How Much Do You Value Government?

Column by Paul Bonneau.

Exclusive to STR

I was reading Mama Liberty’s recent blog post about downsizing government. It occurred to me that it could be determined how much any given individual valued government, by asking them how much they would pay in taxes for it, if taxes really were voluntary.

For example, Joe Blow pays a total of $20,000 this year in taxes. If asked what he’d pay if he had the choice, he might think about it some, and then say, “I’d pay $4,000.” He might be thinking that some money really should go for schools and some for cops, and some for a few other things, and he tells me that. So at least initially, his valuation of government is 20% what he gets from them unwillingly. I suspect this is not too far off from how most people would respond. They value government services, but not as much as they are forced to pay for them; and some government services are not wanted at all.

But then I’d ask him, “Why give money to government for schools? Wouldn’t it be better to give it to your local school directly? Or support local private schools? Wouldn’t your money go further then, by cutting out the middleman?” Almost certainly he would agree, as this is hard to deny. However, he might say he prefers to give a single lump for convenience sake, not doling out bits for this and that.

The next question is of course, “Don’t you think that organizations would form, or already exist, that could dole out your one lump contribution appropriately--groups such as United Way?” In fact, in this day and age, there’d probably be an app for his smart phone that would easily control how much of his contribution for whatever groups he is interested in, that he could instantly modify as his interests changed.

I might bring in information such as The Voluntary City, showing that all the things we think of government doing, already have been provided voluntarily in the past.

Of course, what I am trying to do is get his valuation of government down to zero. But somehow, it never quite gets there, because the conversation grinds to a halt.

I think this is too much for most people. They “don’t want to go there,” for whatever reason. And to be honest, it’s too much for me as well, any more. I don’t really think it’s even my business to convince people not to value government. It’s only my business to get them to leave me alone.

I’d rather just say to Joe, “Let’s assume you believe government is of some use to you, or maybe you think it is inevitable. And let’s assume I disagree--perhaps because I think services are better provided voluntarily. Our disagreement doesn’t actually matter, as we no doubt disagree on all sorts of things. All that matters is, are you willing to stick a gun in my face, to force me to comply with your beliefs? Are you willing to condone others doing the same thing?”

And then I’d walk away, and let this churn around in his brain for a while.

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Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 79
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Comments

Glock27's picture

Tough proposition Paul. The majority of Americans would probably support the Kleptocracy. On this issue I feel exactly the same as you zero taxes and leave me the hell alone. Sure, I'll let you ask me to volunteer to give or do something, but in the end it becomes my choice as you have indicated. If I could convince my wife I would not file this year, but I recognize that the Kleptocracy will bleed me one way or another. I think of all the people who owe the Kleptocracy, they call one of the supposed agencies designed to help you reduce your tax bill and instead of paying a $100,000 tax bill they settle with the (I)nternal
(R)eich (Stasi) for maybe eight to twelve thousand. How does that work? Huh! If only I could convince her, but with my luck they would be on my back the following year with a 90% interest rate.
By the way Kleptocracy is Greek, meaning "rule by thieves".

Also the article was a delightful read, clean, brief and to the point.

John deLaubenfels's picture

Excellent, Paul.  Exactly the point that needs to be made.  Perhaps there should even be an additional hint, "Are you willing to face the fact that if you or your agents stick a gun in my face, somebody might get shot?"  Because I keep wondering if nothing else will break through the lethargy of the common man.

Samarami's picture
    '...I think this is too much for most people. They “don’t want to go there,” for whatever reason. And to be honest, it’s too much for me as well, any more. I don’t really think it’s even my business to convince people not to value government. It’s only my business to get them to leave me alone...'

    And, Paul, even if you or I live to 107 they ain't a gonna "...leave me alone..."

    Sam

Paul's picture

Well, I'll be ready when it happens. To me, this is the way to go, fighting tyrants. 107 years is long enough to be alive. :-)

Southern Wolf's picture

These are very good questions. How much would people voluntarily and of their own free choice pay to maintain a government that coerces and compels people to do things or not do things involuntarily and not of their own free choice? Put that way only those who want a nanny or guardian would pay anything, but that would abdicate the responsibility of individuals to govern themselves. How much would sheep pay the sheep herder to feed and shelter them, even knowing their end is to be mutton?