Dont Cut Taxes Abolish
January 9, 2001
pettiness! The pettiness! We are now at the stage where bitter
fighting erupts over the president-elects nominees for cabinet
positions. Is John Ashcroft a racist? Did Linda Chavez illegally employ an
illegal immigrant in her home?
In Washington these questions are
being treated as life-and-death issues, preoccupying this power-obsessed
city as questions of war and peace or slavery and freedom once preoccupied
our ancestors. If this is what modern politics is all about, no wonder sensible
people ignore current events.
Squabbling has replaced debating.
Unlike our ancestors, we dont want to discuss basic questions of
political philosophy. Consider the thoughtful economic columnist for
Newsweek, Robert J. Samuelson. He says he has generally
opposed tax cuts: The arguments against them seemed
overwhelming: the booming economy didnt need further stimulating;
the best use of rising budget surpluses was to pay down the federal
debt. But he has changed his mind: A tax cut is now common
sense. We need it, he explains, to fight off a recession, though he
thinks George W. Bushs plan takes the wrong approach.
Samuelson speaks of
consumers rather than individuals or citizens. He thinks in
terms of the economy and government management of it
rather than the principles of justice and property rights. He assumes the
goal of maximizing aggregate wealth rather than giving every man his
In this he is, alas, all too typical of our
time. The taxing power of government is a given; there is no such thing as
unjust taxation, only tax rates so self-defeatingly high that the government
itself suffers along with consumers.
I nearly wept, during the presidential
campaign, when GWB said that nobody should have to pay more than a third
of his income in taxes. It was the first time in ages that Id heard a
major political figure suggest that taxes may actually be unfair to the
taxpayer. Suddenly I knew how a slave picking cotton must have felt when he
first heard rumors of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Chattel slavery in this country was
abolished in 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment. But tax slavery was
instituted in 1913 by the Sixteenth Amendment, which gave the federal
government limitless power to tax incomes. That is the chief reason most of
us now work nearly half the year just to pay taxes.
We are so inured to it that we
dont raise the fundamental questions: By what right does
government tax us in the first place? How much can we be justly said to owe
the government? Is there any point at which taxation becomes tyrannical?
And have we reached or passed that point?
Its tacitly assumed that a
government has the right to tax as much as it chooses. Only pragmatic
discretion limits government rapacity. The taxpayers sole defense is
an exceedingly feeble one: the vote. And that is offset by the fact that
people who live off the taxpayer can vote too.
Limitless taxation is the natural consequence of limitless
government. Spouses can be dumped, children can be aborted, parents can
be abandoned, but you cant divorce the state. It owns you. It may not
take everything you have even slaves have to be fed but
there is no defining line beyond which it recognizes taxation as robbery.
Knowing nothing of mine and thine, its an
enormous parasite. Once it can take anything, it can take everything.
The irrationality, not to mention
injustice, is appalling. The taxpayer is charged trillions for
defense he doesnt need, social
services he doesnt receive, and of course interest on a
debt he didnt incur. Though his own tax
debt is imposed without his consent or contractual
agreement, he is said to owe the government whatever it
demands of him.
Oliver Wendell Holmes is often quoted:
Taxes are the price we pay for civilization. Then why
dont higher taxes produce a higher civilization? At one time most
people assumed that chattel slavery was necessary to civilization too, and
would have thought it foolhardy and utopian to abolish the institution. Others
thought the military draft was necessary to national survival. Given a
chance, experience proved otherwise.
Maybe someday Americans will wake up
and realize that taxes are not only excessive, but wrong in principle. And
unnecessary except for that part of the population that expects to
be supported by others.
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