Of course, it’s just a coincidence but isn’t at least a bit ironic that all the hullabaloo about piracy has occurred near April 15? After all, is the IRS really any different, in principle, from the pirates?
Sure, it’s true that the IRS doesn’t attack ships, take crews hostage, and demand a ransom. But doesn’t it attach liens on ships, houses, cars, and bank accounts whenever it feels that the owner of such things owes income taxes to the federal government?
Moreover, doesn’t the IRS simply seize people’s property without having to go to court, show evidence, and secure a court order? Isn’t that what the pirates do?
And what happens if someone forcibly resists the IRS’s seizure of his property? Won’t the IRS do the same sort of bad things to the resister that the pirates do to people who resist their seizures? In fact, isn’t the firepower at the disposal of the IRS, which is provided by the FBI, U.S. Marshalls, local sheriffs, and possibly even the Pentagon, significantly superior to that of the pirates?
I suppose it could be argued that what the IRS is doing is legal while what the pirates are doing is illegal. But isn’t there a distinction between legal and moral? That is, just because something is legal, does that necessarily mean it’s moral? If it was legal for the government to force everyone to send his children to church every Sunday, how many people would consider that to be moral?
What’s moral about seizing a portion of a person’s income against his will? Why is that any more moral than seizing a person’s ship? If the Somali government enacted a law commissioning the pirates to seize passing ships, would that then make their actions moral?
For most of the first 125 years of American history, the American people lived without any income taxation. Everything people earned in their jobs and businesses belonged to them. They were free to pass their entire life’s savings on to their children, because there was no inheritance tax. That’s how many poor families went from rags to riches in one, two, or three generations.
What is important to note, however, is not so much the economic benefits that came with the absence of income taxation but rather the reason that our American ancestors rejected income taxation. The reason involved the concept of morality. They believed that it was as immoral for government to seize a portion of a person’s income as it is for pirates to seize people’s ships.
The right to keep one’s income was considered a fundamental right, one that preexisted government. Our ancestors considered such a right to be an essential part of a free society. If government had the power to seize people’s income, our ancestors believed, then Americans could not truly call themselves a free people.
Unfortunately, the concepts of freedom and property that formed the founding of our nation have been long forgotten among modern-day Americans. Today, freedom is defined by the level of income-tax rates and the number income-tax deductions that government officials permit people to take.
Sometimes the government is nice and lets people keep more of their income. Sometimes, it’s not so nice and permits people to keep less, especially when government expenditures for both domestic and foreign projects are soaring out of control. There are incessant debates on tax rates and deductions, but who questions the idea that government should even possess the power to seize people’s income?
In actuality, the income tax, with its tax rates and allowable deductions, is like an allowance that a parent gives a child. Having effectively nationalized income, the government decides how much of an allowance everyone will be getting. Of course, the concept of an allowance fits perfectly within the context of a paternalistic welfare state, where the citizenry lookS upon the federal government as a daddy, one that provides their retirement, healthcare, education, and food and keeps them safe from drug dealers, illegal aliens, terrorists, pirates, and other scary monsters in the world.
As Americans continue to encounter crises and chaos with virtually every program emanating from the federal welfare-warfare state, we can only hope that they will finally come to realize that the roots of their woes lies not in freedom and free markets, as the statists are claiming, but rather with socialism, interventionism, and empire. We can also hope that they’ll see that the jugular vein of the welfare-warfare state is the federal income tax, which provides the money to fund the statist junk.
Ditching the income tax and the IRS is an essential part of restoring liberty and a republic to our land.
The Future of Freedom Foundation is the publisher of Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax by Sheldon Richman.