Cheeseburger in Paradise: In Favor of the Buffet Rule
April 30th, 2012
Carolina Journal Online / John Hood's Daily Journal
RALEIGH – I don’t understand all the fuss about the proposed Buffet Rule. I think it should be the guiding principle for government at all levels.
In a buffet line, you get to choose what you eat and how much you eat of it. Everyone is treated equally and served promptly. Depending on the timing of your visit, you may not be able to get exactly what you’d like – perhaps the fish entrée has been so popular that the kitchen is scrambling to refill the plate, and you have to eat chicken instead or come back in a while – but at least there’s little chance that under-the-table arrangements will cheat you out of an equal opportunity to pick from the available selections.
Some buffets have flat rates. Others, including cafeterias, charge you on the basis of the selection and quantity of food you put on your plate. If you don’t like the pricing policy of the establishment, you don’t have to frequent it.
Governments can’t emulate buffet lines in every respect, of course. They are coercive institutions. Restaurants rely on voluntary patronage. And there are government services to which we are all properly entitled simply on the basis of citizenship, such as the protection of our persons and property, so it would be inappropriate to charge for them a la carte.
But when it comes to sectors such as education, health care, and transportation in which governments play a large financial or regulatory role, a Buffet Rule would make a lot of sense. For example, we should be able to choose which schools our children will attend, rather than have the government foist an educational meal on us and then force us to pay for it regardless of whether we think it academically nutritious enough for our children.
We should be able to choose our doctors, choose our hospitals, choose our medicines, and choose our own health care financing arrangements – be they traditional cost-plus insurance, managed care, or consumer-driven plans. Government’s role should be limited to policing medical fraud and financing a medical safety net for poor children, the disabled, and the elderly in case their families lack adequate insurance and savings to cover necessary care.
We should be able to choose our own modes of transportation for commuting, shopping, and conducting our daily affairs. That means we should pay as we travel in the form of fares, tolls, fuel taxes, and the fueling and maintenance of private vehicles. Government’s role should be limited to coordinating user-financed networks and financing a transportation safety net for those whose economic or medical circumstances prevent them from transporting themselves. Government should not use transportation or land-use policies to force-feed us a Smart Growth lifestyle that most of us would never choose to put on our own plates.
So, yes, I enthusiastically endorse a Buffet Rule for federal, state, and local government. It’s the American Way.
p.s. Hmm, after writing this I realized that I erred in ignoring the second “t” in Buffett. I apologize for making such an obvious mistake. But I’ll stick to my guns: I’m still enthusiastically in favor of a Buffett Rule for government.
After all, there is great political wisdom to be found in many of Jimmy Buffett’s song lyrics. “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” for example, is a song that celebrates the power of imagination and the virtues of consumer choice. “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” encourages an appreciation of the past while embracing the value of new ideas and experiences.
And let’s face it: “I Don’t Know and I Don’t Care” is a masterful satire of modern voting behavior and the prevailing political sentiments of…
p.p.s. Okay, now I’m really embarrassed. It turns out that the Buffett Rule everyone’s been yapping about lately is actually Warren Buffett’s idea that, in the midst of a weak economy, it would be a good idea to raise federal income taxes on entrepreneurs, investors, and employers, even though they already pay a disproportionately large share of total taxes.
No, I don’t endorse that rule. It’s idiotic.
Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation.