THE INCOME TAX MUST GO!
Each American has to make a choice about political issues, not about parties, programs, or elections, but about issues in general: Are you satisfied to see the United States sink under the weight of envy and greed in our political system, or do you want to see a fundamental change? You don't have to answer that question right now. You can remain undecided, or ambivalent; you can drift with the current — but don't be surprised when an economic collapse, or a political revolution, finally occurs.
The penalty for refusing to think about a problem and choose a course of action to solve it is to be swept helplessly down the stream of events, ultimately to the death and destruction of all your hopes and values. This is as certain as the law of gravity.
One way of avoiding the choice is to fret and worry about all of the "necessary" government expenditures. Look at the example of Social Security — surely something that every politician in Congress today has promised to defend to the bitter end, because it is "necessary." Most people today are either receiving money from Social Security, or their parents are receiving it or soon planning to, or they have some vague expectation that when they retire or become disabled they can receive a pension from it.
When it was started, the recipients of Social Security benefits were supported by taxes on workers in the ratio of one retired person for about 15 workers. Today the ratio is about one to three. By the year 2020, the ratio will be closer to one supported by one. What do you think will happen politically and economically in the year 2020? You can avoid thinking about the problem today — but your children or grandchildren will not look back with love and affection at the way you avoided the issue.
Members of Congress can promise you endlessly that they will defend Social Security, but when the ratio of workers to retired or disabled people reaches one to one, newly elected Members of Congress will vote to abolish Social Security! That is part of the political facts of life — what one Congress passes, another Congress can repeal. Some of the very same Members of Congress who lied to you last year about a balanced budget will lie to you in the year 2000 about Social Security.
This book is not about the problem with Social Security, but that "social program" is a good example of the proper way to deal with all the rest of them. They must be transferred from the government sector to the independent sector of our society. This is the only way that the promises will be kept. We don't have a blueprint for this very complex process — a short book would have to oversimplify it, and that would be wrong. But we must be clear about this — the proposal to transfer "social programs" from the Federal government to the State governments is not any solution either. The promises that politicians make are not valid, binding promises in any sense, because they are promising to help some people with other people's money, extracted by threat of force, and that is ethically and morally wrong!
Because it is wrong, the people who are expected to pay will resist. This may take two forms — they will go underground, to avoid paying; or they will vote for different politicians who will break the political promises as a way of righting the wrong. Most of the Italian economy today is carried on "underground," because it is in the interest of both employers and workers in Italy to avoid the highest Social Security taxes in Europe. Italy also has the highest inflation and the largest Communist party in Europe — coincidences that might worry some people!
If "social programs" were part of the independent sector, there would be two very important differences: first, the programs would be voluntary. This is a fundamental American principle, Freedom of Choice. Second, the programs would be contractual. This is also a fundamental American principle, that contracts are enforceable in court — no politician can break a valid contract just by voting differently the second time around.
Today there is no "contract" between young workers and elderly retired people. There is an emerging political struggle, fostered by deceitful politicians. It has moral claims and vested interests on both sides, so you can tell that it is really serious!
ALL "SOCIAL PROGRAMS" CAN BE ELIMINATEDenator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) has written: "With astonishing consistency middle-class professionals — whatever their racial or ethnic backgrounds — when asked to devise ways of improving the conditions of lower-class groups would come up with schemes of which the first effect would be to improve the condition of the middle-class professionals, and the second might or might not be that of improving the conditions of the poor."
The real issue is not whether the Federal budget contains "necessary" programs; that is a framing of the issues by established media figures and vested interest groups that want you to go on meekly assuming that there is nothing you can do except continue to pay and pay forever. The real issue lies in the analysis and definition of a "social problem." Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a "social problem" — there is no important difference between it and any other kind of problem that you can identify. Each of us is smart enough to identify, and to solve, real problems — and there are real problems with health care, poverty, education, discrimination, etc. An amazingly large number of these problems are caused by government programs, too — restrictions on trade, limits on freedom of choice, and regulations imposed on industry, agriculture, labor, and education are the major causes of the bureaucratic, maladjusted, and inequitable aspects of our nation today.
First things first: get rid of the government-caused problems, and then, operating through the independent sector — foundations, churches, schools, fundraising campaigns, etc. — Americans, as intelligent and responsible individuals, can address the real problems that they believe should be solved. Spending money collected by income taxes is certainly not the answer. If there were any kind of solution to such problems by appropriating tax monies, the trend in the past 50 years would have been quite different — government spending on transfer payments, "entitlements," and bureaucracy would have steadily declined!
The favorite catchword of the middle-class professionals who live on the revenues of government spending is "compassion." It is supposed to be the mark of a "compassionate" society (as if groups of people had collective emotions — surely an example of the anthropomorphic fallacy) that young children have free milk in kindergarten; that infirm elderly people have medical care; that farmers have subsidized loans; you name the program and some TV news reporter can find you a sympathetic beneficiary and at least two Congressmen willing to run off at the mouth about "needs."
There is no limit, of course, to human need — which is the reason why this is the favorite excuse of middle-class professionals for government spending on their behalf. Economists long ago discovered that there is no limit to human wants and desires. A "need" is just a beguiling way to describe something that somebody wants somebody else to give to some other person, who certainly can be relied upon to say he "needs" it.
