The following is a cross-post from The Jacksonian Party.
When looking at the US Constitution I take a view of it as a structuralist, that is to say that the form of government is given as a structure that has a number of interlocking parts that are defined, limited and created to serve a purpose. Structural analysis means that you take the words as they are presented in the context of the English language. I laid this out in Structural analysis of Amendment II, and that rests on the work that I looked at earlier by Nicholas Rosencranz who laid out how the sentence structure of the English language creates the structure of government in the Subjects and Objects of the Constitution. The lineage of the US Constitution starts with agreements outlined in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and King Alfred all the way through to Bill of Rights put in place with James II, which I went over in Roots of constitutional government. For this article I'm going to be building off my article on Taxation via sales.
Taxation was part of the trigger for the US Revolution and it is understood that the Founders and Framers both had a view that taxation is a necessary evil to run the organ of society known as government. As a necessary evil it must be limited so that it does not over stress the body which is society that requires the functioning of government to do the few and necessary things to allow for the individuals to be free. With that said taxation takes many forms and the US Congress gets some particular types taxation in Art I, Sec 8, in part:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
If Congress was getting the complete taxation power with this clause then there would be no need to put in Duties, Imposts and Excises, now, would there? In fact it took an Amendment for Congress to get the income tax, and even that Amendment has been misused as it nowhere indicates that Congress may levy different taxes on different income levels. The Progressive Income Tax requires not just the Income Tax part, but a specific exemption of the Privileges and Immunities clause and Amendment V and Due Process of Law which is to be applied equally to all citizens. Be that as it may, later in Sec 8 is a clause that indicates what the scope of the Taxation power actually is:
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
Duties, Imposts and Excises are generally taxes aimed at the National level and at international trade. Thus the regulatory or regularizing power of Congress writing law in support of Treaties or, in cases where there are no trade treaties, setting the Nation's tax policy towards importation of goods to sustain trade, thus are complementary to the Duties, Imposts and Excises previously mentioned. That is to say there is an explicit venue given for the Taxation power that is complete for Congress for international trade modified by Treaties. Thus even where it is a complete power it is one that has limitations via Treaty.
Next is Sec 9 where one tax power is restricted and then modified by Amendment:
No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid,
unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken .
This is the first outright restriction to the Taxation power and now limiting it. Do note that this is a passive clause and that it does not mention Congress nor does it mention any other branch or any other government. Thus this applies to all governments and all branches of all governments in the United States. Remember in Sec 8 there is the language 'The Congress shall have...' is an explicit grant of power and as all of Sec 8 is a single sentence with many semi-colons, all of that is covered under that. There is no need to repeat it per line as the separate grants are broken up for clarity's sake, for readability, and to let someone catch their breath if they had to read it as a single sentence.
In Section 9 each clause is a single, stand-alone sentence, complete in and of itself. These sentences are not started by explicit and active restrictions upon, say, Congress, but are passive and general in nature. The Framers were more than capable of starting a sentence 'Congress shall make no law...' but these clauses do not start with that beginning. As the Constitution is about the organization of the United States and what the role of the States shall be, when States require separate coverage they are mentioned, as in Sec 10, and I'm coming back to Sec 9, but here is the language on Taxation in 10:
No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.
With 'No State shall...' we are given a definitive subject and then a set of Objects with modifiers. It is this language that is absent in Sec 9 and without an actual Subject that is defined then the generalized Subject is being addressed to all levels of all governments.
Imposts and Duties on Imports or Exports is a linking of topics in Sec 10 and due to that linkage these powers are addressed to those objects. That explicit language and linkage then gives proper definition to the prior Congressional power on Imposts and Duties: Imports and Exports. If a State wants a special exemption it must go to Congress and that only for the necessary execution of inspection laws. By making those funds go to the US Treasury this is seen as a federal power granted to Congress and is for Imports and Exports.
Now back in Sec 9 there is the final clause and one that clearly de-limits powers and it is this:
No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.
