Do Democratic Governments Express the Will of the People?
Miles Kimball
51

The “public contribution program” is a great idea… but I think the name itself has quite a bit of room for improvement. When I search for “public contribution program” (minus the quotes) it really seems like your blog is the only relevant result out of 100 results. You really don’t want to force people to dig for treasure.

For example… when I search for “Futarchy” it really seems like all of the first 100 results are relevant. That’s a lot of treasure. Of course… not all of it is equally valuable.

To be honest I don’t really know how to pronounce “Futarchy”. Is it fewtarchy or footarchy?

Anyways, it’s kind of the same issue with “tax choice” versus “pragmatarianism”. When you search for “tax choice” (minus the quotes) most of the results are irrelevant. But when you search for “pragmatarianism” all the results are relevant. I’m not very happy with the word “pragmatarianism”… but it’s certainly a unique identifier (ID). I think that a bad unique ID is better than no unique ID.

Your twitter discussion with Daniel Altman reminded me of Ethan Zuckerman’s blog entry about civic crowdfunding

The right in the US, led by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, has been fighting a war against government spending that is, in effect, war on public goods and services. Norquist’s conviction that private sector enterprise is inevitably more efficient and less corrupt than the government has led to the privatization of services once provided by the government, like prisons and defense, and elimination of other key services once tax revenues no longer support their provision. A recent episode of This American Life — featuring an interview with Norquist — makes clear that the elimination of public goods is no accident. Demanding that Republican politicians sign a pledge not to increase taxes is about forcing a crisis that will lead to elimination of programs and shrinking of government.

Based on the responses of Zuckerman and Altman…I’m guessing that the vast majority of people on the left will largely perceive a public contribution program (PCP) as a gateway drug to government privatization. I really hope that I’m wrong! But it seems like most people who really appreciate something like this…

It must be remembered, besides, that even if a government were superior in intelligence and knowledge to any single individual in the nation, it must be inferior to all the individuals of the nation taken together. It can neither possess in itself, nor enlist in its service, more than a portion of the acquirements and capacities which the country contains, applicable to any given purpose. — J.S. Mill, Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy

… probably aren’t going to be very far on the left. And, to make matters even more challenging… the people who do appreciate the value of decentralization/competition/choice/agency… might not be very happy with half-measures. Who does that leave? Me! And maybe Arnold Kling?

I think that allowing taxpayers to allocate their taxes would be an improvement, but why stop with government organizations? Why not allow them also to choose from competing charitable organizations? That is what I propose in Unchecked and Unbalanced.

If allowing people to choose where their taxes go within the government wouldn’t be a large enough step for Kling… then I’m not sure if PCP would be a large enough step either. But maybe it would be?

Not sure if you already saw this… Razotarianism.

Regarding the will of the people… well… I’m pretty sure that we should replace voting with spending. Democracy guarantees that Quiggin’s Implied Rule of Economics (QIRE) will be violated.