Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
Home Essential Documents Themes All Documents Authors Glossary Links Contact Us



Nic Tideman:  Global Economic Justice, followed by Creating Global Economic Justice

WOULD THERE be enough revenue for the public sector? To address this question, one should consider different types of public activities separately. The type of public activity that can most readily be financed by charges for exclusive access to natural opportunities is local public services. When these are desired by voters and provided efficiently, they tend to raise the rental value of land by enough to pay for themselves, since a local public service provides a benefit in a limited region, and people will bid up the rental value of that land by the value of access to the service.2 Thus local services can be financed without even beginning to draw on the value of opportunities provided by nature.

Another broad area of public spending is national defense. While defense increases the value of land in a dangerous world, one might reasonably hope that the need for defense spending would be greatly reduced in a world that had adopted a general norm of acknowledging the equal rights of all persons to natural opportunities.

To the extent that defense costs are raised when a nation becomes a more attractive target-- because of increases in its stock of capital or in the productivity of its citizens--it would be efficient and not unreasonable to have an annual charge on capital and on talent (an asset protection fee) to defray these costs. Such a fee could be collected by a self-assessed tax. For capital, the tax could be enforced by an obligation to sell the capital at the self-assessed price. For talent, the tax could be enforced by a rule that if a person was injured in an accident and wished to sue for loss of earning power, the self-assessed value of the person's talent would be the upper limit on the damages that could be claimed. It is likely that a tax rate of two or three tenths of one percent per year would suffice to fund the current level of U.S. defense spending. But I would hope and expect that defense spending would fall substantially. Between the reduced need for defense spending and an efficient asset protection fee for the extra defense costs generated by increases in capital and talent, it should be possible to finance defense without exhausting the rental value of exclusive access to natural opportunities.

The next major area of government spending to consider is social welfare programs-welfare, social security, unemployment compensation, health insurance, etc. ...  Read the whole article

Nic Tideman: The Shape of a World Inspired by Henry George

How would the world look if its political institutions were shaped by the conception of social justice advanced by Henry George?


Nic Tideman: Improving Efficiency and Preventing Exploitation in Taxing and Spending Decisions

What, then, about public goods that have benefits over greater areas? If only a few localities are involved, one might expect them to negotiate voluntary compacts with reasonable efficiency. "Pork barrel" projects--all projects with benefits for only a small region of the country--should not be paid for with national taxes. The practice leads to the approval of inefficient projects as a result of the politicking of those who benefit, and it unjustly exploits those who do not benefit.

For truly national public goods, other ideas must be explored. One of the major national public goods is defense. In a perfectly just world, everyone would be so respectful of the rights of others, and everyone would feel so safe that no defense spending would be desired. In a less perfect world, many people, but not all, want public defense expenditures. How can they be provided justly?

Some financing of defense expenditures can be provided by a Pigouvian tax on the externality of accumulating capital, which makes a nation a more attractive target of aggression. If the U.S. requires a greater defense budget than Canada, which is larger in area, it is because the greater value of the assets in the U.S. makes the U.S. a more attractive target of aggression. Thus anyone who owns capital might reasonably be charged for the increase in the defense budget that is needed to make other citizens as safe as they would be if that one person's capital were not adding to the attractiveness of nation as a target. It would be interesting to know how much of the defense budget could be covered by such charges. I propose a self-assessed tax of, perhaps, 1% per year on the value of all assets and contractual rights, to pay the costs of defense. The owner assesses the value and pays a corresponding tax, and if anyone wants to buy the asset at the assessed value, it is sold. There could be a personal exemption of perhaps $50,000 per year, and an exemption for personal papers. There could be a local add-on to pay the costs of local police and courts.

An even greater share of the federal budget is used for various programs that provide help for people with special needs--welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance, disaster assistance, etc. Some of these programs (social security, Medicare, and unemployment compensation) are funded in part by payments by prospective beneficiaries. But all incorporate substantial elements of deliberate redistribution. ... read the whole article



To share this page with a friend: right click, choose "send," and add your comments.

Red links have not been visited; .
Green links are pages you've seen

Essential Documents pertinent to this theme:

Top of page
Essential Documents
to email this page to a friend: right click, choose "send"
Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper