Mike Hihn, Editor Publisher

A government of undelegated powers

Copyright 1997 by Michael J. Hihn and Liberty Issues

''Taxpayer Democracy'' was born in the 1970s, the golden age of libertarian solutions. The movement had no think tanks yet. Just thinkers.

"Can we replace runaway government with runaway tax cuts, and package it so voters are clamoring to climb aboard?"


So far, it seems to be just myself, libertarian talk jock Lowell Ponte, and Ponte's listeners. Consider joining us.

''Taxpayer Democracy'' was born in the 1970s, the golden age of libertarian solutions. The movement had no think tanks yet. Just thinkers.

As a management consultant (my day job, as they say), I'm always looking for ways to create ''spontaneous'' positive results — like Profit Centers.  If you create Profit Centers correctly, then employees start increasing profits entirely on their own. It's self-generating. You don't have to remind them; just pay them and get out of their way.

Can we do the same with taxes and government spending? Can we propose a policy that creates ''spontaneous'' tax and spending cuts, by simply letting people do what they already want to do, rewarding them for doing it, and staying out of their way?

Can we replace runaway government with runaway tax cuts, and package it so voters are clamoring to climb aboard?  From both the left and the right.

It's already been done, two decades ago, by Lowell Ponte.

Taxpayer Democracy would empower each taxpayer, by allowing them to specify where every dollar of their taxes will be spent. You could do it right on your tax return.

What clinched it for me, the words I most remember reading, is — at the extremes — some people would direct all their money to welfare programs, some entirely to the military, some entirely to nothing (spending reductions).

Nobody gets their own way entirely.  But we each get our own way on our own dollars.  So Taxpayer Democracy is a more pure form of Government Democracy.  Perfect!

We'd have something positive to sell, across the entire political spectrum — and could also expose attackers as explicitly wanting to spend tax dollars against the will of the people. But we retain representative government, instead of Ross Perot's pure democracy.

Here's my small contribution to what Ponte developed. Ours is a government of delegated powers. That means we can also UNdelegate power. What Congress cannot do — is incapable of doing — is to set priorities within a fixed budget.  So we'll do it for them.

We can't fire them, not as a body. The only other alternative is to change their job description. Undelegate.

Taxpayers, as management, would determine the spending priorities — by category — Congress would budget the details and programs within each category.  The categories have to be comprehensive.  You and I would not set the budget for NPR, which would still be the role of Congress -- if we want wide voter appeal.

The total size of the military budget would be set by taxpayers. Congress must work within that number. Likewise with welfare programs. Likewise with Congressional Operations — if we cut that back, do they reduce staff or cut their own salaries? They decide.  That's what they are elected to do.  Overall spending is capped, indirectly, by how many dollars are specified to ''nothing.''

Technically, "nothing'' would be your choice of tax cuts or deficit/debt reduction, or whatever mix of those two you wanted.

Do the math. There would be spending and tax cuts every year, if you believe many people would allocate dollars to tax cuts. The tax cuts might be small, but they'd keep accumulating. Instead of a slowly growing Leviathan, we'd have — at the minimum — a slowly shrinking Leviathan.  I won't state my own preference for tax vs spending cuts, but we'd obviously have both.  Each side would be lobbying .... you and me ... on tax cuts vs spending cuts. 

The influence of money and lobbyists would dissipate, just from the sheer cost of lobbying the entire American public. We'd likely see increased hysteria mongering, not something I look forward to, but they'd be squabbling over slices of a shrinking pie.

We'd still have influence peddling, but based on persuading you and me — not buying off a handful of congresscritters.

I have a question for my readers. Very few of you — if any — will be running for federal office. But if you were, could you run on this?

You could look liberals right in the eye, and tell them every penny of their taxes could go to welfare programs, if that's what they want. How could they object?

Same with conservatives and the military budget.

If you ran on Taxpayer Democracy, would it work for you?

Would it work for America?