Only Tax Payers Vote

Posted by Thoughts and Ramblings on Monday, March 25, 2024

In “Starship Troopers” Heinlein proposed the idea that only citizens can vote and only those who served in the military can become citizens (no inheritance of citizenship). The idea is interesting in that voting is limited to only those with skin in the game (military service). While I read the novel many years ago, recently I considered an similar interesting thought experiment:

What if only tax payers can vote? Here, by “tax payers” I mean those who net pay money to the government. So if someone receives $4k from the government but pay only $3k in taxes, this person doesn’t qualify. But if this same person paid $5k in taxes, then they would. How would the US be different if this were the case?

Some possibilities:

  1. There would be a much smaller welfare state since they wouldn’t be voters and this would provide a disincentive to live off the dole.
  2. Similarly to above, politicians would want fewer of their base living on welfare because they would want their base to be able to vote for them.
  3. Tax structure wouldn’t be designed so that so many pay $0 in taxes but many more pay at least a little in taxes.
  4. Simpler tax structure as people would want to be able to predict whether they net pay in order to make sure they can vote.
  5. Fewer deductions taken. People near the line would chose to not take deductions in order to make sure they pay tax and thus able to vote.

Although, this isn’t immune to being gamed:

  1. Tax structure could be designed so people who currently pay $0 (and don’t get money from the government) would pay $1.
  2. Optional additional taxes to ensure at least $1 is net paid.
    1. Non-profits and similar to gift money to be paid in optional tax to give the recipient the ability to vote.

Some questions to consider:

  1. How would social security count? Could you consider it like investment where payments from social security don’t count as money from the government and social security taxes don’t count as taxes?
  2. If a couple files taxes jointly (and net pay), would they get one vote or two?
  3. How would payroll taxes count? Would it count toward taxes paid by the one on the payroll?
  4. Would this be extended to other levels? Only federal tax counts in being able to vote for federal level offices (House Representative, Senate, and President), state taxes count toward state elections, local for local elections, etc?
    1. If a state has sales tax, wouldn’t that mean that everyone votes?
    2. Would indirectly paying property taxes (through paying rent of which some goes to property taxes) count toward paying local taxes?
  5. Would people who work for the government and take a payroll have their income count as money from the government?

Much, much more that’s not considered here. Hope you found this thought experiment enjoyable or at least interesting.