Arnold Kling  

Constitution of Surveillance?

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James Buchanan discusses three ideas for Constitutional amendments. He proposes an amendment to require balancing the Budget, and amendment forcing laws to be nondiscriminatory, and an amendment against regulating voluntary market transactions. On the nondiscrimination issue, he writes,


The American structure will not survive if “democratic politics” comes to be interpreted as overt conflict among parties and groups each seeking to further particular interest.

...A nondiscrimination amendment might, however, offer the basis for the replacement of the complex tax structure by a uniform rate of tax that is imposed on all income, without exemptions, deductions, credits, or other special treatments. On the spending or outlay side of the budget, the generality norm would require that program benefits be extended across all members of the polity.


I have a difficult time envisioning how a nondiscrimination amendment would work in practice. Perhaps some more examples would help to explain.

This afterthought also caught my eye:


constitutional changes that may have been made imperative with the emergence of terrorism, both in the enabling of effective prevention and in the control of possible abuses of authority.

Perhaps he is endorsing the type of audit function that I argued for in The Constitution of Surveillance and Surveillance after London.


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CATEGORIES: Public Choice Theory



COMMENTS (5 to date)
Bill Stepp writes:

What does Buchanan think democratic politics is, if not the parceling out of stolen loot by the pillage broker-dealer called the state?

Another problem with preventing laws from discriminating is that this would further entrench the batty idea that discrimination is wrong per se. People should have the right to associate with whomever they wish, and to avoid associating with whomever they wish, at least in their private dealings, as long as they don't use coercive force against anyone. A law that prevents or impedes this right shouldn't exist.

As for a compulsory balanced budget, I'm all for it--setting it at zero.

Lord writes:

Most of the differences in tax and spending policy occur in the definitions, what is income, what is a benefit, what is a cost, what is fair, and what is socially desirable, not in the guise of outright advantage, even though most such desires for power are redefinable in terms of such basics. It is an art to craft legislation rewarding ones benefactors to such ends without appearing discriminatory. All laws are discriminatory in some sense to some group. Taxation discriminates against those with money. Spending discriminates for those who profit from it. These are too fundamental to be nondiscriminatory.

Ivan Kirigin writes:

"Taxation discriminates against those with money."

A flat tax scheme might seem descriminatory, but you're probably thinking of a flat-rate-tax.

Why not go even further to a flat-fee tax. It would cost $X/year to be a citizen.

Just an idea...

daveg writes:

Why not go even further to a flat-fee tax. It would cost $X/year to be a citizen.

That is often called a "head" tax. The tax for having a working head is X. Those without a head don't have to pay.

Mark writes:

The balanced budget amendment would be far too rigid, while the other two are far too general and sweeping.

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