(Week 23 - Monday, Jan. 12 / 2009)
There are, in my view, two types of taxation:
One is "micro-taxation," which is taxation by a governmental body that is not issuing the currency in which payments for the taxes are made. Ideally, this would include taxation by states, cities, counties, townships, transportation districts; essentially any level of government below the Federal.
The other is "macro-taxation," which is taxation by a governmental body that is issuing the currency in which payments for the taxes are made. In the American system as currently configured, all taxes being paid are actually micro in nature because the body that creates our money is no longer the US Treasury under the auspices of the Federal government, but rather the private banking system under the auspices of the Federal Reserve. If the franchise for the creation and issuance of our nation's money were restored to the public sector, then the Federal government would by definition be practicing macro-taxation.
Despite their being virtually identical in outward appearance, micro and macro-taxation are very different processes with very different purposes:
The purpose of micro-taxation is to raise revenue for a governmental body that needs a source of money to meet its expenses. In this respect, such bodies are much like other entities that operate in the micro-economic realm (i.e. individuals, businesses and corporations).
The purpose of macro-taxation is to return money that is in excess of the requirements of commerce to the governmental body that created and issued it into circulation via direct spending. Such a body does not need a source of revenue to meet its expenses because it has the power to create money. Currently within the American economic system the only body with the power to create money is the Federal Reserve, but this is a private corporation, not an agency of the government (in spite of what its name might lead one to think). This is why, specifically, the Federal government operates at a "deficit," and can even be said to "run up a debt." Monetarily speaking, it is operating, effectively, as a "business" in the micro-economic realm (see Col. #38 – "The United States as a Business").
I cannot recall ever hearing the terms "micro-taxation" and "macro-taxation" used and/or contrasted explicitly, especially not in a way that that makes clear the respective distinctions between them. I can hardly imagine that they do not exist in the dictionary of economic expressions in some form. After all the major division in the study of economics in academia from the outset is between micro and macro-economics, but even in the many macro-economic analyses and pronouncements I have encountered, taxation has been referred to only in a micro-economic sense (i.e. as a way to raise revenue to pay government expenses).
How, then, can we describe how macro-taxation works? If we had a monetary system whereby currency was issued directly out of the US Treasury, much, most or all of it (depending on legislated public policy) would enter circulation via "government spending" ("public monetization" would be a more accurate expression). This would create a continuous flow of funds into the money supply, or as it is sometimes called, the "monetary pool." If such a buildup were allowed to continue unchecked the amount of money in the monetary pool would, after a time, exceed what was required to facilitate commerce at current price levels, and this would, in turn, cause an unchecked escalation of prices; what is commonly called "inflation." The way to regulate this process is through macro-taxation.
Assuming that the public creation and issuance of money were re-implemented, macro-taxation would serve two main functions:
One is to act as an overflow device for the monetary pool. When money is injected into circulation via Federal spending, the amount of currency in the monetary pool would be allowed to build up to an optimum level. Any excess that enters after that is essentially monetary overflow, and would be drained out of the pool via macro-taxation. The amount of money in circulation, then, can be controlled easily and transparently by adjusting the rate of macro-taxation (essentially the height of the overflow spillway).
The other main function is to provide a way to "renew" the money in circulation. As overflow currency is removed from circulation, it can then be extinguished and reissued afresh as the Federal government needs money. The very idea of extinguishing currency can be experienced as somewhat disheartening, especially given that one has sent in one's "hard-earned money" to pay the tax, but there is actually nothing lost in the process, since it amounts essentially to the entry and deletion of numbers in an electronic ledger.
At length, a balance will emerge within the macro-economy (i.e. the national economy as a whole) between the amount of actual economic activity performed or paid for by the Federal government (the macro-economic entity), as opposed to that performed or paid for by the aggregate of individuals, businesses, corporations and governmental-bodies-below-Federal (the aggregate of micro-economic participants). The percentage of the total attributable to the Federal government essentially determines the macro-taxing rate (percentage of economic activity to be paid as taxes).
This discussion of micro and macro-taxation will be continued in the next column.
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The complete set of columns from this series is posted at the following websites.