Thursday, August 18, 2011

Direct Taxation and Virtual Representation

In the eyes of our Founders, Big Government is inherently immoral.

Everyone knows that “taxation without representation” is bad. It prompted a shower of pamphlets, tea bags, and cannonballs across Colonial America. But why is it bad?

The colonists insisted that America should hold seats in the British Parliament, in return for paying taxes to the Crown. They felt that taxes can only be morally and ethically justified if the people who pay them have representation in the government, giving them effective votes over how the government collects and spends money.

The British had a different idea. They thought the colonists should be satisfied by virtual representation, which means every Member of Parliament represents the entire population. It would not be necessary to haul a bunch of chaps from the Colonies across the Atlantic to sit in Parliament, in order to give the interests of the colonies proper consideration. At the time, given the distance involved, such direct representation was rather impractical.

The colonists had a terrific idea for making it practical, by demanding their own assembly on local soil. The intensity of this argument escalated considerably, until its exciting conclusion at Yorktown in 1781.

In essence, by saying that taxation was immoral without direct representation, the colonists denied the very legitimacy of British rule. If they couldn’t have direct political representation in the government, it had no moral right to impose its demands upon them. Seizing money from people, without giving them a meaningful and direct say over how much would be taxed, or how it would be spent, was theft and tyranny.

That probably sounds like common sense to most Americans today. Unfortunately, they have become quite comfortable with “virtual representation.”

The immense size of our government means that huge amounts of tax and regulatory authority, with a very direct impact on minute details of your life, are under the control of powerful congressmen and senators from other states. The lack of congressional term limits means that some of those holding “safe seats” in other states amass great personal power, becoming the royalty of Capitol Hill. You will never have a chance to vote against them, because you live in a different state.

If you were to raise such provincial concerns with a decades-old sultan of the subcommittees, they would give you essentially the same answer the British gave their American colonists. The federal government must be immense and powerful to address our social needs, and you must be satisfied with “virtual representation”… which boils down to endless faith in the people who have wiped out entire industries, devalued our currency, and nearly crashed the planetary financial system by imposing their ideology on the mortgage industry. You would be told not to worry that some of the individuals with vast power over your life are elected and re-elected by a few hundred thousand voters, organized into permanent blocs in faraway districts.

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