Sunday, September 25, 2011

Does Congress Have More Information Than Taxpayers?

There are quite a few people who believe that the average congressperson is better informed than the average taxpayer.  While this may or may not be true pragmatarianism doesn't deal with averages...it deals with sums.

When trying to figure out how to convey this idea I remembered a photograph that I took while stationed in Afghanistan.  It's of an American solider on one side of a make-shift seesaw with some Afghan kids on the other side.  Even though the average American solider outweighs the average Afghan kid...the cumulative weight of 5 kids equals that of the one solider.  



So the question is...how many taxpayers would it take to equal the public goods information of one congressperson?  If we say that there are around 150,000,000 taxpayers and 535 congresspeople then there are nearly 300,000 taxpayers for every congressperson.  How in the world could 1 congressperson effectively and efficiently evaluate as much information as 300,000 taxpayers could?

Even if 300,000 taxpayers only encountered 3 seconds worth of public goods information in their daily lives they would still consider 10 times more information than one congressperson working 24 hours a day could.  

Obviously we need congresspeople to write laws but there's just no way that they can allocate public resources as effectively or as efficiently as the invisible hand could.  Taxpayers should be able to choose to directly allocate their individual taxes to the various government organizations at any time throughout the year.  

What's very important to understand is that this system already works for the private sector...
As I've mentioned before, there are some major problems with gov't spending on programs. And these revolve around measurability and self-correction. When private businesses are running their businesses poorly and not delivering value, the free market drives revenues down and the business either corrects itself or it goes out of business. The gov't doesn't have such mechanisms. They often put in bogus measurements on how effective the program is, and when it doesn't work the first year, they double down and put more money into the program. No self-correction mechanism. - James L, Greta Wire Blog
The government can easily have the same self-correcting mechanism by allowing taxpayers to decide which government organizations receive their taxes.
For this is the salient point: private organizations, whether for-profit or non-profit, perform or lose their customers or their donors. When a private entity fails to deliver on its promise, or actually causes harm, it is held liable for the failure and pays the damages. When government fails, it gets a bigger budget and even more power. - Mary L. G. Theroux, Public and Private Responses to Katrina
Given the choice, would you allocate any of your taxes to a government organization that continually fails to perform?
Because of the existence of consumer and donor choice, private services are rarely offered by only one provider -- there is competition for funding which encourages both quality and affordability as service providers seek to outdo one another. Government services, however, tend to be monopolies because they do not have to fight for funding from countless individual sources. - Bryan, The Government Vs Private Charity
Giving taxpayers a choice is fundamental.  Forcing government organizations to fight for funding from countless individual taxpayers is the only way to ensure that government operates efficiently.
Charitable organizations are better than government as a source of aid. First, it is easier for donors to hold charitable organizations accountable than it is for taxpayers to hold government accountable. A failed government program can go on forever. An ineffective charity has a more difficult time obtaining funding. - Arnold Kling, Libertarianism and Poverty
It's not difficult to make it easy for taxpayers to hold government accountable.
Although the term 'NPM' suffers from a degree of concept stretch, Hood (1991) sets out some broad reformist priniciples in which the public choice heritage can be clearly observed. The first is that the focus of public sector reform should be on structural reorganization rather than policy. It is the structure of the public sector that fails to provide adequate incentives for the public sector organizations to respond to citizens' preferences for government goods and services. The provision of public services should be made more competitive, both between publilc sector providers and between the public and private sectors. Contracting out, quasi markets and seperation of the questions of who pays (public finance) from who provides (public provision), are all hallmarks of NPM. They follow from the government failure logic and the objective of greater efficiency in particular. As discussed above, individual contracts in the public sector will generally fail to provide efficiency-enhancing incentives, but the public choice view is that increased competition in the provision of public services will. - Patricia Kennett, Governance, globalization and public policy
The concepts of New Public Management (NPM) seem to be the closest to pragmatarianism.  

We have to pay taxes but there's no reason why the act of paying taxes can't simultaneously force government to be accountable to the people who fund its existence.   

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