I took some time over the last few days to go through some real world numbers on stuff (specifically government income and spending) and apply them to Democracy 4. The base country for the game, like with earlier versions, is the UK, and we then edit the data and scripts to better represent other countries as we add them.
Its been about five years since Democracy 3, and a lot has changed, so I wanted to make sure the starting scenario for the UK in Democracy 4 was vaguely realistic. We cannot ever be 100% realistic, because the model is obviously a simulation, and one that has to be fun, plus the starting date of the game is left deliberately ambiguous.
Also… we are not starting every country in the middle of a global pandemic, as that would seem super hard, and also fix the game in time in peoples minds. We DO have a virus outbreak event that is quite severe, but may have to introduce an even more severe global event at some point. Anyway…
I had to make some noticeable changes to the amount that certain things cost in the game. I was amusingly almost spot-on with the cost of the BBC, but the cost of some things like disability benefit, and the NHS in general (State Health Service) were almost comically low. Also. OMG national insurance (payroll tax) brings in a lot of money. I found a great source for this stuff here: https://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/ Here are some charts:
In this chart the first thing that leaps out at me is ‘other’. 14% of spending! that is a big lump of money going somewhere nebulous. Here ius the breakdown:
Which just goes to show there is clearly a LOT of government spending on tiny, tiny things. Democracy 4 doesn’t really have a ‘fisheries’ department costing anything, or street lighting, but I guess eventually all those little thingsd add up.
The next big scary thing is that 6% of government spending on interest. This is us paying interest on our UK government debt. Some interesting charts:
My immediate response to such a chart is ‘yikes’. People often look at debt to GDP, but if government spending as a chunk of GDP is low (heavily capitalist), the debt/GDP can be low while interest/public spending is massively high. I would suggest that the best metric to look at is interest payments / public spending because this is the opportunity cost of debt, in other words, all the stuff you could be funding if you didn’t have to pay interest on debt. Right now we pay 6%, the same as the defence budget. Just for fun, here is the interest / GDP chart anyway…
Of course we live in times with stupidly low interest rates, although that varies massively by country.
Some economists say as a general rule that countries default (which is economically speaking REALLY BAD) when interest/GDP reaches 12%. If our current interest is 6%, then we need a simple doubling of the interest rate to hit that (assuming we balance the budget tomorrow and stop adding to the debt…)
Democracy 4 does not have an option to default on debt, mostly because that seems unthinkable for the USA, UK, Germany, France and other countries we will likely include. But maybe we should? Anyway….lets move on to look at where government income comes from…
I guess the big surprise here is how tiny the business taxes are. The Uk has fairly low taxes on companies (19%), but then we do not have the more generous and complex system of rebates and exclusions a lot of other countries have. Positech is a company, and we pay a simple 19% of our profits, with the only complication being if we get to claim video games tax relief on some portion of our expenses. We don’t qualify for anything else.
Indirect taxes are surprisingly large. I find the breakdown on that site to be pretty crap, so wen to the independent ‘office for budget responsibility’ and got this instead:
|of which:||Pay as you earn||163.2||20.40%|
|National insurance contributions||140.6||17.57%|
|Value added tax||134.6||16.82%|
|Petroleum revenue tax||-0.6||-0.07%|
|Capital gains tax||9||1.12%|
|Stamp duty land tax3||13.4||1.67%|
|Stamp taxes on shares||3.6||0.45%|
|Beer and cider duties||3.8||0.47%|
|Air passenger duty||3.7||0.46%|
|Insurance premium tax||6.1||0.76%|
|Climate change levy||2.2||0.27%|
|Other HMRC taxes4||7.5||0.94%|
|Vehicle excise duties||6.3||0.79%|
|Licence fee receipts||3.3||0.41%|
|EU ETS auction receipts||0.7||0.09%|
|Scottish and Welsh taxes5||1||0.12%|
|Diverted profits tax||0.3||0.04%|
|Soft drinks industry levy||0.2||0.02%|
|National Accounts taxes||746.2||93.26%|
|Less own resources contribution to EU||-3.4||-0.42%|
|Interest and dividends||10.3||1.29%|
|Gross operating surplus||43.7||5.46%|
…which goes to show some very interesting stuff. Mostly…UK tax revenue comes from Employees, Payroll tax, Sales tax and a bit of Corporation tax, fuel duty and business rates. The rest is just the remaining quarter.
So a diverted profits tax (basically the google tax) brings in virtually nothing (0.04%) compared to corporation tax as a whole at 7.09%. It looks like I should be tweaking some of the policies in Democracy 4 a lot.
For example right now UK payroll taxes in the game have a max input of only 25% of income tax, they should be 75%! Tobacco and wine taxes should bring in less than they do, and air passenger duty (airline tax) should bring in MUCH less. Also, maybe I need the UK to start off with a few of these policies already in place but super low. For example, we *do* have a pathetic diverted profits tax and a laughably low level of environmental levies…which is sort of a carbon tax. maybe these need to be implemented but at 1%?
Anyway, I guess the interesting point is that most of us voting citizens who claim to be aware of the world have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how much the government owes in debt, what it spends, and where it gets its money. In a pop quiz would you KNOW that (in order) the top 3 sources of UK government revenue is Income tax, National Insurance and VAT? Would you guess that the amount of money we raise each year in corporate taxes is only slightly higher than we pay out in debt interest? (56 vs 52 billion).
I find this stuff interesting, and despair at how badly our press does the job of educating us. We need more stats, more pie charts, more line charts, more numbers, and less pontificating about what an MP said on twitter today.
Maybe Democracy 4 can help focus peoples minds of the actual numbers behind politics?