Municipal Misfeasance & Obedience — Preserving Financial Civility in America

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Why not Christmas Day? Great conquerors are never bereft of panache. William the Conqueror was no exception, selecting as he did December 25, 1066 for his coronation. Aside from a God complex after defeating the designated successor to Edward the Confessor, William knew a thing or two about how pricey conquering can be. The good news was he had a mind for math. To properly plan for his reign over the England he now claimed as his own, he created the property tax. To dispense the levy forthwith, William gathered his closest lieutenants, divvied up the great island nation and demanded he be paid in return for his generosity and protection. Future kings maintained this system and even exported it to the ends of their reach, including those lucrative new colonies across the Atlantic.

Famously one of those new colonies would become America. And, true to form, as it had during the dark feudal era, the property tax system in the fledgling American colonies initially thrived. King James pledged to protect those first Jamestown settlers in exchange for a share of the new lands’ profits. Better yet, the taxes remitted back to England grew with every inch of land the colonizers seized, occupied and recast as their very own “New” this or “New” that. In the spirit of up-and-up and legal legitimacy, all 13 of the original colonies’ charters contained property tax statutes.

Of course, things got a bit thorny when those upstart Americans started a Revolution and won, leaving no king with open coffers for the remittance of all those lovely taxes. Never you mind, as it turns out, starting a country is costly, and the new American government desperately needed the money. And so our first leaders innovated, creating a uniquely American federal tax code. As with most new things, there was a fair amount of disgruntlement among the freedom loving populace who from time to time would revolt against such strictures. But the system somehow held, though not in the name of royal enrichment, but rather infrastructural practicality. It came down to the property taxes collected being expended at the local level to pay for such things as bridges, canals and roads, all of which increased the value of taxpayers’ property.

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Danielle DiMartino Booth is CEO and Director of Intelligence at Quill Intelligence

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