Could There Be Referenda on Taxes?

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Andrew Ray alerted me to the referendum provison in the Slovak Constitution. The document is easy to read and has a number of interesting features, such as its guarantees of “positive rights”, but let’s leave that all aside. The referendum provisions, excluding the details, say

“(2) A referendum can be used to decide also on other important issues of public interest.

(3) Basic rights and liberties, taxes, levies, and the state budget cannot be the subject of a referendum.”

This astonished Mr. Ray who wrote

“Its kind of incredible to me that taxes are outside the realm of what ‘tax subjects’ (this is the term used in Slovak, not tax payer) here might be able to directly vote on!”

And I agree that it is incredible from the perspective of any sensible theory of government that takes the rights of citizens seriously, thoroughly and consistently. But clearly this Constitution doesn’t. It guarantees a job and an auspicious environment, but not a right to gather a petition on taxes and alter them. I am certain that a Slovak or any kind of statist will provide me with many arguments that this is not viable and not practicable. I can hear them now, remonstrating with me that no government could run on the basis that its citizens could instigate changes in taxes. (Citizens might even raise them too.) Well, maybe not. Maybe no government could operate that way, but doesn’t that suggest that consent of the governed is fraudulent? Doesn’t it suggest that basic rights like control over one’s property and government are actually unavailable?

2:13 pm on November 22, 2013
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