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Jumping On Your Sword

Monday, June 20, 2005
They really do make it too easy.

National Review columnist Deroy Murdock argues that if liberals think that they pay too little in taxes, they should be permitted to pay more. So he ironically proposes a voluntary higher tax rate. If the left thinks that we should pay more in taxes, they can choose to do so themselves.

Now I realize that Murdock isn't seriously suggesting any such thing. He is aware, I'm sure, of what we call collective action problems. It's why we don't fundraise for the military. Public goods are by nature enjoyed collectively. The army can't choose to defend only the people who pay taxes - everyone automatically receives protection. As a public good, if we raise money on a voluntary basis no one would pay. Everyone would expect someone else to do so. If they did choose to pay, they would simply be chumps for those that don't. It's what we call free riding, and it's one of the main reasons why governments were created in the first place. In short, you can't apply the logic of individuals to social situations, or vice versa.

Which gets me to the real problem with Murdock's sneering proposal. He thinks that anyone who believes in the public good is somehow a “statist.” Murdock cannot conceive of any options other than total government central planning and a libertarian anarchic utopia. Of course, there are many other possibilities- civic liberalism, the welfare state, feudalism, corporate domination, etc. But to admit the existence of any other systems of government causes the entire libertarian project to collapse.

As it should.

Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:38 AM
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