Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Growing Police State: Mileage Tax Edition

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. -US Constitution, Amendment IV

What is it about the Constitution that these people don't understand?  Regardless of the "incorporation" doctrine (which was made up by the Supreme Court), the 4th Amendment refers to a Right of the People.  That is, no authority in the US is allowed to take it away (see also: Amendments 9 & 10).

In California, specifically around the San Francisco Bay area, law makers want to track your car via GPS to see how many miles you drive, and tax you accordingly.  Now, I understand why, really.  Electric, or even just hybrid, cars really do use less gasoline (even if the savings doesn't make up the price difference for the car) and gasoline taxes are a major part of the transportation budget.  I get that.  I understand its a problem that needs to be addressed.  But you do not address it by violating the constitution, and my right to be secure in my person, home, papers, and effects supercedes the government's right to tax me based on how much I drive.

The Government doesn't get to know where I go and what I do.  Not without a warrant issued only "upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."  That means they don't get to read my GPS to see how far I've traveled.

And that avoids the bad acting that is sure to go on: things like taxing people for miles driven out of state, using these records (because they're already state records) as evidence in criminal trials, and so forth.  I don't even have to go there because the idea itself is clearly ludicrous.

There are answers to the electric / hybrid-car problem.  Personally, I'd love to see the gas tax done away with entirely, and have that revenue generated some other way.  Perhaps as a calculated amount added to your yearly registration fee or something (not sure how that would work out, though).  The specific answer does not matter, however: this is clearly government over-reach and should be vociferously opposed.


  1. Note... "a dime per mile"... that would be about 50% of what you pay for gas, as 20 miles per gallon and $4 per gallon.

  2. We're already taxed per mile. That's what gasoline is, and that's what expensive Bay Area gasoline is.

    1. Not exactly. We're taxed per gallon of gasoline. Given that your mileage can vary (even driving the same car), there's not a direct conversion.

      And the point isn't the tax, specifically, it's that the government has no right to track you via GPS. For that matter, what are they going to do with people who have older cars and no GPS?

  3. The problem is you can't catch everyone no matter which way you go. Not everyone uses gasoline (rediculous electric cars), not everyone pays to register their car (or even insure it). There are going to be holes no matter what, it's just a case of finding the way with the least holes. I don't like a gas tax, I'm cheap, but I can't think of a less 'holey' way either. I'll also note that I find it MUCH preferable to GPS tracking. I would totally invest the money to keep my GPS free car running just to be a pain in the ass.