‘I pay a lot of taxes in this town…’
For instance, the whole idea of “pursuit of happiness” depends on equality of opportunity. If property owners should have more say in government than non-property owners, it seems to follow that bigger property owners should have more say than smaller property owners. Apportion power this way, and one would expect the rulers over time to use their votes to aggrandize their own power and wealth, and adopt policies that will cut their own tax rates at the expense of programs, like those supporting education, that will help poorer families make their way up the ladder. Make power proportional to wealth, in other words, and what will tend to emerge is an aristocracy.
In fact, bluntly, this is pretty much what we are seeing now at the national level—not because votes have been apportioned to property ownership in the literal sense, but because dollars spent on lobbying and Supreme Court decisions equating money with free speech have effectively given the wealthy more power than everybody else. This has solidified the power of a small elite and is increasingly keeping the poor and middle class from bettering themselves.
Barring a radical turnover in the composition of the Supreme Court, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot that we can do about this problem at the national level. But we can at least be more vigilant at the local level. And one way is to be more reflective about seemingly innocuous phrases like “I pay a lot of taxes in this town,” and what they imply about local governance.
We all have a stake in our communities. We all pay in accordance with our means. Our contributions range from taxes to volunteer work to acts of neighborly kindness to the goods and services we provide to our neighbors via our jobs. We should all have a voice in our community meetings. And those voices should be given equal weight, regardless of what we own.