The Weakness of Government

Here’s JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon on raising taxes on the wealthy in particular: Opens a New Window.

I believe that individuals earning the most can afford to pay more, and I have no problem paying higher taxes to address some of the fundamental challenges and inequities in our society[.]

I’ll leave aside the illogic of Dimon’s implied obligation resultant from mere affordabity.  What are Dimon’s fundamental challenges and inequities that want government intervention?

ensur[ing] that tax dollars are being put to the “most effective” use, like expanding the earned income tax credit, alongside other programs that support the people and communities who need it the most.

Others, though, might argue that earned income tax credits are just social engineering (and disagree over whether social engineering is itself good or bad), or that credits should be applied to a different purpose; others’ views of who has the greatest need might be different; others’ definitions of need might be different; and on and on.

Even well intended men and women in government have differing goals and views of what ought to be done in the name of government, and these often are diametrically opposed.  It’s especially the case that the employers of those men and women, their constituents, have differing, even opposing, goals and imperatives.  That demands compromise in governing, and if compromise isn’t achieved, tax dollars are not used effectively at all, much less most effectively.

When compromise is achieved, the result is that not even the most correct, the most righteous, ends are achieved with anything close to efficiency.  This may actually be worse, fiscally, since the money would be misallocated and irrevocably consumed rather than held against a useful future expenditure.

In the end, Government cannot put our money to the “most effective” use, only to the uses of compromise, and this violates Dimon’s underlying criterion.

The best we can do is limit Government inefficiency by limiting Government.  The most effective way we can do that is by limiting the amount of money we allow Government to have.  And even here we can only compromise: what is the minimum amount, how much money does Government really need?  For what purposes?

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