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Here's an idea I had the other night when I couldn't fall asleep. A little more research might do me some good in the long run, but I have enough that I'm content to ask right now. I wonder if this could be an important step toward where we ought to be with regard to government financing in the U.S.

In Objectivist theory, taxation should be replaced with persons contributing, by their own volition, to the services offered by the government that matter most to them based on their respective sets of values. The program I would propose would allow such persons to determine precisely the size of their contributions and how they would be allocated. The person would thereby actually establish a contract with the government, rather than adhering to the idea of the "social contract" that permits taxation.

In my notes, I named this system "private pledging." That's definitely not set in stone and I welcome any suggestions for a better name.

It's important to emphasize that I do mean "persons" when I say it, because I'm referring to individual human beings, anywhere from the middle class to the "one percent" elites, as well as corporations. The incentives will differ here; while you or I would contribute toward a cause that one of us finds important, a large corporation could identify which causes their consumers value and contribute toward it to please them, or it could even do so to gain favor with potential consumers. Since I imagine a system strictly aimed at government services, these pledges would at least reduce the amount of funding that has to come from taxes.

I was really inspired by the Wikimedia Foundation and the recent attention toward Planned Parenthood when I thought of this. The former relies on the yearly contributions of its users to continue operations. It doesn't "just get by" on that support, it's thriving. With talks of the latter having its government funding cut or even taken away entirely, I wonder if people who value their services would pledge their money where their mouths are, since it could almost certainly survive on that.

The goals I have in mind are a system that makes the practice of this kind of contribution more visible and to centralize operations (i.e. with a website) to allow anyone who wishes to contribute to have an organized and trusted system there to make it happen for them.

Ultimately, my question is: Is this system, a slightly modified version of this system, or the essential goal of this system feasible? I'd especially want to know about anything like it that has been proposed before; oversights I may have made; personal insights on the matter (i.e. how would you react if you found out about this only once it came to fruition?); and how and where I could proceed to bring this idea into reality.

asked Aug 11 '15 at 10:32

Tom's gravatar image

Tom
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edited Aug 11 '15 at 11:03

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
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Unfortunately, history doesn't show a fantastic track record for voluntery donations to government. Plus, what you're talking about strikes me as likely to establish an anarchic situation, with competing governments offering a variety of services. The thing about a proper government is, it's a monopoly--there's no one else you can (legitimately) turn to. You necessarily MUST interact with it. So I don't think treating it as a contract is a very good idea.

(Aug 11 '15 at 13:53) James James's gravatar image

Unfortunately, history doesn't show a fantastic track record for voluntery donations to government.

There has not been a truly free society (that I am aware of) that has tried voluntary government funding, so I am not sure what this commnent means. If you mean that people do not donate to the governments that are also compulsorily taking their money away, then yes you are right. But this does not prove anything about whether voluntary govermnet funding would work in a free society.

(Aug 13 '15 at 16:37) ericmaughan43 ♦ ericmaughan43's gravatar image

The question states:

In Objectivist theory, taxation should be replaced with persons contributing, by their own volition, to the services offered by the government that matter most to them based on their respective sets of values.

This isn't accurate as to what Objectivism advocates. The part about voluntary contribution to the cost of government is accurate, but the idea of earmarking contributions for specific governmental services (if that is what this formulation intended to say) is not part of Ayn Rand's analysis of government financing in a free society.

Reinforcing the suggestion of "earmarking," the same paragraph continues (underline emphasis added):

The program I would propose would allow such persons to determine precisely the size of their contributions and how they would be allocated. The person would thereby actually establish a contract with the government, rather than adhering to the idea of the "social contract" that permits taxation.

The Objectivist view of the purpose of government and its corresponding proper functions is succinctly summarized under the topic of "Government" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, with most of the excerpts taken from Ayn Rand's article, "The Nature of Government," published in VOS Chap. 14. The proper functions of government are not determined as "services offered by the government that matter most to [citizens] based on their respective sets of values." The Objectivist view is that governmental services should be strictly limited, based on the purpose of having a government at all, not open to expansion according to additional "services" that some citizens might want the government to provide.

The question also asks if voluntary government financing is feasible. The Objectivist view, as expressed by Ayn Rand, is "no," it is not feasible under present conditions and the present size of our government. Government would have to be strictly limited to its three basic functions, as identified by Ayn Rand, before it would be small enough to make a system of voluntary financing feasible.

Ayn Rand's main discussion of government financing in a free society can be found in her article by that title in VOS, Chap. 15, and in the excerpts under the topic of "Taxation" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

It should also be emphasized that Ayn Rand regarded the issue of government financing as a a very secondary issue -- one of the last issues to be resolved on the road to a proper society that upholds individual rights, not an essential means or precondition for achieving that goal. Transforming America and our government into a truly free and proper society is a big enough challenge already. All Ayn Rand wanted to show in her "Government Financing" article was that at least two approaches are possible, and additional methods of voluntary government financing might be feasible, as well. Bear in mind that altruism remains firmly entrenched in America today, demanding endless sacrificing of everyone to all who have less, which implies a big, oppressive government. To begin to reform this situation, it is the underlying altruism that will need to be opposed and displaced by rational self-interest first, with corresponding reform of government coming in due course as a result.

answered Aug 12 '15 at 23:28

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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Asked: Aug 11 '15 at 10:32

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Last updated: Aug 13 '15 at 16:37