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I know that there was question about political system based on your wealth. This is little variation of it:

What if your amount of votes was waged according to what you pay to the system?

Rules:

  1. If you turn legal age, you are allowed to vote (and be elected)
  2. No matter what you do, you have always at least one vote
  3. For every dollar you paid on taxes you get one extra vote
  4. For every dollar you received from state (social or other supports). you lose one vote
  5. No extra buying of votes is allowed. If you want to have extra votes, pay your taxes properly.
  6. Your "voting account" is added up from election to election and are "nulled" once new government is estabilished
  7. If you have less than fiscal year between elections, data from last closed fiscal year are used.

Othervise, usual parliamentary system is assumed with government having 4 years for usual turn

Some examples:

If you are only receiving social supports and government lasts 4 years, you have 4 votes in total in next election.

If you turned legal age a day before elections and you pay no taxes, you have 1 vote.

If you are super rich person who avoid taxes, effectively paying nothing to the state where you reside, you gain same amount of votes as someone on social support.

If you taxed 0,99 dollars in fiscal year, your problem. Only full dollars are counted, no rounding (State wants to gather money)

When you vote and you have >1 vote, you have to spend all your votes. Basically you check "I vote for cat lover party" and if you have 3 votes, the cat lover party will get 3 votes.

In my imagination, this is system which should make prefference on these who pay to the system. While rich people can have some influence, lots of rich people avoid paying taxes.

But I feel this system is flawed and cannot figure out why.

So, what woud be implications if everyone followed this system?

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Relevant: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poll_Tax_Riots – Level River St Jan 25 at 10:42
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Pensioners will have few votes regardless of how much tax they have paid when working. Therefore it may be better to use "average life time" rather then last 4 years to work out how many votes someone gets. (Also need to correct for inflation) – Ian Ringrose Jan 25 at 13:59
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@steveverrill: Despite the name, that's something completely different and not at all relevant – wjousts Jan 25 at 14:32
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@Whelkaholism You seem to be forgetting the fact that while the rich do avoid millions in taxes, they still pay millions. Its sort of like saying that because they avoided 80% of their "rightful" tax burden they've somehow got fewer votes than me, because I paid 110% when the reality is that they paid $1 million (of $5 million) and I paid $11,000 (instead of $10k) so their vote is still ~90 times more effective than my own. The cost:benefit ratio would change, sure, but dollars to doughnuts they'd still hide a good portion. – Draco18s Jan 25 at 15:37
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The point is not the absolute numbers. The point is that the system specifically allows the wealthy to actively increase their hold on political power using money; hence a positive feedback loop. If the wealthy start paying more in taxes then they get, as you say, vastly more votes than someone on an average income, thus reducing the proportion available to the poor. You could argue that this would result in hugely more funding for public projects, but that would take more optimism than I currently have about what they'd actually do with the power they'd bought. – Whelkaholism Jan 25 at 15:56

11 Answers 11

up vote 30 down vote accepted

I predict a rapid transformation into an oligarchy as soon as people realize the following flaw:

By increasing taxation on your voters, you can arbitrarily increase the weight of their votes. The trick is doing so without alienating your voters, by doing other things for them that do not fall under the umbrella of paying them, such as passing legislation that benefits them. For instance, the lawyer party would increase the amount of damages that can be awarded in civil law, or introduce new laws to increase the amount of civil suits brought forward.

Therefore, every year the strong interest groups would get richer, and therefore stronger, and therefore richer, and therefore stronger, until money and political power is concentrated in the hands of a select few.

