Great Minds Think...Somewhat Differently
By Arnold Kling
Staunch environmentalist? Send some money to the EPA. Believe we need an infrastructure upgrade? Direct your funds to the Department of Transportation. Think we need to ramp up our national defense? Send extra tax dollars to the security agency of your choosing. To ensure precision, this would have to work on the agency and department level. Information about destinations-their duties, and objective evaluations of their performance-would be available online, on one website. Think of it as a form of citizens’ earmarks, designed to make use of modern technology and wrest a bit of power for the people themselves.
I propose a very similar idea in the widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced. However, there is an important difference. I view self-allocated taxes as a substitute for some of the taxes that people now pay. Ethan Porter views self-allocated taxes as additional donations that people would make. Porter thinks that if we knew how government was spending money, we would be very happy with paying taxes. I think if we knew how government was spending money, we would prefer to donate our money to other causes.
The way I look at it, there are two ways that people donate to causes. The first way is when they make individual charitable donations. The second way is when a tiny group of legislators tells forces people to donate to the causes selected by those legislators.
I like Porter’s proposal, because I would like to see people think in terms of directly comparing the act of individually donating to a cause with the act of being coerced to donate to the causes of legislators. Porter thinks that this would increase the public’s support of legislative causes, making people more pro-government. I think it would increase the public’s awareness of how much they prefer making their own donations to legislative coercion.