Taxing a Minority to Fund Government — What Would James Madison Say?

July 23, 2007

Given the debate in Washington over raising the cigarette tax on a minority of individuals only to pay for a spending program that has broad public benefits (SCHIP), we thought it would be a good time to remind people of the foundations of liberty upon which this country was supposedly founded-at a time when principled individuals were actually concerned with the abuse known as a tyranny of the majority.

It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.

— James Madison (Fourth President and “Father of the Constitution”), Federalist Paper 51

There is no better illustration of this tyranny than in the state of Wisconsin where these two headlines appeared in the same week:

Beer Tax Proposal Falling Flat

Lawmakers Continue Push for Higher Cigarette Tax

The latter article is proof of the tyrannical mindset of many in power as one of the sponsors of the cigarette tax hike, Mark Pocan (D-Madison), says that the cigarette tax should be raised because it’s “politically easy.” Unbelievable. Why not impose a special excise tax on people who have two vowels in their last name? It’s makes about as much sense as arbitrarily choosing smokers to fund various government programs that have nothing to do with smoking.

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