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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Repeal the Federal Income Tax

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The New York Times reports that 37-year-old Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Lauryn Hill just drew a 3-month jail sentence for income-tax evasion. She pled guilty to failing to file tax returns for three years. She told the judge that she was unable to pay the taxes after dropping out of the music business to take care of her children but that she did plan to ultimately pay the taxes. Federal Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo rejected her lawyer’s plea for probation. In addition to the three months of jail time, the magistrate added on another three months of home confinement. According to the Times, Arleo “scolded her in court for being slow to square her accounts with the government.”

I wonder how many Americans realize that this type of moral injustice could never have happened in the United States for the first 125 years of American history. That’s because our ancestors rejected income taxation, along with the welfare-warfare state way of life that the income tax funds.

Think about that for a moment: For more than a century, the American people were free to keep everything they earned. No income tax returns, no tax deductions, no IRS, no April 15 deadlines, and other such nonsense. Instead, Americans were free to keep everything they earned and there wasn’t anything the feds could do about it.

That’s what Americans once called freedom.

There was also no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, aid to dictators, or any other welfare. That’s because our American ancestors rejected the concept of mandatory charity. They believed that charity meant nothing if it was the result of government coercion.

Compare the way of life that our American ancestors lived — one without income taxation — to the one in which we have all been born and raised. Under our system, the government, as a practical matter, owns everyone’s income and decides how much everyone is going to be permitted to keep. While the percentage that the government lets people keep is currently about 70 percent, there is nothing to prevent the government from lowering that to 50, 30, or even 10 percent. The government makes the call. In fact, if Social Security and Medicare payments to the Baby Boom generation continue soaring, young people today might well find themselves earning, say, $50,000 and be allowed to keep only, say, $10,000 of it. The best way to think about this is by considering an allowance that a parent gives his children.

Modern-day Americans consider their system to be “freedom” even though it’s exactly opposite to what our ancestors knew was freedom. Modern-day Americans apparently believe that if they convince themselves they are free, it will be reality. I suppose that’s why they keep singing “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free” or why they continue to proudly praise the troops overseas for “defending our freedom.”

What a joke. There is no way that a people can be considered free in a society in which the government wields the power to tax their income. The modern-day American mindset brings to mind the words of Johann Goethe: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

Among the most tragic parts of living in the welfare-warfare state is how the state makes people who violate its ridiculous economic and tax regulations feel like they are bad people. You see this especially with respect to the war on immigrants, where undocumented workers are made to feel bad for coming here to make some money to send back to their families. And you see it in the drug war, where drug addicts are made to feel bad for ingesting substances that government officials don’t approve of. And you see it in income tax violations, where people like Lauren Hill are made to feel bad about placing a higher priority on her children than on funding the welfare-warfare state with income taxes.

In actuality, none of these people needs to feel bad because in a moral sense none of them has done anything wrong. The people who are deserving of scolding are Judge Arleo and others of her ilk for enforcing these immoral welfare-warfare state laws.

What Americans need to do is confront reality: We are not living in a free society. We are living in a welfare-warfare state, one funded by a gigantic, intrusive system of income taxation, which is enforced by one of the most powerful agencies in history.

Moreover, the system under which we have been born and raised is not one of “free enterprise” and “limited government,” as everyone is taught to believe. Instead, it is a system that consists of a combination of socialism, interventionism, corporatism, and imperialism.

Then, once that reality is accepted, Americans need to decide: Do they want to be free and, if so, how bad do they want to be free? If Americans decide that a free society is among their top priorities, a good place to start would be to repeal, not reform, the federal income tax. In the meantime, President Obama ought to do the right thing and pardon Lauryn Hill and every other non-violent offender who has been unjustly deprived of his liberty and property by the feds.

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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.