For instance, if I had 5 acres in the middle of nowhere, I might be expected to chip in to a fund to keep a fire on my land from spreading to adjacent BLM property. However, my acreage is likely to be taxed more or less based on the quality of the view, or another similarly cosmetic factor in land value. Why not just calculate my share of the public fire suppression expenses based on area? Assuming, of course, that sufficiently many of my neighbors feel compelled to intervene in cases of wildfire.
> there is no "rules scheme" you can construct that will be as progressive as you want.
What you propose may be 'fair', in the context of providing services*. But that is not the goal of progressivism, which is redistribution of wealth and creation of an more outcomes-equal society (a concept I'm personally not opposed to, if the state doesn't do it).
but even fair in your example isn't quite correct. Because area is not proportional to fire risk. Let's say I live in the valley, where a stream runs through, the vegetation is green, and the area never gets hit by lightning. And my rich neighbors a mile away are on the mesa, which has a great view, but is brown and always dry, and up high, so lightning hits there regularly? Should area be a fair assessor of fire risk? Is it fair to have me subsidize the fire protection of the rich people who live closer to where fires happen? (this is a simplified description of the very real LA county fire system where rich people live out on the hills where there are far more brushfires)
I can think of a few solutions* to your counterexample though, and that's the point. There's no reason to expect a solution to be fair in all cases, or perfectly fair in any. I'd only argue that there is often, or perhaps always, a more equitable and direct way to provide for common services than property taxes.
*I choose the BLM as a neighbor purposefully. The rich people in your example would almost certainly prefer to fund their own municipal utility than settle for the type of response I would expect the state or county to provide.
And the unfairness will always over time become skewed towards the wealthy and powerful (municipal authority:'well obviously we are authorized to make exceptions like X as precedented by our rules system in code ZZZ, subparagraph Q; if we give an advantage to corporation Y by implementing change T, it may not necessarily be in the spirit of total fairness - but we will create jobs! and thus it will be in the public interest'). If fairness is your dominant value, the only perfectly fair and sustainable solution is zero. If progressive redistribution is your dominant value, you will wind up with a lot of difficulty over the 'how much is enough' question, and the implementation will almost always find a way to be anti-progressive.
Would you at least agree that things don't have to be quite so complicated once you get out of the city?