After many years, it may finally be possible for Washington DC to become the 51st state of the United States. This Wednesday, both houses of Congress introduced a bill that would make the district a part of the United States. The bill reportedly has 202 co-sponsors, making the odds of its passing increasingly likely.
In a country founded in rebellion of taxation without representation, it’s crazy to believe that there is still an area that is voiceless. Despite the idea that many likely have of DC mainly consisting of temporary residents who will leave at the end of their political careers, there are many long-time residents.
Currently, the district has no senators and their sole representative is a mere delegate who may draft legislation, but can only vote on procedural and committee matters. Residents pay more taxes than 22 other states and have the same obligations, but aren’t able to vote on budgeting or laws.
In 2016, an overwhelming 86% of the citizens of the district voted in favor of a referendum to become the 51st member of the union. Despite these facts, some believe that the push for statehood is merely a power-grab by the current Democratic majority to gain more representation in Congress.
Truthfully, DC statehood doesn’t check too many boxes in libertarian orthodoxy, and one’s larger concerns may determine how much support is given. It all depends on which point of view one takes: the citizens’ or the government’s.
The philosophy argues that taxation is theft because of its extortive nature, but for most citizens, there are ways to decrease this burden or become a part of the leadership that determines taxes. This is not the case for the District of Columbia, making their situation sublimely worse.
DC statehood would bring its citizens out of this quasi-monarchical scenario where they have their paychecks pilfered, but zero power to fix it. While all who live under taxation have little power individually, this is largely better than wielding none at all.
From this point of view, a libertarian would absolutely support DC’s citizens. Waving their banner would be akin to the American patriots gaining independence from the British.
However, DC statehood does create two additional senators and multiple new congressmen which could be regarded as an increase in government power. More leaders create more opportunities for expansive legislation whether it be from the left or right.
This issue is assuredly a utilitarian one and a pragmatic one. The argument comes down to whether the balance of a potential increase in government power is worth it for the increase in freedoms to the district’s citizens.
For this author, the tradeoff is worth it. Libertarianism should seek to maximize liberty for as many people as possible and DC statehood brings more rights to nearly 700,000 citizens. Regardless of one’s views on voting and government, this would be marvelously better for those people than remaining what is essentially a US colony.