18 Apr 2008 True Emancipation Would Be Something New to Celebrate
From David Almasi:
April 16 is a public holiday unique to the District of Columbia. It’s “Emancipation Day” – the commemoration of President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Compensation Emancipation Act in 1862. The Act freed the approximately 3,100 slaves in the nation’s capital months before the Emancipation Proclamation freed them in Confederate states.
Along with the closure of public offices and the government-run schools, parades and performances mix are sometimes mixed with political action. Most notably, the day is often used as a rallying point for efforts to make the federal district a full-fledged state with two senators and a representative.
But how about using Emancipation Day to call for an emancipation from burdensome government, rather than demanding more of it?
As pointed out in a Washington Times commentary by Project 21 member and new National Center Policy Analyst Casey Lartigue, Jr. on April 16:
The focus was – as it is usually is in D.C. – on political power rather than policies to make citizens freer. Not to take away from the oppression of slavery, but Emancipation Day is more than an opportunity to celebrate the end of the oppression of slavery. It also is a good time to note that lawmakers typically look backward at liberty’s advances rather than forward to find ways citizens can enjoy more personal freedom.
It won’t be until a week after Emancipation Day that Americans will observe “Tax Freedom Day,” the date when people essentially stop working to pay off their tax obligations and begin working for themselves. According to the Tax Foundation, April 23 is the national average. D.C. residents celebrate their particular Tax Freedom Day last – after all 50 states – on May 3…
Wouldn’t it be a pleasant surprise today, Emancipation Day, if Mr. Fenty and the D.C. Council announced cuts in government spending or extended the occasional “tax-free” shopping periods?
Another way city leaders could expand freedom is to extend school choice, at a minimum, to every low-income student living in the District. Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute recently pointed out that when all costs are divided by the number of students, the District of Columbia is spending close to $25,000 per child. The District essentially is providing mediocre public schooling at elite private school prices.
Casey did point out one bright spot on the horizon. Unfortunately, if this happens, this reform will not be by the hands of the District’s leadership but rather through a legal mandate from the U.S. Supreme Court:
When D.C. leaders can’t be relied on to extend freedom, others may help. The Supreme Court may soon step in to help D.C. residents by ending the city’s ban on firearms.
Since 1976, ownership of virtually all firearms in the District has been illegal. The gun ban hasn’t curtailed gun-related crimes against D.C. residents, but it robs them of the means of self-defense. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by June on a lower court’s rejection of the ban.
To see the full version of Casey’s commentary, click here.
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