Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Made In America: Voluntary Taxation

Good news everyone! We've figured out a way to pay for all those much-needed public services without resorting to theft -- aka taxation!

"There's absolutely no need to steal from people in order to have fire protection, security services, libraries, etc. Like you and like the vast majority of people, I'm glad to pay for them. I just don't want to have a gun put to my head to support the legally-mandated only game in town."


Oh, wait ...

And before you reply, please visit this page.


Jason Zavoda said...

It's funny because it's true.

Aaron E. Steele said...

As Nelson Muntz would say ...

Ha ha!

Eric R. Wirsing said...

I sometimes wonder if I'm one of the few Americans who values roads, state parks, police
departments, national parks, fire departments,
education (teacher salaries, books, schools,
etc.), libraries and all the other good things my taxes bring. It's a pity the U.S. Republican Party will never understand these things. I'm personally for revoking their citizenships and making them live somewhere else.

aka John said...

@Paladin - its a bit more complicated than that

@steelcaress - that is a ginormous brush you're using

Politics and gaming don't mix too well, unlike say, peanut butter and chocolate.

Joshua L. Lyle said...

Government is not the solution to the free rider problem; it is the primary instance of it. Good governance is a public good, and if you believe that people will broadly free ride, then you must believe that good governance will be under-provided.

You've actually provided a subtle and powerful argument for anarchism. I suggest you embrace it.

Aaron E. Steele said...

No, government is absolutely not the primary instance of free-riding. Only those who have abrogated their social responsibility, and have chosen to disengage from the political process, hold that view. The rest of us, who are engaged in politics, see democratic government as an essential and vital tool for productive, collective action.

I do agree that good governance is under-provided, but then, that is the fault of those who have disengaged from political life. It is as equally true of the corporate world, where their inner workings are more easily shielded from public scrutiny, as can be evidenced by the Enron, Worldcom, sub-prime mortgage, savings and loan, Madoff, and other scandals that have, and continue to rock America's economy. How would anarchism have prevented those scandals?

Seems like those scandals stand as powerful arguments that anarchism is a pie-in-the-sky, ineffectual, and dangerously naive philosophy, espoused by those who have abandoned their civic responsibilites.

Show me i'm wrong. Tell me about your civic engagement, and your participation in effecting meaningful improvements in the quality of life of you and your fellow citizens.

Aaron E. Steele said...

John said...
@Paladin - its a bit more complicated than that

How so, John? I'll admit I only did one university course in game theory, taught by the former advisor to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I had understood that the "free rider problem" was fully acknowledged by both the left and right. Please illuminate me.

Free-riding is insidious: as people become aware that others are doing it, their propensity to engage in the same activity increases. This is why tax evasion, tax resentment, and the underground economy are becoming ever-more serious threats to national economic health. Tax evation is now not only tolerated, but is often encouraged and applauded.

The current debt crisis in Greece has been linked to wide-spread tax avoidance. People want their governments to spend money, but when it comes time to pay the ferryman, suddenly everyones' wallets are a little light.

Joshua L. Lyle said...


You suggest the free-riding problem can be overcome by civic virtue. If so, why not cut out the middle-man (government) and their violent methods, and just let civic virtue provide for society? Or, if as you suggest, the necessary work to have a good government will not occur because people like me will free-ride on people like you, then shouldn't the claim that government cannot work be regarded with the same strength that civil society cannot work because of free-riding?

I can offer only a brief response at this time to your question of scandals. On the matter of savings and loan, the entities in question were created purely by government regulating free banks out of existence, issued unsustainable loans only because of government price-fixing of credit, and collapsed only because government inflated the money supply to such an extent that the loans they had issued were no longer profitable in real terms.

So, government prevented none of the scandals you cite, and was the responsible party in at least one, so maybe anarchy would be at least marginally better.

