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Taxes & Tyranny



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I posted this in the Corner already, but it’s relevant enough I figured I’d post it here too.

Amidst all of the hooplah, I’ve heard a lot of complaints from liberals. Here are the most frequent complaints and my responses.

1. All of this tyranny talk is overheated and idiotic.

Well, some of it surely is. But look. According to that reason video I posted below, Americans work an average of 103 days a year just to pay their taxes. If you had to work 365 days a year to pay your taxes, that would be a kind of slavery or indentured servitude, because all of your productive labor would be going to the government. You would have no resources of your own to provide for the life you wanted. Instead the government would provide you not with what you want, but what the government decides you need.

That sounds like a kind of tyranny to me.

And, I think if we had to work 364 days a year it would still be a kind of serfdom (after all, serfs were allowed a little plot of their own). Ditto 363 days, 362 days, 361 days etc. Now, at some point the difference of degree becomes a difference in kind; working one day a year to pay for the government doesn’t sound oppressive to me. But it seems to me that it’s hardly absurd to think that 103 days a year is too much, or to believe that if that number goes even higher, we’re losing something important.

I would also add that it’s sort of crazy for liberals to equate government hand-outs (positive liberty, FDR’s economic bill of rights and all that) with “freedom” but to equate the desire to keep more of the money you make yourself with greed and oppression of some kind. Money does make all sorts of liberties possible (you have to pay for your megaphone and all that). But government money only pays for the “liberties” the government thinks you should have, and therefore it can determine how you exercise them. That turns liberties into privileges dispensed at the whim of the state.

2. The original tea parties were about taxation without representation, today’s spending is the result of Democrats winning elections, so it’s taxation with representation.

There’s some fairness to this objection. But one response would be that Democrats are tripling the debt, which means that generations of Americans not yet born will be taxed to pay for spending today. That is a kind of taxation without representation.

A second, more political than philosophical objection, would be that today’s spending is being achieved under false pretenses. Obama says he’s spending this money to fix a crisis, but much of his spending has nothing to do with the crisis but with shopworn liberal action items. However, since Obama campaigned on many of these items, I don’t think it amounts to taxation without representation. But it does seem like the sort of duplicity worth a protest or two.

3. These protests are unpatriotic astroturfing by plutocrats.

So much for “dissent is the highest form of patriotism”!

I find it sort of amazing that when groups like ANSWER, a Mos Eisley cantina of America-hating nut cases, take to the streets it’s a full-flowering of democracy in action. When ACORN pays their ragamuffins to protest, or when Rainbow/PUSH shakes down businesses through racial extortion, it’s the sort of direct democratic action Thomas Paine dreamed of. And when labor unions pay people to protest, it’s populist. But when a bunch of independent Americans, talk show hosts and email campaigners organize hundreds of protests around the country, it’s astroturfing.

4. Republicans are hypocrites for suddenly caring about deficits.

Well, maybe. But then so are liberals for suddenly not caring about deficits. (That part always gets left out.)

Moreover, I don’t get it. Republicans didn’t care enough about the deficit when it went up a “little” under Bush (to pay for a war), therefore they can’t complain when Obama sends it through the stratosphere (to pay for socialized medicine)? How does that work? If my wife spends too much on a shopping trip, does that mean she can’t complain if I lose our house on a trip to Vegas?

5. The populist anger out there is the real face of America’s homegrown fascism.

Sigh. While I think Rick Perry’s secession talk is idiotic and unfortunate (even accounting for Texas’ unique history), I am at a loss as to how any of this stuff smacks of fascism. Even Perry is talking in the context of the federal government doing too much, taking away too much liberty, getting too involved in local communities and interfering too much with the individual.

How do I say this so people will understand? Fascism isn’t a libertarian doctrine! It just isn’t, never will be and it can’t be cast as one. Anarchism, secessionism, extreme localism or rampant individualism may be bad, evil, wrong, stupid, selfish and all sorts of other things (though not by my lights). But they have nothing to do with a totalitarian vision of the state where individuals and institutions alike must march in step and take orders from the government.

If you think shrinking government and getting it less involved in your life is a hallmark of tyranny it is only because you are either grotesquely ignorant or because you subscribe to a statist ideology that believes the expansion of the state is the expansion of liberty.

Update: From a reader:

Jonah, you say:

Moreover, I don’t get it. Republicans didn’t care enough about the deficit when it went up a “little” under Bush (to pay for a war).

A LITTLE??  COME ON!!

Have a great weekend.

Me: Well, I put a “little” in quotation marks to convey the point that it wasn’t literally a little. But it is a little compared to what Obama’s deficits will be.



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