07 February 2005

What Randians think

Why exactly are we supposed to pay taxes to help the poor? We aren't legally obliged to help our siblings or friends, so why are we legally obliged to help perfect strangers? And in the process of forcing people to pretend they love poor people they never met, don't we breach our far more obvious duty to leave people alone? These are not irrefutable proofs, but they are far more convincing than anything in Descartes' Meditations.
To this series of questions raised by Econolog I replied:
One of the reasons for helping perfect strangers is that we take actions that hurt them. Our government subsidises a physical infrastructure that favours corporate interests but does much to destroy communities; it promotes immigration and free trade - for sound economic reasons, no doubt. But there are losers from this, and they rarely have the power of veto. They are due their compensation.
Government and big business get away with reshaping our physical and social environment against the best interests of real people because, I believe, they do not express their policy objectives as outcomes. Instead, they target alleged means rather than ends. They direct taxpayer revenue to this or that agency. But agencies, public or private sector, have their own objectives, primarily self-perpetuation and growth. Policymakers escape or deflect censure because the relationships between their policies and outcomes are obscure. Government ends up subsidising corporate interests and funding the expansion of its own agencies regardless of how effective or efficient they are. It should, instead, target objectives that are meaningful to the people it is supposed to represent. Social Policy Bonds are about finding out what these objectives are and giving government and people the means of achieving them efficiently.

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