Recently, the Colorado legislature passed, and their Governor signed, a law that authorizes the state to collect sales tax from Amazon, based on their Amazon Associates program. That is the program where bloggers have ads and links on their blogs, and if a click-through results in a sale, the blogger is paid a small commission.
I haven’t had time to read all the analysis, but essentially the new law declares that the Amazon Associates establishes a business presence for Amazon in the state, making these sales subject to Colorado sales tax that Amazon would be required to collect. There is apparently a huge amount of red tape holding the whole thing together.
Immediately, Amazon dropped all their Colorado Associates. Can you blame them? Why put your face intentionally in the way of a swinging fist when you can just leave and take your toys someplace where they place nicely?
Also, how is the Amazon Associates program, which is essentially just an online advertisement, any different from, say, taking out a magazine or newspaper ad? If Amazon decided to take out an ad in The Denver Post, would that give them a business presence in Colorado? The very notion is absurd. How is a blog that happens to be written by someone who lives in Colorado any different?
Now, the bloggers are fighting back. Notably, Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong, two leading Objectivist intellectuals/writers/activists, have taken up the cause. Ms. Hsieh has launched a website, Repeal The Amazon Tax, where they have begun a campaign to have the legislation overturned. There is also a Google Group that you can join to get updates on the campaign; Mr. Armstrong has been heading up that front. My hope is that they succeed.
Why should I care, sitting here at home in Los Angeles? What dog do I have in this race?
Here’s why I care: Because the intrusion of government, (at all levels: federal, state and local,) into the lives of the normal, law-abiding citizenry, cannot keep accellerating. It’s not just growing, it is accellerating. It’s like a Prius, careening out of control (if you believe any of that hype.)
I have been doing a lot of soul-searching, as I watch, to my dismay, as my fellow Californians vote to pass stupid tax increases and pointless bond measures like it's nothing at all. From sales tax increases for pointless mass-transit projects, to Governor Arnold and his complete inability to manage his way out of a paper bag, let alone manage such an enormous entity as the State of California. Then you have the L.A. City Council and local government, wasting money and playing favorites left and right. The City Attorney has found a neat way to quash both property and free speech rights by cracking down with his regulatory iron fist, upon those giant supergraphics that they like to wrap buildings with these days. (That one is a real shame, since the supergraphics often improve the buildings' appearance too.)
Through it all, the voice in my head has been getting louder, asking with all seriousness: do I really want to stay in California, if this is going to be how it's going to be? But then, is it really going to be any better anywhere else? Should I stay and fight? But that is a another question for another time.
The issue at hand for today is: Can a small group of dedicated, principled, freedom-fighting Coloradans defeat this tax?
If so, then I might feel like there’s some hope for the rest of us.
And, I pledge my solidarity, by declaring that
We Are All Coloradans
or, at least, this blogger is.