As we debate the pros and cons of Measure 2 we should take a look at the history of property taxes and whether this form of taxation is relevant in our modern economy and society.
In Glenn W. Fisher’s book The Worst Tax he states “that taxes based on ownership of property were used in ancient times, but the modern tax has roots in feudal obligations owned to British and European kings or landlords. The growth of the property tax in America was closely related to economic and political conditions on the frontier. In pre-commercial agricultural areas the property tax was a feasible source of local government revenue and equal taxation of wealth was consistent with the prevailing equalitarian ideology”.
Noted tax economist Frederick C. Stocker has observed that the property tax “resembles a structure designed by a mad architect erected on shaky foundation by an incompetent builder, and made worse by the well-intentioned repair work of hordes of amateur tinkers.”
All the special interests that oppose Measure 2: Chamber of Commerce, League of City’s, Association of County’s, Townships, actually support getting rid of property tax by their use of deferring property taxes to their chosen individuals and businesses. I call this Corny Capitalism. It is not the purpose of government to choose winners and losers, only to provide a level playing field for all those involved in the economy. Measure 2 will provide for the level playing field for all those involved in North Dakota’s economy.
As to the issue of the lawsuit the proponents filed against the above named organizations it is beyond question that they are funded with taxpayer dollars. It is also a fact that North Dakota law states that taxpayer dollars not be used for political activities.
In our modern economy property makes no demands of government for either services or redistribution of wealth. Only people make demands of government for services and redistribution of wealth. I contend that we should use people taxes and not property taxes for the support of the government.
The issue of local control is used by the opponents of Measure 2. This is a real canard. When you go to a local board meeting whether it is City, County or School Board the board or council members, when debating an issue they always state “we have to act in this way because of dictates from the Federal, or State Government.” There is no such thing as local control in our modern government, only dictates from the Federal and State Governments.
F. Kenneth Olafson is a former North Dakota state legislator, serving in the House from 1980 to 1984.