(Week 23 - Wednesday, Jan. 14 / 2009)
In the last column I introduced into the discussion the concepts of micro-taxation and macro-taxation, respectively. "Micro-taxation" is the process by which a governmental body that does not issue the currency in which payment for the taxes are accepted obtains revenue to meet its expenses, while "macro-taxation" is the process by which a governmental body that does issue the currency in which payment for the taxes are accepted removes from circulation the excess of currency that builds up in the monetary pool as it spends into circulation the money it creates.
Within the current American system, all taxes collected currently are micro in nature simply because the governmental body (Federal) that would issue the national currency has abdicated that responsibility to a private corporation. For purposes of discussion, I will assume the return of the franchise to create, issue and control the money supply to the national government, unless otherwise indicated.
This represents a radical departure from the way we commonly think about "taxes," especially at the Federal level. It is unfortunate that we use the same term (taxes) to cover both instances. I would suggest that it might be better to call the revenue collected by any level of government that does not issue the money collected as "taxes", and the money being retired from circulation by the Federal government as something else; say, "retirements" or "overflows." To be sure, such a change would take a bit of getting used to, but in my view it is imperative that we reclaim the consistency of our language if we are going establish clear thinking on monetary matters. Establishing unambiguous and descriptive terminology is one way to do it. I would invite anyone out there to see if they can come up with a better term.
In response to the last column, which introduced the concepts of micro-vs.-macro-taxation into the discussion, a reader asks, "what is it that keeps lower government micro-economic units (state county, municipal) from being just extensions of the Federal macro system? That is, why aren't the micro-level government expenses covered by the issuance of monies from the Federal Treasury? Should this be done? Why not make all government (regardless of level) expenses the macro-economic responsibility? What would be the consequences? Why would we, or wouldn't we want to do this?"
These are excellent questions. The key to understanding the answers is to keep in mind the nature of the micro-vs.-macro-economic functions themselves. The task of the macro-economy is to set up, by law, a matrix of rules, definitions and relationships whose purpose is to create conditions that allow the participants in the micro-economy to exercise "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" within the fullest possible expression of personal freedom, social equity, and the commonweal.
That said, let us return to the question, "What is it that keeps lower government micro-economic units (state, county, municipal) from being just extensions of the Federal macro system?" I would say that micro-units of government have largely become extensions of the Federal government now, simply because the Federal part of the system is no longer a macro-economic entity, but has become another "business" among businesses.
If there is a distinction to be made, it is that this "Federal business" retains the greatest ability to borrow money, and has therefore come to resemble a huge predatory corporation that swallows up the smaller corporations in an ongoing process of economically forced takeovers (notwithstanding that our government leaders, I have to believe, do not intend such an end). This tendency has accelerated with the current "bailout" process, whereby the Federal government borrows hundreds of billions of dollars to "rescue" (i.e., take control over) smaller corporations. The take-over aspects of the process tend to be obscured by euphemistic language about requiring more "control" and "accountability" in return for the money.
If the monetary franchise were returned to the Federal government, that in itself would distinguish it as a true macro-economic functionary, that by its very nature and operations would preclude its micro-economic participants from being perceived as being "just extensions" of the same thing.
As to the question, "Why aren't the micro-level government expenses covered by the issuance of monies from the Federal Treasury?", if micro-level government expenses were covered by the issuance of monies out of the Federal Treasury, it would cease effectively to be micro-level government. Without the power over their own purse strings, state and local governments would lose their independence and be relegated, in effect, to being budgetary departments of the macro-government. Political appearances notwithstanding, the operating distinction between levels has indeed become blurred due to the Federal government being obliged to provide the money to keep lesser government in operation out of the Federal's greater power to borrow money, which is then disbursed with "mandates" attached.
"Should this be done?" That is a political decision. I suggest that preserving the distinctions between micro and macro levels of government is an indispensable expression of the types of sovereignty (state, municipal, township, library district, etc.) that will organically arise in any society. It is, to put it another way, the critical means for the unfoldment of a free and diverse social order.
"Why not make all government (regardless of level) expenses the macro-economic responsibility?" We could have a national government, and nothing else. That would be the effect of having the Federal government pay for everything, but is that what we as a society want?
"What would be the consequences?" It would mean the hegemony over the entire social order through a single nexus of power.
"Why would we, or wouldn't we want to do this?" Ultimately, it is up to We the People as to whether we would want this or not. The key to answering the question is to become mindful of who we want, or allow, to exercise the money creation, issuance and control power.
We, as a society, have been making the choice for increasing social hegemony exercised out of an ever-constricting circle of control simply because we are letting the monetary question be answered by default out of our own (dare I say negligent) unconsciousness about money.
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The complete set of columns from this series is posted at the following websites.