(A Populist Capitalist Blog)
At its best, being an elected official is a calling, a response to a sense of duty. There is an acute fiduciary responsibility when one is entrusted with the collective power of the citizenry.
Humility should be the order of the day as one accepts the mantle of leadership. However, power tends to corrupt and the greater the power, the greater the temptation. One of the greatest powers of government is the power of taxation, the power to reach inside a worker’s pocket and extract her earnings.
The closer a taxing authority is to the people (local government), elected officials tend to be more wise, more thrifty with citizens’ money. There are exceptions of scale (the community needs to be large enough to have a few gadflies and malcontents to rock the boat), but it is an excellent rule of thumb. Far-off Washington has perfected the art of taking a dollar from us, giving back 75 cents, and acting as if they did us a favor.
Another great rule of thumb is that government should spend money as if it were taking it from its poorest, most hard-up taxpayer and looking that taxpayer in the eye as it does so. If every appropriation had to pass that kind of litmus test, it might be much easier to balance the budget.
“Everyone wishes to live at the expense of the government, forgetting that the government lives at the expense of everyone.”
— Claude Frédéric Bastiat (1801–1850), French political economist and member of the French assembly
“I’m proud to pay taxes in the United States; the only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money.”
— Arthur Godfrey (1903–1983) folksy American radio and television entertainer
“The Declaration of Independence, the words that launched our nation–1,300 words. The Bible, the word of God–773,000 words. The Tax Code, the words of politicians–7,000,000 words–and growing!”
— Steve Forbes, publisher of Forbes magazine