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Another variant of the loophole: working for government subcontractors. They charge hefty amounts of money, which means you are allowed a large salary, which turns into large income tax. Why would they be so expensive? New regulations establish that every street lamp requires a 50 pages environmental impact report and geological study. And so on. – Davidmh Jan 25 at 11:01
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The situation you describe seems no different from current reality. – gerrit Jan 25 at 13:44
    
@gerrit Yes, but. It looks like reality, except that under this system it would be allowed (encouraged even!) to happen faster. It would take 1 to 2 election cycles to turn into Meriton's answer. The first would elect the rich, then in 4 years they'd rewrite all the tax and benefits systems to benefit themselves, which would cause them to be endlessly reelected (term limits not withstanding). – Draco18s Jan 25 at 15:41
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@gerrit: Yes, lobbying is part of any democracy. But lobbying would be far more effective under Pavel's scheme - game-breakingly effective. In a democracy, lobbyists must take care that the public does not catch on. Under Pavel's scheme, it does not matter what the public thinks or votes, because their votes no longer matter. – meriton Jan 26 at 0:10

The system is highly unstable. In a democracy, as soon as someone has either 1/2 of the votes or 2/3 (depending on the exact rules of the democracy), they can change the system. It is unlikely that a population of 100'000 or (much) more can agree on how to completely replace the government, that's why it rarely happens.

With the proposed system it doesn't need 100'000+ people to agree. Taxes are inherently flexible. Most people use that to minimize taxes, but by maximizing taxes for one year, a few billionaires would be able to get a scary vote count. Call it an investment. Add some advertisement and a publicity campaign (which they already use in the current system), and a 2/3 majority is in reach. Once you have that majority, you do as the socialist party did in Germany 80 years ago: you implement a government system and policies that benefit your people, by putting your arrogant neighbors in their place, securing Lebensraum for your people, fighting against the rising threat of communism, and removing ethnic groups who are born evil - on the downside, you lose the sanity check democracy provides, which would tell you all the stuff you did was evil and stupid.

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Regarding your last paragraph: The Nazis were no more socialist than the DPRK is democratic. – o.m. Jan 25 at 6:24
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Nevertheless, that was their name. – Stig Hemmer Jan 25 at 9:23
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@StigHemmer National-Socialitsts they called themselves. The National was the most important part, as it came first. – Theolodis Jan 25 at 12:31
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The NSDAP was everything but socialist. Why did you revert my edit? When I read your question I was first thinking you were talking about the socialist party of the east-german GDR and wondered if you got the years and circumstances wrong. – Philipp Jan 25 at 12:48
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@Philipp The point of that part of the answer is to use sarcasm to get people to think deeper. The NSDAP is part socialist party by name, just like a "tax your vote" democracy is a democracy by name. – Peter Jan 25 at 14:43

It obviously gives those who make more money more political power, but we already have that: it's called lobbyism and campaign donating. So I won't ponder too much on that.

The problem with this system is that it's not the people who decide how much taxes they pay or subsidiaries they are entitled to. The politicians do (when rich people don't pay taxes, it's because of tax loopholes the politicians made for them, either intentionally or unintentionally). So this system would motivate politicians to tax those who support them and subsidize those who oppose them.

Example: You are a politician of the cat party and got voted into office by all the cat-lovers for your non-compromising pro-cat stance. But you only got a paper-thin lead over your opponent from the dog party. Next election, you want it to be a much safer win. So what do you do? Simple. Impose harsh taxes on cat ownership, so cat owners gain more voting power. Also, severe tax-cuts for dog owners. That way any dog-lovers will lose voting power.

In the next election, the voting power of your supporters will have increased and that of your opponents will have decreased. You will easily win the election, even though you made politics which are directly opposed to the interests of your voters.

The obvious solution would be to have the citizens decide how much taxes they pay and how much subsidiaries they take. Unfortunately, large parts of the population of most countries are largely apolitical. They only go voting because it's free. If you put a price-tag on votes, you will drastically reduce voter participation. With people not caring about their voting power, people will max their options to receive as much money from the government as possible.

If you want to create an incentive for people to pay their taxes, then voting power is simply the wrong carrot to put on the stick. I could imagine some which would work far better, but that would be the topic of another question.

