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April 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-7


A Commentary on Property and Taxation


Part 11



Assuming you read the prior passages of this essay, there’s a chance you may have gotten the distinct impression that I thoroughly despise the income tax.  If you have failed to get that impression, then I have failed in my mission.  Furthermore, the essays were written to do more than impart my visceral reaction to this type of tax.  They were also written to give you some insight into why I feel this practice is counterproductive and poses a very real and serious threat to our individual liberties.  Hearken back to previous discussions: 


It has been well said that, “The property which every man has is his own labor, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable.  The patrimony of the poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his own hands, and to hinder his employing this strength and dexterity in what manner he thinks proper, without injury to his neighbor, is a plain violation of the most sacred property.”  (Emphasis added).     (Butchers’ Union Co. v. Crescent City Co., 111 U.S. 746, p. 757, 1883).


The third ingredient towards constituting the vigor of the executive authority is an adequate provision for its support.  It is evident that without proper attention to this article, the separation of the executive from the legislative department would be merely nominal and nugatory.  The legislature, with a discretionary power over the salary and emoluments of the Chief Magistrate, could render him as obsequious [submissive] to their will as they might think proper to make him.  They might, in most cases, either reduce him by famine, or tempt him by largesses (sic), to surrender at discretion his judgment to their inclinations.  These expressions, taken in all the latitude of the terms, would no doubt convey more than is intended.  There are men who could neither be distressed nor won into a sacrifice of their duty; but this stern virtue is the growth of few soils; and in the main it will be found that a power over a man’s support is a power over his will.  If it were necessary to confirm so plain a truth by facts, examples would not be wanting, even in this country, of the intimidation or seduction of the executive by the terrors or allurements of the pecuniary arrangements of the legislative body. (Emphasis added).  (Federalist Papers, No. 73).


Next to permanency in office, nothing can contribute more to the independence of the judges than a fixed provision for their support.  The remark made in relation to the President is equally applicable here.  In the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.  And we can never hope to see realized in practice the complete separation of the judicial from the legislative power, in any system, which leaves the former dependent for pecuniary resources on the occasional grants of the latter.  The enlightened friends to good government in every State have seen cause to lament the want of precise and explicit precautions in the State constitutions on this head (topic).  Some of these indeed have declared that permanent * salaries should be established for the judges; but the experiment has in some instances shown that such expressions are not sufficiently definite to preclude legislative evasions.  Something still more positive and unequivocal has been evinced to be requisite.  The plan of the convention accordingly has provided that the judges of the United States “shall at stated times receive for their services a compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”  (* Vide Constitution of Massachusetts, Chapter 2, Section 1, Article 13).  (Italics in original, bold added).  (Federalist Papers, No. 79).


“ . . . a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will . . . ” Because Hamilton took the occasion, regarding both the executive and the judicial branches, to drive home this lesson, it is quite apparent that he considered this a very significant and consequential instruction.  He stipulates even more clearly, that to make the judiciary dependent for pecuniary resources (their daily bread) on the occasional grants of the latter (legislative), would make them submissive to the will of the legislature. Those efforts that had already been made were not sufficiently definite to preclude legislative evasions.  Something still more positive and unequivocal has been evinced to be requisite.  He stated that an effort more definite in restraining the legislature had been made because the legislative branch could not be trusted in all instances.  Which of us could take issue with him?


Allow me to expand on my comments about Article II.  There you were introduced to the argument that income tax could produce this not-so-peculiar phenomenon.  It’s true that income tax works in kind of a backward fashion.  That is, most of us are not directly reliant on the government for our pecuniary sustenance; but because income tax has a little questioned claim on the fruits of our labor, we are dependent on the goodwill of the legislative branch for whatever they leave us.  The precedent for this has been long established, and now it is just a question of how much they demand.  It can be anywhere between 0 and 100 percent.  Presently, it seems that the tax rate selected and upon whom it is enforced is calculated to generate the maximum amount of revenue without causing a revolution (whether that revolution be armed or merely at the ballot box is open to some question at present.  More people are refusing to comply every year).  In any event, it does leave the productive portion of society very dependent on the legislative branch.  Consequently, income tax, with its many rates, targets, and tax breaks, can and is being used to shape our wills and manipulate our actions.


If we believe this condition of dependency on the goodwill of the legislative branch is unsuitable and unacceptable for those of such persuasion as the President and “supreme (sic) Court judges,” what of the rest of us?  How much less able we are to resist the predation of a legislative branch that holds our pecuniary resources ransom to the behavior they desire on our part.


When the sovereign individual no longer has undisputed first claim to the fruits of his labor, he no longer has undisputed first claim to the property of his own labor.  He has been reduced to the condition of a serf.  If we are to survive as a free and sovereign people, it is entirely necessary that the use of income tax be banished forever from the whole of this land.  That means repealing the Sixteenth Amendment and eliminating the IRS, not just as we know it, but branch, stem, and root as well.


The vast majority of us probably agree there is a need for government, even a federal government.  But it must be a limited government — one that abides by the proscriptions embedded in the Constitution.  Also, it will have to be funded if it is to be of any real value.  How in the world can we do this without an income tax?  Don’t despair; there is an answer.  And not to worry, this is not some hair-brained scheme I’ve just now pulled out of my hat.  Trust me.  Well, if you don’t trust me, won’t you at least give our Founding Fathers the benefit of the doubt?


Our Founding Fathers gave us two general types of tax, direct and indirect:  “No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the census . . . ” (Emphasis added).  (Article I, Section 9).  Please take note that any direct tax that was to be levied was to be proportional and NOT progressive — and it was to be levied on the state.  A capitation is a head tax, meaning so many dollars per person.  As an example:  if the nation’s budget was a million dollars and there were one million (1,000,000) citizens in the nation, and a given state had a population of one hundred thousand (100,000) people (10 percent of the population of the nation), then that state would be liable for $100,000in tax, a proportion of 10 percent of the budget.  Then that state would be taxed at the rate of one dollar for each citizen.  The state would then be responsible for the collection of the tax.  (Our present lawmakers eschew this method entirely because it’s highly visible, and they know the people would refuse it.)




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