Infrequently Noted

Alex Russell on browsers, standards, and the process of progress.

Comments for Two Governments, Both Alike In Dignity


"Engineer":

I very nearly didn't hit "approve" on your post because it's cowardice to hide behind a nick while calling others slaves (or suggesting that others are advocating slavery of any sort).

Your anger and resentment are familiar to me -- I was once blighted by a libertarian worldview myself. I hope for you and for those that care about you that you come to a fuller understanding of what it means to be successful in an advanced society where your wellbeing is fundamentally connected to the wellbeing of others.

As for the UK's relative standard of living...it matters what you're measuring. Govt control might explain some fraction of inter-country disparities, but you'll have to work much, much harder to explain away e.g. the nordic countries:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality-of-life_Index http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)_per_capita http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Poverty_Index

Pick your argument carefully; blunt self-assurance doesn't work on me.

Regards

by alex at
How is believing that people should be free, rather than slaves, a "stunted" worldview? It's only "Stunted" to those who think slavery is freedom...

Having lived in the UK, the lower standard of living compared to the USA can be directly traced to the higher levels of government control over the economy.

It's not the assumptions that government is incompetent that results in incompetent government, it's the recognition that central control does not work.

This is an economic, that is to say, SCIENTIFIC, fact. provable with both information theory and economics, and consistently observable the world over.

You, in some way or form, want to use violence to force people to live according to your wishes.

That's why you're not a libertarian. If you choose that position knowingly, so be it.

But don't lie to yourself, or the rest of the world. We just laugh at the slave who wants a more efficient master!

by Engineer at
I can think of another confounding factor: businesses profiting from inefficiency. Consider: in the state of Michigan, car owners can renew their registrations online in many cases. The state mails you a renewal notice every year. On the renewal form they also print a code. You can go to the state's Web site and enter the code, along with some identity-confirming information. You confirm the information for your car (and actually can upgrade, buying vanity plates, etc. if you like), enter payment info, and done. It works about as well as one could want.

Now consider the income tax return. A fairly large number of people (the article I read on the topic, which I can't seem to find again, said about 30%) don't have loopholes, tax shelters, or other shenanigans. Their return comes down to adding up income (which employers must report to the government), subtracting a certain amount of withholdings and basic deductions (also reported to the government), and looking up the result on a table. This does not require highly advanced AIs, and in fact the IRS (the tax collection department) does these calculations anyway as a quick check for suspicious returns. We could easily have a Web site where taxpayers with simple returns log in, confirm their tax information, enter info for payment or refund, and save themselves a lot of effort. Why doesn't the government do this?

Tax return preparation makes quite a lot of money. They don't want to lose a sizable number of customers who have very simple returns, and they pay lobbyists accordingly. In fact, the government allows for e-filing, but tax prep lobbyists have passed laws forbidding the federal government from offering such a service. (California managed to offer such a service for simple state returns, so of course the tax prep companies took out scare-mongering advertising and very few people use it.) You can e-file through the preparers, and they even offer free federal filing for simple returns, but that still gives them the opportunity to upsell. The upsells include the state return, which cost IIRC $50 for Michigan last year. The Michigan tax code has far fewer loopholes and handouts than the federal, making this more of a scam. The Michigan tax department offers easy-to-use, fillable PDFs of the necessary forms on its Web site, making it easy to do your state return by hand so long as you mail it in.

So why haven't politicians changed these laws? The tax preparers have figured out how to profit off this inefficiency. A government-run online tax service would likely reduce the number of people using preparers, and that means you've lost some number of local accounting jobs. No politician wants to give their opponent the chance to say that they killed private jobs. On top of that, you have the anti-government conservatives that want to keep filing returns as painful as possible. Even if a taxpayer gets the satisfaction of an unexpected refund, a tedious and frustrating filing process helps remind them that taxes = bad and helps the "let's cut taxes (for the rich)" agenda.