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The Income Tax: Root of All Evil


The [Sixteenth Amendment] puts no limit on governmental confiscation. The government can, under the law, take everything the citizen earns, even to the extent of depriving him of all above mere subsistence, which it must allow him in order that he may produce something to be confiscated. Whichever way you turn this amendment, you come up with the fact that it gives the government a prior lien on all the property produced by its subjects.

In short, when this amendment became part of the Constitution, in 1913, the absolute right of property in the United States was violated.

That, of course, is the essence of socialism. Whatever else socialism is, or is claimed to be, its first tenet is the denial of private property. All brands of socialism, and there are many, are agreed that property rights must be vested in the political establishment. None of the schemes that are identified with this ideology, such as the nationalization of industry, or socialized medicine, or the abolition of free choice, or the planned economy, can become operative if the individual’s claim to his property is recognized by the government. It is for that reason that all socialists, beginning with Karl Marx, have advocated income taxation, the heavier the better.

[The] Sixteenth Amendment corroded the American concept of natural rights; ultimately reduced the American citizen to a status of subject, so much so that he is not aware of it; enhanced Executive power to the point of reducing Congress to innocuity and enabled the central government to bribe the states, once independent units, into subservience. No kingship in the history of the world ever exercised more power than our Presidency, or had more of the people’s wealth at its disposal. We have retained the forms and phrases of a republic, but in reality we are living under an oligarchy, not of courtesans, but of bureaucrats.

It had to come to that. The theory of republican government is that sovereignty resides in the citizen, who lends it to his elected representative for a specified time. But a people whose wealth is siphoned into the coffers of its government is in no position to stand up to it; with its wealth goes its sovereignty, its sense of dignity. People still vote, of course, but their judgment in the ballot booth is unduly influenced by handouts from their government, whether these be in the form of “relief,” parity prices, or orders for battleships. Though it is not exactly an over-the-counter transaction, the citizen’s conscience is bought. Nor are voters immune to the propaganda issued by the bureaucrats, in their own behalf, and paid for by the voters themselves….

The corruption of freedom is in proportion to the moral deterioration of the people. For a people who have lost their sense of self-respect have no need for freedom. And the income tax, by transferring the property of earners to the State, has disintegrated the moral fiber of Americans to such a degree that they do not even recognize the fact….

The income tax, by attacking the dignity of the individual at the very base, has led to the practice of perjury, fraud, deception, and bribery. Avoidance or evasion of the levies has become the great American game, and talents of the highest order are employed in the effort to save something from the clutches of the State. People who in their private lives are above reproach will resort to the meanest devices to effect some saving and will even brag of their ingenuity. The necessity of trying to get along under the income tax has made us a corrupt people….

The citizen is sovereign only when he can retain and enjoy the fruits of his labor. If the government has first claim on his property he must learn to genuflect before it. When the right of property is abrogated, all the other rights of the individual are undermined, and to speak of the sovereign citizen who has no absolute right of property is to talk nonsense. It is like saying that the slave is free because he is allowed to do anything he wants to do (even vote, if you wish) except to own what he produces….

The present low estate of freedom in this country must be laid to lack of the proper leadership — to men who know what freedom is and who do not equate it with their own “standard of living.” Whether or not leadership could have averted, or can still stop, the trend toward socialism, may be open to question; that a glorious fight for freedom might yet enliven the American scene is not. Whether a fight for freedom will be crowned with success, is less important than the fight itself, for if nothing comes of it, the improvement in the spirit of the fighters will be a gain, and they cannot help but keep alive the values that will make America a better climate for their offspring to live in…. Repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment would not be a reform; it would be a revolution…. If and when the American people want freedom above everything else, if they say with their hearts “give me liberty or give me death,” income taxation will go.

This piece is taken from his book, The Income Tax: Root of All Evil (1954 Devin-Adair Company, Publisher, 6 North Water St., Greenwich, CT 06830). Reprinted by permission.

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    Frank Chodorov (1887-1966), one of America's most ardent and uncompromising advocates of freedom, was an associate editor of Human Events and the author of several books published by and available from Devin-Adair Publishers, Inc., 6 North Water St., Greenwich, CT 16830.