The Rise of Tax Slavery
March 5, 2002
time approaches, and Americans are as always paying H & R Block
billions to help them save some of their wealth from their ravenous
government. Pitiful, in a way: it underlines the grim but unacknowledged
fact that the government is their enemy and they have to hire protection
But dont we enjoy
self-government? Well, if we have it, Id hardly say
we enjoy it. True, we arent being taxed by the monarch of Great
Britain, but our American-born rulers claim far more of our wealth than
the British monarchs ever did.
The first income tax was imposed
during the Civil War under President Abraham Lincoln you know,
the Great Emancipator. He is known for abolishing chattel slavery in
seceding states; he is less well-known for introducing tax slavery in all
the states. Thats one reason why the libertarian Lysander Spooner
opposed both sides in the war: he said the South was fighting for chattel
slavery, while the North was fighting for political slavery. Political
The government was just getting its
foot in the door. The top tax rate at first was 5 per cent. And that was
only on relatively high incomes.
The U.S. Supreme Court, which in
those days paid some attention to the Constitution, struck down the
income tax several times. So, in the days of Woodrow Wilson, the
Sixteenth Amendment was adopted, giving Congress the power to impose
an income tax.
the first tax rates were low by todays standards. A bachelor had to
make about $50,000 a year in todays money before he paid a 1 per
cent tax; the top rate was 7 per cent, and only the very rich paid it.
But within a few years the country
was at war the war to end all wars, youll
recall and the tax rates were raised very high. Over time, the tax
code became enormously complex, while the debasement of money drove
ordinary people into tax brackets originally aimed at the rich. The
government, needless to say, was impenitent and unapologetic about what
looked very much like a bait-and-switch operation.
Along the way, the Federal
Government greatly expanded its own powers, no longer bothering to
amend the Constitution. The welfare state, though flagrantly
unconstitutional, created broad political support for usurped powers.
Franklin Roosevelt, a president of multifaceted treachery, consciously
adopted the demagogic strategy of buying votes by soaking the rich.
Federal programs, all
unconstitutional, have continued to multiply and expand. We now live in
what Hilaire Belloc dubbed the Servile State, in which one
part of the population is forced to support the other. Yet the average
American is unaware of the total transformation and repudiation of the
original American Republic. To the extent he knows of it at all, he has
been taught to think of it as progress. He doesnt
realize that most of the taxes he pays are spent for purposes unauthorized
by the Constitution.
Today liberals howl in protest when
President Bush proposes to cut the top tax rate to 33 per cent! One might
ask whether there is any moral limit to what the government can take
from us; but the point is that, under the Sixteenth Amendment, there is no
That amendment, the welfare state,
and shifty interpretation of Congresss power to
regulate commerce have combined to enable the Federal Government to
impose a socialist or fascist system while feebly pretending to honor the
Constitution. It illustrates how tyranny may creep in under the outward
forms of traditional law.
Will Americans ever awaken to what
has happened to their country? Some vigilant souls have seen it all along.
Many were aware of it long before I was. No doubt more are learning every
It may seem doubtful that the truth
will penetrate enough people to reverse the trend. Passivity, ignorance,
cowardice, venality, and sheer discouragement will always keep the
majority acquiescent. The governments greatest strength is the
enormous numbers who depend for their income on its abuse of the taxing
power. They sense that a return to constitutional government would be a
disaster for them.
But a vigorous and intelligent
minority, if it refuses to surrender, can do wonders. The good news is that
such a minority already exists, and it is growing.