When Taxation Becomes Extortion
The storm clouds of liberal taxation are once more looming on the horizon. In spite of Joe Biden’s reassurance that it is patriotic to pay even more, it’s time for some straight talk. What does it mean to “pay taxes?” According to my little Webster’s New World Dictionary (2003), the word “tax” is defined as:
a compulsory payment of a percentage of income, property value, etc. for the support of a government.
I would take “support of a government” to mean paying for the operations of government (like salaries, buildings, operations costs, etc). I am fine with that. The government is entitled to bill me for costs of operating. After all, they work for me, or at least they are supposed to.
In the same dictionary, the word “pay” is defined as:
1. to give to (a person) what is due, as for goods or services 2. to give (what is due) in return, as for goods or services.
My wife loves to have trees and plants on our property, so we ordered some from the nursery. Everything was delivered and the trees planted. I paid the bill…. End of story. This was a voluntary agreement freely entered into, goods and services in exchange for money. Suppose I had decided not to pay the bill. The nursery would have legal recourse to collect the money owed, as they should have. Suppose, after the bill is paid, the owner decides he “needs” another $500 (never mind why). He has no legal right to collect (at least not until more judges are nominated that rule on the basis of empathy).
Certainly, I would agree to pay for the goods and services the government provides. I can’t think of any goods the government has provided for me lately. So, mostly it comes to what services does the federal government provide for me? The duties of the federal government as defined in the Constitution are services for me: protecting me against foreign enemies and criminals, providing for courts, running the mechanisms of government, such as Congress and necessary government entities.
For example, how about the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, an agency with a budget of 37.4 billion dollars in 2008. What services do they provide for me? I don’t even live in a city. I think the answer is none. Have I ever requested a service from them? No. Were government funds allocated for community organizers a service for me? What about the “investment” the government made in Chrysler? What was the rate of return on that one? I think -100%, a total loss – great investment! I don’t recall asking the government to invest my money for me. Was that one of their Constitutional duties? What about protecting the salt marsh harvest mouse, a service for me?? Why don’t they send the mouse the bill? What about food stamps for the guy in front of me in the supermarket who drove away in his Cadillac?
So, the next time the IRS calls, I will tell them I would be happy to pay for the services the federal government is providing. Just send me an itemized statement, and I will pay for every one that is for me.
Suppose a fictitious individual (I’ll call him Jack) decides he needs some extra funds. After living a life of excess, he finds himself in need of some medical procedures, and, by the way, some Viagra would be nice too. So Jack comes to my door and asks me to help. I tell him no. In a rational, civilized society, that would be the end of it. But Jack is more persistent. The next time he comes to my door there are a couple of burly-looking guys waiting in his car. He points to his “friends” and warns of serious consequences if I don’t hand over the dough. Now this is also in my little dictionary. It’s called “extortion”
to get (money, etc.) from someone by force or threats
Extortion is, of course, illegal. Not easily intimidated, I refuse again. But Jack tries again, this time sending one of his burly-looking friends. Since I answered the door with a mean looking hammer in my hand, he goes away.
Jack really needs that Viagra, so he calls his Congressman. Later an IRS agent appears at my door. The IRS is not deterred by a hammer. The IRS agent carries the threat of incarceration in his briefcase. If I resist, I may find myself sharing a cell with one of Jack’s burly friends. The conversation might go like this:
Me, “What are you in for?
The burly guy, “Extortion, what about you?
Me, “Resisting extortion.”
Who can tell me why when Jack’s friend visits, it is extortion, and when the government agent visits it isn’t? No one can, because logically there is no difference. In fact, government employees are liable for prosecution for extortion under US Code, Title 18, Chapter 41, Section 872. I am sure lawyers have been able to determine that this is no problem, using some convincing arguments that A is really not A and red is really blue, but that’s the subject of another article. Ayn Rand in fact gives a slight moral edge to Jack’s friend (from Collectivized Ethics in The Virtue of Selfishness):
In fact, the private hoodlum has a slight edge of moral superiority: he has no power to devastate an entire nation and his victims are not legally disarmed.
So, from now on all income tax returns I send will be accompanied by the following, signed and notarized:
Since the taxes I am paying are not used exclusively for my goods and services, I would choose to pay only that portion that does. However, since you have unlimited legal authority to take whatever the government chooses from me, I cannot refuse, but my payment is sent under extreme protest.
I can hear the left’s response already. But Jack needs the money. You shouldn’t be so selfish. Look Mr. Benevolent, it is none of your business whether I am selfish or not! In fact, I will do everything in my power to prevent you from forcing me to conform to your standard of “unselfishness.” I will oppose your attempts to extort money from me (or from anyone else, for that matter). If you intend to force me, why don’t you come to my door in person? I still keep that hammer under the bed.