An Inconvenient Question
By Arnold Kling
If somebody offered us our current income tax system for the first time, would we buy it?
On another topic, but effectively asking the same question, Washington Post editorializes,
the policies and institutions that worked in the past are not necessarily optimal for the future…one program often contributes to a problem that other programs try to solve. Does the mortgage interest deduction divert resources from modest to expensive housing? If yes, the FHA must work that much harder to make housing affordable through guaranteed loans. Or Congress feels obliged to create an affordable housing trust fund, as it is doing in the latest legislation.
Go through a mental list of major government programs, and ask how many of them you would enact today in their current formats.
Social Security? Even if you like the concept, if you had it to do over again you would make it less susceptible to demographic imbalances.
Medicare? Agriculture policy? Energy policy?
If you step back and look at it, the problem of fragile by design that I wrote about concerning Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae is widespread in top-down solutions. And yet, like Charlie Brown getting ready to kick a football, we seem to have an infinite capacity to believe that it will be different this time. We think that the next top-down design introduced by government will work fine, it will never degrade, and we won’t find ourselves ten or twenty years down the road wondering how such a mess was created.