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Tension between collectivism and personal liberty

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Tension between collectivism and personal liberty

If people are making contributions to collective pot, they feel justified in judging or changing others' behaviours.

One example is obesity or smoking in the UK. Because I am taxed for the NHS, any increase in the average cost of healthcare results in an increase in my taxes. Other people's behaviour now has an externality in the form of raising taxes for everyone

Whereas before, I did not care if people smoked in their homes or drank to excess, I am now hurt by that behaviour. It becomes justified to both criticise the behaviour, and attempt to limit it. Whereas before the consequences of their behaviour were internal, they are now inflicted on society as a whole.

This changes the incentives, and could make it more likely at the margin for people to oppose immigration of the very poor, if they believe they will be net recipients of tax money. We could allow free immigration with no benefits allowed, but this is politically unlikely.

Bastiat says beautifully:

si la Loi se bornait à faire respecter toutes les Personnes, toutes les Libertés, toutes les Propriétés, si elle n'était que l'organisation du Droit individuel de légitime défense, l'obstacle, le frein, le châtiment opposé à toutes les oppressions, à toutes les spoliations, croit-on que nous nous disputerions beaucoup, entre citoyens, à propos du suffrage plus ou moins universel ? Croit-on qu'il mettrait en question le plus grand des biens, la paix publique ? Croit-on que les classes exclues n'attendraient pas paisiblement leur tour ? Croit-on que les classes admises seraient très-jalouses de leur privilége ? Et n'est-il pas clair que l'intérêt étant identique et commun, les uns agiraient, sans grand inconvénient, pour les autres ?

Indeed, all politics is caused by squabbling between groups, each trying to get benefits for itself. If there were no rent to extract, there would be no squabbling.

In the UK the government gives money to bus companies to subsidise low traffic routes that would otherwise be unprofitable. This is ridiculous. If it is not profitable to run a bus line, because not enough people are using it, then we should not tax people to prop that line up. All this does is waste money and resources.

Of course, someone will respond to this with a cry of 'but think of the poor old woman who can no longer afford the bus' (well, she can take the bus for free, maybe the poor middle age man instead). This is a common complaint, and stems from failing to clearly define what your goal is. If your final goal is to provide bus routes to people who live in lightly populated areas, then sure, do that. But if your goal is actually to help poor people, maybe consider giving them money directly, instead of giving it to a prive bus company instead?

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Last modified 2019-08-16 Fri 16:28. Contact max@maxjmartin.com