the voluntary state
A New Political Concept

IF  someone  forces  you  to  do  something  you do not want to do, he is denying your right to make your own decisions.  The ability to make your own decisions is what most of us would describe as having free will.  But if you do exercise your free  will,   as   just   described,   and  you  are  punished by some terrestrial authority,    have   you   been    exercising    free    will?

Most people would answer,  no.  You have been punished by a force beyond your control for trying  to  express  your  free  will.

In other words, you have political free will only if no terrestrial force can punish you as a consequence  of  your  exercise.

There are always, of course, moral consequences of any action.  We are familiar with them in the attack of conscience which follows doing something you wish you hadn’t done because  it  hurt someone.

This kind of free will, governed by conscience,  is  not  the  kind  of  free  will  that  The  Voluntary  State uses  as  its  method  of operation.   The  Voluntary  State  gives  man the  right  to  use  his  own  free  will  to  make  political  decisions  without  any  punishment.

Until  now,  refusal  to  pay  taxes  resulted in the use of force against you, through financial penalty  or  confiscation  or  jail.  This  use  of  force   against   the   exercise   of   political   free     will would be abolished by adopting the  voluntary  tax system _  thus  ending  arbitrary power,  the  source  of  corruption.

There would be an historic shift of power with the establishment of The Voluntary State.  The arbitrary power inherent in official positions, once the election process is over, would no longer exist.  At present, the voter is largely powerless between elections. In The Voluntary State, the voter would be able to cripple  the  elected  official’s  ability  to  function by withholding tax payments, if the official departed from the program that the voters had agreed to fund.  Because taxes would no longer be coercive, the official would be helpless to retaliate.   True,  the  voter  would  need  to  make  up  the  taxes he had voted  to  pay,  after the  official was forced back into line. But it  would  not  take many  instances  of  this  type  to  establish  that  the  purse  strings  in  the  hands of  the  voters  represented  an  unbreakable  rein  on  the  official’s  ability  to  violate  his  word  on  what  he  had  pledged.

The pomp and circumstance of office would remain, where necessary for the official to represent his constituency, but those occasions which would then  represent  empty  displays of    power    would not take place. 

The full significance of this shift in power _ from official back to voter _ would be more easily  understood  and  appreciated  if  we  were to change the title of the voter to elector, signifying an increase in the power of the function.  All  the  power  of  the  State  would  reside  in  those  who  held  the  purse  strings.

There would still be legislative, executive and judicial functions which would need to be performed, but with an attitude showing more humility on the part of those performing them.  All of the ugly manifestations of corrupting power would disappear when the power itself was brought under  control,  because  the  control  of  the  money  would  no  longer  be  in  the hands  of  those  who  use  it  to  corrupt  others  in  order  to  retain   power.

The purpose, in The Voluntary State, of restricting the vote to those willing to be responsible members of society is to elect responsible officials.  Because neither the voters, nor the officials they elect, would be seeking personal advantage, there would  be  no  way  to  corrupt    either.   Both  those  paying  the  costs  of  government  voluntarily,  and those  restricted  to  the  program  they  pledged  to  carry  out,  would   have  no  way  to  cheat.

The  very  word  politician has  come  to connote  a  person  who  is  not  to  be  trusted. Perhaps  it  was  always  so.

The source of the distrust comes from the reluctance of the politician to keep his word, because  he  wants  to  be  re-elected  or  to  keep his  appointed  position.

He   likes   the   power   of   office,   is   corrupted  by   it.     Having   tasted   it,   he  is   unwilling   to   do   the job  he  promised  his  voters.  He  finds  that he doesn’t need to keep his promises,  because he can win  more  votes  through  dishonesty  than  through  keeping  his  promises.

Of course, winning more votes always involves the manipulation of money affairs which government can influence, or supporting the vested interests of those whose votes he seeks.  The satisfaction of the power of office takes priority  over  his  integrity.

This is the human reaction to a system which  can  force  people  to  pay  against  their will,  leaving  the  people  with  no  effective means  of  controlling  their  government.

It  isn’t  so  much  the  caliber  of  the  men who  are     elected     as    that    the   wrong    incentives    are embedded in our political system.  The voters are  not,  now,  made  directly  responsible  to  pay for the consequences of their vote. The authority    of    the    vote    should   be   balanced    with responsibility for  the  cost  of  the  consequences,  just  as  in  private  life. 

As  it  is,  irresponsible  voters  elect irresponsible  officials  for  personal ends.  This is,  in  effect,  selling  the  vote,  just   as  the  official  is  buying  the  vote.

But under The Voluntary State this buying and selling of votes would become impossible.

   The  incentive  for  the  voter  would  then become the same as when he buys products or services in the market _ the best  possible value  for  his  money,  his voluntary  taxes.

This     transformation     would     result   in   responsible    voters   electing   responsible  officials.   The  effect  would,  of  course,  follow  the  cause.

Instead of politician we would then have  your  obedient  servant.

The enforcement would then be in the hands of the taxpayer _ instead of the hands of the officials  of  government.  Man  would  be  in  control  at  last.

No one would be refused the right to vote and to participate in running the government _ it  would  be  the  first  time  in  history  that  the vote  would  have  a  moral  base,  each  man  making  the  decision  for  himself.

