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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.


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

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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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Whenever we have an operating system on our comput... by William Cormier on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 4:55:22 PM
Yes, government in America is quite corrupt, but t... by Don Smith on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 5:14:22 PM
Would the operating system (OS) not be one step ba... by robert wolff on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 5:06:18 PM
The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, etc. are the... by Don Smith on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 6:23:05 PM
Thanks for making the case for what is the obvious... by Jay Farrington on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 5:23:15 PM
We need the proper balancebetween public and priva... by Don Smith on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 5:39:19 PM
I realize that several people might disagree, howe... by William Cormier on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 5:41:29 PM
Too few Americans understand how this works. And ... by patricia win on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 7:40:03 PM
Computer OS's can all be tweaked and minimized. Ma... by Doc "Old Codger" McCoy on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 10:38:25 PM
Are you calling for less freedom and a more author... by Don Smith on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 11:22:04 PM
What I am saying is many things actually. If we lo... by Doc "Old Codger" McCoy on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 12:02:39 AM
It is true authoratarian governments are most effi... by liberalsrock on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 10:15:00 AM
I would say our government functions like the Isla... by Ned Lud on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 7:58:13 AM
GOVERNMENT IS GOOD-BUT, it can be better, that is ... by patricia win on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 9:34:51 AM
In the USA we hoped to create a government of the ... by Philip Pease on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 10:28:19 AM
It's very telling that the article doesn't mention... by Jim Eldon on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 10:52:23 AM
Powerlessness and silence go together; one of the ... by patricia win on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 11:10:24 AM
I came here late and see many responses, but I'm s... by Margaret Bassett on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 11:36:34 AM
Your comment is intriguing, but I can't understand... by Don Smith on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 12:10:30 PM
I do. There may be options on the dropdown button.... by Margaret Bassett on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 12:59:40 PM
That OS is grinding them down to a medieval existe... by Darren Wolfe on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 5:01:24 PM
"Throughout his Meditations, Nietzsche claimed tha... by patricia win on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 6:09:33 PM
...you didn't once address the points I made. All ... by Darren Wolfe on Tuesday, Apr 27, 2010 at 7:00:36 PM
This comes from personal observation. Rattlers coi... by Margaret Bassett on Monday, Apr 26, 2010 at 12:48:28 AM
Don, what's a sane guy like you doing hanging arou... by Perry Logan on Monday, Apr 26, 2010 at 8:09:36 AM