BACK TO AMERICA
2012 October 18, Thursday

     Here's my bit on America: Our government should be just large enough to protect the basics. Most should be local, most of the rest should be state, and the federal part should be just enough to guard us from outside invasion and to resolve interstate disputes.

     Let me take a crack at defining the basics. I don't have a law degree, but I've done some thinking. Here are my priorities, from a person's first breath through the last, roughly in order:

urgent personal defense
life (as in not being killed)
laws (against hurting and stealing)
enforcing contracts
protecting property
personal liberty
creating wealth, prosperity, and opportunity
Notice the conspicuous absence of government-provided education, energy regulation, and victimless crimes. Also, notice the absence of laws against discrimination. I have no problem with discrimination, but I do have a problem with people using public offices to promote it.

     I'm happy paying for my own radio stations and not paying union dues to work in this country.

     There's only one country in the world founded on these principles. It quickly became the richest country in the world at all points in the economic spectrum. From 1865 through 1965 our poor were the world's wealthiest, our middle were the world's wealthiest, and our rich were the world's wealthiest. At every percentile, we had it best. This is not in spite of our free economy and rejecting the welfare state—it was because of it.

     So let's start with a vision:

     The federal tax for Americans eligible to vote is $250/month, $3000/year. That's it, no more, the same for everybody. The top five percent pay five percent of the tax and get five percent of the benefit, as is fair. People who can't vote don't pay tax. The federal government has military might and federal courts. There is no federal education or energy policy at all, nor any federal welfare or retirement or health care programs. Federal subsidies don't exist for Americans or others.

     There are federal departments of transportation and interior that would be hard completely to eliminate, but these can be funded by usage-specific taxes and fees. (I'm thinking of fuel taxes and tolls for transportation, entrance fees and membership dues for national parks.) It isn't right for those who don't drive to fund roads (or those who don't fly to fund airports, or those who don't attend sporting events to fund a stadium) and those who don't visit national parks to subsidize them. We don't do that here.

     Federal laws requiring hiring and promotion of protected, pandering minority groups should become as distant a memory as slavery. It's so wrong and terrible that we should be ashamed it ever happened. Federal laws on marriage, abortion, and drugs are wrong, too, and they should also become long-ago memories in time. I would encourage states to take the same attitude, leaving people alone to make their own choices is the American way.

     States can provide tax-funded social services, but those should be limited to a small sales tax. With federal income taxes gone, state income taxes should follow. It's too much paperwork for too little money. Local property taxes for police, fire, and roads are fair as people with more property tend to use more of those services. Schools should be funded in proportion to students attending, and we call that private tuition.

     Would be immigrants have the option of signing up for a fifteen-year plan: You come here and agree to work and to take no government services for fifteen years and you become a citizen at that time. Those here illegally have the option of starting that clock just as any other immigrant, but without paying the transportation costs.

     Government postal service and government money can compete with private enterprise, so long as there's no taxpayer subsidy. The same goes with government space programs and support for foreign governments.

     The post office sells stamps, government roads can charge tolls. NASA can sell stuff, maybe postcards that have been in space, books and journals, or stuffed big-eye-alien dolls like I saw at the Rocket and Space Museum in Huntsville. Government can verify the integrity of donations supporting Israel, or ensure donations to starving African nations actually go to feeding hungry people there.

     We created good law that let people of modest means buy houses. The positive risk of foreclosure is what makes mortgages work. (And the government removal of that risk made things pretty bad.) We can have similarly good law to promote education. I'm thinking some kind of ability-to-garnish-wages law for legitimate educational institutions.

     Most environmentalism can be handled through property rights and the big environmental issues have, until now, gone away on their own when the next big crisis hit.

     Some of my less-educated, less-thoughtful liberal acquaintances call the following "love it or leave it." It's not that at all. It's just basic respect for people who worked hard to create something that you came to take advantage of. America is my home.

     If you have a different vision of what your country should be, then there are plenty of places you can call home. You don't need to make mine look like yours. Whether or not your ancestors chose to be here, as mine did, travel is cheap and free enough that anybody living in the United States of America chooses to be here. You like something about this country and I'll bet dollars to doughnuts what you like is a direct consequence of the American vision summarized above. You don't have to like it, but you should have to respect it as long as you stay here. It's not just Emily-Post manners, it's cause and effect. The good stuff is direct consequence of good thinking.

    

Ideas have consequences.

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

If you like what you read here (as I do), then here are my other American-issues essays.

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