Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Open Letter to Jim McIngvale

Dear Mr. McIngvale,

I recently read a story about the Greater Northside Management District (GNMD) suing you for back taxes. The Chronicle quotes you as saying, “To me, it's taxation without representation. If they were doing something that was benefiting the area, I would pay.”

I have a great deal of respect for your business acumen and admire your willingness to challenge this tax. But this isn't a very compelling argument, for it concedes the moral high ground to the GNMD.

Consider the phrase "taxation without representation". The underlying premise is that if you are represented then taxation is acceptable; that if you have a vote (whether directly or indirectly) then your money can be forcibly taken. This is hardly a defense of your rights, for the right to vote is not a primary. What is primary is your right to life, and the right to property—which includes your money--is the only practical implementation.

Your rights are not subject to a vote. The purpose of government is to protect your rights, no matter how many people wish to violate them.

Apparently you do not agree with how GNMD has spent the money it has received, but this is irrelevant. As a quasi-government entity, GNMD has the power to force you to cede your money for purposes it determines. Indeed, this is the nature of all taxation--government coercion is used to obtain revenues.

The quote I cited above implies that you would gladly pay the taxes if you saw some benefit. But what if that benefit is short-lived? You will still be forced to support GNMD. And what of other business owners who do not see benefits or would prefer to use their money for other purposes? They too will be forced to support GNMD without their consent.

The issue is not taxation with or without representation. The issue is your moral right to use your property as you judge best. And that right applies to all individuals.

The alleged goals of GNMD can easily be accomplished through a voluntary association of businesses. Such associations are common--indeed, you are likely a member of a number of such organizations. Such associations are based on the consent of each member, who is free to sever his membership when he no longer sees benefits. But unlike a government entity, such associations cannot use force against others. Such associations require the voluntary agreement of its members, rather than the forced obedience of GNMD.

If you wish to win your fight, you must seize the moral high ground. You must defend your rights, not on the basis of practical benefits (or the lack thereof), but on moral grounds. You--and all individuals--have a moral right to live your life and use your property as you choose, so long as you respect the mutual rights of others. Nobody--including government--has a right to compel you to act contrary to your judgment (unless of course, you have violated the rights of others).

You are one of Houston's great success stories. You have taken risks that others would not, and you did so because you judged those risks to be worth taking. You were free to act as you deemed appropriate. You have never relinquished that right. Defend it with the same moral certainty and conviction that has helped you build Gallery Furniture.

Brian Phillips

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