Bar Stool Economist: ( David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D. Professor of Economics, University of Georgia) [speaking loudly]..
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. “Since you are all such good customers”, he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20”. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his “fair share?”
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. “I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, “but he got $10!” “Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than I!” “That’s true!!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!” “Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison. “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!” The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
replies [timidly, thinking of her grades]
In reality the tenth man owns the bar, and when there is is talk of a price increase he speaks to the bar manager and tells him that unless he adapts his proposed price increases to exclude his favorite lager he’ll cut his wage.
The nine remaining men were truly shocked, but soon realised that their taste for beer had to be met somehow. Three of the poorest men, who had had their drinks paid for discovered that they had talents that could make them money and went out to work. They felt happier and so were better company in the bar each evening. Because they had experienced poverty they were generous and paid for the beer for the others. They actually felt more like a group of friends than an economic bar machine and so laughter and camaraderie abounded. In fact the bar was so jolly and friendly that soon 100’s of new men came to drink and that meant that the bar owner (now part of the co-operative) could reduce the cost by another 50%, which increased the happiness. And that my friends, learned journalists and college professors – is Christian Socialism..
..and no the tenth man didn’t own the bar – he was so shocked by being beaten up that he went to drink in an exclusive wine bar with people like him who were afraid of being beaten up. There weren’t many of them and their chat was dire. Interestingly the wine bar was called “The Gated Community”.