Assaulting Freedom: The Income Tax
In today’s age one would expect the principles of slavery and involuntary servitude to be unacceptable under any grounds. What people fail to realize is that while this may be true for individual citizens, what is illegal for citizens is not necessarily illegal for government.
The Merriam-Webster definition of slavery is the “submission to a dominating influence.” The 13th Amendment of the Constitution, adopted in 1865, specifically prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude. The U.S. Code punishes those who seek involuntary and forced labor of others with a fine and prison sentence of up to twenty years.
Yet there is one form of involuntary servitude, coercive labor, and obtaining money through force and threat of physical restraint that largely goes unquestioned in the U.S.: the income tax. First, let’s briefly explore the history of taxes in the U.S.
After the creation of the United States and the Constitution, the federal government paid the majority of its bills through tariffs and internal excise taxes on various items and goods. During the War of 1812 an income tax had been proposed to help pay off expenses but was never brought into existence. Several years later in 1817, every internal tax was eliminated and all of the federal revenue came from tariffs on imported items and the sale of public land.
To pay for the mounting costs of the Civil War, in 1862 Congress passed the first income tax of 3% on those who made between $600 and $10,000 (people who made above $10,000 paid a higher portion). This income tax was phased out in 1872. Another income tax was briefly put into place in 1894 and 1895, but was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. During this period, the Populist, Democratic, and Socialist Labor parties were all advocating for some form of income tax. The Socialist Labor Party was and still is the leading socialist/communist party in the U.S.
Arguments made for the passage of the 16th Amendment and the permanent ability of the federal government to tax income often revolved around the rhetoric that an income tax would mean less reliance on tariffs for revenue, which would result in lower prices, and therefore help less fortunate citizens. The original idea was that only the rich would be taxed and feel any negative effect. Sound familiar?
An income tax gives government the direct control over any individual who holds a legal job. This simple principle of direct taxation, especially since the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913, has played a major role in the growth of the federal government over the past century. If government can reach into income, there is no limit to the extent that government can reach into your property to raise funds. It is all done in the name of protecting the poor and the middle class, punishing the rich, and promoting “equality.”
"It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder." — Frederic Bastiat
Think about this situation for a second. Are taxes not forced out of us through coercion and threats (audits, fines, prison, etc.)? Is income taxation anything close to voluntary servitude? Is the income tax in any way not a “submission to a dominating influence,” the Webster definition of slavery? At what point does taxation become a form of legal slavery?
Most people in the U.S. spend approximately one-third of their time working for the government. Some may argue that we get benefits by working for the federal government: welfare, education, and many other programs created since the adoption of the latest income tax in 1913. Would these same people argue that if slaves had been forced to work merely one-third of their time and received basic benefits from their masters that it would be morally acceptable? This practice would be rightfully blasted as immoral and illegal in a second if it was done by a plantation owner, but it is rarely questioned when performed by government. So I ask again – at what point does taxation become a form of legal slavery?
"To tax the community for the advantage of a class is not protection, it is plunder." — Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of the U.K. (1874-1880)
The intentions of the income tax do not justify a thing. It is one of the core ideals of socialism, communism, and Nazism, the very systems that have grown into the greatest abominations of life that mankind has ever seen. The income tax builds into the notion that our rights, privileges, and liberties come from government and its powerful leaders. Certain centralized and elevated individuals have the power to take the fruits of our labor through force; this alone is a principle that originated with kings and some of the greediest individuals in history, not with a free people.
In The Communist Manifesto, first published in 1848, Karl Marx lists “a heavy and progressive or graduated income tax” as the second of ten general steps for a nation’s transition to communism. (See the ten steps here.)
The principle of the income tax is a direct assault on the life, liberty, and property of all humans. An income tax implies that there is a higher authority to whom we must work and contribute or be severely punished. It shifts power to the men and women who feel they know the best uses for our labor. The very idea is that certain centralized and powerful individuals in government have the wisdom and morality that the general people lack, and the authority to force others into that moral code. At heart, it is one of the most selfish, discriminatory, and violent ideals to have crept upon the U.S. and other nations.
"I know no class of my fellowmen, however just, enlightened, and humane, which can be wisely and safely trusted absolutely with the liberties of any other class." — Frederick Douglass
The income tax has become incredibly entrenched in our economy and society today. It is often considered unthinkable to imagine a time when the federal government stayed within its constitutional confines; it is unimaginable to think of a federal government whose soul purpose is to protect life, liberty, and property. An income tax is one of the worst forms of taxation possible: there are few ways to avoid it (as you can somewhat do with sales tax, excise taxes, and tariffs), it is a horrid state invasion of privacy and property, and it turns government into a tool of plunder with a strong disregard for basic justice.
These elevated and seemingly angelic figures whom we elect convince us that it is because of too much freedom and voluntary exchange that our biggest problems arise, rather than recognize one of the greediest, most powerful, and largest attacks on life, liberty, and property through the income tax and the centralist principles it is guaranteed to carry with it.
"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." — James Madison