Under current system, in most democracy, all people have a right to move anywhere.

People in California have a right to move to Texas and via versa.

We know that poor people are more likely to commit crimes. Also they cost big welfare.

So say voters in a state wants to maximize their interests. It will be toward their best interests to tax heads.

Poor people will go to other states. That means less spending.

Notice I am not "advocating this". I am just seeing that it's a quick, dirty, and unfair ways to easily improve the state's percapita income and other indicators.

One of the reasons why it didn't work that way is probably because

  1. the poor can vote too. However, most people are middle class up and they'll probably be better off.
  2. Poor people, non citizen, or even illegal immigrants, are beneficial to the state that they show up on census. Federal funds and number of representative in Federal government depends on census. So maybe voters don't want to drive them out.

Any other reasons?

Note: Poll taxes or head taxes may make most people rebel in most countries. However, in United States, poll taxes in one state will simply drive poor people away to another state. An alternative to poll taxes will be heavy sales taxes. Basically, any regressive taxes that's hard to avoid will give incentives for the poor to get out.

Note: While there is no poll taxes, states often have plenty of regressive taxes. Many cities even build spikes to drive poor people out. So the idea isn't far fetches

  • I am not advocating this. I just wonder why voters prefer progressive tax like income taxes instead of regressive taxes like head taxes. – user4951 Jul 20 '19 at 15:46
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    I honestly don't understand this proposal at all. First of all, what exactly is a "head tax", and how does it target poor people specifically? Second of all, wouldn't it be more efficient to tax people who have a lot of money rather than people who are already poor to begin with? Third of all, "poor people will go to other states" - how do you expect them to fund that movement? Moving hundreds of miles away ain't easy and it ain't cheap. – F1Krazy Jul 20 '19 at 15:54
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    I looked it up and "head tax" is apparently another term for a poll tax. You may want to look up the history of poll taxes in my native UK. We tried implementing them three times; one ended in a full-scale uprising, one ended in violent riots and contributed to the end of Margaret Thatcher's reign, and the third was too sporadic to actually raise much money. – F1Krazy Jul 20 '19 at 16:00
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    Suggested rewording: s/reduce/exile/. – agc Jul 20 '19 at 17:00
  • Poll taxes or head taxes may make most people rebel in most countries. However, in United States, poll taxes in one state will simply drive poor people away to another state, – user4951 Jul 21 '19 at 3:56

For a variety of reasons.

There are a number of inaccurate assumptions in the question. First, I'd like to point out that such a policy would hurt low-income people by reducing their income and forcing them to move, and would be objectionable to many voters on those grounds. Not all politics is driven purely by self-interest: some voters actually care about the well-being of the general population. Moving on to the other considerations....

First, it's often far easier for wealthy people to change locations than for less wealthy people. They're more likely to have a cushion to absorb the costs of not having a job for some time after moving, more likely to have a job offer before moving, more likely to have money for the down payment for an apartment, and overall better able to absorb the economic risks of moving to another location. For people with particularly low incomes, even the cost of transportation to another state with lower taxes or the cost of moving their furniture may be prohibitively high. This gap in economic freedom of movement could render the proposal in the question simply ineffective. Instead, many of the people targeted would remain where they were. They would experience greater hardship because of the additional regressive taxes, of course, which besides being intrinsically bad might increase the rates of certain crimes as the targeted people attempted to gain income through less-than-legal means.

Also, although poverty is correlated with crime, the correlation is not so simple. Some crimes, such as drug use, have less or no correlation with income. The rate of crime among wealth people is likely understimated due to their having better resources for concealment and less police investigation. And the factors that do increase crime in poorer communities are not intrinsic to poor people so much as related to being poor: for instance, theft is a little more attractive when one is starving or at risk of homelessness; a great deal of violence is due to organized crime, which presents an alternative means of income. Reducing poverty would be a more effective means of dealing with these forms of crime than worsening it and hoping that people left.

Perhaps the most flawed assumption is that trying to get everyone below a certain income level to leave a region would be economically sound.

  1. There would be enforcement costs: people would take money under the table instead of paying high taxes. Which means the government has to audit them. Which costs money.

  2. Further, although welfare is a cost, there are other factors to consider. For instance, the value of labor: everyone's labor, including that of poor people, contributes to the economy. That labor is possibly even worth more than the cost of welfare. Effectively kicking out a large portion of a state's labor force could have a negative effect on the economy, or at least offset much of the short-term gains from decreased spending on social safety nets.

  3. There would be additional costs from displacement: wealthy people and poor people don't do the same jobs, but all those jobs need to be done. The cost of retraining wealthy people for jobs that were previously done by less-wealthy people, and the possible higher salaries they would demand, would be significant.

  4. Along these lines, welfare can actually be economically beneficial in the long term. Just as increased spending on education provides returns in the future, money spent on some welfare programs produces economic growth. Reducing welfare spending is not necessarily reduced costs, in the long term.