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Your cat supporters will go for a cat-idate who promises to reduce taxes, because people don't generally want to lose their money, even if it earns them extra votes. – XandarTheZenon Jan 24 at 20:02
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You can add a little to this answer to account for the cat-lovers still voting for the politician who taxes them more - assume the politician gives other (non-monetary) great benefits for cats ( and owners) - such as free cat-clinics in every street, or enforcing only premium quality for cat food (maybe raising the tax on that specific product to target his voters base) - or even, declaring domestic ownership of dogs illegal but giving large monetary compensation for dog owners to send their dogs abroad (thus undermining their future voting power...) – G0BLiN Jan 25 at 5:48
    
You are assuming that cat-owners can't get rid of their cat and get a dog. While this has some truth in it (some stick to their pets at any cost), some people are actually able to change their mind if circumstances change. – Bounce Jan 25 at 8:18
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@Bounce This was just a ridiculous example to illustrate the problem. In the real world, voter-groups are often formed around demographic criteria you can not change at will, like age, race or income group. And of course your general world-view: Pro-choice people will not suddenly become pro-life people when the government increases tax on abortion clinics. – Philipp Jan 25 at 8:51
    
@Philipp: however, the pro-choice candidate might cease to be a pro-choice candidate when they tax all the abortion clinics into oblivion. I agree with you that politicians will try some tricks, but if your main actions in power are to hike up taxes on cat-lovers and pay subsidies to dog-lovers, then you'll have to do something really impressive (i.e, more impressive than pro-cat candidates have been able to do prior to this system being introduced) in order to remain the cat-lovers' choice. Of course the basic problem remains that the ability to disenfranchise groups of people is scary. – Steve Jessop Jan 25 at 18:58

This system would encourage "tax farming": Taking credit for the collection of taxes.

Currently, many transactions are taxed. Whether the buyer or the seller is considered to pay the tax is currently fairly arbitrary. For example, in the United States:

  • Income taxes on employee wages are deemed to be paid by the employee.
  • Unemployment insurance taxes on employee wages are deemed to be paid by the employer.
  • Social Security and Medicare taxes on employee wages are deemed to be half paid by the employer, and half by the employee.
  • Sales taxes and gasoline taxes are deemed to be paid by the end user.
  • Carbon taxes are deemed to be paid by the owner of the power plant or oil refinery.
  • Business & occupation taxes (a kind of gross revenue tax) are deemed to be paid by the employer.
  • Customs duties are deemed to be paid by the importer.
  • Property taxes that are based on the value of the property (as opposed to the value of services provided to the property) are deemed to be taxes paid by property owner.
  • Property taxes that are based on the value of services provided to the property are deemed to not be taxes.
  • If the government is a party to the transaction, often the transaction is deemed to be tax-free.

Suppose the party in power wanted to increase the votes of a category of government employees. The party could make the following changes:

  • These employees' pay would be deemed to be taxable, with the payroll taxes deemed to be paid by the employee. The employees' nominal wages would be boosted to offset the change in taxes.
  • These persons' purchases of mandatory government utilities (such as water, sewer, and drainage charges) would be deemed to be taxes paid by these persons.
  • Business and occupation taxes would be broken out by employee headcount (or employee salary) and deemed to be paid by the employees. Governments would pay B&O taxes to themselves, and deem that these employees have paid such taxes.
  • Union dues for government workers would be deemed to be taxes paid by the government workers. The revenue collected from these taxes would be paid to the unions, as payment for services rendered by the unions.
  • These changes could easily double the voting power of government workers, while minimizing the voting power of business owners.

