Here in the declining days of April, having, along with the rest of the mass of thralls, recently sent off a yearly accounting of my life to the bastards in DC, I see that the tax protesters have come out of the woodwork.
And I don’t mean the children of Thoreau, the “this rotten government can kiss my ass” tax protestors. I have respect for those individuals that choose to pursue their own ends in the face of government dictat.
I’m speaking instead of the people that examine arcane legal documents, claiming to have found some nugget of detail therein that exempts them (and everyone else) from a legal obligation to pay taxes.
Like the folks referenced here.
What does someone say when they claim that the Constitution doesn’t authorize income taxes, and therefore the IRS is in the wrong for collecting them? They’re saying that if the Constitution in fact authorized income taxes, then you’d be in the wrong for not paying them. To put it more plainly, if the Constitution authorized you to beat the shit out of Mexicans, would that make it right?
Yes, or no?
Because those are the only two choices on the table, here: either government law is in fact the arbiter of right and wrong, or it is not. If it is, then the government of the United States can rightfully pack up every person it wants to into cattle cars and stuff them into the ovens — as long as the paperwork is correct. If government law isn’t the arbiter of right and wrong, then the arguments about what “the law” purports to authorize are meaningless for determining what ought to be done.
This line of thinking is often dismissed as being impractical. Me, I’m wondering just what it is that people who endorse government are in fact attempting to practice.
The most charitable explanation is that they don’t know, either.
Now, some of the folks in the tax-protest movement admit that their endorsement of government isn’t honest, but claim that it’s merely a means to an end. Most people can’t or won’t understand the moral arguments, they say, so they feel that they need to lie in order to spread their ideas. They don’t call it lying, of course, they call it “making arguments”. But calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it so: words do in fact have meanings.
Look: anyone that can be convinced by rational arguments is best served by being presented with those arguments, which in this case consist of “My stuff! Mine!”. As for those that can’t be convinced by reason, what are the tax protestors offering? They’re offering a lie. But their opponents are offering better lies: free stuff on everyone else’s dime. Sure you pay a little in taxes, but Senator Fatbottom’s getting Frogdick County twenty million bucks in Federal grants because of it! What, you wanna get rid of all the things that the government gives you?
It’s transparent nonsense, but unlike the transparent nonsense the fringe-flaggers are offering, it’s attractive nonsense. Consumers of nonsense will take attractive nonsense over unattractive nonsense, the proof of that is as close as the last election you care to examine.
If the tax-protest movement were serious about attracting people who can’t process rational arguments, they’d adopt tactics from other purveyors of foolishness. Why not claim a religious vision about the issue? That works very well for attracting hordes of people who aren’t inclined to think too much about the matter in front of them. Why not find some celebrity to endorse their cause? Courtney Love yelling “Taxes fucking suck!” at a concert would garner more attention and thus more unthinking converts than the tax protest movement has achieved to date.
The answer is of course that they aren’t interested in either making good arguments or in gaining support for their cause, they’re interested in eating their cake and then getting to have it, too: they want to feel like they’re making some sort of moral argument while at the same time feeding appealing lies to the masses.
The end result of that, as always, is that they’re left with neither principles nor appeal.
Political movements lead to exactly nowhere for principled individualists, because mass politics require the suppression of individuals in favor of the collective. Honest individualists recognize this and abandon mass politics for the pursuit of their own values. Opportunistic collectivists realize this and exploit mass politics for their own ends. Movement types, well, they play-act at principles while they analyze what the fringe around the American flag really means.
It’s up to you what you want to be: Henry David Thoreau marching to the beat of his own drummer, Bill Clinton eagerly fleecing the masses, or some pitiful myope dropping his shovel and petitioning his masters because they aren’t whipping him according to regulation.