"Privilege" to Conduct Commerce

Almost every piece of government waste paper I have to fill out has the power to irritate me  (and doing business in 13 states, I get a lot of such garbage).  But the one thing that sets me off more than any other is when I get forms from a state government that say I owe a tax for the "privilege" of conducting commerce.  Arizona calls their sales tax a "transaction privilege tax" and Texas calls their franchise tax a "privilege" tax.  In fact, the Texas form is covered with the word "privilege" -- for example, the form I am looking at covers the "privilege period" of January-December 2007.

By calling commerce, and by extension property, a privilege that can only be exercised with a license from the government, the government is saying that the right to trade and make transactions with other people flows not from our humanity, but from the government.  These "privilege" taxes and licenses are based on the theory that man does not have any inherent right to trade freely with other men, and that ability can only be granted (or taken away) at the whim of our masters in the state government. 

The Supreme Court is acknowledged to have the power to strike down laws it deems to be in conflict with our Constitution.  But what about laws that violate something more fundamental than the Constitution?  What about laws that violate the very theory of government on which the United States was founded?    We often think about the Constitution as the top of the legal hierarchy, but I would suggest that sitting even higher than the words of the Constitution is the idea that our rights flow from God, or in a more secular interpretation, from the very fact of our humanity, and what power government has is given to it (and can be taken away) by its citizens, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

The more correct statement, then, would be that we citizens have given government officials the privilege of regulating and taxing commerce  (a privilege, I might add, that they have abused and we should take away).


"Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature."  --- Ben Franklin


  1. septagon49:

    The US government was founded on the Lockean notion that all the powers of government naturally belong to the individual and are ultimately derived from the individual. To protect private property, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, certain powers were delegated to the government. The valid use of this power was enumerated in Article I section 8 of the US constitution. The IX and X ammendments further reinforce this construction. State power is not as clearly defined but the XIV ammendment gave the authority to the Federal government to prevent States from violating individual rights. The experiment has been derailed by those who seek to consolidate power in a central authority starting with Hamilton, Marshall, Jackson and culminating with FDR. We should at all times and all places limit the power of government.

  2. dearieme:

    Ben was being a bit disingenuous, wasn't he? He really meant "a right that belongs to us by virtue of being British" but, understandably, couldn't say it.