Feature

Austria: The real way to shrink government

Austria could abolish the state legislatures tomorrow, “and the citizens wouldn’t notice a thing,” said Jakob Zirm in Die Presse.

Jakob ZirmDie Presse

Here’s an easy way for Austria to save billions of euros: Do away with the states, said Jakob Zirm. Austria is ostensibly a federal republic, with nine states—each with their own legislatures and bureaucracies—and a national government. In practice, though, we have only “pseudo-federalism,” since the states don’t actually levy or collect taxes themselves. Instead, they just take the money apportioned to them by the central government and spend it profligately.

Apologists for our state government system say it’s necessary to have hundreds of state representatives and thousands of state bureaucrats so that local laws can “reflect regional differences.” But criminal, corporate, and pretty much every other important area of law are all under federal jurisdiction. A typical regional difference is that, say, the curfew for teenagers in Vienna is 1 a.m., while in Graz it is 11 p.m. “The argument that we can’t regulate such things nationwide is simply ridiculous.” Austria could abolish the state legislatures tomorrow, “and the citizens wouldn’t notice a thing.”

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