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Freedom's Phoenix

Funding Goverment - Updated

February 17, 2009 - 12:00am
Richard Sutton by Richard Sutton

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People often ask how government can be funded without taxes so here is a quick list of possible revenue sources which I will expand upon as time permits.



The first question is how much money do we need for government if it is limited to what it really needs to do.  Privatize, privatize, privatize.

1:  Import/export taxes are not out of the question for me so long as they affect all goods across the nation equally (with none of them protecting this industry or that).  As Import/export taxes are best non-existent it would be best to keep them very low.

Libertarian objections: That is still a tax!

Yes, it is a tax.  What I'm trying to get at is that if government is to regulate international commerce in any way it must be equal to all parties and products.

2: Since the initiation of force is a right held only by Gov't it would be a natural fit for private police forces to pay the government for licensing and possibly trial insurance.  I could also see the federal government offering Interstate data and laboratory services so long as federal investigators do not have enforcement powers.  I do note that there is the issue of states restricting the rights of certain classes of citizens but this could be ameliorated greatly by the accused being able to choose the court and the ability to apply to the chosen court for a change of venue.

Democrat objections: Private police forces are an invitation to abuses of power!

My Response: You would be naive to think we don't have that problem now and many communities in the US already contract to companies that provide EMS, Fire, Prison, and Law Enforcement services - It's nothing new.  Also most police officers are not sworn to uphold any state constitution (much less the Federal) as they are actually just city employees so I don't see a glaring difference.  It would be easier to bring a legal case against a company that is not performing properly as compared to a division of city or state government.  You should also know that there are roughly three times as many private security professionals working in the US as there are Police officers so a cynical person could easily argue who is actually keeping the peace and who is working as a crime scene protector?

3: Dave Hollist has suggested that gov't could be funded by offering "contract insurance" I don't recall specifically what he means but government issued "Court Insurance" policies make sense to me.  Essentially citizens and businesses could buy policies to assist them with court costs in the event of a court battle (Note: it must not be mandatory, and in criminal cases attorneys must still be provided to those unable to provide their own - the government could still bill to recover costs for the services so long as the defense is not dependent on it and it is cost recovery only).

Objections: There already are legal cost insurance companies!

Response: I have no problem with the government competing with private industries so long as it and all of the INDIVIDUALS that it is actually composed of must abide by any regulation that may exist against private industry.  A great idea, especially since the government is the worst polluter in the US by far and the malefactors claim "Sovereign Immunity" to get away without any responsibility for the damage done.  Lets see them comply with regulations created by EPA bureaucrats! :)

4: Many (not all) gov't offices could do well with user-fees only.  National parks come immediately to mind.

Objection:  Wouldn't Libertarians just sell all national, state, and local public parks.  No drivers' licences because the government has sold all their roads, bike paths, walkways, sidewalks, alleys, rivers, flight airspace, and public transit.  What's left for user fees?

My Response:  I have no problem with regulation of airspace under the conditions I offered above but It's pretty tough to retroactively privatize all of the roads built with our money (not that it is a bad idea in principle...).  I would suggest user fees for road use (Easypass!) administrated by federal, state, local, and private entities.  I also suggest that the federal government get out of public transit entirely and states would be wise to follow suit - government only gets in the way and increases costs.

I don't think all government properties should be sold (other than all those that genuinely should be) when they can be leased profitably with Use Limitations.  Under such use limitations I can imagine apartment building developers would not have much profitable use for the Grand Canyon (for example) but the Sierra Club could likely lease it profitably and make it a yet more wonderful tourist destination and vast educational opportunity all while profiting the Government!

5: I like the notion of allowing the criminal to determine which court franchise they will be tried in (should I choose an ACLU court or a McDonalds court, hmmm) and the place of their detention.  The government could perhaps add a 5% Excise ("Sin") tax to any damages a convict must repay.  We wouldn't want gov't to get much at all out of that or they might become biased toward convictions (which would be too much like what we have now).

