We all know democracy is broken. How? Because at the end of every tax year, when all our taxes are due, it’s a time of misery and complaint, rather than a celebration of all of the things we want to do, as a society, being fully funded. Think about the celebrations that accompany a Kickstarter campaign, when a proposed project meets its funding goal. There is positive jubilation. We don’t see that on tax due day. That’s how you know the government is spending your taxes in ways that the majority of people do not wish it to be spent. It’s a sure sign.
The very existence of Kickstarter also tells us something important about markets. Markets are broken too. If they weren’t, Kickstarter wouldn’t exist. In fact, if markets worked, Kickstarter couldn’t exist. It exists because there really is a need to subvert the market and divert funds to projects we, the people, deem worthy, directly. Kickstarter is providing an important bypass to broken markets.
That got me thinking. What if everybody held back every dollar or pound that they would have had to pay in taxes in a fund? Call it a Taxstarter fund. Then, every government minister or department that proposed to spend public money would have to launch a Taxstarter campaign, analogous to a Kickstarter campaign, in order to get public pledges, drawn from each person’s personal Taxstarter fund, toward their funding target. They would have to make a little video to plead their case, promise goodies to pledgers for backing their project and give regular updates on how the funding drive and indeed the project itself is progressing. There’d be t-shirts. Millions of t-shirts!
As in Kickstarter, if the funding target for a Taxstarter project is not met, the project isn’t funded and it doesn’t go ahead. If, on the other hand, the proposed project is, for the sake of argument, free health care for all, at the point of delivery, with each funder becoming a shareholder in the non-profit, co-operative enterprise that delivers it, I suspect that project would be over-subscribed. A form of direct democracy over what tax monies would be spent on would suddenly exist (provided that one of the earliest Taxstarter projects was to fund universal access to the Taxstarter platform).
That leads to another fascinating possibility. If the government and its civil servants need to fund everything through Taxstarter campaigns, why should they be the only ones proposing the projects? In fact, electing a party on the basis of which Taxstarter campaigns they promise to propose seems like a wholly superfluous act. Why should they be in charge and why should we trust their promises? Instead, let individual citizens of the society propose Taxstarter campaigns directly. Suddenly, politics is different. Suddenly, we would have real, direct democracy in action and all it would take is the collective will to do it and the equivalent of the Kickstarter web site.
Suddenly, special interests could no longer buy off the politicians for a relatively paltry sum to get their way, with our public money. They’d have to buy us all off.
Some of the things that politicians spend tax monies on are wholly reprehensible and everybody knows it. For example, defence spending is another of those failures of direct democracy. Russian or Chinese citizens don’t, in the main, want to spend their money on weapons and wars, instead of the arts, any more than our citizens do, but we both wind up spending excessively on preparations for war, because we fear that if we don’t, the others will. But it’s just fear. Fear and a mistaken belief that you can use violence to get your way, on a permanent basis. You can’t. History tells us that repeatedly, if only we’d care to listen.
On a global Taxstarter platform, however, this problem evaporates. Imagine the difficulty in funding a national war of aggression through a global Taxstarter campaign. You’d never do it. If nobody can raise the funds for wars of aggression, suddenly all war ceases and you have a ton of money left over to fund artists. If there is no war, what possible reason would there be to fund standing armies and so called “defence” forces? Defence against what?
If we, as a society want more peace and less war, one way to do it is to spend our taxes on funding the arts directly, not funding the psychotic, psychopathic usurpers, war profiteers, destroyers and killers. If any citizen could propose an art project on Taxstarter and people had the same money they would have spent on taxes anyway, available to them to fund those arts projects, I wager that a ton more arts projects would come to fruition. We could use our collective spending power for the purposes of creation, rather than destruction.
Under the Taxstarter scheme, what would it mean to be a tax avoider? To be squirreling your money offshore, so that you never have to participate in a Taxstarter campaign would be to be seen as highly antisocial, which in fact it is. Tax avoiders would be pariahs, not regarded as canny businessmen.
Arts funding on a massive scale would be a reality if direct democracy worked. Artists would become valued and remunerated members of society. Craftspeople would not have to scrounge out a living any longer, in competition with speculators. They’d be handsomely rewarded for their contributions to society.
We have the means. The technology we need exists and it has been proven. Do we have the will?