You ask me to cite the improvements in the quality of life of my fellow citizens. But my fellow citizens are very, very rich, so I focus my efforts on those who are not, who happen, for the most part, to not be of my nation nor under the same rulers. Remembering that the poorest ventile of Americans is wealthiest ventile of the citizens of most other countries, I find myself moved more by compassion than by tribalism. On that note, I commend to you Trees for Life, Heifer International, ProLiteracy Worldwide, Planned Parenthood's World Population Fund, and the Red Cross as better recipients of your time and money than any government. Perhaps I have done no good, but I am at least confident that they have bombed no one in my name.

Aaron E. Steele said...

Joshua L. Lyle said...
You suggest the free-riding problem can be overcome by civic virtue.

No, I don't. So let me be plainer. Free-riding cannot be overcome. Period.

It can only be managed and accounted for.

I'm quite happy to have a further exchange with you, if you think it will be fruitful.

aka John said...

I wasn't trying to pick a fight, really. I actually thought you were equating those who wish to see a reduction of service/lower taxation as those who would be free riding.

Again, not trying to pick a fight. I should have listened to that inner voice and not responded. It's bad enough gamers find the little thing (like edition) to fight about, but I've found when you add real world political commentary to the mix, its harded to just get along.

Aaron E. Steele said...

I have lots of interesting thoughts on that John. I take transit to work 2-3 times a week. On a recent trip, a free-rider boarded the bus. So, one, he didn't pay his fare. Two, as we were waiting to depart, a woman with a cane slipped on the ice. The free-rider was overheard saying "she can sue the city for failure to remove the ice."

Now, here's the thing. The city is me and the other fare-paying riders: the cost of operating the buses and trains, removing the ice, and paying those legal claims when the ice is not removed, is bourne by us.

So not only does the free-rider get to use a transit system that I pay for, but his lack of fare-payment starves the budget, forcing the city to cut back on ice-removal. So I lose twice, once for paying the fare that he refuses to, and a second time when the legal claim is finally resolved, resulting in higher future transit fees.

I'm not picking a fight with you either, you're a really decent fellow. But this fellow didn't want a reduction in service coupled with lower taxes. He wanted a higher level of service (ice removal) while paying nothing.

That's what I was poing fun at. People who want the benefits of a civil society, but who are unwilling to contribute to the common weal.

Joshua L. Lyle said...

Allow me to tell a story as well.

Recently, a neighbor of mine laid down new gravel to repair the road upon which we live and jointly own. I eagerly contribute to the expense of this road, because I am motivated by my own interest in having the road, and although I may free-ride, I am also bound in society with my neighbors and wish to live with them without resentment or censure and appear honorable, generous, and responsible - by these means do we manage and account for the free rider problem in our microcosm of the problem of transportation networks.

By contrast, some months ago I filed, under protest, an income tax return with an accompanying payment. I was less than eager to contribute to this, as while some portion of the funds in question would go to the worthy goal of keeping the roads in good order, a more significant sum was going to pay for the conquest of foreign nations and the war on some peaceful people that happen to use intoxicants the government does not approve of. And, of course, should these funds not be provided, it is not my reputation that I would fear for, but my freedom or even my life.

One salient difference between the two stories is the prevalence of violence. Ignoring the consideration of whether taxation itself is of violent character, I can at least rest assured that money used for the maintenance of our road was not siphoned away to fund the murder of Iraqis nor SWAT teams to harass and rob my peaceful fellows nor prisons to hold them in bondage, which are things that make me *ashamed* to pay taxes to my rulers, knowing as I do what evil will be wrought with them. I will not gladly pay for murder merely because the potholes must be patched.

I object not to my duty to support the common weal; I protest only that we have as well an even stronger duty to *not* contribute to the common woe. All too often, taxes are blithely assumed to be all the former and none the later.

Aaron E. Steele said...

So you'd like to decide where your tax money goes, do I understand that correctly?

Also, which political party did you vote for during the mid-tem elections?

Joshua L. Lyle said...

I voted for the candidates that I judged to be most anti-war. Mostly Libertarians, when such were available. I regard voting as the least important and valuable of my political activities, however.

Aaron E. Steele said...

Roughly half of your fellow citizens feel the same way, even though it only costs them 1 hour every two years.

Considering I pay tens of thousands in taxes, I consider it time well-spent.

To each his own, however.

Thanks for sharing your perspective with me.