Bastiat and the Budget

12 de November de 2009 at 4:11 am | Posted in Política | Leave a comment

At Minas Gerais State Legislature it is time now  for the amendments to the budget . The process starts with seminars where people can make suggestions to alter the budget presented by the government. These are then analysed, and, if they obey the technical requirements, they become amendment proposals that will be voted by the House. The problem, naturally, is that resources are limited, and petitions unlimited. if we could ever compare the state reasoning to that of an individual, I would say that a budget is somehow a preference scale. The different is that in the state’s preference scale what is vocalized is not the marginal utility of means, which leads to efficient allocation, but the political utility of means which leads to something else.

The whole process today made me recall a beautiful article of Fréderic Bastiat, called “The State”. I’m sure most of you are aware of it, but I would like to share some quotes:

“The unfortunate state, like Figaro, knows neither to whom to listen nor where to turn. The hundred thousand tongues of press and rostrum all cry out to it at once:

“Organize labor and the workers.”

“Root out selfishness.”

“Repress the insolence and tyranny of capital.”

“Make experiments with manure and with eggs.”

“Furrow the countryside with railroads.”

“Irrigate the plains.”

“Plant forests on the mountains.”

“Establish model farms.”

“Establish harmonious workshops.”

“Colonize Algeria.”

“Feed the babies.”

“Instruct the young.”

“Relieve the aged.”

“Send the city folk into the country.”

“Equalize the profits of all industries.”

“Lend money, without interest, to those who desire it.”

“Liberate Italy, Poland, and Hungary.”

“Improve the breed of saddle horses.”

“Encourage art; train musicians and dancers.”

“Restrict trade, and at the same time create a merchant marine.”

“Discover truth and knock a bit of sense into our heads.”

“The function of the state is to enlighten, to develop, to increase, to fortify, to spiritualize, and to sanctify the soul of a nation.”

Oh, sirs, a little patience,” replies the state with a piteous air. “I shall try to satisfy you, but for that I shall need some resources. I have prepared proposals for five or six taxes, brand new and the mildest in the world. You will see how glad people will be to pay them.”

But then a great cry is raised: “Shame! Shame! Anybody can do a thing if he has the resources! Then you would not be worthy of being called thestate. Far from hitting us with new taxes, we demand that you eliminate the old ones. Abolish:

“The tax on salt;

“The tax on beverages;

“The tax on letters;

“The octroi;

“Licenses;

“Prestations.”

 

(…)

As, on the one hand, it is certain that we all address some such request to the state, and, on the other hand, it is a well-established fact that the state cannot procure satisfaction for some without adding to the labor of others, while awaiting another definition of the state, I believe myself entitled to give my own here. Who knows if it will not carry off the prize? Here it is:

“The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.”

 

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