The following was my opening statement at a symposium on the income tax that was held at Ramapo College on April 17, 2014, in honor of the book The Income Tax: Root of All Evil by Frank Chodorov, which was published in 1954:
Two days ago, April 15, millions of Americans rushed to the Post Office to file their income tax returns and pay their income taxes. The reason they did that was because they knew if they didn’t, they would be put into jail.
One of the interesting aspects of this phenomenon was that for most of the first 125 years of our nation’s history, our American ancestors didn’t do that. That’s because in the American society in which they lived, there was no income taxation.
Why did our American ancestors reject income taxation?
As Frank Chodorov pointed out 60 years ago in his brilliant little book The Income Tax: Root of All Evil, our ancestors rejected income taxation because they understood that it is antithetical to the principles of a free society. Freedom, they held, necessarily encompassed the right to keep everything you earned and to decide for yourself what to do with it–share, donate, spend, invest, or save it.
That raises the flop side of the income tax coin–what those trillions of dollars in income tax revenues pay for–what we call the welfare-warfare state.
The welfare state consists of such socialistic programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, education grants, and foreign aid to dictators.
Our ancestors rejected all that, along with income taxation. They believed that freedom necessarily entailed a separation of charity and the state–that care and compassion for others necessarily come from the willing heart of the individual, not from the coercive apparatus of the state.
They also rejected the entire warfare-state apparatus that now characterizes American life–an enormous military empire with bases all over the world, an ever-growing military-industrial complex, a CIA and its never-ending regime change operations, the role as international policeman, the NSA and its secret surveillance schemes, torture, assassination, indefinite detention, and all the rest of the national-security state apparatus that modern-day Americans have made part of our governmental structure. Our ancestors believed that those things are inherent to totalitarian regimes, not free societies.
There are also economic consequences to consider. People today ask, What are the causes of poverty? Chodorov suggested that the more appropriate question is: What are the causes of wealth? The key to a wealthy and prospering economy lies not in such things as minimum-wage laws, government stimulus spending, or flooding an economy with newly printed paper money. Instead, a higher standard of living, especially for the poor, lies in savings and capital, which bring into existence better tools and equipment, which make workers more productive, which increases profits, which increases real wage rates.
So, what we should be doing all across the country is precisely what we are doing this evening at Ramapo College–discussing and debating such fundamentally important issues as: What does it truly mean to be free? What are they keys to a wealthy and prospering society. And what is the proper role of government in a free society?
As we ponder such questions, I believe the answers will inevitably lead us to but one conclusion–the one proposed by Frank Chodorov in 1954: Don’t reform the income tax. Repeal it.