What is government really worth?


Yesterday I wrote a piece about asking where you should live if you believe in free markets and limited government. And as I said then, Switzerland is often touted as an attractive option.

All the more so, I suppose, if you are super-rich (and I, sadly, am not). One of the interesting peculiarities of the Swiss tax system is that if you are wealthy enough, you can locate there without paying normal Swiss taxes. Instead, you can negotiate a flat-rate annual fee with the government of whichever canton you decide to live in.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of such a system, it does pose an interesting question: if you could freely negotiate a price with the government for the services if offers, how much would you actually be prepared to pay? Much less than you pay in tax at the moment, I suspect.

Indeed, when I think about it, the government really does very little for me personally, given the amount of tax I fork over. There are the roads, streetlights, refuse collection and street sweeping, there is subsidy on my bus, train and tube travel, then there's London's parks, the police, and that's about it. Maybe a very occasional trip to the GP or dentist, but no more than one a year.

No, it's definitely not a good deal.