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Comments on Tuesday 28 October 2003:
A very well-written piece of Flash propaganda, Army Of One, from Take Back The Media, with an excellent choice of backing music. I'm not one to be convinced by propaganda in either direction, of course, but I can abstractly recognise whether propaganda is good or not, and this is one of the best I've seen. The one line that really broke it for me was "if we support the troops, why can't Bush?", in the wake of something about one and a half billion dollars. Which led me to ponder how much the 'we' actually do support the troops. If there was a checkbox on your tax forms that said "charge me an extra $6 to go to army people", how many people would check that? And of course, the fewer people who would check the box, the larger the amount would need to be - $6 would only cover it if everyone would pay. And that's to cover just one of the several large sums of money the propaganda suggests Bush is shorting the army people. I'm sure Bush abstractly supports the troops, just like most of the people who wouldn't send them money.

As always, let's have tax cuts and increase spending! On everything! Perhaps Credit Card China will increase the national credit limit!

Which allows me to seamlessly segue into pondering what would happen if the budget was actually democratic, with your tax forms including a "where do you want tax money to go" quiz - what services would collapse through underfunding, whether they'd come back to life the next year when people decide to fund them after all once they realise how necessary they are, and so forth. It'd be funny, if nothing else. [22:57]

SpasmodicMonk
It'd certainly be interesting but I suspect that the tax-checkbox section of the form would be rather large.

I imagine that most people would select the first five or six boxes just because they couldn't be bothered to read any further, 'I haven't got time for this, let the government sort it out.'

RavenBlack
I doubt it. Loads of people would, for example, want to check "education" because "it's for the children". And the military would (almost) only get tax money from military or ex-military people. People can't be bothered to vote if it means going out, but (as Livejournal demonstrates) they love filling in quizzes. I'm somewhat tempted to make a "where would you have your tax money go?" quiz (or "how closely does where you'd have your tax money go resemble where it actually goes?", perhaps, so that I could offer up instant results).

Tom
I think the tax plan would probably run into problems, or at least not be noticeably more democratic than the current system.

If I check the 'education' box, then does my tax money go to schools? Swimming lessons? Military training? All educational. At some stage, a public official is going to interpret your answer. So aren't you effectively saying 'Let x elected official say where it should go'?

RavenBlack
Meh, it's pretty obvious what's meant by "education" in the context. If someone's accountable they'd get shouted at and voted out for interpreting 'education' as military training.

Holly
Yes. Because politicians who lie or don't fulfill their election promises always get voted out.

Tom
Mmm. Accountable politicians. It's a radical idea, but might be worth a shot. I think I remember voting out. I learnt about it in history class.

Digi
They'd have the quiz in such a way that your taxes would end up pretty much where they do now. They'd make all sorts of categories and stuff so that the same proportions of money would go to small categories within broader categories, such as 'Education', 'Defense', and 'Infra-Structure'. Then the people in charge of 'Infra-Structure' would be told how much work they were allowed to do, and that any extra money would have to go into the national bank.

Meanwhile the people in charge of 'Defense' are asking for more money, seeing as there's plenty in the national bank. That's the way I'd get round it anyway.

I think that until you buy an island, and engineer a species of foot heigh monkey-gnomes that are mostly called Billy to entertain you from time to time, you're not going to get the country you want.

RavenBlack
But what you're saying is "if they didn't do the thing at all then it would be the same as it is now!" Of course it would.

What I was suggesting is that there is no "national bank" that each of the things could draw from - there is no emergency bail-out - they get exactly what's due them from the taxes, no more, no less. If they have a huge surplus, it doesn't go into the 'national bank' for other categories to use, it goes into the sector's own balance; if they get the same amount of tax again next year then their surplus money could go even higher, unless they come up with ways to spend it. But there's no such thing as a surplus, of course. There's *always* places the education system can throw money.
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