THE REVIEW with Michael McGrady
Did you know the European Union developed a simulation game for the mobile phone to teach young people how taxation is fun? No? Well, guess what, it is called “Taxlandia.”
Early this morning, I woke up to an email newsletter from the Foundation of Economic Education (or FEE). The subject line of the FEE Daily email was entitled “Taxlandia, the CBO, and Tom Cotton.”
Naturally, Taxlandia drew my attention before clicking “delete.” At first, I concluded that it was probably a poorly crafted politically-driven parody based on the awful IFC comedy Portlandia. I was mistaken…
Daniel J. Mitchell, an economist, and member of the Cayman Financial Review editorial board, authored a column for FEE’s blog covering how Taxlandia–the European Union’s tool for teaching taxation for young people through mobile simulation gaming–was a perfect example of “deceptive propaganda” from the Brussels bureaucrats.
He wrote: “[I]f you really want to know why the European Union is a lost cause, just consider that the bureaucrats at the European Commission actually created an online game designed to brainwash students into supporting higher taxes.” Entranced with Mitchell’s commentary, I was interested in finding out more.
For a few hours, before I came into the office this evening, I played Taxlandia and grew very frustrated.
“You are now in Taxlandia, a tiny European state with gorgeous mountains and clear blue lakes,” the description of the game reads, introducing the concept of the game to the users. “A popular tourist destination when the economy was booming and a country with minimal taxes, Taxlandia faces now an unprecedented crisis. A lot of companies moved their headquarters, tourism decreased. Last year the authorities admitted that it was time to increase taxes. Soon, an unofficial “tax rebellion” started. And now you have been appointed the new Prime Minister of Taxlandia! You have to start collecting more taxes, build the new infrastructure, and ensure further development of the country. Good luck!”
It sounds riveting, doesn’t it?
First off, the game is clearly meant as an educational tool; however, the game is ridiculously passe and envelopes users into a realm of “happy-go-lucky” indoctrination. And, to make matters even worst for the game, Taxlandia is not built on the basis of economics or real-world tax policy–especially in Europe.
Once I launched the game and went through some of the tutorial prompts, I set the tax rate for my country around 5 percent.
Apparently, this choice is not entirely accurate to the real world; however, the game immediately went into action, and I quickly became the victim of a tax rebellion. Then, I tried 17.7 percent–a rate that is just slightly under the European tax rate of around 18.6 percent–, and I still had similar failure as before.
For over two hours, I tried increasing the tax rate to higher increments until it was locked at 50 percent. You read that right, 50 percent.
Astonished by this, I was very frustrated that the EU is teaching young children to young adults that high taxation rates–like 50 PERCENT–are acceptable to run a country. Being a new user to the game, I was dead-set on finding answers to this idiocy. Google Play reviews for the mobile phone version of the game revealed similar frustrations from other players that reflect my own.
“EU pro-communist propaganda aimed at kids,” one Google Play user said. “Set tax at 50% Make zero investments in anything and win with 100% happiness… also the game wants access to your cameras and photos as well as location.”
Another user wrote in their review of the game that it is merely “Eurosocialist propaganda.”
“A game that makes you raise taxes in order to be successful is everything but honest… Maybe it’s trying to format people to align with EU politicians, but it doesn’t fool informed people who know better…,” one more reviewer added.
Collectively, the game only has 1.5 stars out of a possible five-star ranking on Google Play, based on the reviews from around 68 users.
In his commentary, Mitchell added that Taxlandia is “a dishonest game.”
“Given the options that are presented, unknowing students will think that government budgets are basically about physical capital (infrastructure, etc),” he wrote. “In reality, though, the vast majority of government spending is for the ever-expanding social welfare state and the accompanying bureaucracy.”
Based on Mitchell’s sentiment, it is also important to note–additionally based on the opinion of this author–that the game is not only dishonest but entirely built create an imaginary world that puts a government in a state of divinity. Higher taxes don’t compel growth; however, Taxlandia suggests to players that this is the case.
Let me be one of the many to remind the young folks like you–and myself–that higher taxes stifle growth and limit any profound economic activity that will sustain private sector development and innovation.
You can play Taxlandia here.
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