A well-funded group had put a proposal on the ballot, Measure Q, that would have levied an annual $49 per parcel (of land) in Monterey County for ten years. The money would go to child care. In early August, when I read the proposal, I just knew that almost all the major players in the county would favor it or, if they didn’t, would stay silent. Who would oppose a subsidy “for the children”? But I also believed that it was a bad subsidy. Should taxpayers pay for other people’s child care? And should they be taxed to pay for an ill-defined and relatively open-ended subsidy for which there was close to zero accountability? I wanted to write a ballot argument against Measure Q. I didn’t think opponents of the measure would win, but even so it was important to offer voters an argument against the tax increase rather than a blank page in the voter guide. I won’t keep you in suspense. We did win. Moreover, our side was outspent by approximately 600 to 1.

This is one of the opening paragraphs of David R. Henderson, “Tax vs. Facts: An Election Story,” Defining Ideas, December 1, 2022.

Another excerpt:

At the same time, though, debate was occurring on social media. Chris Kramer, a friend and ally who follows the Nextdoor social network more closely than I do, told me that people were quoting my argument that the tax was regressive. Rosemarie Barnard had told me that most people wouldn’t understand what a regressive tax is. I had more confidence than she had, but it later occurred to me that their understanding of economic theory might have mattered less than I had thought. The word “regressive” sounds, well, regressive. Many people call themselves progressives. What group of people go around calling themselves “regressives”?

I love the editor’s line after the title: “A proposed tax increase meets a small but determined band of opponents.”

Read the whole thing. There’s some good economics in there about whether the burden of a land tax is on renters or landowners.

The picture above is of a juggernaut, which is what the side in favor of the tax, the side that spent $600,000 to our $1,000, felt like.