Thursday, December 23, 2010
Don't Tax You, Don't Tax Me, Tax That Man Behind That Tree
Much is the chatter this week about "net neutrality rules. "I see the issue framed not in the argument of government vs. corporate control, but in the age-old dichotomy between authoritarian and democratic ways of thinking.
There is always somebody (sometimes a frightening large number of somebodies) that thinks that everything should be controlled "from the top."
At the same time a few of the more perceptive "talking heads" are warning about unfunded mandates (like pension obligations) precipitating a crisis in state and local governments in the near future. So it is only a natural progression of things to say, "Let's just tax the Internet." A twofold benefit would result. (As our founding fathers knew, "The power to tax is the power to destroy.") Taxing the Internet would allow the government to control content, in a beneficent way to be sure. And at the same time, the tax could yield a great deal of much-needed revenue!
Far-fetched? Some time ago I made the mistake of going to work for a "taxing agency." Someone (with a degree of authority, too much perhaps) came up with the idea of taxing websites. They wanted us to comb the Internet for local businesses advertising on line, and devise a scheme to quantify their websites and assess a tax accordingly.
I maintained strongly that a website is not a tangible "thing," but something that can be created or deleted with the few strokes of a mouse, and therefore outside of the reach of the local taxing authorities. And in any event a website can be construed a free speech, thus protected, etc.
Needless to say with that argument I sealed my own fate as not being a "team player."
But if anyone thinks there aren't people (on the taxpayer's payroll) planning ways to tax (and therefore control) the Internet, that's OK. Maybe you'd be interested in this bridge we have for sale . . .