2013-12-02

The Will Of The People

A question came to my mind as I was reading this Bloomberg story about the US Supreme Court's refusal to hear Amazon's case against the State of New York.

At issue is whether New York State can compel Amazon.com and Overstock.com to charge (and, ultimately, deliver to state coffers) sales tax on items distributed from outside of New York, but paid for and delivered to customers in New York. Amazon doesn't think the State of New York has a right to levy a state sales tax on them, while the State of New York feels it can and it must.

The usual rhetoric has been applied to the case, with the politicians declaring a need to "level the playing field" and the corporations declaring that government has no right to tax.

But let's leave the rhetoric aside. As I said above, a question came to mind as I was reading the article: What do the people want?

It seems unlikely to me that the average citizen of New York State wants to pay more sales tax. Obviously Amazon and similar corporations don't want to pay the sales tax. The will of the people seems unanimous: no one wants to pay this dumb tax.

But the State of New York nonetheless insists that the tax must be paid, and the Supreme Court has refused to contradict them, so paid the tax will be.

Whenever I see this kind of divergence from the obvious will of the people, two things happen to me. The first is that I sort of shake my head and wonder whether ordinary people will clue-in to the fact that they're the ones who have to change this. The second is that I start counting down to when Matthew Yglesias and/or Ezra Klein and/or some left-leaning person on my Facebook feed will come up with some hackneyed argument about how this dumb tax is really a good thing for everybody.

It's obviously not. Nobody wants this tax. But this is how things work now.