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Government is like a computer's operating system: a response to libertarians

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Without an operating system, your computer would be a useless hunk of metal and plastic. The operating system provides the basic rules, conventions, protections, and services necessary for the functioning of application programs such as editors, spreadsheets, browsers, and games.

Government plays a similar role in the functioning of a modern society. Government furnishes the rules, conventions, protections, and basic services necessary for the smooth functioning and interactions of businesses and individuals.

Government provides potable water, clean air, safe food, roads, public transportation, national defense, public health, education, police protection, courts, parks, libraries, contract law, zoning, emergency services, land-use planning, and wilderness areas. Government laws and regulations protect us from fraud, from discrimination, from anti-competitive business practices, from toxic wastes, from climate-altering emissions, and from unsafe products.

Government-funded research increases our productivity and protects us from diseases and environmental degradation.

Government provides a safety net for those too old, sick, or young to care for themselves.

In many countries government provides health care at a fraction of the cost, and more equitably, than America's market-based system.

Heck, without government we'd be hunter-gatherers: no laws, no sanitation, no commerce, no childhood immunization, no civil rights, no seat belts, and surely no Internet.

Sometimes computer viruses, spybots, malware, and other undesirable programs invade your operating system. They suck up resources, steal private information, and destroy data. To guard against such undesirables the operating system has protections, such as firewalls and security levels. Furthermore, you can install anti-virus programs that will scan your computer and protect you from suspicious programs.

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In a similar way, government is sometimes co-opted by special interests who twist the rules, corrupt the lawmakers, and get laws written to their own benefit. Corporations, labor groups, teachers, government workers, rich people, poor people: everybody tries to make government serve their own interests.

One protection against government abuse is election finance laws. Publicly funded elections would make it harder for private interests to buy the votes of lawmakers.

Another protection is investigative journalism. Journalists are like anti-virus programs for government: journalists scan the actions of legislators and government workers, looking for wasteful or fraudulent behaviors. It is to society's benefit to fund independent investigative journalism, as well as to give tax incentives to privately run news organizations. The US spends a small fraction as much on public journalism as most other industrial nations.

So, come November, when it's time for Washington State voters to vote on ballot initiative I-1098 establishing a high-earner's income tax on the top 3% of earners, they should remember our analogy: government is like an operating system. (Washington State is one of the few states lacking a state income tax.)

Also remember that Washington State has one of the most regressive tax system in the nation: the rich pay a much lower percent of their income on taxes (about 3%) than the middle class (about 11%). Billionaire Warren Buffet famously remarks that he pays less in taxes, as a proportion of income, than his secretary, who earns $60,000 a year. Capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than workers' earned income. Over the past 50 years the tax burden has shifted from the rich to the middle class, and the richest American's have seen their share of wealth increase. (See references below.)

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I-1098 will re-balance our tax structure, lowering property taxes for the middle class and the B&O tax for small businesses.

Vote against it if you're super rich -- and selfish.

References

Bill Gates Sr. Leads Charge To Tax The Wealthy In Washington State

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http://waliberals.org
DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See http://WALiberals.org and http://TruthSite.org for my writing, my (more...)
 

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