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This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A tax meter on your dashboard? -- By Adam Brandon, The Washington Times

Illustration by Linas Garsys for The Washington Times
 (Illustration by Linas Garsys, The Washington Times)

At first, black boxes would transmit only how much you drive … but then what?

 In 1973, Richard Foster's short story "A Nice Morning Drive" imagined a future in which increasingly stringent vehicle regulations had rendered all conventional automobiles illegal in favor of government-approved monstrosities. The story was meant as a warning against the dangers of creeping, incremental regulations that seem harmless at first, but are cumulatively tyrannical.

Forty years later, our own Foster-esque scenario is playing out with the prospect of a little black box on your car's dashboard that would transmit your vehicle-use data to a government tax collector. This is what some in Washington and various state legislatures are proposing as a way to bolster revenues for the struggling Highway Trust Fund, now running a structural deficit of around $15 billion.

By taxing drivers based on how far they drive, the amount each individual pays to maintain the roads would directly correspond with how much they use them. It's not so much a tax as a "user fee" that is both economically efficient and lacks the redistributive component of most taxes. These features make it an improvement over the gas tax, which, in addition to being politically unpopular, taxes in a way that imperfectly corresponds with how much people actually drive.

Economics aside, though, there are some serious concerns about the black-box proposal, not the least of which are the obvious concerns about the erosion of civil liberties. The chief implication of installing these black boxes is that the government will know where you are at all times, and will be able to track every movement of your vehicle. It sounds Orwellian, doesn't it? Although we may be willing to voluntarily surrender personal details via a Facebook account or Twitter feed, the thought that government can track our movements against our will is not a particularly cheery one.

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