Friday, September 4, 2009

Damn Yankees.

A recent trip to New England has shown me just how fragile this federal union of fifty sovereign states is, where money is concerned.

It seems the good people of New England, and their evil agents in government, have cast aside the idea that commerce among the several states should be conducted as among equals, each respectful of the others and treating citizens of one as they would treat their own citizens.

I refer to the practice of charging higher prices for public services to people from out of state. I encountered it in highway tolls and state-park use fees, and I vaguely recall some other instance of it that doesn't immediately come to mind.

Personally, I think this is a wonderful idea, and am drafting letters to the pliable and mercenary members of the Texas Legislature (i.e., all of them) suggesting that the time has come to raise costs for people from out of state. We should, for example, slap a nonresident-use surcharge on airports and toll roads and state parks, for starters. We should arrange it so that, when you have to type your zip code into the gas pump to get your credit card to work, out-of-state zip codes should have their gasoline taxed extra. Speeding ticket charges for cars with out-of-state license plates should be higher. We already charge more for out-of-state students at our state universities, so that's taken care of; but why not have a two-tiered sales tax?

Seriously, though: all these things were genuine issues 'way back in the early years of our republic, and the law's consensus was that -- if I remember right -- the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution prohibited a state from charging out-of-state Americans more for the same services. I think maybe we ought to get back to that.

Correction (9/5/09): It's the "Privileges and Immunities" clause. This, from Blake v. McClung, a Supreme Court case of 1898:

The right of a citizen of one state to pass through or to reside in any other state for the purposes of trade, agriculture, professional pursuits, or otherwise; to claim the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus; to institute and maintain actions of any kind in the courts of the state; to take, hold, and dispose of property, either real or personal; and an exemption from higher taxes or impositions than are paid by the other citizens of the state,-may be mentioned as some of the particular privileges and immunities of citizens, which are clearly embraced by the general description of privileges deemed to be fundamental....

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