Who proposed this novel proportional tax idea?
February 22, 2007 1:32 PM   Subscribe

I remember reading about an idea to change the tax/budget system that might work as follows:

Each year, each voter gets a list of every government program that wants money. (perhaps available on the Internet). The voter would check the items that he agrees to fund. Each line item, i.e. war in Iraq, or US Post Office, would be funded in proportion to its support and if it fails to get enough support, it would be discontinued. Each person would only be taxed for programs he supports.

My question is -- Who first suggested this?
posted by Emu Jerky to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by caddis at 2:48 PM on February 22, 2007

Well, it did make it into a story in Analog SF magazine, though I don't remember the exact issue - mid 90's, if I had to guess.

In that story, you had to allocate all your taxes, you only got to specify where each dollar went. (not whether you kept it or the gov't got it).

As I recall, the protagonist of the story got fed up with the repeated requests by the government for funding weapons research, so he used another feature of the story's (computer networked) taxation system to create a funding option called "world peace," which quickly obtained enough funding to become a reality in short order.
posted by Crosius at 2:58 PM on February 22, 2007

I've heard it called (and call it myself) a "line-item tax" (you even used the word in your question).

And I don't think it a terrible idea. It promotes democracy over a republic.
posted by Netzapper at 3:00 PM on February 22, 2007

No one's budget would burgeon, because almost no one is going to pay a voluntary, self-determined income tax (which, by the way, would need to be much higher for each person since the cost would be spread out over a fraction of the populace).

Seriously, you're telling me that you'd willingly pay the same level of income tax if your form said "Please check the boxes indicating how much of your income you'd like to voluntarily donate to the government, from 0% - 100%. NOTE: Failure to pay will incur no consequences, and you will still be able to make free use of the social services that everyone else pays for."

One marginally more practical method would be to still require a fixed percentage of citizens' income, but allow people to allocate which programs they want it directed to. It would still all even out though, because the conservatives would allocate their funds to conservative causes, the liberals would allocate their funds to liberal causes, and anything unpopular or unsexy would wither away.
posted by designbot at 5:37 PM on February 22, 2007

Designbot, I interepreted the question differently (as in: possibly misread). In my mind the level of taxation stays the same in this scenario, but the voters are deciding how the money is apportioned. Under this system, I imagine social services burgeoning. But under self-taxation, yeah, things would shrink, though I don't think they'd shring as much as most poeple believe. (And I suspect social services would still remain strong.)
posted by jdroth at 5:56 PM on February 22, 2007

[a few comments removed -- this really isn't the "what tax structure do you think is best" thread]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:06 AM on February 24, 2007

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