Representation Without Taxation

A correspondent recently raised the question of reforming the American electoral system so that only those who pay income tax are allowed to vote.  It’s a provocative notion, even though it Ain’t Gonna Happen… at least, not on this side of a systemic breakdown that puts everything on the table.

Let’s explore the idea as a thought experiment.  If taxation without representation was an outrage that sparked the Revolution, why is representation without taxation acceptable?   It’s logical to suggest that only those who pay for government benefits should have a vote in selecting our representatives.  Allowing net tax consumers to vote seems like an inherently dangerous practice, given their numbers – we’ve reached the point where 47% of American households pay no income tax – and their strong motivation to support politicians who promise endlessly increasing benefits.  When politicians loaded with vast public funds to purchase votes meet up with a population eager to sell its votes for benefits, a grim marketplace will inevitably develop. 

This is a formula not only guaranteed, but designed, to produce an unsustainable entitlement state.  The high-rolling politician secures victory by defeating the productive, and creating a dependency class large enough to smother taxpayer revolts at the ballot box.  Restricting the vote to those who pay into the system would break this fiscal short circuit.  It would also tend to cut down on voter fraud, since the IRS puts a great deal of effort into tracking people who owe taxes. 

Americans are understandably queasy about removing anyone’s voting rights.  The Left has long wanted to extend the franchise, to include constituencies with a reliable appetite for increased government spending, such as convicted felons and illegal immigrants.  If a damaged, desperate future America placed restrictions upon voting, the effort to repeal them would begin immediately, in a blaze of savage intensity… which would continue into a state of permanent civic unrest.  It wouldn’t be hard to keep the dependency class whipped into a violent frenzy with daily reminders of the nation’s outrageous refusal to let them vote.

Beyond the ethical and political considerations, there’s another deep flaw behind the theory of requiring taxation for representation: it wouldn’t solve our problem.  It’s not welfare, as conventionally understood, that is killing us.  How much of that 47% who don’t pay income taxes are living in desperate poverty?  The truth is that middle-class entitlements are the unsustainable tumor which fills the beds of Hospice America. 

Social Security, Medicare, and now ObamaCare will swell to consume the entire federal budget, along with much of the wealth produced by the entire planet, within the next two decades.  That’s the fearful nature of the deficit tornado spinning over Washington D.C.  Charity for the destitute is not unsustainable, even when it’s pumped through the corrupt and wasteful digestive system of the federal government. 

ObamaCare isn’t a system of health-care vouchers for the poor, financed by a tax on the middle and upper classes.  It’s a complete takeover of the insurance industry, designed to ensnare both the middle and lower classes, with the ultimate goal of directly controlling fifteen percent of our economy.  The old system of tax-and-spend welfare isn’t good enough for the Left any more, and the public long ago soured on it anyway.  Both liberals and conservatives have always understood that massive entitlements for the middle class, such as the left-wing Holy Grail of socialized medicine, were the endgame.  They only disagree in their perception of which game would be ending.

Our method of selecting representatives is less important than the rules they live under, after they’re elected.  What is the wise choice between a Constitutionally-limited hereditary monarchy, and a democratically-elected Congress with effectively unlimited taxation, spending, and regulatory powers?  Our reverence for the Republic is only returned in full when our democratically elected representatives exercise limited powers, within the boundaries of laws they cannot break, or redefine to serve their ambitions. 

The way our politicians reach Congress and the White House is important.  What they do after they get there is even more important.  The illusion that we can control them with the threat of future elections should have died forever in the squalid back-alley birth of ObamaCare.  Its birthing cries drowned out the objections of sixty percent majorities, and shattered the eardrums of business managers, from Caterpillar to AT&T.  Insulation from electoral consequence is purchased daily in that grim marketplace I mentioned earlier, where votes and piles of taxpayer money change hands.

Representation without taxation is not our fatal problem.  People from every income group should accept the responsibility to vote wisely, and insist on absolute fidelity to the Constitution – that mighty covenant between free men and the lawful republic they defied the guns of empire to raise.  Our legislators and President are meant to be the guardians of our freedom, not the engineers of our lives… or merchants who trade entitlements for power.  The thick web of puppet strings which spread from our titanic State reach deep into the 53% who still pay taxes.  Ignorance and ideology led us to this moment, not just the selfish votes of our permanent dependency class.  The government needs to shrink, not the electorate. 

Cross-posted at