This journal is a response to Interrobang's entries, not a flame (Interrobang: I respect your views inasmuch as I differ from them)
We need roads, power plants, schools, police, firemen, defense, and much more that I'm bound to forget. This is not in dispute. However, this is not an excuse to sneak in broad social programs or large, expensive projects. You can't say that because power plants are needed and we couldn't possibly build them ourselves, those who oppose tax'n'spenders or, more broadly, those who want to increase taxes, are wrong.
I firmly believe that the government should directly serve to protect us from real, physical threats. Is Iraq such a threat? I don't have a clue. But I do know if a nation attacks us, we should have a well-trained military to respond. Due to increasingly liberal attitudes towards troop training (and, more generally, the military becoming the battlefield for all sorts of trite political debates and legislation), our army troops have become the mockery of the other services, who receive far less scrutiny. Our government should do the best job it can of training our troops. However, our defense budget is ridiculously high, and I'm frankly uncomfortable with my country wielding so much physical power--though it may be necessary.
I agree that to acheive equality, the government has a critical role in education our children. If that means contracting under strict scrutiny or actually setting up schools, so be it. I don't think there's anyone who would debate this, so I'll move on.
The government should contract out internal improvements. Roads, power lines, national parks, etc. are very important. However, this should be taken care of by provincial/state and local governments. It is reasonable to devolve powers as much as possible until the next lowest power would not have the jurisdiction or authority to properly handle the situation. Let's keep the federal government out of farm-ranch roads, but have them lay out the interstate systems, for example.
Local communities must provide police/fire/etc protection in the local area. These departments must have as little oversight from the higher authorities as possible, however--if the citizens of a community want more cops, they can pay for it. If the whole nation were to vote, the government could easily scare or coerce the populace into a police state. I don't want men in ski-masks and FBI patches running around with automatic weapons not disclosing what they're doing.
The various governments should also regulate trade, zoning, etc. This should also be devolved unto the most local level as possible. If a regulation is to require a huge beaurocracy but is necessary for a specific region or constituency, they can agree to it and agree to pay for it. A huge advantage of this system is that other regions now have multiple examples of real-world scenarios with which to base the merit of a proposal on.
Now on to taxes. Taxes are what fuel all of this. I want full disclosure of both the money going in to these departments, contractors, or programs, and their operating budgets (this is not wholly the case where I live). We're unfortunately going crazy with building more beaurocracies and programs and such that are costing too much from people to whom these issues do not apply. I am distrustful of my government, and though it would be easy for me to allow them to manage my retirement plan, take care of me when I get fired, etc., not only could the feds taking care of the country lead to them taking over the country, I think we should have enough courage and strength to deal with such issues ourselves.
This is not simply because I believe we should accept more responsibility for our actions, but also because when and if our government tries to screw us (historically speaking, the odds of them not eventually doing so are astronomically low), these tax dollars will help support that through physical means and simply by the precedents that the accompanying legislation will set.
Basically, I know we need a government that collects taxes to pay for a lot of things, but I also firmly believe we should do our best to limit it without crippling its ability to carry out its exclusive functions.
On a side note, with regards to corporate control, the huge corporations are also restricting freedom in a big way, and (as in the media giant's case) are often getting Congressional support. We must also be weary of the giants as well, since they often begin to act like governments. However, this really doesn't pertain to taxation (but I felt it worth mentioning in response to one of Interrobang's points).