If the person who identified the "need" of the third party had any serious concern about it, or compassion, you would find them doing something directly — instead of running for Congress or sitting at a desk in some government office building. There are thousands of examples of social workers in America today who genuinely care about the needs of others. These people are active in their neighborhoods, churches, shelters, hospitals, and day-care centers throughout the nation.
The purpose of this book is not to pretend that nothing needs to be done about weak people, or sick people, or poor people. The argument here is that you should do this work directly, yourself — as you identify each problem. You are not as ingrown and myopic as the professional cry-babies would like you to believe. If you no longer had to pay 20, 30, or 50 percent of your income, however, you might define the way the fruits of your own labor or investments accrue to you — you would be in a far better position to help someone in your city, or to contribute to charities with which you have some familiarity. A larger proportion of the GNP was spent on philanthropy in the 19th century, before the income tax, than is spent today — including any part of government spending that actually reaches the poor. The attitude today is generally, "I already gave at the I.R.S. office," and most of what government spends is diverted to the middle-class professionals.
The important thing about this approach to "social problems" is that rather than casting them in abstract, faceless terms, and attempting to forget about them because some civil-service employee has been hired to move pieces of paper from his in-box to his out-box, the problems would be those you identify yourself. You would be involved. Before the 1930s, there was much more involvement with the personal assistance of one's neighbors than there is today. That is compassion; taxation is the opposite.
The great religious teachers of all surviving civilizations today have emphasized cooperation and helping others. What kind of pretense to virtue is it when a voter elects a politician who promises to dispatch I.R.S. agents to make sure that some wage-earner in a distant city subsidizes the voter's elderly grandmother (or the voter himself)? How absurd it is to believe that the ediface built upon the Sixteenth Amendment — our modern welfare state — is "compassionate."
THE DEFENSE OF AMERICA DOES NOT REQUIRE AN INCOME TAXational defense and foreign affairs were perhaps the main reason for the Federal Constitution of 1789. President James Madison argued in his essays in The Federalist Papers that the central government he contemplated would simply be the foreign department of the several States.
There is an important debate in Congress every year about the way expenditures for defense are allocated; and there is an important strategic debate about how much should be spent, where the troops should be stationed, and what kinds of weapons they should have. Yet, this debate about how to conduct the national defense has nothing at all to do with taxes.
The impact of the Sixteenth Amendment has been the explosion of waste and strategic over-extension of the United States. There is no serious pressure on the Pentagon to be efficient. Have you heard about the M-1 tank, that costs over a million dollars per copy? Have you wondered why the defense of the United States requires this tank? Of course, there is an immediate danger of invasion by the Canadians! The tanks will help us fortify our borders against Mexican immigrants!
Because seemingly unlimited funds are available from the taxpayers, the United States has undertaken to build a tank for the defense of Europe — even though the Germans already have a superior, cheaper model themselves. Why is the United States subsidizing Germany and Japan, England and Italy, Turkey and Israel? The answer is because the money is available and the admirals, generals, and strategic planning bureaucrats want to spend it. Congress no longer has to make important decisions about what is "needed" for national defense — the Pentagon has a long shopping list and rivalry between the army and navy, or between the navy and the air force, is resolved by letting every branch of the military have what it wants!
Have you ever wondered why the navy is building new aircraft carriers and reconditioning battleships — both of which would sink in five minutes if struck by an atomic missile? Perhaps a few thousand PT boats that could each launch a cruise missile might be a better idea, because any enemy wouldn't be able to see them from orbiting satellites and even if they could all be located, they would move — or launch their missiles — before a tenth of them could be knocked out. Why is the Pentagon building big ships instead of little ships? First, of course, because the shipyard lobby wants big ships. Second, because the naval officers each aspire to command a big ship, with a private Officers Mess — complete with Filipino waiters in white waistcoats, and cigars and brandy after dinner. You can't have an Officers Mess like that on a PT boat — but you can on a Trident submarine or an aircraft carrier. Never mind that it costs the taxpayers a hundred or a thousand times more! A naval officer wants to live like a gentleman, not like a common seaman!
This issue of national defense is, again, much larger than the scope of this little book. But it is no argument against repealing the income tax. The very existence of the income tax makes it possible for the military-industrial complex, which President Eisenhower warned us against, to grow without check. Congress doesn't have to make any hard decisions that might hurt Boeing, Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas or Rockwell International. Senators and Congressmen can keep the military bases open all across the nation and the world. You can join the navy and see the world! You can also enjoy Japanese cars and TV sets, because the Japanese people don't have to pay taxes to defend their nation — we Americans pay for it!
The most important thing we can do to force Congress and the President to face up to the life and death issues of nuclear war, terrorism in the underdeveloped world, and the genuine strategic interests of the United States — as opposed to some grand vision of Bismarck or Admiral Mahon about "projecting power around the world" — is to cut off the unlimited supply of tax money.
The amount of money that is really needed for national defense can be raised in a number of ways — including voluntary donations by people who worry about defense more than other people — but it is not our purpose to fall into the "lesser evil" trap. The income tax is just a blank check on your bank account, and your "leaders" are exploiting the opportunity to spend more than they should. We need many more limits on government than that!
your comments are welcome.