As Americans rush to file their income-tax returns by April 18, we should never forget that this horrific tax was not part of our nation’s history for more than 100 years. Neither was the IRS. That’s because our American ancestors understood something that modern-day Americans don’t: that you can’t have a genuinely free society when your government wields the power to take your income away from you.
Ever since I founded The Future of Freedom Foundation in 1989, there have been statists who have accused us of striving for a “utopia.” But a utopia is something that cannot be achieved. The undeniable fact is that Americans achieved many of the uncompromising principles that we expound here at FFF.
Take, for instance, 1880 America: No Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, drug laws, gun control, public (i.e., government) schooling, immigration controls, Pentagon, CIA, NSA, FBI, minimum wage, occupational licensure, paper money, Federal Reserve, or regulated economy.
And no income tax or IRS.
And no, I’m not saying that 1880 America was a libertarian panacea, as libertarians who have dedicated their lives to reforming the welfare-warfare state way of life and to income-tax reform have sometimes suggested. What I’m saying is that those 1880 Americans proved that it’s possible to achieve a society based on those libertarian principles. If they achieved those things, so can we. And as libertarians, I believe that we should be dedicating our lives to re-achieving them and building on them rather than giving up and settling for simply reforming the welfare-warfare state way of life.
Imagine: Keeping everything you earn and doing what you want with it. No more having to keep track of deductions. No more having to prepare an income-tax return. No more fear of an IRS audit, harassment, lien, garnishment, attachment, or criminal prosecution.
Imagine how much money you would be able to spend on things you want. Imagine how much money you would have to help others in need, including aging parents. Imagine how much money you would have to donate to worthy causes.
And imagine how much money you would be able to save. In fact, imagine the enormous increase in the overall standard of living that would come with millions of people now saving a large portion of their incomes. Those savings would go into banks, which would lend the money to business owners, who would use it to purchase tools and equipment, which would increase the productivity of their workers, which would lead to higher wages and salaries.
In fact, think of all the income that has been confiscated through income taxation from 1913 through today. It has all been frittered away on welfare and warfare. It boggles the mind to think about how much higher the overall standard of living would be if all that money had instead gone into productive capital. Imagine buying a brand new car for, say, $1000.
Most important, our American ancestors understood that the freedom to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth is a necessary prerequisite to being free, sovereign, and supreme. Keep in mind that for more than 100 years, there was nothing the federal government could do to prevent people from becoming wealthy. That’s because the Constitution did not permit the federal government to levy “direct” taxes, such as income taxes.
Our ancestors also understood that an income tax would inevitably bring into existence an IRS, one of the most tyrannical agencies in U.S. history. They clearly understood that an agency that wields the omnipotent and arbitrary power to seize people’s income was antithetical to the principles of a genuinely free society.
The biggest change that came with the adoption of the income tax in 1913 was the destruction of American liberty. At that point, the American people lost their freedom and their sovereignty. The federal government became the master and the citizenry became its servant. By wielding the authority to set the percentage of income to be taken, the money that people were permitted to keep became an allowance, similar to the allowance that parents give to their children.
At the same time, the welfare state that the income tax funds has created a nation of dependent adult-children, terrified that their political daddy will terminate their dole. Moreover, the warfare state that the income tax has funded has created a national of frightened adult-children who are convinced that the communists, terrorists, Muslims, Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, Cuban, Syrians, illegal immigrants, drug dealers, and other boogeymen are coming to get them.
But nothing is inevitable. Things can turn on a dime. If enough Americans decide that they would like to experience what it’s like to live as free people, the income tax will be tossed into the dustbin of history, along with the welfare-warfare state that this tyrannical tax funds.