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Washington, D.C. — Tax Haven?

April 12, 2001

Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — you remember him — and Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives, have come up with a brilliant idea. They have jointly introduced a bill to exempt residents of the District from income taxes.

It’s called the No Taxation without Representation Act of 2001. The idea is that D.C. residents shouldn’t have to pay income taxes until the District becomes a fully represented state, with senators and congressmen.

District residents are already exercised about the principle “No Taxation without Representation,” which is now inscribed on their auto license plates. Mostly black, they contend that whites, especially Republicans, don’t want them to enjoy statehood, since they would be likely to elect black left-wing Democrats to the Senate and House. And they have a point.

But the bill might have unintended consequences. D.C. residents might discover that they are better off without either statehood or income taxes. Think of it. If you could keep your own earnings, wouldn’t you be willing to forgo statehood for a while? Like, indefinitely? Maybe even forever, per omnia saecula saeculorum?

If Washington becomes a tax-free zone, it will be transformed. People from around the country, or around the world, will pour in. Property values will soar. Slums will disappear, as developers snatch up decrepit neighborhoods and replace them with luxurious new housing.

With a booming and prosperous population, competition for the privilege of tax-free residence will be intense. White professionals (and let’s not forget Asians) who have fled or avoided the city would pay big money to move back in. Poor blacks, priced out of the market, would move out. The capital would be transmuted ethnically.

[Breaker quote: Putting 
politicians to the market test]And politically. The new population would fiercely resist the very thing the present population demands: statehood. Once Washington became a state, its inhabitants would have to start paying income taxes — the very thing they came to escape. The whole purpose of the great migration would have been defeated. The people of the city would realize that gaining representation in Congress, in return for paying thousands of dollars in taxes annually, would be a terrible bargain.

Think of it. Washington, D.C., headquarters of the federal government, would actually become an enclave of freedom from the oppression of — the federal government!

So without realizing it, Senator Lieberman and Delegate Norton may be establishing themselves as the leaders of what amounts to a new secessionist movement. Abe Lincoln, eat your heart out!

“No taxation without representation” could also mean “Just get rid of my taxes, and I won’t need representation.” Who really feels “represented” by our elected officials, anyway? If they represent everyone, how can they truly represent anyone? When you hire a lawyer, you know he represents you; he doesn’t profess to represent you and your adversaries at the same time.

If politicians actually represent all of us, as they claim they do, how come we have to pay high taxes and submit to so many onerous laws? If you got similar results from your lawyer, you’d fire him.

Why do we assume that the government “represents” us when it exercises power over us, robs us of our wealth, and strips away our freedoms? What nonsense. But this is what passes, in an age of political superstition, for “democracy” and “self-government.”

The Lieberman-Norton bill may inadvertently expose the truth: that we are better off without politicians “representing” us. I doubt that this is what they set out to demonstrate, but that’s fine. People will draw their own lessons when they get the chance to keep their city not only tax-free, but politician-free. They will say, with one mighty voice, “Hey! Why didn’t we think of this before?”

Who knows how this idea might catch on? Other parts of the country might clamor for tax-free status too. Would they have to give up their representation in Congress? Well, you can’t have everything! At least they should have the option. Let the market test the real value of politicians.

That’s why the Lieberman-Norton bill won’t be adopted. In this great democracy of ours, no politician in his right mind would offer the voters a chance to choose between politicians — alias “representation” — and 100 per cent tax relief.

Joseph Sobran

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Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2001 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications

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