While King Banaian offered up a review of the economic scholarship on economic growth and tax rates, my first response to the “Minnesotans aren’t paying enough in taxes” report was more philosophical.
Just because you can afford to buy more government, is it the right thing to do?
A healthy society has checks and balances among various institutions, just as it has checks and balances within government. I call it “federalism for life.”
Religious organizations and houses of worship provide spiritual and moral guidance and instruction. Businesses large and small provide goods, services and employment through buying and selling. Bonds of friendship and family provide any number and kind of help in times of need. Nonprofit groups allow people to combine together for a common interest on a voluntary basis. Government, meanwhile, administers a legal and criminal justice system and taxes us to fund essential (and often not-so-essential) services.
But for decades now, the institution of government has ventured into areas of life traditionally managed by other institutions. Government-run schools teach children how to have sex. Other offices of government teach young adults how to be parents. In some cases, city councils and their offices of planning decide which commercial enterprise will own a parcel of land, rather than letting willing buyers and sellers sort that question out in the marketplace.
The reasons for these and other cases of government action are many, including a perceived failure of another institution in life (“parents aren’t teaching kids about sex, so schools have to”), the desire to stretch public budgets (“we can’t allow you to smoke, since that would tax the health budget”), impatience (“government must run broadband services because the private sector is taking too long”) and the simple desire for political power.
What we need, though, is more of what I call “Federalism for Life” — a recognition that life is full of “important stuff to do,” only some of which requires government.