Any group of people larger than two is going to be better served by pooling some resources than by individually allocating all resources. This is a fact, and this fact likely makes taxation unavoidable.
Taxation is also evil, in that it represents taking of another's property under threat of violencei. Being both evil and unavoidable it follows then that it'd ideally be limited, simple and clear.
Here's then a proposition that'd make taxation exactly that. In my view, taxation can safely be divided in three distinct titles, and it'd be ideal if each of these titles were administered individually, by unrelated entities.
I. Real estate tax. This pays for keeping the peace, which would include the army, the police and anything else that in time may be considered expedient or desirable to be crammed under that heading. Failure to pay results in confiscation of the property in question.
As a rough estimate, the US floor space is something like half a trillion square feetii while the final size of the Department of Defense's budget was $680 billion in 2009. The size of the US is something like 3.5 million square miles. Nobody can tell you how much law enforcement in the US costs, but if we go with a total budget of two trillion for the entire "peacekeeping" job and we split it evenly among land and building we end up with a Title I tax of ~2 dollars per square foot of floor space per year plus ~500 dollars per acre of land per year. Neither of these seem particularly onerous, even if the budgets they fill (with no gaps and no need to borrow) are significant.
To forestall any retarded argumentation about how this "wouldn't be fair" : taxation of real estate goes straight into rents, and from there straight into the costs of goods, services and lifestyles. It hits exactly those who benefit from the keeping of the peace, exactly to the degree they benefit from it. There's nothing to argue here.
II. Vehicle tax. This pays for maintaining public infrastructure such as roads, waterways, ports and anything else that in time may be considered expedient or desirable to be crammed under the "infrastructure" heading. Failure to pay results in confiscation of the vehicle in question.
Any self-propelling installation, indifferent of any other consideration, is to be taxed by total loaded weight. This includes ships, airplanes, cars and whatnot. It is unlikely that this scheme would make vehicle registration costs go up, judging on the notion that there's probably a million cars in Boston and the Big Dig cost something like 10 billion dollars over about a decade, which comes to about a grand a year.
III. People tax. This pays for any and all human services, such as some basic education, some basic health care and, again, whatever else that in time may be considered expedient or desirable to be crammed under the "people services" heading. Failure to pay results in the killing of the individual in questioniii.
This tax is a fixed sum per capita. Looking at the current budgets it would be something in the neighbourhood of five to ten thousand dollars a year, which means that about 90% or so of the US population would need to be killed on May 1st 2014 based on this titleiv. Superficially this may make the proposed reform seem unfeasible, but upon closer examination it turns out that the reform itself is just fine, it's the people that are broken.
Specifically, broke ass nobodies with an overdeveloped sense of self entitlement and an out of control notion of self worth expect services be rendered them that far exceed what they personally can produce or in any way justify. In case you were wondering how come you're paying so much more than two dollars per square foot and five hundred per acre, in case you were wondering why there needs to be a thirty to sixty percent cut out of all your income plus a sales tax on top of that plus hidden excises pushing up the costs of everything from fuel to alcohol... well... here's the explanation. All the broke ass demanders (plus, of course, all the graft, inefficiency and waste that an incredibly complex system creates).
In practice once implemented Title III would give the random voter an excellent manner to balance his electoral choices. On one hand if you vote into office bleeding heart entitlement types they will push up the cost of social programs, which will push up the required tax, which may mean you don't make the cut to see the cherries bloom next year. On the other hand if you vote into office stingy conservation types they will push down the required tax which will make all the useless idiots able to survive another year, which will muck up things for no good reason. A balance would soon enough be found once everyone participating has what N. Taleb calls skin in the game.
Maybe for the sake of convenience it would be possible that anyone who wants can pay his entire lifetime tax as an outright payment (based on the usual actuarial demographics) and get a slight discount plus immunity from ulterior tax changes (either direction). This would naturally create an aristocratic class out of the shambled state of present society and thus the tax reform would resolve that problem alongside all the others.
Pretty good stuff, huh. So when are we doing it ?———
- There's reams of maculature produced to date and likely to be produced forever trying to somehow argue out of this fundamental problem of taxation. All of it is easily dismissed. For instance trying to represent the extraction of tax as some sort of forcible fulfillment of a promise (a sort of alimony to the state, if you will) fails upon the observation that nobody promised the state anything. All the rest is as much nonsense, but you're welcome to try and argue for your particular brand in the comments section, I'll answer. [↩]
- EIA report of ~71,658 million sq ft of commercial space in the US in 2003, energy usage of ~1/5 for commercial space in the US. [↩]
- That's right, the killing of the individual in question. No questions asked. Every 1st of May could be Bloodshed Day, all the nice folks without tax receipts get lined up on a stadium somewhere and shot. The whole thing could be on TV, too. [↩]
- Obviously some of those would be able to beg or borrow the sum, but anyway. [↩]