Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Government With Purpose

It's difficult to decide what should and shouldn't be taxed. There are tons of arguments out there saying that taxing inheritances is fine, taxing alcohol is not, estate taxes are death taxes, etc.

I propose a purpose-oriented perspective on taxes. Basically, a tax must be predicated on the relationship that whatever is being taxed has with the point of the tax. For example, people argue that cigarettes should be taxed since smokers cost more medically to society. This argument would be fine if 100% of the taxes went towards medical ends. That's not the case at all. Truly, 100% of the revenue goes to general funds and is spent on things ranging from roadways to generous severance packages for government employees.

For example, 100% of the costs associated with roadwork should be shouldered by tolls and automobile taxes. This has the added benefit of letting people know, on a personal level, how much of their tax money is going to what areas of the government. It forces absolute clarity onto the clusterfuck that is taxation.

But what about things for which there is no taxable representation in society? What about schools, or firefighters? Frankly, I think income and property taxes cover this just fine. Income means money, and money requires a stable governmental system in which to spend it. Income taxes are literally paying for the system that allow the money to exist in the first place. I consider that a fair trade. This same argument applies to sales taxes.

Property taxes pay for police and firefighters. For example, what good are fire fighters if there is nothing to put out? Firefighters need houses, as such, owning a house pays for the work. I've got some problems with property taxes based on how nice your house is, but the size of your house could matter. Regardless, I consider property taxes based on value to be a progressive tax that amounts to robbery. Theoretically, if you mow your lawn regularly, you will end up with higher taxes.

If no good reason can be found for taxing something, the tax must be eliminated. If the money is truly needed for the government to function, the tax must be moved elsewhere so people know what money is being spent where.

Schools are difficult. We cannot put the burden on only the parents, or school becomes unaffordable. An uneducated society is unbearable harmful to everyone alive now and to be alive later. There are many ways I could rationalize education to fit with my general logic, but I think it's sufficed to say that education is undeniably a public good. An educated populace is what has allowed us to reach the heights we have reached and it must be furthered.

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