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APRIL 3, 1995

Give to Your Government


By Arthur Hoppe

IN A TREMENDOUS advance toward human freedom, San Francisco last week launched a fund-raising drive to buy its policemen automatic pistols.

Other less imaginative cities might have just dipped into the municipal coffers to buy the weapons and then handed the taxpayers the bill. Not San Francisco. San Francisco said that if the citizens wanted their cops better armed, they'd have to dig in their pockets for the wherewithal.

This, of course, is a giant stride toward a utopian goal this column has stridently advocated for years: voluntary taxation. Let's look at the facts: Under the present system of taxation, the government takes your money under the threat of incarcerating you by force. This, of course, fits the classic definition of extortion.

Once the government has extorted your money, it usually spends it in ways you heartily disapprove. For example, I'm not at all keen on buying our policemen rapid-firing Beretta pistols. I say there are enough bullets flying around already. But I'd gladly chip in to buy them bullet-proof vests instead.

Most of us approve of many things our government does. I like the way it educates my children, feeds the poor, heals the sick and protects the variegated carp. Consequently, the government can count on me to help out when it comes to education, food stamps, Medicare and whoever it is who keeps an eye on carp.

On the other hand, I wouldn't pony up another nickel for the Stealth bomber. But my neighbor Mr. Crannich would. I'm sure he'd be equally eager to fund the FBI, the CIA and Brilliant Pebbles. Between his ilk and my ilk we'd probably contribute to every government agency but the IRS -- and we'd all feel a lot better about the whole thing.

Of course, we'll have to stage fund-raisers for some of the less appealing government functions. So we can all look forward to a Mothers' March for Nerve Gas and a Jerry Lewis Telethon for HUD to keep that vital department doing whatever it does.

I'm sure farmers would give to the Department of Agriculture so they could continue receiving their crop subsidies, and businessmen would kick in for the Department of Commerce to keep Mickey Kantor berating the Japanese. Best of all, with every government office competing for donations, customer service will rival Nordstrom's. "Good morning, this is the Bureau of Toxic Wastes. No problem too yucky or smelly. How can we help you today?''

The National Institutes of Health will be offering two coreopsis cures for the price of one, while Alan Greenspan will be handing out free toasters. If you're very rich, you might even get a few inches of the next freeway named for you.

As of now, the government extorts 40 percent of our income from us for causes you or I dislike. How far better if we were generous patrons rather than testy taxpayers -- cheerfully anteing up 40 percent of our pay for the variegated carp or Trident sub, just as our hearts dictate.

Over the years, my crusade for voluntary taxation has drawn a mixed response: one letter was for it and two said it couldn't possibly work.

"Voluntary taxation is the wave of the future if the American people love and support their government as much as they say they do,'' said one of the letters. That was one of the letters that said it couldn't possibly work.

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