One of the oft-discussed questions of politics is the degree to which people who do not pay tax themselves should be able to vote for others to pay tax.  Part of the deal between monarch and aristocracy was that Parliament would vote taxes on themselves.  The monarch could not impose taxes without the consent of Parliament.  This worked to some degree when taxation was related to property, but the extension of the franchise to those without property, plus the degree to which wealth derives from income rather than property has changed the equation.

Is it acceptable that a majority should vote for the minority to pay the bulk of taxation, using legislative authority backed by state power?  It reminds one of two wolves and a sheep voting democratically about what to eat for dinner.  This may have had some relevance in the local government elections because of the student vote.  It is claimed that students voted heavily for Labour and swung several seats.  They certainly have no personal interest in voting for parties that keep council taxes lower – usually Conservative ones – because students do not pay Council Tax.  They can vote for high spending candidates and parties because there is no comeback on themselves.  There is evidence to suggest that this is what they did.

Opinion polls that suggest that people are prepared to pay higher taxes in return for increased public services should be treated with some caution.  Many follow-up polls show that people think that those other than themselves will be paying those increased taxes.  When asked how much they personally would be prepared to pay in extra taxes, they name trivial amounts.

The words of Frédéric Bastiat spring to mind:

“The State is the great fiction through which everyone endeavours to live at the expense of everyone else.”

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Well its still worth the cost.
    a) they will in due course assume the burden and this will influence their decisions.
    b) the alternative is disenfranchisement. This is far worse for all concerned. Not when you get your tax bill maybe, but when you have to fund and endure a police state to prevent revolution or if that fails when you find yourself hauled up by the styoudent soviet to answer for your ideological crimes.

  2. I have to stop you there. Students do not not pay Council Tax. A household entirely occupied by students is not liable for Council Tax. The state of any individual within a household has absolutely zero bearing on whether they are liable for the Council Tax that is liable on the household.

    • Something similar is easy to administer in the votes for Board of Directors, where we are given unequal influence depending on our respective investments. (Never mind that almost nothing is ever decided without the Board’s endorsement.)

      At the least, the franchise should be denied to those who cannot show income earned independently of government. The government employee (especially the welfare caseworker) has a throbbing conflict of interest, likewise the recipient of those alms; also employees of the legislature, the political parties, and the regulated industries, such as the legal profession. They will never vote for candidates vowing smaller government or programs that actually solve problems.

      • You probably won’t succeed in constitutional plutocracy, although arguably singapore is an example of one. Even there the singaporeans still use democracy as a cover. The moment the constitution formally says, sorry li-kuan you only get 1/1000th of a vote as the guy in the big house, you’re asking for trouble even among the normally docile.

  3. The American upper house used to be populated by the state legislatures, and this led to the requirement that tax bills originate in our Commons. In addition, Washington originally had virtually no interface to the individual, and was mostly supported by tariffs. But this too led to one group of industries supporting tariffs that would never hinder their own commerce, then ultimately the North enacting policies to maintain its advantage over the South, leading to secession.

    Now we cannot debate any change to income taxes without leftie easels and histograms to show which “classes” will pay what tax. “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that guy behind the tree!” Democrat rhetoric that the “rich pay their fair share” met its match in last winter’s Republican tax cut for corporations, though freed-up loot is spattering on everyone. Each party is in favor of tax policy that mostly spares its own voters.

    I’d amend the Constitution: “There shall be only one federal tax, and it shall have only one rate.”