Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"Imagine if tire manufacturers lobbied against filling potholes so they could sell more tires"

So begins Lawrence Lessig in an article for Wired magazine. In California, a pilot program designed by the government to make the annual plunder fest "easier" on taxpayers has been stopped in response to lobbying efforts by the tax-preparation industry:

The state already had the payroll information some taxpayers needed to file their returns, so it filled out 50,000 of those forms for them. Way in advance of the filing deadline, the state mailed the taxpayers their completed ReadyReturns. Like a Visa statement, the ReadyReturn itemized the taxes due, making the process easier for the taxpayer and more accurate for the government. People could either file the ReadyReturn or use the information to fill out forms on their own.

[..] Soon after ReadyReturn was launched, lobbyists from the tax-preparation industry began to pressure California lawmakers to abandon the innovation. Their opposition was not surprising: If figuring out your taxes were easy, why would anyone bother to hire H&R Block? If the government sends you a completed form, why buy TurboTax?

But what is surprising is that their "arguments" are having an effect. In February, the California Republican caucus released a report highlighting its "concerns" about the program - for example, that an effort to make taxes more efficient "violates the proper role of government." Soon thereafter, a Republican state senator introduced a bill to stop the ReadyReturn program.
The program is no great loss to taxpayers, as they would end up absorbing the cost to pay the newly hired bureaucrats in charge of the scheme.

HT: Radley Balko, who examines the story further:
What we all need to realize is that so long Congress continues to spend at a clip equal to 20 percent of the GDP, and so long as politicians use the tax code as a behavior modifier, they'll continue to subject themselves to corrupting influences. With that kind of money being handed out, it's only natural that everyone and his brother would hire a lobbyist to help procure himself a piece.
And Billy Beck links to Balko's post and as usual, gets to the root of the evil.
Look: everything is wrapped-up -- necessarily implicit -- in the first clause of that first sentence, and that first clause, itself, requires analysis to uncover the fact that this ability to "spend" stands on the power to steal. Not one of you reading these words is authorized to go to your neighbors and take from them what is theirs in order for you to transform it into something that you think is good for them. There is no such moral right. And you know it. You would not have any of them do that to you. There is no way that any such right comes to existence by numbers of you gathering to say it does. You cannot delegate to "representatives" a right that is not yours, and this includes the authority to take anyone's goods without their explicit individual consent. That is the very essence of theft, and there is no sleight-of-logic able to make this fact go away, whether you like it or not. And if you don't like it, then you have a problem with facts, and you still have no right to chain me to your psychosis.


Pietr said...

Billy clearly understands exactly what I have been going on about in a sociological(rather than political) sense on Owls;namely that these bastards know all about 'chaining people to their psychoses'.

Mack the Plain Little Turtle said...

Frankly, I'm surprised. In Ontario, H&R Block and other private companies would simply call upon the Progressive Conservatives (the alleged "opposition" to the governing Liberals) leader, John Tory. Tory would then propose that Ready Return is an excellent program, but that it could be made more efficient if the government entered into public-private partnerships: he would recommend that H&R Block, for example, be given a government contract to prepare Ready Returns for the taxpayer.

Somebody in California is (temporarily) asleep at the fascist switch.