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April 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-7


A Commentary on Property and Taxation


Part 14



I would like to suggest one more arrow for our quiver, a purse — the “power of the purse,” to be more specific.  It is a power we tend to overlook completely or possibly never even realize that we have.  It is a power we have ceded away by our complacency.  We all learned about the separation of powers concerning the three branches of our federal government, and the checks and balances of one branch concerning another, in our high school government class.  The legislature can pass laws, and the president can veto them.  The president can sign an executive order, and the legislature can exercise the power of the purse and refuse to fund it.  Without the funding to enforce the order, it will have no effect.  With the involuntary nature of income tax, we are effectively denied our power of the purse and one of the most effective and peaceful means of restraining government.  In the interest of our posterity, if not ourselves, it is altogether necessary that we reclaim it.


9) “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.”  This sentence was first published in February of 1848.  It was written by Karl Marx and is the second plank of The Communist Manifesto.  If you have read The Communist Manifesto, you are aware that it was Mr. Marx’s proclaimed intention to wrest money and property away from the individual and cede it to every man in common in the form of the state.  Although I’m diametrically and utterly opposed to Marxist philosophy, I’m compelled to give the devil his due.  Marx knew exactly what he was doing, where he wanted to go, and how he was going to get there.  If one’s goal is to concentrate assets and power in the hands of a central government, I can think of nothing yet devised by man that is more successful and efficient than a progressive income tax.  It was well thought out.  In fact, it was a stroke of pure genius.


With the power in the hands of the state to enforce a progressive tax that, by its nature, is involuntary and applied unevenly, the once sovereign citizen of this country has been reduced to a condition of servitude.  If the master can extract even an involuntary 1 percent tax from its citizens, the precedent has been set.  It can just as easily be 50 or 100 percent.  The state now has the ability to determine just what level of economic independence you enjoy, no matter how talented you are, no matter how hard you work.  The balancing act is to keep you hungry enough to be dependent on the state’s largesse, which it has already taken from you, but not so hungry that you become discontented and revolt.  When the majority of citizens are made economically dependent on the state by the expropriation of the fruit of their labor through the application of an arbitrary progressive income tax, they will be subservient to the state, and the state is in control.  Our sovereignty as individuals and that of our posterity has been squandered.


10) An income tax, progressive or otherwise, is immoral and unjust.  Without question, the involuntary nature of the application of an income tax should offend our innate sense of justice.  You would undoubtedly feel violated and outraged if your next-door neighbor came into your house and removed the piano from your living room without your permission.  You would view him as a thief, and rightly so.  Would you view him any differently if he absconded with your wife’s jewelry box? Would it make a difference if he pilfered the egg money that she was saving in the cookie jar?  How about if he robbed you on your way home from cashing your paycheck on Friday afternoon, before you put the money in the cookie jar?  It would be a fair bet you would still regard him as a thief.


Does the situation appear any different to you if, instead of only one neighbor, all of the neighbors on your block did these very same things, but this time they acted in concert as a unit?  Is it not theft because they acted as a unit?  Now you live in a neighborhood of thieves, but they are still thieves.  What if your neighbors select one from among their number to act on their behalf to take the aforementioned articles of property from you without your consent?  Is it not theft because they selected one of their number to represent the whole?  What would happen if we take the selection process they used, accompany it with a public ceremony, and call it an election?  We now have a duly "(s)elected" official.  But when the official takes your property from you without your permission, on behalf of the electorate, how does this differ from the foregoing examples?  Is it not theft simply because he wears the mantle of the state?  Through the eyes of our current society, perhaps it is not; but as for me, it offends my sense of justice mightily.


We have been taught that our Founding Fathers went to war against England, the greatest power then on earth, over a 3 percent tax on tea.  This is inconceivable to me.  While they were undoubtedly unhappy about paying the tax, it is quite doubtful they were any more willing to take up arms over a 3 percent tax than we are over the confiscatory rates that besiege us today.  Were they a mob of impulsive, easily excited malcontents, or were they a group of thoughtful individuals of principle who understood there was more at stake than merely the prospect of ever-increasing tax levies?  It is surely the latter, and what they understood was this:  the unrestrained power of the state to involuntarily tax the individual was unjust and would, sooner or later, cost them their freedom.  In their mind, that indeed was solid reason to answer the call to arms.


In short, the progressive income tax is immoral and unjust.  It is a tool that can be used to deprive you not only of the fruit of your labor, but also of your God-given right of individual sovereignty.  It is my sincere opinion that, if we lay all other arguments aside, this reason alone would justify repealing the Sixteenth Amendment and the labyrinth of income tax laws that go with it.


As stated by Mr. Bethell, the right to private property in and of itself is not a sufficient condition to produce or guarantee liberty and the benefits thereof.  But the absence of a guarantee to the right to private property is a sufficient condition, in and of itself, to first stifle, and then when that right is extinguished, to inexorably extirpate from this land the condition of liberty bequeathed to us by our Founders.


In fact, without the benefit of private property, the individual is left without the economic wherewithal to even press his claim of liberty.  This is easy to visualize at the macro level.  A country without the economic wherewithal to fund an adequate army for the defense of its sovereign claims is a country that is at the mercy of its neighbors' whims.  It isn’t self-sufficient.  Under this condition, it cannot be self-reliant, and therefore it cannot be truly independent and free — an equal among nations.  Its sovereignty is dependent on the goodwill of its neighbors.  It is no different at the micro level of the individual.


The condition of dependency is abysmal enough when it is brought about because the individual doesn’t possess the capacity to create the necessary economic wherewithal to press the claim for himself.  It is truly appalling when the individual does possess the capacity, but government abdicates the responsibility for which it was established and will not help him protect the fruit of his labor.  It is beyond my ability to generate an adequate adjective to describe the condition that occurs when government actually becomes the instrument by which the condition of economic dependency of the individual is enforced.  But this is exactly the situation when government itself does not honor the individual’s right to private property.

As has been stated heretofore in these essays, the condition of liberty has not been the normal condition under which the vast majority of mankind has spent its days.  Almost always someone more powerful has condemned him to a life of subservience.  It is only when he possesses the economic wherewithal and the determination to press his claim of liberty that he actually attains the condition of liberty.  And the dominant prerequisite for obtaining the necessary wherewithal to enforce his claim to liberty is the benefit of private property.


It is observable that, though many have disregarded life and contemned [hated] liberty, yet there are few men who do not agree that property is a valuable acquisition . . . those who ridicule the ideas of right and justice, faith and truth, among men, will put a high value upon money.  Property is admitted to have an existence even in the savage state of nature . . . And if property is necessary for the support of savage life, it is by no means less so in civil society.  The utopian schemes of leveling, and a community of goods, are as visionary and impracticable as those which vest all property in the Crown are arbitrary, despotic, and in our government, unconstitutional.  (Samuel Adams, 1768).


At the outset of this essay, the author stated that he meant to prove to you that it was unequivocally true that, “There is no such thing as liberty in the absence of private property.”  He sincerely hopes he has succeeded.




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