Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Fast-Moving Stream ... and a Modest Proposal

It's getting to be that time again, when Uncle demands that his subjects submit detailed reports of our lives, as measured by money: what income we had, what parts of it we spent for favored purposes, what taxes we've rendered up to our dread sovereign, and how much is yet to pay. As I consider the information I've given, and the checks I'll write -- one to my federal supervisors, one to their Indiana minions -- gloom and anger cast their shadows on my mind.

According to the Cato Institute, the feds will spend $2.7 trillion this year. That's more than the budget, but you know how it is: there's lots of wars, hurricane cleanups, Social Security programs, and other goodies that don't show up in the official budget. That's 2.7 times ten to the twelfth power dollars. It's the sort of number that might not have the meaning to us that it should.

As my old dad used to say, it got me to thinkin'.

The largest-denomination paper currency being printed by the federal treasury today is the one-hundred-dollar bill. There used to be larger bills printed, but no more. All U.S. paper currency has the same physical size (the contents of my wallet, and a decent steel scale from my pencil drawer, reveal that paper money measures about 6.14 inches long by 2.60 inches wide). Suppose that the feds do all their spending for cash, in $100 bills. Suppose that they did all of it through a slot, on bill wide and one bill tall, so that federal spending took place in a continuous stream of $100 bills, end to end. Let's do a little math.

The number of $100 bills spent in 2007 is going to be 2.7 times ten to the tenth. Assuming that the stream runs all year long, 24 hours each day, Saturdays and Sundays included, no holidays, no vacations: that means 3,082,192 bills flow past each hour. Every minute, 51,370 bills; every second, 856 bills. With each bill being 6.14 inches long, the speed of the stream is 438 feet per second, or 299 miles per hour. That's about one-third faster than the fastest open-wheel race cars travel.

It's a good thing we decided to use $100 bills. The corresponding speed for a stream of five-dollar bills would be 5,980 miles per hour ... and at speeds of that sort, air friction would cause the currency to be promptly consumed by fire. Considering how the money is used now -- to work evil, much more often than not -- a hypersonic stream of fiery paper might not be such a bad idea, at that.

"Our" government is, by and large, a monstrous purveyor of evil; a spectacular geyser of wrongs. Producing nothing that any sane person would want to buy, it must accordingly rob and steal for its living. It reaches around the world to shed innocent blood abroad, and into mothers' wombs to shed innocent blood at home. It specializes in calling good evil, and evil good. I know of no comprehensive cure for the disease of human government; like the other consequences of man's sinful and fallen nature, it will be with us until the time comes in which the Lord closes out the present order of things and replaces it with a new creation. Meanwhile, I take it that our business, in general, is to minimize and mitigate evils to the extent of our capability. Which leads me to my modest proposal, in two parts.

First, let's have an end to the clever and anaesthetic practice of withholding of taxes from people's wages. Instead, let's have taxes come due once per year, all at once: write a check. Write several checks, actually. One to the feds, one to your state, one to your county, and perhaps one to your city or town. We'll call that day Tax Day, and we'll observe it by rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's.

Secondly, let's decide that Tax Day shall occur each year on the Monday immediately preceding the first Tuesday in November. Write your checks today; and then, vote tomorrow.

Do you think the rate at which Congressfolk are re-elected might decrease a little? Do you think our supervisors might spend a little less of our money? And, since I take it as unlikely that the evildoers in the employ of government would volunteer to do their evil for free, do you suppose that substantially less evil and mischief might be done?

It's worth a try.


Jeff Pruitt said...

The more I've thought about it, the more mandatory witholdings don't make sense. The money never really shows up in your pocket so it's almost as if it isn't yours. But if you have to write a check every year instead of buying that new car or whatever else you might fancy I think things might start to slow down.

Of course w/ the dismal savings rate and paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle in this country I'm sure "tax day" would be an utter failure from the government's point of view.

I'm starting to like this idea even more...

Bartleby said...

Jeff, I think you're right ... I'm fairly sure that most people would not save the multiple thousands or tens of thousands of dollars that would be called for on Tax Day, even though their paychecks would be correspondingly larger. There would be chaos on Tax Day. And an antistate guy such as me can reasonably be accused of actually hoping for that chaos, as a way of bringing the beast to its knees -- after all, if Tax Day rolled around and 80% of Americans were unable to pay 75% of their tax due, what's the government going to do: throw everyone in jail? Couldn't be done. But what I'm looking for isn't nearly so anarchic. I simply think that the relatively-painless process of withholding is the only possible way we could be taxed at the rates we are taxed; it's literally anaesthesia. Rule by deception is fundamentally unsuited to free people (not that we are free people any more).

"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."