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Thread: How Small Is Small Government?

  1. #1

    How Small Is Small Government?

    A minarchist government is one which provides courts and police to secure property rights, and does nothing else.

    This is a back of the envelope estimate of what such a government would actually cost in the United States today.

    Note that this is for domestic spending only.


    Total spending on police by state and local governments is $109 billion per year. Much of this is waste, since much of the what the police do doesn't need to be done (e.g. enforce drug prohibition), but in the interest of a conservative estimate, and/or supposing some of the currently wasted police resources could be efficiently reallocated to something useful (i.e. preventing actual crimes), let's leave that figure as it is. At the federal level, it would be fair to include the marshal service ($3 billion) and the FBI ($9 billion), as agencies that serve necessary functions (the marshals as the enforcement arm of the federal courts, the FBI as a kind of catch-all). We'll leave these budgets alone according to that same conservative logic. The total is then $121 billion per year.


    The state judiciaries cost $18 billion per year combined: the federal judiciary, $7 billion per year. Much of this spending is wasted hearing cases that arise from laws which ought not exist (e.g. drug prohibition laws), but there is a genuine shortage of judicial services (as evidenced by the huge delays which are routine in litigation), which those currently wasted resources could be reallocated to meet. In fact, given the importance of speedy resolution of disputes, and the modest costs of the judiciary in general, let's go ahead and double these budgets, for a total of $50 billion per year.


    The grand total is then $171 billion per year, which is a 97.5% reduction from current non-defense spending, or about half of what is spent annually on interest on just the federal debt. What does this mean in term of taxes? The value of all residential and commercial real estate in the US is estimated at $33 trillion and $16 trillion, resp. A real estate tax of slightly more than one-third of one percent would fund this minarchist government. That would be comparable to the lowest property tax rates in the country at present. Alternatively, a capitation tax of about $522 per year would suffice.
    Last edited by r3volution 3.0; 07-23-2019 at 01:55 PM.
    "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

    -H. L. Mencken

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  3. #2
    Concise and informative! Thanks.

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