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by Joe Cobb

by Murray N. Rothbard

M ost Americans have come to the basic libertarian insight that the federal government — the major embodiment of the State in the U.S. — has grown monstrously large. Throughout the land, we hear the cry for government to "get off our back." Yet the government's swollen budgets expand at a rapid rate, regardless of party or of the rhetoric of each Administration. Its ever-growing number of bureaucrats foist petty and great tyrannies upon us, even as they eat out our substance. The government is everywhere: controlling, regulating, cartelizing, subsidizing, repressing, spying, and outlawing. In the name of "defense," the government is registering young men, probably will soon be drafting them, and is feverishly building up fearsome weapons of mass destruction that could easily destroy the human race. This military might is being used to intervene everywhere around the world, as the U.S. attempts to mold every other nation in its own image. Government is piling up ever higher deficits, which crowd out private investment, cripple productivity and economic growth, and channel the savings of the public into wasteful government boondoggles.

How then can we do it? How can we get rid of Big Government?

It is all too clear how not to do it: urging piddling piecemeal cuts of individual budget items. Let the Office for the Study of the Sex Life of the Moth be cut by 5 percent, and TV is bombarded with images of weeping bureaucrats, scientists, and moths — all warning that the pursuit of knowledge, national security, and the moth population will all vanish if the cut is not restored.

No, the way to get rid of Big Government is to cut off its water: to slash drastically at its source, and let the bureaucrats rearrange whatever trickle might remain. And that water rests on one mighty and crucial source: the justly and widely hated income tax. The income tax, personal, corporate, and social security (which, of course, acts like an income tax and is in no sense "insurance") amounted in fiscal 1980 to over 90 percent of federal government revenue.

The income tax is not a permanent part of the American heritage; it was imposed during the Civil War, declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and then enshrined in the 16th Amendment in 1913. The income tax has become particularly beloved by the federal government because its rates can be adjusted to soak different groups, because with the withholding provision revenues can be extracted smoothly, and because it alone of all taxes imposes a fearsome and runaway Inquisition over all aspects of our lives, our incomes and our spending.

The I.R.S. has virtually unlimited power to inspect, spy and snoop — to tell us how much we are forced to pay, and to require us to keep the records and fill out the forms to smooth the path for our own pockets to be picked. While all taxation is theft, no taxation permits such absolute despotism over us all as the income tax.

The income tax, then, is the root of the malignant tree of Big Government. Lay the axe to that root, abolish the income tax, repeal the 16th Amendment, and the tree of tyranny will wither and die. America will take a great leap to reclaim the ideal of liberty, of ultra-minimal government, on which this country was founded.

Murray N. Rothbard
March, 1982


N ew political issues don't materialize out of thin air. They are created. Every issue that is a hot topic in Washington today was first an "impractical" idea in the mind of a radical activist, either a right-wing activist or a left-wing activist. They are the entrepreneurs of politics.

Why is the Pentagon budget increasing? Why is Congress appropriating funds for aircraft carriers instead of reducing the deficit? The answer is that some right-wing activist, perhaps on the payroll of a shipbuilder, created an issue — the Soviet naval "threat."

Why does OSHA or the Consumer Product Safety Commission exist to harass businessmen? The answer is that some lobbyists in the 1960s, playing the role of left-wing activists, perhaps on the payroll of some law firm, labor union, or insurance company, created an issue — the "danger" of the workplace or children's toys.

Every "emerging issue" in politics starts with two elements: some vested interest constituency that will profit from it, both as it emerges and when it becomes law; and a moral claim, "Right -vs- Wrong," or "The greatest good for the greatest number." Look at the newspapers to see how this formula is always repeated. With the Sixteenth Amendment at the turn of the century, the issue was the high tariff, which benefitted the New England States and hurt the farm States. The moral claim was "equality and ability to pay"; the practical interest was greed. The income tax was always supposed to be a tax on "the other guy." Today, withholding of income taxes from working people is the largest single source of government revenue!

Today the income tax is just taken for granted. It is a slush fund for political interest groups. More tax-receivers are dependent upon it than any other source of money. Yet, more people would benefit from its repeal than would lose! Even many who live off of taxation understand that they are preying on the productivity of our economy, reinforcing a spy network as merciless as the KGB, and blowing almost a trillion dollars annually on Waste, War, and Welfare.

The vested interest constituency that we must depend upon for repeal is YOU — the Form 1040 taxpayer. You will benefit in a hundred different ways by the repeal of the income tax: Your standard of living and the quality of your life, your peace of mind and your focus on productivity rather than tax avoidance and the fear of an audit by the I.R.S.

The moral claim that we make is as fundamental as the American ideals that started it all in 1776. We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights — and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness without fear that a predatory government will seize the fruits of your labor, investments or creative economic energy in order to subsidize pressure groups.

Moreover, today we have an opportunity that did not exist 10, 20, or even 50 years ago — the rupture in Federal fiscal policy, the runaway budget of the government and a deficit that is forcing everyone to look for new answers. There is a titanic struggle in Washington today, as the pork-barrel politics of the past half-century struggle like a mighty python against the Milquetoast Reagan Administration's budget proposals. The false promise of the Reagan administration was that with tax cuts, the Federal government was supposed to receive more revenue.

In the face of genuine anger among the American people about high interest rates, gigantic budget deficits, and well-known abuses of civil liberties by the Internal Revenue Service, the time is right for a fundamental change.

In this book we will take a brief look at where the income tax came from, its economic illogic, tactics of the I.R.S., the proper role of government as seen by the Framers of our Constitution, and the economic benefits of abolishing the income tax. This book is your blueprint for action: The Income Tax Must Go!

Sure, you say; it would certainly be nice, but the polar ice caps will melt before it happens. So why should anyone take the idea seriously? Why should anyone get involved in politics to support candidates for Congress or State legislatures who want to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment? Why should you even read this book?

The answer to those questions is a challenge — If not you, who? If not now, when? The old cliche, "the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing," is still true today. This short book makes the case for repeal, and proves that the choice is really between eliminating this evil or waiting passively for the collapse of the American republic.

What is more important to you than your life, liberty, and property?

Joe Cobb
March, 1982

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