by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-in-chief
Congratulations to Tim Andrews on his exciting new project The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The launch event details are on that site (which has the nice URL www.taxpayers.org.au) and if you use the discount code SUPPORTER you’ll get 30% off (if only it was that easy to get a discount on your taxes).
I don’t fully understand what they will be doing, despite reading each page of their website (which is no doubt my fault due to my poor comprehension skills), but I look forward to learning — at least by their actions — what they’re all about. I do know that Tim Andrews is a great choice to head the project. If I had money to donate, I wouldn’t write him a blank cheque just yet, but I’d start liquidating my assets, buying ink refills, learning how to rewrite my will and thinking of ways to justify future donations when my wife finds out.
Here are three pieces of annoying unsolicited advice:
Firstly, please don’t conduct any surveys on how much tax people want to pay. Respond to surveys provided by others with this Lew Rockwell quote:
The most absurd public opinion polls are those on taxes. Now, if there is one thing we know about taxes, it is that people do not want to pay them. If they wanted to pay them, there would be no need for taxes. People would gladly figure out how much of their money the government deserves and send it in. And yet we routinely hear about opinion polls that reveal that the public likes the tax level as it is and might even like it higher. Next they will tell us that the public thinks the crime rate is too low, or that the American people would really like to be in more auto accidents. (Speaking of Liberty, p. 218.)
In other words, taxes and the services they fund are not voluntary market arrangements. If you wanted to know how much people wanted to pay for them, then there is no choice but to make them voluntary.
Secondly, it is precarious to involve public figures with dubious politics. With the likes of Nick Minchin and Tom Switzer, for example, I advise vigilance. Nick Minchin used to be a fan of the Workers Party, but is not anymore, yet he has said nothing about the reasons for his change of heart. That is not the sign of someone interested in public debate on taxes. As for Tom Switzer, I find it difficult to tell when he is stating his beliefs and what he wants to happen, and when he is just describing the political landscape or talking about things from someone else’s perspective. No doubt this says more about me than him, but hopefully on the night of the launch all this will be cleared up for me. One reason for my cynicism is the constant reference to “centre-right” in the business plan. Why use the term “centre-right” and not “libertarian” or “free-market advocate” or some other phrase at least a little less ambiguous than simply “centre-right”? As Mike Stanton said, libertarianism is not right-wing but up-wing, since it adds a vertical dimension in favour of freedom and against government to the usual boring flat horizontal debate on what areas government should interfere with. Libertarians favour smaller government, not “small-government” (the term used in the business plan); lower taxes, not “low-taxes” (the term used in the business plan); so that the less government and taxes the better and none would be the best. This sounds petty, and I hope it is. But even if you are merely in favour of small-government and low-taxes, then shouldn’t you be able to say precisely how small and how low? Moreover, do you favour low tariffs, low subsidies, low inheritance taxes, low carbon taxes and low slave holdings too, or is it their abolition you are after? Is it politically inexpedient to be an abolitionist, making it more sensible to just call for reform of the slave trade since abolition will never happen?
Thirdly, check out the shining example of Viv Forbes, especially his organisation in the 1980s called Tax Payers United. On the need for such a society in 1982 it was reported:
“Save the taxpayer,” The Sydney Morning Herald, June 6, 1982, p. 25.
The Progress Party yesterday called for the establishment of a taxpayer protection society.
In a statement to mark World Environment Day, the party’s national secretary, Mr Viv Forbes, said taxpayers were becoming an endangered species. He urged immediate action to preserve the species for the support of future generations of bureaucrats.
On the launch in 1984 it was reported:
“United against taxes,” The Courier-Mail, June 8, 1984, p. 13.
A group dedicated to slashing taxes was launched in Brisbane yesterday.
Tax Payers United believes governments should concentrate on production rather than administration.
The TPU president, Mr Viv Forbes, said all government agencies should become financially self-supporting by charging fees for their services. He said laws prohibiting competition with government agencies should be repealed.
“If these aims are achieved, a radical change in the cost and efficiency of government business ventures will occur,” he said.
Mr Forbes said taxpayers were lumbered with the cost of public service jobs whether or not they used, liked or approved of the service.
A mineral economist with Mount Isa Mines, he said it took him three months to get the group organised, administered and launched nationally.
Yesterday was chosen as the launching date as it was “Tax Freedom Day” — the day on which the average Australian finished paying for the government services and started spending on luxuries “such as food, clothing and shelter”.
That’s enough for now. I look forwarding to seeing The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance in action and hopefully supporting it. May the market forces be with you and the statist forces be repelled by you, even as the troops are brought back from overseas (in the backwash or undercurrent). May you ride high on the wave of the gold price, the disapproval ratings of the Gillard government and the water levels at Warragamba.
May you take Ron Paul to Australia. Please.
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