Mahogany Quahog (Arctica islandica) is one of the longest living animal species in the world. Specimens of over 200 years of age are not unusual, and the oldest known specimen was 507 years old when it was collected alive. This means that many Quahogs that are peacefully filtering water on the ocean bottom right now were alive on December 16, 1773 and probably tasted the tea in the water even if they didn’t know what it was. New England Quahogs are probably the only living creatures that were present for the Boston Tea Party and then lived long enough for the state of Maine to tax them at $1.20 per bushel. It is too bad that this bivalve mollusk can’t appreciate the irony of his situation.
Why did Maine single out Mahogany Quahog (pronounced ko-hog) for taxation? This deep-water clam lives in waters of between 65 and 250 feet deep. Most Quahogs live in waters more than 3 miles offshore where fishing is regulated by the federal government, but here in Maine a subset of the species is found in shallower waters that are regulated by the State. Seafood wholesalers must file the Mahogany Quahog-specific Maine Revenue Service form QUA and pay the Mahogany Quahog tax. The tax is paid by the bushel according to the legislature, but the Maine Revenue Service used its regulatory power to declare that a bushel of Quahogs must weigh 80 pounds. Not only do they get taxed but even their weight per bushel (specific gravity) is regulated by the state. Many other species of clams are found and harvested in Maine waters, but only the Mahogany Quahog has its own special tax.Read more
As we embark on the exciting endeavor of registering 5,000 Mainers as Libertarians, I am sometimes asked about the level of support for libertarian ideas in the mainstream of our society. The libertarian party quiz shows plainly that most people value our ideals, but sometimes a specific case reveals how these ideals apply to real life scenarios.
When the case of Eric Garner first hit the news, strong emotion and outrage prevented any discussion of the factors that contributed to his death. The only topics that seemed appropriate in the mainstream were the issues of race and police conduct. When Senator Rand Paul talked about New York cigarette taxes as a contributing factor, he was widely ridiculed by commentators ranging from serious editorialists to Jon Stewart for insensitivity to race issues and misplaced focus.
With this in mind I was surprised to hear NPR's Robert Siegel confronting New York City police commissioner William Bratton on the issue of cigarette tax in this interview on NPR's All Things Considered on Friday.