jewish_scientist wrote:Netreker0 wrote:As for your other reasons, they are laudable goals that, unfortunately have nothing to do with our current system of tax brackets.
I said that this is where I would start; not where I would end. Doing this is not going to fix the huge mess that is U.S. tax law. However, it is a relatively uncontroversial change that Congress could eventua- Oh man, give me a second. I can do this. *deep breathing* However, it is a relatively uncontroversial change that Congress could eventually pass given enough political pressure.
Is the purpose to get a token, meaningless change passed so that we can get some bipartisan ball rolling and hopefully let inertia carry us to more meaningful changes? If so, it's an interesting idea.
Otherwise, my original point still stands--even as a "start," your suggestion would provide zero meaningful progress towards achieve that particular goal.
There have been some great ideas in this thread, but most would be quite complicated to implement. I favor simplification...
I understand why you want this, but I think that boat has sailed. A modern industrial economy is so inherently complex that I believe that any effective tax system would be so complex that no single person would understand all of it; and that is o.k.
You're going to have to give some reasoning to support this assertion, beyond merely hand-waving that complex economy must mean complex tax system. At a basic level, a tax system has one primary goal--to fund the government. Below this are a few subordinate, somewhat interconnected goals: fund the government in a way that is sustainable, satisfies some standard of fairness, resists being "gamed," resists corruption and conforms to some legal restraints, and doesn't substantially anger the citizenry. While some changes are necessary as the economy grows complex--a tax code that focuses on "what you grow" and "all your wages" would have to adapt once things like investment income are added to the mix--there is no intrinsic reason that we need have entirely different and mutually incomprehensible tax rules for a farmer organized as an LLC growing and selling crops and a single guy paid a monthly salary at a corporation.
Plants are inherently complex--it's plausible that some plants are too complex for any one person to understand. However, our systems for cultivating and harvesting plants are relatively simple. More importantly, when those systems are adapted from more simple plants to use on more complex ones, they generally didn't have to be made more complex in order to reflect the increasing complexity of the plants. Sometimes, the simple plant has a problem that requires a simple solution, while the complex plant has a problem that requires a complex one. More often, however, the complex plant has the same problem as the simple plant, and requires the same solution, or alternately, the complex plant has a different, complex problem, and the solution is different, but still simple.
Your suggested "too complex for one person to understand" tax system is a bad idea because it is not necessary to achieve some of goals and in fact undermines others. In a roughly democratic nation, people should generally be able to understand their government and their laws. Even when most people don't have the time to understand one aspect of government--like the tax system--then at the very least, it should be possible for a substantial number of specialists, coming from a wide variety of viewpoints, to understand how the system works as a whole and to act as intermediaries. I don't like the idea of a system conceived to be so complex that even one of these specialists can't understand it all. It is too easy for such a system to get away from its creators, and too easy for those charged with implementing that system to disclaim responsibility for what it does.
Your technological examples overlook some important points. A cell phone, with all its hardware and software, probably wouldn't be able to work without being complex. That is a practical constraint. A tax code, on the other hand, can and has effectively funded the government--while achieving many of those subordinate goals--without being too complex for one person to understand. Yes, with more complexity we might achieve marginal gains in these areas, or we might--as you seem to want--be able to achieve other, unrelated goals. However,this complexity comes with a trade off, which is why I would prefer to achieve these goals in other, more practical ways. Plus, when you break down the phone into more elementary components, it becomes not only more practical, but also beneficial for someone to be able to understand the full system. For example, security might be very difficult without having people who have a general idea of how the OS works as a whole.
The other thing about the cell phone--for many of its functions, success or failure is self-evident. You don't have to trust that everyone who made every part did their job, because failure will most likely be self-evident, at which point you can systematically look for the specific person who failed. This is less true with the tax code. If we fail to raise enough money to support government spending, that failure would be self-evident. However, this isn't true for those important subordinate goals. I can't simply say, "I trust those parts of the tax code I don't understand are working towards a fair and equitable tax system, because if they weren't, the results would be obviously unfair and inequitable." Fairness is not only a characteristic of results but also of the system itself--the only way to know if a system is fair is to understand every part well enough to know if that part is fair, and to examine the system as a whole and see if it's fair. Even when the metric of success is largely external to the system, when it comes to the tax code, they're not always easy to measure accurately and objectively, particularly when the code is constantly being changed.