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Tax policy has two purposes. One goal is to collect money to operate the government. The other goal is to promote public policy. For example, mortgage deductions are meant to encourage home ownership. Tax incentives are a proven way to change behavior. This makes me wonder if we could have a tax on stupidity and thereby reduce its prevalence over time. Seriously. The nation has a great interest in reducing stupidity.

Arguably, we already tax stupidity. When the government subsidizes student loans and helps fund colleges - that's a transfer of wealth from non-students to students.  Okay, it's not exactly a tax on stupidity, but it's certainly a proof of concept.

One big obstacle to taxing stupidity is identifying it. We generally believe that anyone who has an opposing opinion is stupid. So we'd have to ignore politics and religion when designing our test for stupidity. That still leaves plenty of practical knowledge that can be tested for.

Suppose we developed a general knowledge test that had clear and indisputable answers. The questions could range from parenting skills, to healthy living, to how to apply for a job, to basic science, and perhaps some other school skills. The test could run thousands of questions long. And it would be entirely optional. If you choose to not take the test, you can simply pay a stupidity tax instead. If you take the test, and score 100%, you pay no stupidity taxes at all. And if you take the test and miss a few questions, you pay a stupidity tax that is prorated by your test score. You can take the test as many times as you like to improve your score.

I know that you libertarians object to government activism. I get that. I'm just curious as to whether tax policy could make a huge difference in the effectiveness of society by directly taxing stupidity. Suppose science is applied to the task of identifying the most important knowledge that an adult should possess.  Could you find a few thousand bits of knowledge that successful people generally understand and unsuccessful people do not? If so, that could be the basis of the stupidity test. You might also want to include any information about science or economics that an involved citizen needs to make informed voting decisions. That might help the government become more effective over time.

As with most of my ideas, this one is thoroughly impractical. No elected official could support a tax on stupidity. And you'd create a cumbersome bureaucracy if you tried to implement such a thing. I'm just thinking ahead to the day I create my own principality, perhaps on some island, and design the tax system from scratch. I'd have to give some serious thought to a tax on stupidity. I think it might help to keep the nation out of a death spiral.

 
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Jun 26, 2011
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By the way, I didn't swear in my earlier post about distinguishing intelligence/stupidity from knowledge or lack thereof, but it reads better with the blog nanny software acting like I did, so overall I'm happy with the result
 
 
Jun 26, 2011
Um, Mr. Scott Adams
There already is a stupidity tax
It is called the lottery
It has such a negative expected value that only an idiot would play it
 
 
Jun 24, 2011
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+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 23, 2011
We already have a stupidity tax. It's called the lottery. It's a tax on people who are bad at math.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
I think the same thing applies to physical fitness. You can take and pass the Presidential Physical Fitness test or pay a tax. Being fit reduces the strain on our healthcare system.
 
 
Jun 22, 2011
Stupidity is how some of the worst politicians get elected.
Why would they shoot themselves in the foot?
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
As for women's lib, it's one of those ideas which sounds wonderful and fair but brings total ruin. The 20th century, at least in the US and Europe, has been the century of socialism and of nanny-statism, both largely because women were given the vote. I wish we could take it back.
I am seeking a good man who can give me real love , so i got a username Andromeda2002 on--seekcougar.c om--.it is the first and best club for y'ounger women and old'er men, or older women and y'ounger men,to int'eract with each other. Maybe you wanna ch'eck 'it out or tell your friends!
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
"Tax policy has two purposes. One goal is to collect money to operate the government."

Wrong. Where do you think money comes from? The government never needs money. The goal of taxes is to maintain the value of money, not to fund the government.

This is not a trivial distinction. People who believe that the government needs money are apt to think that the government can "go broke" and similar nonsense which supports irrational budget policies.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 21, 2011
Taxing stupidity isn't a bad idea, however, I think that progressively taxing stupidity with a raising scale due to willful ignorance would improve the concept.

Evolution is a) a scientific theory that has substantial evidence supporting it, b) only a "theory", c) a global conspiracy among scientists. If you choose b, you get a 5% surcharge on the tax, c puts it up 10%.

Scott Adams wants the poor to a) pay taxes, b) work harder, c) die. :^P

The Civil War was fought over a) a number of issues which all mostly revolved over the issue of slavery, b) states rights, c) Lincoln was evil. Same sort of surcharging.

President Obama was born in a) Hawaii, b) I don't know, c) in Africa. You get the point.

Personally, to me, ignorance is unfortunate, but some people can only be so smart. What is worse than ignorance is willful ignorance, when someone chooses to disregard truths and stick with what makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
"That might help the government become more effective over time...... "

I love the way you think that any government has an interest in making the population generally more intelligent and able to make rational choices!!!!!
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 21, 2011
Plenty of taxes on the stupid as others have mentioned: lottery, cigarettes, alcohol, if we make pot legal we could tax that too. We could tax fast food, sugar cereals, vegatarians might add meat.

We should do like mensa and tax "smart" people, make a test that if citizens do well enough on they can pay an annual fee to say they are among the smartest citizens, let everyone who takes it pass.

On a serious note, I would hope that kind of test is unconstitutional by the ammendment ending tests to qualify to vote... Just another way whitey is keeping the black man down.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
Scott,
You should make up a test and post it on line. Provide everyone who takes the test with a report - something like, "Your stupid tax would be $500/year. You are stupid about X but ok on A, B, C, and Z."

At the very least you'd show how (or whether) it's possible to separate "stupid" from "uninformed about something I think matters." And maybe, over time, others would help build a test we could all accept.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
@jdg: I said I was simplifying - by zero-sum I meant things like "you can't simultaneously reduce taxes and increase gov. spending" - good economics is -better- than zero-sum (you can generate growth by doing the -right- things) - but that requires educated government - which we don't have
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 21, 2011
We don't want to get rid of the stupid. We need the stupid.

Douglas Adams gave an example where all of the telephone cleaners were removed from society then everyone died of an ear infection plague.

What we really need is better herding of the stupid. I suggest cattle prods.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
@Phantom II

Reading your posts over the years I genuinely do not understand why you do not relocate to Somalia or somewhere similar; you would have no government imposing anything on you then. I would not have to try and avoid reading your drivel either.
 
 
Jun 21, 2011
Stupid people have a hard enough time all ready - allways getting into trouble, getting passed by at work, and never knowing what to say. Tax the fat instead - they put a hard strain on health care and they're no good looking at. And at least I have a better chance at scoring with a dumb blonde than a smart one.
 
 
Jun 20, 2011
There is already a stupidity tax and we smart people pay it every day. Through our taxes we pay for the stupid criminal to be prosecuted and pay for the defense as well. We pay welfare to able bodied individuals to sit at home and produce kids. We pay for kids to go through 12 years of education and come out not knowing much of anything.

I could go on but we productive members of society already pay the stupidity tax but it does not work the way you suggested and unfortunately, has the opposite effect of producing more stupid people.
 
 
+19 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 20, 2011
Judging by the comments from most of the people posting, we could raise far more money with a tax on arrogance and superiority complexes.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 20, 2011
@jeffw_00: Not quite right. Economics is not zero-sum; believing it is results in way too much government (aka welfare-statism), which is what is destroying our country today. Read the works of Julian Simon, especially "The Ultimate Resource".

As for women's lib, it's one of those ideas which sounds wonderful and fair but brings total ruin. The 20th century, at least in the US and Europe, has been the century of socialism and of nanny-statism, both largely because women were given the vote. I wish we could take it back.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 20, 2011
A clear case of taken advantage of the weak and defenseless. Might as well extrapolate to eugenics.

A little more humanity please.
 
 
 
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