Want a better government? Raise taxes, study suggests

Of course, not all governments negotiate with their citizens in good faith.
By Brooks Hays  |  March 11, 2016 at 5:21 PM
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GOTHENBURG, Germany, March 11 (UPI) -- Researchers say the arrangement between citizen and government is not unlike that between buyer and seller. To ask a high price, the seller must be selling a product of value.

By said logic, governments that collect a sizable share of taxes must offer higher quality services. A newly presented dissertation suggests this is indeed the case.

Political scientist Rasmus Broms, a researcher at the University of Gothenburg, looked at bureaucracies and tax rates around the world. He found a strong correlation between higher rates and more transparent and effective governments.

"No one has ever liked having to let go of their hard-earned money. If one is to do that, one both wants to get something in return, but perhaps above all get some kind of influence over how the tax money is used," Broms said in a news release.

In addition to the modern bureaucracies of Europe, the Americas and southern Africa, Broms analyzed historical data on taxes and government services in the British colonies.

Broms said the uprisings in France and America signaled a shift in the nature of the social contract between the governed and the governors.

"To a great extent, the French and American revolutions concerned taxes," Broms said. "And much of what we today view as the modern state has its foundation in the systems that were built after these revolutions."

Of course, not all governments negotiate with their citizens in good faith. Broms thinks the arrangement between rulers and the ruled in oil-rich Gulf States is less like a transaction and more like bribery.

"There, through generous allotments to the citizens from the oil incomes, the governing classes can in a sense bribe themselves out of demands on democratic influence over the government machine and human rights consideration," Broms said.

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