Suppose that a different party was in power. Suppose this party wanted to minimize the power of government employees, and maximize the power of business owners. It could make the following changes:

  • All payroll taxes would be deemed to be paid by the employer. The employees' nominal wages would be reduced to offset the change in taxes.
  • Taxes paid by businesses would be deemed to be paid by the owners of the businesses.
  • Taxes paid by governments would be deemed to not affect anyone's voting power.
  • Businesses' purchases of mandatory government utilities (such as water, sewer, and drainage charges) would be deemed to be taxes paid by the owners of the businesses.
  • B&O taxes would be deemed to be paid by the owners of the businesses.
  • Sales taxes would be deemed to be paid by the owners of businesses that made the sales.
  • These changes would eviscerate the voting power of the poor, and of people whose income is primarily from wages. Their voting power would be transferred to the owners of businesses.
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A lot of us thought immediately of something like this (and several have posted more-or-less similar answers), but I like the way this answer uses concrete details to show how the system can be worked one way or another. – David K Jan 26 at 4:31

There would be lengthy debates on what constitutes "support." How do you handle people who get a salary from the government? Soldiers, civil servants, government officials. Assuming there is an exception for those payments, people would argue endlessly if their case falls under the exception or not.

  • Say veterans get health care. Are those part of a pension package they have earned or are they government benefits?
  • Say people get compensation for jury duty. Benefit or earned salary?
  • The government might decide to subsidize industries for strategic reasons, e.g. to preserve domestic aircraft manufacturers or agriculture. Is that "support" or are people paid for the job of preserving strategic assets? Anyway, would it count if people are subcontractors of such a company?
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These are detail questions which can be easily answered one way or another through more detailed legislations. It doesn't show any inherent problems of this system. – Philipp Jan 24 at 18:01
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The bullet points are just three examples of the slippery slope between "government support" and "working for the government." I think that remains a general problem with the scheme. – o.m. Jan 24 at 18:04
    
I don't see where this is a problem. Sure, there will be discussion about where to draw the line between government subsidiaries and government employment in certain edge-cases, but this discussion alone won't destroy the system. – Philipp Jan 24 at 18:09
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Unless some lobby groups manage to get their subsidies as "not support" and others do not. Then getting yourself plenty of votes for as little money as possible becomes just another job for corporate lawyers and accountants. Pay 1,000,000 dollars, get 999,999 dollars back, get those 999,999 dollars classified as "not support" ... – o.m. Jan 24 at 18:18
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Another example, if your children go to a public school, it is support. If they go to a private school, that has been partially subsidized, it doesn't? And what if they go to a private funded one, that got a public grant to install solar panels on the roof and save on the electricity bill? And if the money instead of being given to the school went to the company that installs the panels in exchange for a discount? Or if they got a tax cut due to being green? – Davidmh Jan 25 at 11:20

Well, this system might be more workable if it wasn't $1 = 1 vote. It scales up so rapidly.

I'm a student in the United States which has relatively low taxes, and I still pay around a grand or two a year in taxes to the federal government. That's so many more than one vote, no one with only one vote would bother voting. My guess is no one with much less than 10,000 votes would bother.

What about tax returns? As a student, I get the vast majority of the taxes I paid back. Do those nullify my votes?

My state has no income tax, do state income taxes count toward federal elections? How would my state run elections if there was no tax to work off of? Would they count sales tax? I probably wouldn't bother to track my sales tax all year for another hundred votes or so, when other people have thousands.

Rich people pay very low tax rates (in the US), but often they pay much higher nominal dollars, regardless of how much maneuvering they do. This question really boils down to: What if we give millionaires thousands of votes and poor people none?

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The system would immediately be run by the rich, with negligible input from everybody else. Right now, we are worried about how Super PACs may be corruption our democracy. With the system you envision, there's no need to waste money on Super PACs, trying to get people to vote for your candidate. You can just buy them outright.

From this article, the top 1% of the US currently pays more in taxes than the entire bottom 90%. There's a lot of fuss about the rich not paying their taxes, and percentage wise there might be some argument there. However, from a raw number of tax dollars, the 1% simply put more in the US coffers than the 90% do. That means the 1% don't even need to sell you on their candidate. They can literally outvote you, simply because they pay so much more in tax money than you do. It would take one round of voting for them to vote in only pro-rich people, spend 4 years putting in legislature to protect their position, and become a ruling aristocracy. Why? Because you handed them the government on a silver platter... literally.

