Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gas Taxes

There is essentially nothing inconsistent with my ideology or prior remarks with having a gas tax. Or for that matter, a much broader consumption tax or a partially broader carbon tax. I have advocated it in prior comments. Savings and consumption are in direct competition. Disincentives to consumption provide incentives to saving. The more one saves the less one needs government. A liberty enhancing proposition. That said, adding the gas tax to current tax rates would simply increase government, a liberty diminishing proposition. I am sure you can partially offset an increase in gas taxes with a cut in income taxes.


Ilya said...

I don't recall anybody ever writing that the the necessity or good of government is so men will save money. I don't see any connection between amount of personal savings and amount of government.

Let's see, government provides for the common defense, fosters domestic law and order - nope, nothing there about making sure savings accounts grow so that government can shrink. Let's see, governments enforce property rights so people can enjoy their things, governments not only liberate peoples from domination by other peoples, but from domination by each other. Savings? Xtra, your theory about the connection between savings and size of government doesn't fly one second. To paraphrase S. Colbert, if the best government governs the least, then we've produced in Iraq a damn good government.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

You are all wet. Akward formulation I concede. I wonder if savings and the size of government doesn't fly though. You listed a number of functions that the government should undertake. I don't disagree with a single one. Transportation infrastructure, defense, enforcing property rights, all good things. If you were to advocate solely those expenditures that would put you to the right of me and most libertarians. Noticeably absent from your list of core governmental functions were any entitlement programs. I think Krugman once said our government is like an insurance company with a side business in national defense.

My point that personal savings is good for the protection of personal liberty seems fairly straightforward (now an assumption here is the friedman formulation that economic freedom is itself a component of freedom). If people save and live within their means, they require less public assistance. If they require less public assistance the broader public is a result less taxed. Is taxation nothing other than robbing peter to pay paul, necessary but nonetheless unfortunate? To what extent are our entitlement programs in essence proxies for personal saving, and then to what extent our federal outlays dominated by entitlements? But bluster on, it makes things more interesting.

Ilya said...

I like the Krugman quip. And I'm here to bluster.

The logic in your comments assumes that the welfare state is a consequence of a widespread lack of savings, and that as savings rise, the welfare state could be cut back, and with it, the size of government. That sounds good, but it is a spurious argument. It makes it sound as if those who are not on welfare have savings, and that those who are on welfare are spendthrifts, with no sense of how to manage money. Would that this were so. Unfortunately, poverty cannot be ended by exhorting people to save. And the lack of savings is not a problem unique to people on public assistance.

But I know this will not persuade you in the least. For you will chide me for not understanding, to quote William Graham Sumner, that "In a free state every man is held and expected to take care of himself and his family, to make no trouble for his neighbor, and to contribute his full share to public interests and common necessities. If he fails he throws burdens on others....and if he is allowed to make his deficiencies a ground of new claims, he passes over into the position of a privileged or petted person--emancipated from duties, endowed with claims....a man who accepts any share which he has not earned in another man's capital cannot be an independent citizen." Thank you Xtra, I mean, Sumner, ever the compassionate humanitarian. Doesn't it make you wonder why American society doesn't idolize Sumner? Such an inspiring vision of how great a free state could be, don't you think?