Further, as mentioned in the other answers, nothing would prevent a sort of retaliatory tax war among states or nations, with the end result that poor people across a wide geographic area would be subject to punitively high taxes, increasing suffering, poverty, and crime, as well as welfare spending.

Finally, other answers and comments have mentioned the history of poll taxes in Great Britain, and reasons why they'd be unpopular there. Other countries have had similarly bad experiences. In the United States, the country mentioned in the question, poll taxes were used as a condition to vote, that is to say, to systematically disenfranchise black voters and voters from other racial minority groups. This is because exemptions were granted in a manner that favored white voters, and enforcement focused on African-American voters. This sort of history would make many voters—not just low-income voters but people of color and liberals—suspicious of a poll tax, even if the stated goal had nothing to do with disenfranchisement. Due to the wide reach of US media, this precedent may influence even other nations. Other countries have also had negative experiences with head taxes: for instance, in Indonesia, some head taxes in the Dutch colonial period applied only to ethnically Chinese people, and their similar successor tax regime exempted groups such as Arabs.

  • As I said, I am NOT advocating poll taxes or head taxes. Your answer is actually good. It's reasonable. – user4951 Jul 21 '19 at 4:02
  1. Poll taxes are considered as terribly unpopular, an attempt to introduce a fee similar to them ended Margaret Thatcher government.

  2. Poll taxes are hard to collect in civilised countries, as there is much too effort in collecting them from the poor, in relation to money extracted.

  3. If you want to keep poor away out of your region, you should hypothetically just use some highly restrictive zoning laws, which would create artificial scarcity of housing and price the poor out of the market. As an excuse you'd use protection of environment, landscape or whatever. But no-one would be so malicious to do so, right? ;)

(now you see why there is no point in being a bad guy who taxes the poor, if you can achieve similar result by being a good guy who cares about the landscape)

  • This answer would be OK, but for the rib-poking about redlining. – agc Jul 21 '19 at 5:40
  • @agc Maybe I miss some US cultural nuance, but I'm regularly puzzled by people who see in my comments some hidden evil messages (some made a tantrum about alleged antisemitism). No, this strategy works with ANY restrictive zoning laws, as they simply reduce the number of flats allowed to be built, thus drive their cost up beyond reach of poor regardless of their race. – Shadow1024 Jul 21 '19 at 7:29
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    My initial US reading was that, "But no-one would be so malicious to do so, right? ;)", connotes an unseemly affection for the practice. Your comment implies that wording was more intended as amiable British-style irony. Suggested, (albeit blander), fix: change the pronoun you in "If you want to keep..." to a descriptive proper noun, (e.g. "If the affluent want to keep..."), and swap out second-person singular wording for third-person. – agc Jul 21 '19 at 8:25

I would start by challenging the assertion that poor people are more likely to actually commit crimes, rather than being a) being more likely to get caught (since having skill at long-term planning means you're not likely to stay poor); and b) more likely to be convicted because they can't afford good lawyers.

We can readily observe that wealthy people can commit many kinds of crimes, from tax fraud to confidence schemes to sexual predation, with little or no risk of ever being prosecuted or convicted. (And that's not even getting into the sorts of financial crimes that only wealthy people can commit, like insider trading & running Ponzi schemes.) Even middle-class folks (including some close friends of mine) can do things like smoke marijuana (before legalization) if they were reasonably careful to stay below law enforcement's radar.

Secondly, why would you expect such a scheme to actually work? Quite apart from the cost of moving, if one state implements a "head tax" that does send people to other states*, what is to stop those states from instituting an even higher tax in order to get them to move back?

Thirdly, how do you practically enforce a head tax? The first line of enforcement for most taxes, such as an income tax, is the threat of seizing other property - bank accounts, real estate, &c - that the defaulting taxpayer owns. But a poor person, pretty much by definition, is unlikely to have any property worth seizing. So the next resort is to put the non-paying person in prison. Since incarceration currently costs around $81K/year per inmate (in California: https://lao.ca.gov/PolicyAreas/CJ/6_cj_inmatecost ), that would seem to defeat the goal of cost savings,

*We might note that tax policies in some states such as California have caused people to move to other states, though it's generally the prosperous to wealthy ones that leave.

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    While you're right that wealthy people are less likely to get caught, I think the evidence is pretty clear that poverty leads to higher rates of certain crimes. For instance, theft: while a fair number of wealthy individuals commit theft or the white-collar equivalent out of greed, as a motivation that's not much compared to hunger or needing to pay one's rent. And violent crime is higher in part because of its association with gang violence and other forms of organized crime: gangs offer opportunities for additional income, and sometimes protection from other gangs. – Obie 2.0 Jul 20 '19 at 19:10
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    @Obie 2.0: I don't know - and until someone can somehow come up with figures for the "not caught" fraction of criminals, I don't think anyone can be reasonably sure. But in addition to the kinds of crimes that have nothing to do with money (for instance, sex crimes), we see a good number of prosperous to wealthy folks committing monetary crimes when they have no real financial need. – jamesqf Jul 21 '19 at 20:11

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