William Proxmire?We Need You!
Tibor R. Machan
The later Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire (1915?2005) used to
hand out what he called the Golden Fleece Awards. The awardees were
usually people and organizations embarking upon huge expenditures that
funded ridiculous social science studies, such as ?Why do people fall in
On my way to school today I was listening to the Los Angeles CBS
affiliate AM radio station, KNX, which reported on a recent study about
how children often understand their parents talking with each other, so
they could well be influenced for better or worse by how their parents use
language. No mention was made of who funded the study?whether taxpayers or
some willing private citizens were stuck with the bill?but it did occur to
me that this one would be a great candidate for one of Proxmire?s Golden
Fleece Awards, regardless. Even when some private foundation spends money
on certain studies, it could well be a waste, albeit not so objectionable
as when people have their resources extorted to provide the funding.
Unfortunately the late Senator didn?t object to the extortion
itself?he, like nearly all other politicians, saw nothing wrong with
expropriating funds from citizens. Taxation is the friend of every
politician and, indeed, of all government officials, which is why no
challenges to the practice ever win in the court system.
It is the left-over legacy of the feudal era that those living
in a country must pay the government?it used to be the monarch, now it is
the more democratic or republican form of government?for the privilege. As
if people in government owned the country and gave their permission, for a
price, for the rest of us to live and work here.
Still, one can distinguish between worthy projects, even if
taxes shouldn?t fund them, and unworthy ones. And the temptation to dip
into the public treasury to fund innumerable bogus projects is tremendous.
That is just the result of the tragedy of the commons?everyone rushes to
get as much as possible from the common till. Never mind whether a project
has merit, whether a sizable number of citizens want it undertaken, no.
Just come up with some cockamamie question and you can proceed to apply to
fund the study needed to answer it.
I have helped raise 3 children and, of course, way before they
know how to express themselves in their native tongue they can understand
what people around them are saying. Why does this require an expensive,
formal study? I have my serious doubts that it does. And it sounds like
the social scientists who did the work also had some trepidation since the
report made a big deal about how they implored us all to realize how
important their findings really are. But hardly anyone is so ignorant as
to assume that even very young children are oblivious to what those around
them are saying.
However, in the eagerness to get some of that money in the
public trough, these kinds of pointless studies will be routine. Why not?
After all, there is always more where the funds came from, in the
shrinking budgets of taxpayers (or their future earnings, against which
the government has the power to borrow).
April 15th?it is the 17th this time around?is just around the
corner and these candidates for the late Senator?s Golden Fleece Award are
merely the tip of the iceberg of the way the practice of politicians and
bureaucrats deciding where our money should be spent is so corrupt.
Unfortunately too many people have fallen for the ruse, reinforced by such
noted jurists as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who announced that
?Taxation is the price we pay for civilization.?
Holmes is wrong?taxation is the very corruption of civilization
because it involves what civilized life should exclude, the coercion of
some people by others. Civilization is about peaceful relations among
human beings, including between citizens and government officials. The
goal of all civilized people ought to be to rid us of the menace of
taxation and substitute a system of paying fees, voluntarily.