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Taxpayers vs. Citizens

Robert Herold of the Pacific Northwest Inlander has a good commentary on the semantics of “taxpayers” vs. “citizens.” An excerpt:

Taxpayers are just full of anxiety. Citizens seek to participate in a constructive manner. Taxpayers seek always to reduce public life to a balance sheet. Citizens seek ways of broadening and deepening public life. Taxpayers, by definition, live in a private world, and they don’t much like government penetrating that world. The word “taxes” symbolizes that penetration. Citizens seek life in the polis. Citizens live in a world of values, which, when agreed upon, determine how we will live.

(Thanks to Doug Hughes for the link.)

11 Responses to “Taxpayers vs. Citizens”

  1. Taxpayers vs Citizens

    Via David Weinberger, a quote from an excellent Inlander article by Robert Herold titled New Year, New Way: “Taxpayers are just full of anxiety. Citizens seek to participate in a constructive manner. Taxpayers seek always to reduce public life to…

  2. Maybe the taxpayers are just under-employed citizens. Clearly, we have an under-employment epidemic. Without a war, Bush may not have showed up for work at all… except to raise funds for the primary!

    “…Discretionary spending has jumped 27% in the last two years…Congressional pork is up more than 40%…much of it is directly tied to the demands of big business.”

  3. I think if we had the choice of precisely where our tax money went, government would become entirely reflective of the peoples will. Those who support the war (and there are plenty) would choose to have some of their tax go to the war effort. Those opposed would choose to have their money go elsewhere (such as environmental protection or social programs). I think in the end it would all balance out, and transform the taxpayer into a participating citizen… someone who would feel they are doing something good when they pay their taxes, rather than feeling ripped off and unrepresented. This would also quickly end pork belly, which does horrible things to both democracy and a healthy economy.

  4. Well, some of us are taxpayers without being citizens. I’d say ‘No taxation without representation’, but people look askance when they hear it in an English accent.

  5. Ah, Kevin, you drain on American society you! :)

    And, Paul, I disagree with you, although I understand where you’re coming from. First, gov’t couldn’t function if we chose where our money went; the budget is a gazillion pages long. People wouldn’t make good decisions because there’s too much to consider. We need full-time representatives to do that for us.

    Second, I think there’s something salutory about having to pay for programs with which you disagree as a fiscal involvement in the compromise that democracy institutionalizes: My guy lost the election, but I’m still a citizen, so I have to fund programs I don’t like.

  6. The Difference Between Taxpayers and Citizens

    Via JOHO the Blog, a wonderful discussion of the very different meanings and motives behind the two terms.

  7. Do the full-time representatives make good decisions, or just make decisions ?

  8. Taxpayers or citizens

    David Weinberger, by way of Doug Hughes points to this thoughtful article on citizenship in the Pacific Northwest Inlander. Amongst other things it says:Taxpayers are just full of anxiety. Citizens seek to participate in a

  9. Very interesting . . . if you look at it from the broad picture you could almost go to say that Taxpayers = Repubicans and Citizens = Democrats. However we do not live in such a black and white world – but there is a bit of an undertone there!

  10. As a follow-on to Paul’s comment, I submit this post. In the comments I outline a way to introduce choice into public funding. David is right that the complexity of making detailed funding choices on a tax form is intractable, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to address this. At some level you need representatives that are focussed on particular issues and problems and governance structures to maintain discipline, but I don’t think this design problem is intractable if you frame it right.

  11. Taxpayers, Citizens, Freedom, and Political Liberty

    Posted by The Happy Tutor David Weinberger

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