A  free  press  would  be  there  to  report  on  the  process.

Violations of campaign pledges could result in immediate withholding of quarterly payments of voluntary taxes.  Because no government operates without money, this would force officials, including legislators, into line   promptly.   It   is   a   direct   and   open   remedy.

That voters would voluntarily pay for the arbitrary  bureaucracies  now  functioning  is unthinkable.  Government would be simple again  and  understandable  to  all.

What, it is asked, would cause people to pay voluntarily?   It  is  because  they  would  at  last  get  what  they  want  _  control  of  what  they  are paying  for.    They   pay  for   refrigerators   and   cars, burglar alarms and security guards, because they  have  control.    Their   safety   is   dependent  on  government.    Of  course  they  would  pay for   an    honest    government    they    could    control.

How about those who would be riding free and refusing to  pay?

These  are  exactly  the  voters  we  need  to eliminate, who are now irresponsibly using the vote for personal gain.  They are riding free already.  Let’s  either  let  them  ride  free  but  get  rid  of the votes they sell, or turn them into responsible voters.  Their present power to vote in   addition   to   riding   free   is  the   worst   of   worlds.

Ignoring  the  fact,  that  subsidy  creates  more   of   what   is   subsidized,   has   resulted   in  the  trapping  of  many,   even  for  generations,  because   of    government    subsidies,   in   a    growing  under-class,  bereft  of  hope,  that  did  not  exist  at  all  before  the  Welfare  State.

Who  would  provide  these  irresponsibles or  unfortunates  with  a  substitute  for  the  money  from  government  programs  on  which  they  now  live?  

Once  the  victims  of  the  gigantic,  now-acknowledged, failure of the Welfare State have been restored to normal life, a prosperous market society _ one without compulsory taxation _ would  provide  enough  profits  to allow  charitable  giving  to  do  as  much,  or more,  for  the  truly  needy  as  government  does  now.    This  is  because  taxes  would  be  lower,  much,  much  lower,  and  there  would  be  more  money  to  give.


How would an election proceed in The Voluntary State?

It  is  safe  to  say  that  in  practice  we  would learn  many  things.

Here is a procedure that seems to offer a workable  way.   There  could  be  many  variations.

A date would be set for the registration of those planning to participate.  It would need to be  set  far  enough  in  advance  of  the  election for the political parties to use the information derived from the registration to formulate their programs,  setting  forth  the  percentages  of  the  voters’  income  that  would  be  required   to  pay  for  their  programs.

On the day of registration, each person intending to vote would submit his expected income for the next year (this information not to be made publicly available.)  Then the total of the annual incomes of those intending to vote would  be  made  known  to  all.

Party  A  would  commit  itself  to  carry  out  a  certain  program  for,  say,  ten  per  cent  of  each  voter’s  income.    Party  B  would  make  a  similar  commitment,  for  a  twelve  per  cent  tax, which would encompass a more extensive program of  services.

After the election, the voter would be obligated to pay the full amount of the taxes when due, no matter which of the parties won the election and whether or not the winner  was  the    party    for    which    he    had    voted.

Any voter seriously disagreeing with the policies of the party winning the election could withhold his taxes if he chose.  Then, at the next election,  he  could  decide  whether  he  wanted to vote  again.   If  he  did,  he  would  need  to  pay what  he  had  committed  himself  to  pay  (at  the prior  election)   in  order  to  vote  again.

The commitment would cover, say, four years  for  legislative  and  executive  officials,  and  would operate as described earlier to discipline the  elected  officials.

Such an enormous change from the presently known way of running government might cause a  reluctance  to  try  it _ in  effect,  to  swap  the  devil  you  know  for  the  devil  you  don’t  know.   But  no  great  leap  of  faith  would  be  necessary.

The procedure could be adopted and tried anywhere in one or more small communities.  If successful, it could spread to the county level, and   from   there   to   one   or   more   of   the   States.

Finally the voluntary tax system could be  tried for Congressional elections, and elections leading  to  the  choice  of  the  President.

By  that  time  there  would  be  a  comfort level  with  the  new  type  of  control  of  the government.

With no necessity to pay taxes there would  seem to be little incentive for cheating.  However,  there  would  need  to  be  a  procedure  to  take care of any who did so.  Citizens’ committees  might  work  best  or,  if  necessary,  a    grand    jury.     The    society    would    certainly    not  need  to  be  without  whatever  safeguards   would   make   the   system   work   properly. 

We should be clear that voluntary taxation would not be like Red Cross contributions.   There   would   indeed   be   teeth   in   this   system   _ with  the  reward  of  voting  for  paying  one’s share,  or  the  penalty  of  not  being  allowed  to  vote  for  not  paying  one’s  share,  of  the  taxes.

Let  us  review :  a  voter  could  make  the commitment anew at each election to pay his share of the taxes as his responsibility for the authority  of   voting.  He  need  not  pay  taxes,   but  if  he did not he would lose his right to vote.  If  he  made  the  commitment  to  pay  and  did   not fulfill  it,  he  would  lose  his  vote  until  his  tax  account was paid in full.  However, the payment    of    taxes    would    always    be    voluntary.



Chapter 6