Better taxation without representation

If you’ve been following the news out of Minnesota, then you’re probably aware that Gov. Mark Dayton wanted to raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest citizens in order to alleviate a deficit.  Republicans in the legislature balked at the tax increase, so now Minnesota’s government has ground to a halt.

In a public announcement, Gov. Dayton invoked the causes of the American Revolution.  Sort of.

It is significant that this shutdown will begin on the 4th of July weekend.  On that date, we celebrate our independence.  It also reminds us that there are causes and principles worth struggling for – worth even suffering temporary hardships to achieve. 

Our American Revolution was very much about fair and just taxes, where the middle-class was over-taxed while the very rich went tax-free.  In the absence of fair taxes, the basic services people relied upon for their health and well-being were denied them.

So the Sons of Liberty were burning effigies because of a lack of government involvement in their lives, while super-wealthy Whigs like George Washington and John Hancock were demanding to pay more taxes than they were already.  Is that about right?

I’m glad a Democrat has finally put his historical foot in his mouth, because now I can get some nasty comments from liberals instead of Glenn Beck minions.  It’ll be a refreshing change.



Filed under American Revolution, History and Memory

3 responses to “Better taxation without representation

  1. In the Tea Party era, the American Revolution has been reframed as a revolt against taxation. It was not; it was a revolt against (among other things) taxation without equitable representation in return.

    While the Tea Party crowd — which Governor Dayton seems to be trying to appease here with his rhetoric — likes to think of itself as the philosophical descendants of Paine and Jefferson, they have much more in common with the fire-eaters agitating for secession in 1860. In both cases, they have representation, a way to make their voices heard, but when they lack the influence to dictate to the rest of the electorate, they’re willing to blow the whole thing up in a fit of pique. If I can’t have my way, no one can. It’s fundamentally undemocratic.

    Historically we’ve come to expect this sort of political childishness from places like South Carolina (“too small for a republic. . .”) and my own, dear Lone Star State, but I really thought Minnesotans were more grown-up than that.

  2. Michael Lynch

    Yeah, the Tea Party folks seem to have taken the Revolution’s protest against taxation without representation and turned it into a general protest against taxation in general. It’s one of those cases where a group invokes some historical precedent while overlooking some of the distinctions involved.

    Your analogy with the secessionists is interesting; I hadn’t thought of that. That’s one of the reasons why Lincoln believed secession was so dangerous; if people could withdraw from the body politic when they disagreed with the results of an election, then the very existence of American representative government was in peril, since that existence was based on elections.


    • A commenter on another blog put it very succinctly. He was referring to the fire-eaters of 1860, but I think it’s equally applicable to more recent political movements:

      First they lost the election, then they lost their minds.

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