Happy Democracy Day!
I call today, April 15, Democracy Day, because it’s the day when I get to pay taxes in a democratic nation. That’s a privilege 233 years old in the USA.
As much as the current day tea party protesters might say that they’re representing the spirit of ’76, they’re actually dead set against it. The Revolution of 1776, after all, was not a revolt against taxation. It was a revolt against taxation without representation.
Protests like the Boston Tea Party rejected particular taxes as a means of revolt, but not as the end of revolt. Consider the salt tax protest organized by Mohandas Gandhi in 1930. The British had imposed a tax on salt that made it illegal for people in India to collect their own salt, so Gandhi led a group of people on a march to the sea, where they gathered salt in defiance of the law. Like the Boston Tea Party, the Gandhi’s salt protest aimed to free a colony from British rule. Would Gandhi have been satisfied if the salt tax went away, but British rule remained? No, because the underlying problem was lack of self-rule for India, just as it was in the American colonies.
The Revolution of 1776 did not do away with taxes, and it wasn’t intended to. There were taxes before independence and taxes after independence. The difference is that, after independence, taxes came along with representative government, so that citizens could have a voice in how their taxes were used.
Our taxes contribute to the government as we make it – and if we aren’t happy with the government, then it’s our duty to reform the government to make our taxes worthwhile. To some extent, that’s what the current tea party protests are trying to do. The problem is that the tea party protests seek a withdrawal of democratic government, for the sake of saving money in the short term. They aren’t really working toward a more representative government. They’re working toward the reduction, or even the elimination, of representative government.
Their idea of replacement for democratic government? Unrestrained oligarchy. As one tea party protest sign says, the goal is to “Let Market Not Government Control Economy” The Market, of course, isn’t established democratically. It’s controlled by the people and corporations who have the most money, and the rest of us have almost no say.
The idea of a tea party protest has changed from no taxation without representation in 1776 to no taxation or representation today.