Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Monday, April 19, 2004
On Voluntary Self-Taxation

Once you start answering Instapundit's links, it gets kind of habit-forming. He links to a New York Post editorial complaining that Kerry didn't pay an optional higher Massachusetts state tax rate. As even the Post makes clear, the optional higher tax rate is a pure stunt meant make a point, and incidentally to potentially embarass anyone who doesn't choose to check it off on their return.

Now, I'll give them this: as a political matter, Kerry is foolish not to have done this. But the whole point of voluntary self-taxation is that it's not what anyone means by "taxes"; a tax is a payment you don't have a choice about. In fact, if you want to, you can donate any amount of money to the US Treasury. I assume the Mass. Department of Revenue also has a way of accepting gratuities. The fact that a liberal politician doesn't just up and give all his money to the government doesn't make him a hypocrite. As Michael Kinsley said once, it's the "I will if you will" factor that makes it democracy.

Actually, if you read the rest of the Post editorial, there's another point: Theresa Heinz Kerry is loaded. Now, this money is of course money she didn't earn, but inherited from her husband the late Senator Heinz (R). The late Senator Heinz (R) also didn't earn those billions of ketchup dollars, but inherited it himself. Do you think the Republicans were pissed off in the least about all that unearned money when it was held by a Republican?

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