In an otherwise sensible post against "fat taxes" like one recently enacted in Denmark, Professor Maule makes a strange statement:
The Danish citizen’s concern about big brother is real but misplaced. The fear that government is becoming or has become big brother is a distraction. The deeper concern is that private actors in the private sector act as big brother. For every government security camera, there are many more private sector cameras. For every government form that citizens fill out with personal information, there are many more private sector information collection devices doing the same and more. For every government rule or law, there are many more private sector regulations. The question is whether the cameras, the information collection, and the laws should be imposed by a non-accountable private sector oligarchy or by a government accountable through the ballot box.
The government is more accountable than the private sector? Have you tried to take your tax-paying business elsewhere lately?
For the vast majority of our non-goverment transactions, I have choices. If I don't like Starbucks, I can go to Java Joes or Timbuktuu. If I don't like Hy-Vee today, I can buy my groceries at Dahls or Fareway. When I don't have choice (e.g., cable TV), it's almost always because of a government-enforced monopoly.
Compare that with "accountability" through the ballot box. For Congress, I have one vote out of hundreds of thousands, for one out out 435 representatives, every two years. I have one vote out of millions for president. And I have the good luck to live in a somewhat competitive state. If I lived in Chicago, or Philadelphia, my vote would be worthless in a land of one-party rule.
If I don't like the election result, I can't just say I'm going to buy my public services from Canada or Mexico. If I don't like my coffee, I can change my mind every day. That's why it's almost always better for somebody other than the government to provide services, and why there's so much more accountability (and better service) at Starbucks than at the DMV.
UPDATE: Prof. Maule responds.
Related: Arnold Kling, The Right of Exit
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