Objections:  You mean paying for a fairer, more lenient, or more corrupt court!?  That's Not libertarian.  Also, you suggest sin taxes.  All of that reduces the demand for "justice" services, which is what you call social engineering.  Besides, there is not much revenue in any of that unless you start going after the white-collar criminals in large numbers and let the petty ones run free.  Then the former will just go to the Bahamas, etc., run their businesses from there and never return.  They'll leave no well-paid people in the country for you to go after.  The petty criminals will continue, as they do now, to prey mostly on the poor and working classes who can less afford home alarms, private police, etc.  Even when you fine the petty criminals, they often can't pay, so the whole operation profits little, if anything.

My Response:  Ah the loyal opposition :)  A person, presumed innocent, is guaranteed representation and would be required to remunerate in amounts and over time, in accordance with their income - sometimes that would be a losing proposition for the government but if that is what it takes to have a justice system worthy of the name so be it and if we really REALLY want equality the accused should have access to any court in the state of the offense and have their lawyer, AND the prosecution's drawn at random (Jury Duty!) no matter their income.  The attorney's involved would be compensated (possibly not to their liking) and be free to pillage and plunder deep pockets in Civil cases.  The reason that changes of venue must be available to the accused is shown clearly in the history of injustice in the post Civil War south.  For more ideas about equality under the law try reading my article about jury duty.

When you say that unless we go after white collar criminals there will never be enough money for government - I ask do you really need that much government?  I only ask because I can take of myself and, in part, others just fine without them!  I actually think taxing people unequally drives away plenty of funds RIGHT NOW! Note that many tax shelters do not prevent the loss of money but do give greater opportunity to CHOOSE where your money will go rather than simply surrendering it to a voracious and ever more controlling government. 

Furthermore all must be equal under the law!  Incidentally, while that is crucial under the law anyone with senses can see that people are Conspicuously NOT Equal.  Every one of us has individual gifts and limitations that cause us to be better at some things than some others.  The question for me is always "equal for what purpose?"  (I can assure you, for example, that I am not that great at fixing cars).  These aspects occur independent of what is commonly called "Race" as we are one single, though quite diverse, species.  Many people seem weaker simply because their self image places them in that position which is why I feel all people are "spiritually" (potentially?) equal.

If you think our intentions cruel how would you describe letting all persons convicted of non-violent, victimless crimes go free and exonerated?  What do you say of ending the war on drugs that so cruelly targets the poor and minorities?  How do you see cruelty in our desire to end the social security system which is structured such that it is against the laws of all fifty states and federal law (for good reason - Bernard Madoff's crime worked the same way)  as well as being a racist policy that extracts money from the lives of black men (for example), a great many of whom do not currently live long enough to receive benefits?

6: Lotteries and slot machines - all of gambling for that matter, are a fine, and quite voluntary, potential way to garner profit for government.  I picture some states having State casinos down the street from their private competitors.  Or having, say, a monopoly on slot machines "put a Dollar in, it's patriotic!" that it could simply license, lease, or franchise to such private casinos and corner convenience stores as provide the state lottery tickets now.  Note that many U.S. States currently profit by having a monopoly on statewide/for-profit lotteries within their borders.

Objections:  Monopolies?  That's not libertarian.  Wouldn't that increase gambling addiction?

My Response: True, I amend my statement to the more rational "Put your Dollar in the US Government Slot Machine, it is way more patriotic than the slot machines of our private competition!" :)  Addictive behavior predisposition exists in about 10% of the population in any case so treatment is the answer rather than prohibition whether a person is addicted to drugs, gambling, sex, or 1957 Chevrolet vehicles.

These are just a few ideas, with creativity I'm sure there are many others.



Related Content:

Think the National Debt is Too High? Uncle Sam Takes Donations! - Nick Coons
Government Efficiency - Richard Sutton
Risks and Opportunities - Richard Sutton


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