As with the prior prohibition this one is given a passive voice and does not state 'Congress shall make no law...' nor does it start 'No State shall...' but, instead, addresses Taxation as a whole. This is a restriction on the Taxation power, itself. By not having either Congress or the States as the subject, as with the previous passive and standalone clause, this clause then addresses all governments in the United States.
This is an implicit restriction on taxation of goods moved from State to State on goods exported from one State to another State. No government may do this in the United States.
Now lets flip this around into a different arena and ask: what is the form of this restriction on an international scale?
The States of the United States are seen as Sovereign entities and actually have an escape hatch from the US Constitution embedded within it in Sec 10:
No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
This language also shows up later in the Constitution in Art IV:
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.
In Art IV, Sec 4 the guarantee of a Republican Form of Government is to the States, which are signatories to the US Constitution after ratification by the people of that State. The protections against having this subverted are to protect the States against Invasion and domestic Violence. In Art I, Sec 10 there are a set of powers that a State recovers if the United States does not support this and it is the ones they agree to set aside outside of these specific causes. When you examine that list you get the conception of the broad headings that the States recover in full upon invasion, imminent threat of Danger or having their government threatened with being overturned via non-Republican means are broad and sweeping. These powers are what we call the Foreign Policy power and the Military power, not just the defensive Militia power which is due to all men, but the assertive and external Military power. Also it regains all the taxation powers and the powers to build new military fortifications and equipment to guard itself.
In International Affairs a State with the full Foreign Policy, Military and Taxation power is known as an independent Nation State: a country.
Thus the States must have these powers to set aside in this agreement known as the US Constitution, as you cannot recover what you did not have to start with. That is simple logic.
Taking the US Constitution as a TREATY DOCUMENT and examining what the form of Taxation is we then come to a conclusion of the limitation on the Taxation power that is startling due to the understanding that is underlying it. It is the scope and form of Treaty that many who have argued on the necessity of unburdened trade have used at the International scale and has its full form seen with an organizations of States that agree to this view so as to have a coherent Nation amongst them.
What is a trade agreement that unburdens trade amongst equals and limits the power of an oversight group so that it may not burden such trade via direct taxation?
What is a trade agreement that sets up a system whereby sellers in one State that is signatory to the Treaty cannot have its goods or services taxed by a recipient State and its citizens?
What is the form of trade agreement that abolishes duties, imposts and excises save for necessary inspection and then those funds applied only to those inspections to ensure that agreed-upon legal trade is all that is going on between States?
Why this does have a modern term, doesn't it?
This is known as a FREE TRADE AGREEMENT.
Right there, in the US Constitution, powerfully stated by not being explicit, not a direct power grant, but by restricting all the governments involved, including the agreed-upon oversight body. It is one of the most subtle and yet powerful statements on the positive value of trade between States to knit a Union together and to allow that free men when trading with other free men in States that all fall under the Treaty shall have NO TAXATION applied to that direct sale from individual to individual, State to State.
And that means no 'Value Added Tax', 'Sales Tax' or any other thing not directly related to quantity, amount or hazard of a given good. Taxation for tonnage is also removed unless it has safety or verification inspections involved. The federal government can tax per gallon, per carton of cigarettes, or by any other gross weight and measure so long as it involves upkeep of infrastructure due to those particular items in the way of hazard or safety.
What no government can do is tax by VALUE of the trade involved.
Thus a nickel per gallon on tax is there without regard to the actual cost per galloon. It is there if it is a penny per gallon and it is there if it is ten thousand dollars per gallon: the quantity is what matters, not the value. And do note that is for interstate sales, only, so that in-State sales remain the realm of the State government.
Governments will always seek new sources of revenue and tax the hell out of anything they can get their hands on and yet still be unable to balance their budgets.
A free people have an 'out' from onerous taxation: our fellow citizens in the other States under this Free Trade Agreement embedded in the US Constitution. As a remedy to overburdening of taxes this is one of the most sublime resorts that the ordinary citizen has to escape taxes, become closer with his fellow citizens and support the Union between the States.
Because that is the realm of the Preamble of the US Constitution and note who is invoking it and what we promise to do:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.