No one likes paying taxes, but everyone wants the benefits that they provide, like fire and police services, roads and other public utilities, but what if there were a way to get rid of the middle-man? It’s called crowdsourcing, and some successes in crowdfunding means taxes are becoming obsolete.
The difference between crowdfunding and taxes is choice
Ever met anyone who views taxes as a civic duty rather than a giant pain in a particular body part that rhymes with “grass?” Taxes aren’t technically a public benefit or a public good; they are partially, and how large the portion is remains up for debate, for funding things most people need. Things like roads, public schools, police, firefighters, lawyers for police when they kill someone for no reason, subsidies for companies that paid off elected officials and so forth, all depend on tax revenues.
The taxes themselves are imposed; the citizenry doesn’t have a choice. Taxes, in reality, are fees imposed by a group of people that have henchmen with guns that say we have to pay or else. Sometimes we benefit from them. Granted, we might well choose to keep paying them if given a choice, but we still don’t have one.
This sucker is electrical
But what if we were? There’s something called “crowdsourcing,” where people take to the Internet, the series of tubes invented by Al Gore, and social networks to come up with ideas, and more to the point, funds, for various projects. When used to raise funds, it’s called “crowdfunding.”
Crowdfunding is used in different ways and for different purposes. It can be used to raise donations, which don’t have to be paid back, or small loans that aggregate into a larger one, which do. For instance, websites Prosper.com and LendingClub.com both crowdfund personal loans for borrowers from investors, as does Kiva Microfinance.
Big things are possible. According to Slate.com, a recent crowdfunded project is the Tesla Museum. The land that the former laboratory of famous inventor Nikola Tesla used to sit on, in New York, is up for sale. A non-profit foundation wants to buy the site and create a museum devoted to Tesla. The land costs $1.4 million and the state of New York is generously providing $800,000, provided matching funds can be raised. Matthew Inman, creator of webcomic site TheOatmeal.com, started a project on Indiegogo.com, a crowdfunding site, after creating some webcomics about it to spur interest.
More than $1 million has been raised.
Application to public works
Granted, the state of New York is providing a generous share of the funding, but the price of the land has almost already been raised. Could the same thing be done for a public pool, or perhaps a new highway? Of course it could, given enough publicity. Technically, tax revenues are already crowdfunded, the only difference being that the middle man is a government and the people paying for it aren’t given a choice. Sometimes they are; we do have to vote for levies.
Not only that, but a public works project, funded by private citizens, wouldn’t necessarily have to be from donations. Say a new highway extension was needed; it could become a toll road, either permanently or until it was repaid. Obviously, there is potential in the model. One wonders what other parts of the government are obsolete?