Problems with Progressive Taxes

Never mind the principled arguments against progressive taxes. Somehow these practical arguments made it into the NYTimes(!):

[T]he United States already has one of the most progressive tax systems in the developed world….

Progressive taxes make it hard to raise money because they distort people’s behavior. They encourage taxpayers to reduce their tax liability rather than to increase their pretax income.

Sometimes ‘Nothing’ Is Better Than ‘Something’ – Part III

Nassim Taleb makes a structural argument for decentralized, bottom-up government.

[I]n complex systems, we should limit government (and other) interventions to important matters: The state should be there for emergency-room surgery, not nanny-style maintenance and overmedication of the patient — and it should get better at the former.

His essay (and the associated book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder) is essentially a rehearsal of the virtues of free markets in terms of minimizing catastrophes by ensuring that risks — including policy risk — are born as much as possible by those who understand them and who can react constructively and quickly to failures.

Democracy is not the ideal

I’ve addressed this before, but Randall Holcombe does it best today:

“Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” That quotation … sums up the ethics of democracy. Democratic outcomes are used to justify a majority claiming the right to impose their will on the minority.

To prevent the unethical exploitation of the few by the many, the American Founders designed a government with strictly limited powers. Government was not designed to further the will of the majority, but to protect the rights of individuals. Democracy’s role was limited to choosing who held political power, and providing a non-violent method for replacing them.

Over the centuries since the nation’s founding, the fundamental principle underlying American government has evolved from “liberty” to “democracy.” At one time Americans thought the purpose of their government was to protect their rights. Now the common opinion is that government should carry out the will of the majority. If the many want to take from the few, the ethics of this view of government justifies it.

Let us remember that America is supposed to be the land of the free. Our government was constituted to secure our liberty, not to practice democracy.