Ethical Guidebook

A discussion of the difference between our personal values and our public ethics, how mature citizens can support both, and why our love for public ethics must trump our love for personal and group values when they conflict in the public space. Ethics offers a guidebook for evaluating public issues and finding multilateral solutions to endless cycles of values centric conflicts and unilateral violence.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Time to Tax the Internet?

Recent news articles highlight a litany of state budget crises with an equally long list of proposed solutions, some spelled 'bailout' and some 'new taxes'. No one has yet stared down the real elephant in the room: the huge drain on the public and local economies, of internet sales with no state or local taxes. The economic crisis has made us acutely aware nothing is free, including our shared 'buying club' of publicly funded infrastructure and services. The lack of internet sales tax violates two principles of public ethics, the first being that taxes are fundamental to sustainable civilization in all aspects since the very dawn of non-tribal societies, and the second being that 'free' internet sales tilt the playing field sharply away from local purchases at a time when revitalizing local economies is paramount. One can only hope that the Obama economic plan includes a simple, innovative solution that will help state governments coordinate internet sales taxes, such as providing a means for the checkout step to display taxes due based on the ship-to ZIP code (the physical 'point of sale'), and to allow Paypal, VISA, and other payment coordinators to collect the tax. The alternative is the 'value' of a free lunch but no ethical framework to sustain a house to eat it in.


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