Monday, May 22, 2006

TCS Daily - Bureaucrats Helping the Poor? Or Themselves?

Here is a plan, an idea to think about, intended to eliminate poverty. And here is Tim Worstall's thoughtful discussion of who might favour such a plan and who might be opposed.

To me this is dynamist thinking at its best. See a problem and rather than analyze it endlessly (as is the standard stasis response of academia, government and NGOs), let's look at the problem starting from a blank page. Now everyone talks about thinking 'outside of the box', its just that so few actually do it.

So poverty. Let's cancel all existing government programs addressing social inequality and re-direct that money by giving everyone a lump sum payment every year. By definition, poverty is eliminated as each citizen starts above the poverty line each year, free of bureaucratic encumbrance and able to determine their own welfare.

Or waste. Let's do full cost accounting, add up how much waste costs us per year and then how much does reclycling cost us if each household spends just one hour per week in the sorting of waste into differing categories (and we won't even add in the subsidies for unwanted, unwarranted and unused recyclables)? We may just find out that recycling is not only ineffective, its also grossly ineffecient. (More on this in another post I think).

As Worstall writes, you can tell a lot about a person's true purpose in governance and advocacy by their response to such blue sky thinking. Next we might even get to a flat tax for all citizens with no exemptions: imagine, just pay 10% of what you earn, no lawyers, no tax code, no centralized audits....imagine.

Interesting, when you float these kind of ideas for discussion, is how few people can actually conceive of their implementation as they are so inoculated with the statist approach to all governance that they have lost the ability to think for themselves. Just like fleas in a flea circus or an elephant tethered by a small rope: frozen into accepting limits that can't possibly confine their potential strength but enough to paralyze the mind into acquiescence.

As one of my favourite Larson cartoon proclaims: "we don't have to be just sheep!"