The Nostalgia of Radio Is Its Future

February 13, 2014

radio_set

This evening, one of our local activists, Garth Mullins, produced and narrated an episode of the influential Ideas show on CBC Radio.  The program was called “End of the Dial” and was described as:

“Newspapers, publishing and the recording industry may all be in deep trouble from online media. But pronouncements about the death of radio are premature. Contributor Garth Mullins believes we’re witnessing the dawning of a radio renaissance.”

It was a fascinating documentary and an intelligent look at how radio and podcasting will survive in our on-line world.  But beyond that, it was — especially in the first half — a smack in the head evoking memories and waves of nostalgia.

Garth talked about how, growing up in the far north, he connected with the world through a short wave radio. I never was a ham in that way, but I had a decent small radio from a very early age and it was a lifeline for me.

In the late 1950s in London, I laid in bed late at night listening to crackling baseball games coming from American Forces Radio, Voice of America broadcasts in “simple English” (or “slow talkers of America” as my Dad and I called them), Radio Moscow propaganda, the glorious voice of Garner Ted Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God, lots of boxing matches where I had to imagine the impact of the blows, and early rock and roll.  It was wonderful.

When I first came to Canada in the late 1970s, I worked up in Stewart near the Alaska border, and there wasn’t much TV that I recall.  But that was when I discovered the wonder of late-evening and early-morning CBC Radio.  Allan McFee’s Eclectic Circus (going out to “all those in vacuumland”) was my end-of-day sleeping pill, while a time-shifted Morningside with Don Harron woke me up (I stopped listening once Gzowski took over).  Great days they were.

These days, I listen to BBC Radio 4 all morning and then switch to CBC Radio in the afternoon. In the evenings I often check out BBC World Service.  I love radio far more than TV.  It is not quite as much fun as the static-filled broadcasts that I listened to under the sheets, but it is still my medium of choice.

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The Voluntary Tax Plan

February 13, 2014

It’s coming up to tax time again.  And yet again I make my pitch for an all-voluntary tax system.

Way back in June 2002, I proposed doing away with all non-voluntary taxation by replacing income and all other taxes with a consumption tax. This is what I wrote in 2002, and I still see little need to change the basic structure proposed:

The basic principles for a semi-anarchistic tax scheme are that it should be essentially voluntary, and concerned with ensuring equal opportunities for all. Therefore, I would propose the elimination of all personal and corporate income taxes as they violate by their very nature the voluntary aspect of taxation. I propose to replace the revenue with an all-inclusive sales tax on goods and services with a few, well-defined exceptions (the figures below represent Vancouver costs of living and could be adjusted as required):

• all foods
• shelter (to $18,000/year rent or the first $350,000 of purchase)
• all non-cosmetic medical and dental services
• all educational services
• financial services (bank charges etc) to $500/year
• legal services to $2,500/year

The sales tax should be a single percentage across all categories of goods and services in order to reduce accounting and bureaucratic requirements.

The use of the sales tax for the bulk of government revenues brings a great deal of volunteerism to the matter. The exceptions provide an important and necessary break for those goods and services which can be described as the necessities of life; above that, the more I choose to buy, the more taxes I choose to pay.  Rampant consumerism becomes a tax liability.

On the other side of the ledger, also to the good, the simplicity of the scheme allows for huge bureaucratic savings in administration and zero non-compliance. The tax would also be levied on all capital transfers outside the jurisdiction. It will oblige tens of thousands of “tax lawyers” to find genuine productive employment.

It also assumes that significant portions of current governmental activity have been done away with, returned to the people for their own handling. Those portions of government activity that do remain should be easily categorized into line items that can be shown to have a direct bearing on the level of the sales tax. In this way, the people are enabled to make decisions about what sections of government can be further cut to reduce the level of taxation. Conversely, any additional work to be performed by the government can be easily calculated as an addition to the sales tax.

In other words, the cost of a government service will be immediately and directly calculable — and the people can make their judgments on whether to go ahead with it on that basis. It is one thing to say that a government program costs $600 million — an abstraction at best; it is quite another to say that program x will cause a rise in the sales tax by 1%.

In a capitalist system where the government bureaucracy acts as a nanny on so many issues, taxation of some sort is inevitable, as will be resistance to such taxation. The sales tax that I propose will allow the taxation system to operate on a voluntary basis, thus achieving considerably greater support and compliance.

Finally, I believe that social democrats and some other lefties concern themselves far too much with how much money people make. If we concentrate on the input (salaries, bonuses etc) there will always be those who can play fast and loose with the rules.  However, if you apply taxation to outputs (purchases, transfers etc), the returns will always be progressive: the more they spend, the more they’ll pay.