Since I almost never get mail of any kind, I was surprised to find an envelope from the Cato Institute in the mailbox today. I was doubly surprised because I don’t recall ever giving the Cato Institute my address. Perhaps it was one night when I was too drunk to remember what I was doing. But how they got my address is beside the point.
As you might expect, inside was a six-page fundraising letter from Cato founder Ed Crane detailing all of the good work the Cato Institute does. This is true: I’ve long been a fan of the Cato Institute’s work, and though Ian might say it’s dry and boring, it’s supposed to be. It’s aimed at influencing policymakers to more libertarian action. Reading the letter, I was again impressed by Cato’s solidly principled positions.
Except for one issue.
IRS regulations now number more than 60,000 pages, allowing government to treat you as the subject of social engineering and opening you up to extensive invasion of your private affairs. We suggest that replacing the current income tax with a flat-rate tax or even a consumption-based levy such as a national sales tax would be worth considering. You and other individuals would immediately gain more control over your income to use as you see fit, no longer subject to the prying eyes of government bureaucrats. That in turn would spur significant new economic growth with expanded consumer savings and investments.
Ed, we don’t need an income tax. You hear that? We don’t need an income tax. Nor a national sales tax.
When the federal government finally returns to being as small as it’s supposed to be, or even gets anywhere near the ballpark, the amount of money it will need to operate will be small enough as to make such taxes completely unnecessary, as they were for the first 150 years of this country’s existence.
One might be able to support a flat tax or national sales tax as an interim measure, while the government is being slowly downsized toward a more Constitutional size. But such a measure presumes that libertarians will control the beast long enough to actually get it done, and won’t be corrupted by power in the meantime.
Even with this one issue clouding my opinion of Cato, I still think they do excellent work in pretty much every other area of government policy, and I’ll continue to advocate their work to anyone who wants a pro-liberty viewpoint. But as I consider whether to send the Cato Institute the $100 it wants (and get a free book), I would suggest that it revisit these tax proposals.