Happy Tax Day

2002-04-14

Gerald Ford once said that "the power to tax is the power to destroy". A surprisingly honest statement from one who was once the most powerful man on the planet. On the eve of the day when American income tax payments are due, it's worth reflecting on the implications of Ford's statement.

Taxation is destruction. Income taxes destroy incomes and livelihoods, forcing people to work much more than they would otherwise. Sales taxes destroy sales and businesses, forcing even more work and making it harder for people to trade peacefully. Property taxes destroy property, forcing people to sell their homes and subdivide their land.

Taxation is destruction. When your home can be taken from you if you don't pay every year for the privilege of living in it, then you don't really own your house, you rent it from the true owner: a government. When your business can be seized for alleged violations of the tax code, then you are allowed to peacefully engage in what Robert Nozick called "capitalist acts between consenting adults" only at the mercy of a government. When you can be thrown in prison if a government feels that you have not paid enough in tax, then your life is not your own -- you are a slave.

Taxation is destruction. It is theft, force, power, plunder, the brandished sword, the loaded gun. It is no better than the forced tribute demanded by every Attila, caesar, pasha, prince, satrap, pharaoh, king, potentate, caliph, czar, or other self-proclaimed overlord throughout the sordid march of human history.

Yet here we are, two thousand years after the birth of the one so many have hoped to be the savior of humankind, still rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Only a miniscule and powerless few object that no, your life and your livelihood and the fruits of your labor do not belong to Caesar, they belong to you, and they are yours to dispense with as you see fit.

We moderns speak of progress, but that progress is in fundamental ways illusory. Today, for all our proud modernity, we are still ruled by empires and Caesars, to whom we render all, receiving not much more than bread and circuses in return.

Morituri te salutamus!


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal