totally unworkable solution, but don’t you ever wonder what would happen if our US Budget were written by The People? That is, if our tax system allowed us to say, “I’d like 10% to go to defense, 10% to helping the poor, 20% towards the environment, 5% to foreign aid…” etc.

Pretending that it were somehow workable, what do you reckon the results of that approach would be (besides a big mess)?

I think there are good and bad things to such an approach. The good thing is that it would provide immediate accountability to where our tax dollars go. If you asked any random person how their tax money is distributed, they would probably have no idea, and I do not either. Government accountability of how our money is spent is something that needs to be addressed.

Another issue though, is that I believe our founding fathers wanted it more like the current situation, in which decisions concerning money are one step removed from the people. Whether this is right or wrong, or best for the people is a whole issue within itself. I think Congress was designed to make legislative and budget decisions for the people, instead of the people doing it themselves. This is what makes our nation a republic, as opposed to a direct democracy. A political scientist could probably tell you more about the differences, and why one is better than the other. I believe it has something to do with legislators being less subject to shifting political whims, as opposed to the everyday person.

It would be interesting, however, to see what would happen in such a situation. Would the distribution be more just? Would it still be subject to simply redistributing money to special interests?

I suppose the biggest issue I have with our tax system is the way it redistributes money from one person to another. As I have said before, I have no problem with a basic welfare system. However, when the objective of the welfare system is to simply redistribute money from the rich to the poor for egalitarian purposes, or simply because “the rich can afford it”, that I have issues with. I am afraid that a direct system would cause this to happen to an even greater extent.

While democracy is a great form of rule, the greatest I can think of, other than a direct rule by Christ, a democratic form of government is not perfect, especially if it is not constrained. As the saying goes, the minority can still suffer from the tyranny of the majority. That’s why we have the Bill of Rights, so that the majority cannot silence speech they disagree with, or jail someone they dislike for no reason at all. I also believe in the enumerated powers doctrine, which says that the Constitution spells out the powers that the government has. A problem with democracy that has so much power over our money is that it can simply transfer money from the minority to the majority. While this is great for when the money is really needed, it could get to the point where democracy is no longer a tool to keep the peace and keep government accountable, it becomes a tool for material gain.

Dan’s question could also point to a greater issue: which is better, a more direct rule by the people, or a more representative republic?

Update 3:52 PM MDT: Made some edits to the last couple of sentences for clarity.

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3 Responses to “Taxes, Taxes, Taxes Pt. 1”

  1. Lee said

    “Another issue though, is that I believe our founding fathers wanted it more like the current situation, in which decisions concerning money are one step removed from the people. “

    Oh you’d best believe that is exactly what the Founder intended. They were concerned about the rule of the democratic mob, and while that sounds so highly unegalitarian, let’s be honest that it is a good thing they did encorperate such mechanisms into the Constitution.

  2. Chance said

    I would like to read the Federalist Papers sometime, probably on my next business trip. And books that make me think hard also make me sleepy. I like to sleep on the plane.

  3. Lee said

    Do read those. Since they are a collection of essays, you can read them bite by bite.

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