I have concluded that limited government is impossible. Once you give a government a monopoly over the use of force and the dispensation of justice as well as the ability to tax, it will always and everywhere grow beyond the limits originally set for it. The American Experiment is proof positive of this. The United States was set up to be a government whose sole purpose was to protect the rights and liberties of its citizenry. It was established by educated, worldly men who knew full well the dangers of government and its mechanisms (especially central banking), who did their best to agree on a government that would serve its people and break the pattern of privilege that characterized all modern states (if not all states) before it. They conducted this experiment in the Age of Enlightenment in a land that did not have a pre-existing central government and was, for these purposes, a clean slate. No more perfect experiment of establishing a just and self-limiting government could, has or will ever be conducted. It was tried and failed. For this reason, I believe the answer is in competitive government–that is, private law enforced by competing entities that you can opt out of. I don’t believe there is any service that cannot be provided privately, including national defense, and I believe natural law is self-evident: Don’t touch me or my stuff. All other laws are a violation of this law and represent government-bestowed privilege, which is itself, I believe, the true purpose of the modern state.
Because I believe that the sole purpose of the modern state is to bestow privilege, I believe that any effort for wholesale reform of the tax code is doomed to failure. As this documentary, An Inconvenient Tax, makes quite clear, the tax code is used first and foremost to bestow privileges, specifically to give tax breaks to campaign contributors of the congressmen who are on the House Ways & Means Committee, which writes the tax code. Evidence of this are the 15,000 changes to the tax code enacted since Reagan’s tax reform almost 30 years ago. Although I believe it’s naive to expect politicians to give up their whole raison d’etre–bestowing privilege in return for privilege–I found this documentary well worth watching. It’s well done and restrained which makes its points seem all the more scathing–no ranting tax protestors, just experts, politicians, and others in-the-know pointing out the many glaring flaws, injustices and corruptions in the system and its operation.
Here is the trailer for An Inconvenient Tax, and here is the link to the full site: An Inconvenient Tax
The history of the income tax is also covered in this documentary and it’s quite fascinating to see how well the government has conditioned us to accept this thing that had long been thought an outrageous overreach of government: from the Whiskey Rebellion in which the US government had to send troops to grain farmers in Pennsylvania to quell an uprising against the newly imposed tax on whiskey, to the massive effort required by FDR to get ordinary Americans to pay a tax that even after a Constitutional amendment (allegedly*) passed to allow it, was considered solely to be applied to the very richest. (This documentary doesn’t mention that FDR ultimately resorted to the withholding tax to solve the problem and that’s why there’s no talk–or real possibility–of a tax revolt today.)
The film goes on to discuss the tremendous impact on the tax code that lobbyists have, the sacrosanct nature of the mortgage tax credit and the tax deductibility of health insurance (both of which I believe to be subsidies to financial institutions above all else–otherwise rent or doctor’s bills would be tax deductible!), and the usefulness of the tax code to direct and control behavior, not least by encouraging consumption over saving (which is why politicians would never enact the Fair Tax).
All in all, I found the documentary informative, engaging and eye-opening–a good way to get a little education when you don’t feel like reading.
*For more on the potential illegitimacy of the income tax, see Aaron Russo’s documentary film America: Freedom to Fascism.