op-ed

Income Tax Slavery — Do We Have No Choice?

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Alan Keyes Former Assistant Secretary of State
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The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.

Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionizing the mode of production.

These measures will of course be different in different countries.

Nevertheless, in the most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax….

(The Communist Manifesto (pp. 18-19). Kindle Edition.)

All duties upon articles of consumption, may be compared to a fluid, which will in time find its level with the means of paying them. The amount to be contributed by each citizen will in a degree be by his own option, and can be regulated by an attention to his own resources. The rich may be extravagant, the poor can be frugal; and private oppression may always be avoided by judicious selection of objects proper for
such impositions … It is a signal advantage of taxes on articles of consumption that they contain in their own nature a security against excess. They prescribe their own limit, which can not be exceeded without defeating the end proposed that is, an extension
of the revenue.

[No. 21 of the Federalist, emphasis added.]

April 15 is the usual deadline for its subjects to file their income tax returns with the U.S. Government, along with such payment as may be due. Because it divides payment of the tax into chewable morsels, the practice of withholding a suitable proportion of the tax from employees’ paychecks somewhat mitigates the felt burden it imposes on individuals. But for a long time I have been convinced that the greatest damage this form of taxation inflicts occurs sub-consciously. It leads people to look upon their net pay as “my money” and see the amount withheld as “the government’s money.”

I spent some years hosting a radio talk show. One day I a guest and I were talking about the cost of healthcare, I took a call from a listener who wondered why people had to pay so much for healthcare. He ended by asking, quite disingenuously, “Why don’t we use the government’s money to pay for it?” Then he hung up.

I doubt that that caller is the only person lulled into forgetting that wage earners work for their gross pay, including whatever withholding siphons off to the government. Despite the insulting myth that the income tax is voluntary, the time it takes to earn what they pay to the government isn’t a “voluntary” contribution. It’s forced labor. So is the unremunerated time individuals spend doing what’s necessary to fill out their returns. To add insult to injury, the clerical work is slave labor extracted to perform a task that’s plainly unconstitutional (forcibly providing information that may be used against you in a criminal proceeding.)

It seems that the administration of the income tax degrades earners below the level of suspected criminals. Even when caught red-handed, police have to remind the crooks that they have the right to remain silent. Wage earners, on the other hand, must spill their guts, and sign the written confession that results, or else.

I think of all this whenever self-professed conservatives celebrate the temporary tax donatives speciously labeled as “tax reform.” Tax relief might be more appropriate. But that terminology would invite people to ask “Relief from what?” That question would, in turn, remind them that the government is wielding the sickle that harvests the fruits of their labor, hammering them into submission if they refuse to comply. They wouldn’t need relief if their earnings weren’t being carted off by the tax farmers.

Though rather successfully camouflaged by shrewd implementation, the coerced “voluntarism” involved in the administration of the income tax fits the dictatorial mentality that made it popular with communist gurus Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Of course, the speciously “scientific” materialism that informed their dialectic of “History” reduces all political and social activities to the interplay of coercive forces. Vying to stand, at the last, with their boot firmly planted athwart their society’s windpipe, the triumphant Communist ideologues dole out breathing space at intervals forcibly imposed by some five or ten-year plan.

The rising empire of America’s tyrannizing oligarchs differs from this somewhat, in style. It wears a façade of constitutional legalism, complete with a choice of entrees meticulously prepared by the oligarchs invisible hand. What belies the appearance of choice, however, is the institution of a tax system that eliminates material choice, by directly coercing from every income earner’s pocket a percentage entirely determined by the whim prerogatives of a government staffed under cover of the election sham.

What a contrast with the Hamiltonian vision of a tax system in which “the amount to be contributed by each citizen will in a degree be by his own option.” In his view, so long as people have sense enough to confine their consumption within limits proportional to their income, the government has no claim to pre-empt what they choose to keep out of its reach. In this way the responsibility for withholding shifts to the taxpayers. They have the opportunity to accumulate what they mean to invest in two, five or ten-year plans which they themselves devise. They can even act to show their disapproval of the government’s abuse or corruption, in a way that makes producers and retailers allies of their concerns.

Thought through, this last point has some bearing on the issues of moral understanding and character now tearing this nation to shreds. Instead of would-be billionaire dictators like Facebook’s Zuckerberg, imposing their irrational moral whims on society as a whole, successful entrepreneurs would be inclined to champion the views of hard-working people. As moral outrage fueled their self-discipline, they could choose to save more and spend less, so to prevent their consumption from fueling government’s moral tyranny and corruption. Isn’t this what America’s founding patriots did in opposition to the British government’s assault on their moral right of self-government? No taxation without representation was more than a slogan. It was threat of economic sanctions against forces that despised the conscientious concerns of citizens. For they were significantly empowered to set the rate of taxation by and for themselves, as befits the members of a self-governed body politic, determined to keep their liberty.

Alan Keyes is a political activist, a prolific writer and a former diplomat.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.