Fuzzy Tax Forms

Rachel Lucas has a rant on taxes today. She makes an interesting comment, that she doesn't mind her money going to support some causes, but doesn't want to support others at all. This reminds me of something from a book called "Fuzzy Future" by Bart Kosko. He is a professor of Electrical Engineering at USC, and a very interesting guy. My undergrad was in EE, so I came across some of his work dealing with fuzzy logic and artificial intelligence, and read his books which cover a wide range of topics from a "fuzzy" perspective. Here is his idea for a "fuzzy tax form," taken from this interview (click over to page 4).

Let me just take this a step further. People often ask me, "How can fuzzy logic relate to my life?" or "How can it affect politics or change things?" My answer is what I call a "fuzzy tax form." Let's allow those who pay to have some say. Instead of 100 percent of your taxes going to the government's general revenue pot, what if only a part went there? Say 50 percent. You could divide what remains among the categories of your choice – like buying up old-growth forests, repairing the infrastructure, paying down the debt and one or two write-in categories. This would introduce an element of social choice into how politicians ration our resources.

This also applies to funding research bounties. Rather than subsidize science directly through taxpayer dollars, what if we offered a $1 billion reward to the first person or corporation to cure AIDS or lung cancer? We might get a solution! And if not $1 billion, then $10 billion – whatever the solution costs. Directing funds in this way – to motivate a breakthrough – would work much better than the trickle-down bureaucracy we now have in research. The point is, you get what you reward for. Checking off boxes on a fuzzy tax form can reward research breakthroughs.

I think it is a great idea. Obviously, some part of the budget would have to be fixed, but let us choose how to allot 25% or so of our tax payments.

For those of you with time, read the entire interview. Kosko talks about global warming, religion, and whole bunch of other controversial stuff. I am sure you can all find something to disagree with.