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Professor Perspective: Taxation and Tyranny in Anderson v. Healey

Majority rules? Not when it comes to taxation, according to New England Law | Boston Professor Lawrence Friedman. That's the case at hand with Anderson v. Healey, which the Supreme Court heard on February 6. He shared his opinion with the New England Law Review, and you’ll find a preview of that blog below.

Tasked in 1779 with drafting a new constitution for Massachusetts, John Adams envisioned a form of government designed not to thwart democracy but to channel its best impulses and discourage the worst. Adams believed individual liberty would be secure and tyranny held at bay only so long as the great powers of government were separated and each branch appropriately checked. As stated in Article 30 of the Massachusetts Constitution, the goal was a government “of laws and not of men.”

On February 6, the Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments in a case that threatens to undermine Adams’ constitutional vision. In Anderson v. Healey, the court is faced with the question whether a majority of the people can amend the constitution by initiative to impose a tax on a minority of their fellow citizens. The Massachusetts Attorney General is defending the initiative petition as valid under the Constitution; if she prevails, the proposal will provide a roadmap for citizens seeking to impose taxes on nearly any group that it can convince a majority of the people should be taxed.

Read the rest of Professor Friedman’s blog on the New England Law Review website.