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Background on taxes

There are (large) differences, but the tax system is set so that everyone (who can) contribute to the society (at large). Furthermore, there is usually the concept of redistribution implemented: the richer pay more than their less fortunate neighbours. The generally admited use of taxes is to benefit all the citizens equally: schools, hostpitals, army, police, etc.

However, there are contribution from the government that are focused on certain part of the population. On the one hand, it is quite unpopular to let a large part of the population die of hunger or in a snow storm for lack of housing. And if popularity wasn't enough, it can be shown that lower income spend everything in the economy: they buy food, services and products, contributing to the overall GDP. Both of these reasons convinced many governments to provide benefits ("social") towards these citizens.

On the other hand, companies create jobs, products, which will generate more taxes and lower the needs for social help. Many government provide some financial or other help to companies to facilitate their job creation. There are many ways to do that. One can be direct subvention. In some countries, a company may receive some money to build a new factory. It could be another direct help by reducing the taxes. It could be more general by having tariffs imposed to protect an industry, changing or setting laws (e.g. "online piracy"), etc.

New Voting Rules

The votes that one has would be something like

$$V=P-S-D$$

where $V$ is the number of votes, $P$ the amount of taxes paid, $S$ the amount perceived as part of the society (roads, and the others mentioned in the previous part) and $D$ the direct money perceived as you mention in your question. To simplify, social help that are similar for all citizens are included in $S$ (for example, in Germany, parents receive 184€/months for a child, regardless of their income). Let's add indices $r$ and $p$ for the more and less rich members of the society respectively.

  • We have, $S_r=S_p$,
  • Due to the redistribution concept, $P_r>>P_p$,
  • For richer members, they often receive no direct help, their companies might, but themselves none, so $D_p > D_r \approx 0$.

As expected it comes that $V_r >> V_p$. It was intuitive, but we got it explicitly detailed.

New Regimes

Your idea was to convince the rich people to pay their taxes by giving them the extra votes. So they do get extra votes and would probably pay their taxes. However, they will decide on the government (extra votes), and probably choose those that favour them. How? Simply by creating more ways to get a higher portion of their taxes back without losing the extra votes: help, laws, taxes reduction, etc for their companies and not themselves. So you will get a government of rich people, elected by rich people to favour rich people.

In short, you are legalizing corruption and favouring lobbying.

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A lot of answers so far (including mine) point out what the practical problems are. But let me add a more fundamental one:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

It says the governed, not the taxpayers. The fact that some long-dead people signed a declaration centuries ago doesn't make it right, but this specific statement has stood the test of time rather well.

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A few points your system is flawed:

  • How about other forms of tax like VAT, Corporate Tax, etc.? Would your system mean every legal person (including corporations) would earn votes, or their tax money worth less? In the first case, the enormous influence they gain over the society would lead to catastrophic results, in the later case the equal treatment of legal persons would be harmed, which is one of the basin principles of democracy.

  • In your system wealthy people - even mostly tax avoiding wealthy people - gain more influence which will almost automatically lead to enlarging wage gaps and social injustice.

  • How about citizens temporarily working in another country? Nowadays they can vote in their home country, since they will return to live there.

  • How about foreign citizens temporarily working in your country? Can a foreign power change/defeat your government by creating a subsidiary in your country with highly payed employees?

  • In normally functioning democracies, retired people pay practically no taxes. That means you automatically close out the old people from the decision making.

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Oh wow. There is so much wrong with this. I see a relatively stable solution that could be enacted by the rich: everyone is their defacto-slaves (no income, forced to work to keep the system running) while they pay a nominal tax.

Not even hard to implement.

The rule about partial dollars not counting is troublesome: that threshold could be increased to, say, 1 million and most of the country is disenfranchised without any chance to overturn it (no more votes). One wouldn't need to change the threshold actually, a mandated deflation works, too.

A wealthy person can pay taxes in full to get political power and profit from it by giving themselves government contracts. Reducing their employees' paychecks at the same time (more company profit, more taxes to pay), thus even less chance to resist this sort of thing.

No representation without taxation is an awful system.

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