Like Virginians in 1776, North Dakotans have an opportunity to reclaim an arm full of liberty today…or not
On this day in 1776 Virginia representatives adopted “The Virginia Declaration of Rights” as a key component of Virginia’s new constitution. The Declaration was crafted by George Mason and greatly influenced Thomas Jefferson while he was drafting the Declaration of Independence. It was also used as a template in the crafting of our “Bill of Rights.” Virginians defiantly held the light of liberty up in the face of those who professed to be their masters and in one voice said they are free from the shackles that bound them to the crown. They proclaimed, ” that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”
You can read the entire Virginia Declaration of Rights here.
It was a moment in our nation’s history that shifted the mindset from a government centered approach to an individual centered approach in terms of governance. Its impact helped shape the way Americans viewed rights, liberties, and their relationship with government. On this day the anniversary of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, North Dakotans have an opportunity to reclaim an arm full of liberty by voting YES on measure two and reclaiming their property rights by eliminating property taxes. The forces of big government have the upper hand as they have the money to bombard the airwaves with anti-measure two propaganda. They also have the media in their corner as well a large number of special interest groups who want a piece of North Dakota’s $5 billion dollar budget surplus. It appears they have successfully sold the idea that the reclamation of liberty and property rights will bring about the end of funding for all schools, road projects, police and fire departments even though the way the measure is worded the state is constitutionally mandated to not only fund these programs, but to also make them the priority. They have successfully persuaded the people that they will lose local control over their budgets even though the budget will still be developed on the local level. And finally they have managed to convince many North Dakotans that it’s better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
This is what measure two is up against; well organized and funded opposition that does not have the taxpayer’s best interest in mind. They have their own interests in mind. And to be honest their efforts to twist and distort the truth about the elimination of property taxes have had an impact. An example of this impact can be found in a conversation I had yesterday with a conservative woman I know. On my way home from work I stopped at a local store and struck up a conversation with the woman behind the counter. I reminded her that today was election day. Knowing I was politically engaged, she asked me how I was going to vote on measure two. I told her I was going to vote for liberty over enslavement. Her eyes widened as she asked me if that would be a yes on measure two. I said absolutely. She expressed deep reservations about voting yes on measure two. She told me they would recover the lost revenue from property taxes in some other manner. I told her it would not be justified with a $5 billion dollar surplus. She then said that local communities would be forced to beg the state for funding. I said absolutely not, the way the measure is worded forces the state to fund the counties, townships, and cities first before giving money to special interest groups. Her jaw dropped. What do you mean they give money to special interest groups first she asked? I told her under the constitution as it is written now there is no requirement for the state to fund county, city, or township priorities first. Measure two changes that. I then told her that measure two not only enhances individual property rights, but gives the taxpayer more power over their elected officials because special interest group are pushed to the back of the line behind the individual. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t heard any of this before now. The conversation ended with her saying she needed to rethink her position.
This same story line is playing out all over North Dakota because people simply do not know the facts and as I said opposition forces have been so successful at peddling their snake oil about property taxes. She is not the first person that I’ve encountered with the same position for the same reasons. She’s not dumb or ignorant. She’s just misinformed and this is why I believe measure two will fail today, Opposition forces have successfully saturated the airwaves with this misinformation about measure two and like a disease it has spread to many North Dakotans. In my opinion the good people over at empower the taxpayer underestimated the organization and funding of the opposition forces that lined up against measure two. Additionally I think they thought this was a no brainer and the majority of North Dakotans who pay the 10th highest property taxes in the nation would wrap their arms around this notion. Sadly that has not been the case based on my own observation. This is why I believe we will let this opportunity slip through our fingers. Not because elimination of property tax is a bad idea, but because people don’t know facts and haven’t bothered to dig any deeper than the campaign ads against it. The “Spirit of 1776” is not with us. For those citizens who attempt to do this in the future in other states, learn from this. Property taxes are immoral and the only way we’re ever going to shift the mindset is to inform the public and learn from our mistakes. It’s time for people to embrace liberty once again; however my gut feeling tells me that today will not be that day.
Liberty forever, freedom for all!