Thursday, March 10, 2011

$20 Ought to Do

I’m still working on a piece related to the book I mentioned yesterday. But in the meantime, here’s a piece of data to spend some time contemplating:
“When America began, government cost the average citizen $20 in today’s money. That’s $20 a year! Taxes rose during wars, but for most of the history of America spending never exceeded a few hundred dollars per citizen. During World War II, government got much bigger. It was supposed to shrink again after the war. It never did; it just kept expanding. In 2010, federal spending ($6.3 trillion) cost every man, woman and child in this country just under $20,000 a year! If you aren’t paying that, you’re making your neighbor pay your share!” This is from John Stossel's book Give Me a Break. I found it quoted in an article by Terry Paulson, available here:
 (Photo caption: "It's armed robbery!")

So I have this question: If we spent federal revenue only on the limited powers granted to the federal government in the Constitution, could we go back to a something like $20 per person? If we could go back even to a tithe (tax 10% of income, or maybe 10% of GDP instead of 22%), I’d be feeling pretty encouraged about our future prospects. But, if we did cut back, would the necessary things get taken care of? I believe they would—in a civilized society. I believe they mostly were before government started taking on “charity” roles. Hospitals and universities used to be funded by endowments from estates, until the federal government started confiscating death taxes so they could prevent that money from going to the wrong places.

I have a lot of trust in a civilized people. And I have no trust in the power of government to civilize. Government is force, not inspiration to do good. The high cost and consistent failure of government intervention ought to convince us to stop trying the same thing and expecting a different outcome—that’s insanity. Why don’t we instead try freedom, free enterprise, and freely given good will?

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