Monday, June 23, 2008


The Fallacy of Linearity between Government Expenses and Population Density

The Republicans, bless their hearts, never tire of trying to reduce taxes or at least trying to keep them from increasing. They periodically advance the argument that the State could avoid budget problems if there were a hard and fast rule that total expenditures would increase only as fast as the population of the State. On the surface, it seems to be a reasonable, common-sense rule. It is so "obvious" that it needs no proof and no argument could possibly prevail against it.

I will, however, advance an argument against this "obvious" principle. Let us start with a State with no people. A few people move in and set up farms. They need some roads and they need a hall of records to keep track of the titles to their farms. As the State begins to fill up with more and more farmers and farms, each new farmer needs a section of road and space in the hall of records. For a while, the growth in necessary government expenditures is proportional to the growth of population.

Now, let's add some cities. The cost per person of providing services in a city is greater than the cost per person of providing services for farmers. City dwellers need a police department, a fire department. City dwellers need hospitals with emergency rooms. Some of these are things that farmers would also like to have, but never thought to demand them of the government. The denser the city's population, the greater the need PER PERSON of services provided by government.

Should the cost of these additional services be borne only by the residents of the city or should part of the cost be borne by the State? If the State supplies some funding for city services (e.g., education, mass transit systems, medical facilities) then certainly State expenditures will have increased at a greater rate than the rate of population increase.

As usual, the Republicans are wrong.
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