Excessive Taxation

Dr. Poirot is a member of the stall of the Foundation for Economic Education.

From widely divergent sources comes recognition that taxes have grown excessive. The graduated income tax has been soundly denounced in theory and in practice by former Commissioner of Internal Revenue, T. Coleman Andrews. Among countless other expressions in similar vein, two bear repeating here.

One, from the September 1956 issue of Economic Intelligence published by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, is entitled, “The 8th Commandment vs. the 16th Amendment”:

Students of theology will recognize that all things change over time—even religion. Originally, the 8th Commandment—“Thou Shalt Not Steal”—was unqualified. But today, most social planners are willing to go along with a slight modification: “Thou shalt not steal outside the framework of the democratic process.” Of course, it still is not considered “right” for A to go over and rob B, his rich neighbor. But it is quite “right” for A to organize a group of cohorts into “government,” levy a tax based on ability to pay (and who can better afford to pay than rich B?) and then proceed to collect from B and redistribute the wealth among A and his henchmen-“expenses of government.” To insure that everything is truly “democratic,” B may even be invited to vote on whether or not he should be so taxed. It’s all legal, but some “hard-shell diehards” will wonder if it is ethical.

The other is a resolution introduced by New York Typographical Union No. 6 at the 1956 Convention of the New York State Federation of Labor:

WHEREAS, the income tax as presently constituted has become an overwhelming burden on the people of the United States, and

WHEREAS, this iniquitous legislation has contributed immeasurably to “juvenile delinquency” by forcing the mothers of our youth to abandon the home for the office and factory, and

WHEREAS, even a former head of the Internal Revenue Bureau has publicly condemned the terrific traffic in human labor, and

WHEREAS, every working citizen is compelled to devote one day’s labor per week to foster the extravagant wastes, “boondoggling,” and downright wantonness involved in the distribution of this “easy money” by thousands of one-world-do-gooders, and

WHEREAS, only an aroused citizenry can put a halt to this never-ending evil, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that this convention of the New York State Federation of Labor emphatically endorse a mandate to both major parties to incorporate within the framework of their political platform a definite promise to reduce considerably or abolish entirely this hateful legislation.

A libertarian must feel certain gratification when spokesmen for employers and for employees, backed by a former tax-collector, stand so united against excessive taxation. Perhaps it is a vital first step toward correction to have recognized that a given condition-the prevailing tax situation—is a disastrous drain upon the productive capacity of individuals.

But a vital second step, then, is to understand that taxation is the consequence rather than the cause of the excessive governmental intervention that plagues our economy. Taxes are but the price that must be paid for the still widely acclaimed “blessings” of the rigged market and the Welfare State. And the charge that taxes are excessive is simply an admission that this compulsory intervention is not worth the cost.

Real progress back toward freedom will be evident when numerous individuals and groups welcome the risks and the opportunities of open competition and stop seeking special privileges at the expense of someone else. When individuals become more reasonable in their demands for governmental protection and service, then government tax claims against individuals will diminish accordingly—and automatically.

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