Ban the Income Tax

It is a truly tragic development that in America -- a country founded on the principle of the inviolability of private property -- half of us prey on the substance of our neighbors.

A striking 37-second video moment made it to the internet last week.

It was taken at a demonstration of public-sector unions in Springfield, Illinois marching in support of the proposed tax increases in that state. The clip features a public school teacher, an African-American lady, who carries a couple of placards while shouting: "Where is the money? Where is the money? ... Give up the bucks! Where is the cash? We need it fast!"

The video is an eye-opening illustration of what taxes are ultimately about: Americans helping themselves to the property of other Americans.

According to the latest data, almost half of all Americans pay no federal income tax. Commenting on this fact, nationally syndicated columnist Phyllis Schlafly recently observed that April 15 "now divides Americans into two almost equal classes: those who pay for the services provided by government and the freeloaders."

"Freeloaders" is not, however, an altogether fitting term, since freeloaders merely take advantage of propitious circumstances. In a free-for-all democracy, on the other hand, many non-payers or net tax-consumers purposefully vote for those who promise to give them of their neighbors' substance. What these people do is, in effect, stealing. They are thieves, and it matters not that the theft in which they participate is state-sanctioned. After all, what name other than "thieves" can describe those who forcefully deprive others of their money in order to enrich themselves?

If the lady in the video wants to enrich herself at others' expense, she should be forced to do it the old fashioned way: by breaking into someone's house. Sadly, these days, she does not have to summon even that much initiative. She can simply vote for a politician who will do the dirty deed for her. If a thief gets caught with a couple of thousand dollars' worth of stolen goods, the chances are that he will end up in jail, humiliated and despised. Those, however, who vote for politicians who deprive productive citizens of tens of thousands of dollars every year never despise themselves. Quite the contrary: They consider themselves progressive, socially conscious, or enlightened. 

The income tax brings out the worst in human nature. Anyone watching the video can get a strong sense of this truth. And even though most of those pushing for higher taxes are not as crass and guileless as the featured lady, their sentiments and views are essentially the same. It is part and parcel of our fallen nature that we often covet the wealth and good things of others. This is why it has always been necessary for people in every society to guard and protect their possessions from the rapacity of their fellows. Income tax not only gives this ugly aspect of human character a free hand, but it passes it off as something good and noble. In a perverse twist of mass democracy, the thieves and their elected abettors are lauded as just crusaders for social and economic justice while their victims are condemned as selfish, uncaring, and despicable.

Upon watching the video, most people will think that the way to deal with this problem is to clip the wings of the unions, or perhaps to reform the tax code. Those of a more radical bent may even call for adjustments to the electoral process. The incisive Walter Williams, for example, recommends that people should have voting power in proportion to the amount of taxes they pay. Here is how he puts it:

I'm suggesting is that every American gets one vote in every federal election, plus another vote for each $20,000 he pays in federal taxes. With such a system, there'd be a modicum of linkage between one's financial stake in our country and his decision-making right.

Well-intentioned and ingenious though they may be, such reforms would be very difficult to implement in practice. Fortunately, it is not necessary to get involved in complicated schemes to combat the evils and injustice inherent in income tax. There is a far simpler and better way. Moral abomination that it is, the income tax should be done away with altogether.

The fact that this notion may seem radical, even to those who consider themselves constitutional conservatives, shows the depth to which we have fallen. Most of us do not realize that the Constitution was written in such a way as to exclude the possibility of imposing direct taxes. The Founders in their wisdom were all too aware of the dangers inherent in such revenue-raising measures. The federal income tax is thus a relatively new phenomenon. It was instituted only in 1913 by the Sixteenth Amendment. Almost immediately after its ratification, however, it began spawning the very evils the Founders had sought to keep in check. Bestselling author Thomas DiLorenzo observes that together with the Federal Reserve, which was established in the same year, income tax

centralized all political power in Washington, as it became trivially easy for the central state to conscript millions of men for its wars, spend mind-boggling sums on things like a welfare state and the nationalization of education that have no constitutional authority whatsoever, and to easily bribe any state government that voices the least bit of dissent by threatening to withdraw federal grants to the state. More than half of the American population is bribed and manipulated in a similar manner today as recipients of myriad federal subsidies.

The income tax is an odious institution that subverts the moral underpinning of our society. It does so by inflaming rapaciousness in the American people and by turning us into a band of sanctimonious thieves. Income tax is also the main source of sustenance for Federal Leviathan and the mainspring of power for redistributionist politicians. Income tax violates the founding principles of this nation as well as our transcendent sense of what is right and fair. There can be no just and equitable society where income tax is in operation. We Americans must stop robbing each other. We must ban the federal income tax.