GRATITUDE TO Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com. With only a handful of compatriots, Amazon is fighting grabby unconstitutional state tax laws that seek to tax interstate commerce in violation of myriad provisions of the Constitution. The effort is heinous, the reasoning specious, and the persistence of state governments in this flatly unlawful initiative despicable.
You should go and spend money with Amazon. You should also inform other merchants, not yet onboard with this blowback on the greedy hand of government, of the righteousness of Amazon’s cause. ::coughdaytimerscough::
How is this unconstitutional?
In main, in two ways. First, it is an ultra vires grab at power which is reserved to Congress (the regulation of interstate commerce).
But-but-but… You allus say that the commerce clause is misapplied. You resist it at every turn.
So? You’re saying I’m arguing one thing here and another over there?
‘ll… yeah? How is that consistent?
Easy. In both cases I am arguing against state power and in favor of the liberty of the individual.
But you’re gaming the system…
Quoting its provisions to argue for the ends to which it was directed in the first place? How is that inconsistent?
Lemme get back to ya on that.
OK. Now, I think that Amazon is knuckling under to a certain extent by conceding the validity of the utterly specious “presence” argument. That is, a merchant based in — as in Amazon’s case — Seattle can in no way be seen to come under the jurisdiction of — oh, let’s take the example of the most egregious offender — California. However, if a bricks-and-mortar chain has stores in California, it is argued, it is reasonable that those stores render sales tax to the state on those transactions which take place in the state.
And why not? Well, I’ll tell you in a minute.
Of course, in this age — and since about the turn of the 20th Century, with the advent of catalog mail-order sales — states have (scorn quotes) “foregone” some sales tax on, for example, goods shipped from — say… — Sears, in Chicago to a customer in Bakersfield, Californ-eye-ay. And the greedy guts in state government, spoiled rotten by their existence within a political system biased toward statism, whinged to the Federal government for dispensation to collect sales tax on goods shipped into their state or (in some even more outrageous cases), simply bought by residents and carried back into the state.
And they got that dispensation. And thus was a key provision of the Constitution dealt the back of the statists’ hand.
And that would be?
Article One, Section Nine, in which it says (in part) “No tax or duty shall be laid on goods exported from any state.”
But-but-but… “Exported,” it says.
Yes. Latin for “carried out.” And your point is…?
But doesn’t that mean shipped internationally?
Once again: your point is…?
Well, is shipment between states…?
What is the definition of the word, “state”?
Um… Oh. OH! I see…
Yes. And this country is called…
The United States.
Right in one. So goods which travel interstate have been, by definition, exported from one state. That they travel without let or interruption by international borders and their consequent customs revenuers is irrelevant. Or, more precisely, it is the point.
During the period after the Revolution, but before the adoption of the Constitution, there were trade wars between the states. And this provision was included in the Constitution specifically to obviate such. Thus the collection of state taxes on ANY good exported from another state (I would argue at any time by any means) is made flatly unlawful — forbidden by the Constitution.
Now, I can see that goods exported from one state to another by merchants who then resell the goods within the state might be reasonably subject to being taxed at the point of resale. Maybe. If the state government plays nice and says “Please” and “Thank you.” But the bias ought to be against government greed and in favor of the individual citizen — whose liberty this government has been constituted to protect.
But do, please, to note that the provision in law is about the goods — the physical, material objects in question — and NOT whether a merchant has or has not a business “presence” in the state. The latter argument is specious. If such a situation were to allow taxation on that basis, goods traveling between Seattle and California might well be rendered subject to taxation in the state of — say — New York, if the merchant doing the exporting from Seattle had a business “presence” in the Empire State. In fact, in some cases, I swear there are state governments which would and have held that to be JUST the case. The greedy hand of government knows no bounds and no shame unless We the Little People act to keep it in check.
And the plaint that the state must “forego” the revenue I find utterly dispicable, as it assumes that the state has a natural right to steal the sustenance of its citizens without let.
So: go spend money with Amazon. And give hell to those merchants who collude with the government to steal from you that to which neither state nor merchant has a right.
Cross-posted at Eternity Road.