Self Taxing and the Society Investment Fund

By Forrest Smith -

My news feeds are inundated by news of Trump slashing government investment in numerous programs and organizations. Things like 5.8 billion from the National Institues of Health, and cuts to the EPA, education, the sciences and anything else that may actually help propel us forward as a civilization.

But this stuff is important. These things matter.

It’s Time to Start Doing It Ourselves

I’ve had a growing view that the main job of the conservative party is to pull us back as a society, to keep us from progressing as fast as we otherwise could. Perhaps it’s time to just stop letting them.

If they don’t want to fund the things that are truly important, perhaps we just need to start supporting and funding them ourselves. Those of us who do want more investment in education, science, health, and technology should self-impose taxes on ourselves for those things that matter.

I know…we live in a society, and everyone in society should help contribute to these things that affect us all — that to me at least is a big part of living within a society, but for many this concept eludes them. It’s a little like giving in to those who say that they shouldn’t fund public education because they don’t have children and don’t understand that an educated populace is good for everyone. It’s like saying to them, that’s ok, the responsible people in society will pay for this — you’ll get the benefit without any payment. It does suck, but the alternative, at least for now, is that this stuff just doesn’t get funded and we’ll suffer for it. More importantly, our children will suffer for it.

Having those who care about society pick up the tab for all of this also proves the conservatives right. They say that society can function without strong investment from the government, and by having those of us who care pick up the slack kind of proves the point for them.

Ok, the conservatives win. Whatever. I’m more tired of having them hold back progress.

Getting Started

We can easily self-tax by utilizing existing non profits. We can make up for cuts (or total elimination) of public broadcasting funds by donating directly to them. This is good, but I’m thinking of a larger effort, perhaps something like a “Society Investment Fund”.

Perhaps it can start out as some sort of an online dashboard to manage your investments in various non-profit organizations. I log in and see all of the organizations I’ve invested in and the latest news and progress updates from each of them.

Societal Investment Clubs

Within this system, perhaps there are groups that I can become a member of where we pool our money and decide how to invest it together. Maybe there are numerous groups with a prospectus of their societal investment package with whom they donate to and in what amounts. I can browse those that match my values, become a member, and get involved.

There could even be specialized investment types similar to kickstarter — like funding for new local parks or amenities. We can donate money and if all of the investment is raised, the project moves forward, if not, everyone gets their money back.

It could be a platform for far greater civic engagement, a place to suggest improvements, and a place to see how our society is being invested in, from the neighborhood level all the way up to the state or regional level (California, Oregon, and Washington should really all work together more).

A tool like this could be incredible. The challenge for something like this is engagement. Would people actually log into a system like this on a regular basis? Realistically speaking, probably not since there isn’t an immediate reward for staying on top of this stuff. Perhaps that is a challenge that could be overcome though.

Perhaps Not Ideal, But a Way Forward

I would like for our society to grow and prosper. Perhaps the issue with funding through the government has always been that there is little connection between the money that I send off every April when I do my taxes and how that money is actually spent. While not an ideal solution, perhaps self-taxing and a platform to aid in the process could be a nice way to see how my money benefits society. Perhaps this in itself could help people care more.