The tax rates that led American colonists to rebel

As part of my tireless campaign to be defriended by every user of Facebook, I posted the following:

Less than three months into the Trump Administration and already our neighbors are stocking up on guns and threatening violence against foreigners. #BritishLivesMatter [video]

As the British are vilified locally and our wars against them celebrated as just causes, I think it is worth remembering the actual situation. In “Tea, Taxes, and the Revolution” (Foreign Policy, 2012), we learn that there were big disparities in tax rates among the colonies:

By 1714, British citizens in Great Britain were paying on a per capita basis 10 times as much in taxes as the average “American” in the 13 colonies, though some colonies had higher taxes than others. Britons, for example, paid 5.4 times as much in taxes as taxpayers in Massachusetts, 18 times as much as Connecticut Yankees, 6.3 times as much as New Yorkers, 15.5 times as much as Virginians; and 35.8 times as much as Pennsylvanians.

Tax rates were low by modern standards, but seemingly destined to be raised:

By 1775, the British government was consuming one-fifth of its citizens’ GDP, while New Englanders were only paying between 1 and 2 percent of their income in taxes. British citizens were also weighed down with a national debt piled up by years of worldwide warfare that amounted to £15 for each of the crown’s eight million subjects, while American local and colonial governments were almost debt-free. Against this backdrop, Americans watched as the British monarchy attempted to raise taxes on the colonists to pay down its war debt and pay for the 10,000 British soldiers barracked in the colonies.

Happy Patriot’s Day to American readers. Happy Traitor’s Day to those in England.

7 Comments

  1. jack crossfire

    April 17, 2017 @ 1:34 pm

    1

    Nowadays, they would force everyone to buy the tea & impose a penalty for drinking coffee.

  2. toucan sam

    April 17, 2017 @ 3:19 pm

    2

    Nowadays they force everyone to buy a dysfunctional health care plan!

  3. Russil Wvong

    April 17, 2017 @ 4:03 pm

    3

    Personally, I think the problem in the US isn’t so much the taxes that you pay – it’s the poor public services that you get.

  4. Bill

    April 17, 2017 @ 5:54 pm

    4

    Poor public service is absolutely the issue in California. The taxes are crazy high and the roads are crap and public schools are not that great. SO where do they spend all the money???

  5. bobbybobbob

    April 17, 2017 @ 7:38 pm

    5

    I think they were way more annoyed about stuff like the Navigation Acts than the tax rate per se. The Brits were trying to keep the colonies reduced to a dependent export market.

  6. superMike

    April 17, 2017 @ 8:40 pm

    6

    @bill: Administration, gold plated everything. Cost disease.

  7. toucan sam

    April 17, 2017 @ 9:52 pm

    7

    Bill, the legislators in California have recently passed a 50 billion dollar tax increase to help out with the roads. Where is the outrage? Why does Trump’s wall which may cost half that a waste? It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

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