Next Tuesday, the infamous April 15, Americans will be rushing to the Post Office to send in their annual report of their income to the Internal Revenue Service. If they don’t, the IRS will come after them with liens, confiscations, seizures, and levies, without any judicial process. Even worse, the Justice Department will come after them with criminal prosecutions, arguing that such people are bad people who are placing a higher tax burden on the rest of us to fund the ever-growing expenditures of the welfare-warfare state.
The common conception among the American people, of course, is twofold: (1) we live in a free society notwithstanding the income tax and (2) our society would cease to exist without the income tax.
Both concepts are ludicrous, as libertarians have long pointed out. Income taxation and a free society are irreconcilable. The simple fact is that if you live in a society in which the government wields the authority to seize the fruits of your earnings in any amount it wants, there is no way that you can be living in a free society. If you think are you, you are deluding yourself. You are epitomizing Johann Goethe’s famous dictum, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
Second, let’s not forget that our American ancestors lived without income taxation for more than 100 years of our nation’s existence. Throughout that time, the nation did not cease to exist. Neither did the federal government.
What does genuine freedom entail?
Lots of things, such as freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of association, intellectual freedom, the right to own weapons, the right to ingest whatever you want, the right to engage in dangerous activity. In short, the right to do whatever you want, so long as your conduct is peaceful.
Freedom also entails the right to engage in economic enterprise without governmental interference. It encompasses the right to keep the fruits of your labors and to decide what to do with them — share, donate, invest, spend, or whatever.
April 15 would be a good day to reflect upon such things as where we began as a country, why the American people called the federal government into existence, why our American ancestors rejected income taxation (and a welfare-warfare state), why later Americans abandoned the founding principles of our country, the genuine meaning of freedom, the role of government in a free society, whether income taxation is reconcilable with the principles of a free society, and whether a free society entails rushing to the Post Office every April 15 to report our incomes to the government and send in our income taxes.
Postscript: We had another great session last night on the fourth leg of our Libertarian Angle tour. This time we shared ideas on liberty with the great YAL (Young Americans for Liberty) chapter at the University of Albany. I have had the honor and good fortune of giving previous presentations at this particular YAL chapter and so I know most of the members. That made for a more friendly and informal conversation last night. Thanks to the dedicated members of the University of Albany YAL chapter for hosting us and making us feel at home. Now it’s on to the final leg of our trip, the University of Vermont at Burlington. If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll come and join us! Details are at fff.org.