“Taxation without representation” wasn’t the half of it.
The taxation-without-representation argument endures, of course, because it is useful for the regime and its backers. Advocates for the political status quo insist there is no need for anything like the Boston Tea Party today because modern Americans enjoy representation in Congress. We are told that taxation and the regulatory state are all necessarily moral and legitimate because the voters are “represented.” Even conservatives, who often claim to be for “small government,” often oppose radical opposition to the regime—such as secession—on the grounds that political resistance movements are only acceptable when there is no political “representation.” The implication is that since the United States holds elections every now and then, no political action outside of voting—and maybe a little sign waving—is allowed.
It’s unlikely the Sons of Liberty would have bought this argument. The small number of millionaires who meet in Washington, DC, nowadays are hardly “representative” of the American public back home. The 1770s equivalent would have consisted of throwing the Americans a few bones in the form of a handful of votes in Parliament, with seats to be reliably held by a few wealthy colonists, far beyond the reach or influence of the average member of the Sons of Liberty.
By the late 1770s, the fervor behind the revolution had already gone far beyond mere complaints about taxation. This was just one issue among many. Rather, the revolution quickly became a culture war in which self-styled “Americans” were taking up arms against a foreign, immoral, and corrupt oppressor. Mere offers of “representation” were hardly sufficient at this point, and it’s unlikely any such offers were going to be enough after the events of 1775, when the British finally marched into Massachusetts and opened fire on American militiamen. After that, the war had become, to use Rothbard’s term, a “war of national liberation.”
This ideological and psychological divide perhaps explains the ferocity with which the American revolutionaries resisted British rule.
This sort of thing cannot be explained by mere disagreement over taxation. Acts of violence like these represent a meaningful cultural and national divide.
For now, the cultural divide in the United States today has yet to reach the proportions experienced during the revolution—or, for that matter, during the 1850s in the lead-up to the American Civil War.
Oh? That looks to me like a nigh-impossible argument to make. He probably knows that, though, because he doesn’t try to make it. He’s dead-on with this next, though:
But if hostilities reach this point, there will be little use in discussions over the size of the tax burden, mask mandates, or the nuances of abortion policy. The disdain felt by each side for the other side will be far beyond mere compromises over arcane matters of policy.
And just as discussions over “taxation without representation” miss the real currents underlying the American rebellion, any view of the current crisis that ignores the ongoing culture war will fail to identify the causes.
Yet, the culture war has also likely progressed to the point where national unity is unlikely to be salvaged even by charismatic leaders and efforts at compromise. When it comes to culture, there is little room for compromise.
Agreed. Then we swerve right back into the ditch.
It is increasingly apparent that the only peaceful solution lies in some form of radical decentralization, amounting to either secession or self-rule at the local level with only foreign policy as “national” policy. Had the British offered these terms in 1770, bloodshed would have likely been avoided.
Americans must pursue similar solutions now before it is too late.
Seriously? Secession—a complete non-starter, a pipe dream, a fool’s fantasy the central government will never, ever allow to become reality—or “self-rule at the local level”—ie, the restoration of Constitutionally-correct limited government and state’s rights, which the current bloated government, sloppy drunk with its illegimitate power and stolen wealth? Another issue that, as we have been regularly reminded for generations, was settled for all time by the first Civil War?
It’s amusing, in a morbid kind of way, how so many intelligent, historically-knowledgeable souls are perfectly willing to grapple with these controversies right down to the minutest detail, yet scrupulously resist facing down the one shared aspect that is the most relevant and indispensable of all, ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room furiously pounding its chest at them: war.