Wednesday, February 10, 2010
"So, son, did you build a road today?" That's a question Ward Cleaver never asked the Beav.He's right of course: Government is NOTHING like a family budget. They're not even alike in how they take money. The editor says the family "takes money", by which he means the family needs an income. It's not just a matter of balancing a budget. Unlike the state of Minnesota, the family can conceivably borrow past the end of a biennium. But in the long run it must balance. And how does it get its income? By persuading someone to hire one of the family's resources -- the labor of one of its members, or its land and buildings, or its savings and perhaps machinery. The person it persuades believes it receives something of greater value for something of less value. So does the family.
But it's a question politicians are beginning to ask as an election year begins.
It seems that many politicians love the analogy of government's revenue and spending plans being like a family budget.
And my response is: Government is nothing like a family budget.
Excuse me. I should say, there is a similarity: They both take money.
The government's budget is nothing like that. It can force others to lend to it, as the current state budget forces school districts and its universities to do so. It can impose taxes, which involve coercion rather than persuasion. Its coercion may take something of greater value and convert it to something of less value; in fact, more often than not, it does. And it can claim some moral high ground while it coerces, claiming to do it for "those less fortunate" or "the children." My family could persuade a few dollars from people through begging. The government does not stand on street corners.
So good job, Winona Daily News.