The Wisdom of Frank Chodorov

HAVING to do your taxes is always a mournful occasion. But having to do them during an election year is an even sadder experience. Not only do you struggle with forms and documentation that have no inherent reason, and have to pay an amount far beyond what reason would dictate, you are also constantly bombarded with by political candidates reminding you that the main use of those dollars will be to support policies you oppose and fund bribes to buy other people’s votes.

While paying taxes you don’t believe are justified, for purposes you don’t approve of, is painful, it is not unpredictable. Half a century ago, in The Income Tax: Root of all Evil, Frank Chodorov showed how the abrogation of citizens’ property rights by the income tax leads to the rapid expansion of that exact result, and corrupts Americans and America’s experiment in liberty in the process.

It is worth revisiting Chodorov’s insights about the consequences of the income tax to bring attention back to America’s first principles, which is the only way any substantial improvement in the situation can ever occur.

The American Revolution…[established] a government based on a new and untried principle, namely, that the government has no power except what the governed have granted it … in 1913, when the government was invested with the power to confiscate private property … this power … put into the hands of the American government a means of liquidating the sovereignty of the citizenry.

The Sixteenth Amendment, enacted to increase the government’s revenues, has spawned another police department, another means of forcing the citizen into line. The inevitable consequence … is the use of income taxation to undermine the principles of republican government and to make a mockery of our tradition of freedom.

The Internal Revenue Bureau … has the means of harassing, intimidating, and crushing the citizen who falls into its disfavor.… Therefore, whenever the Bureau has reason to “get” somebody it has ample means at its disposal.

There have been cases … where citizens who have offended the party in power were suddenly visited by agents of the Bureau and subjected to interrogation and examination. Of course … there is no proof that the citizens’ views prompted these special investigations. It cannot be proved that the purpose was to silence opposition. But the practice is so well known that men of means have scrupulously avoided involvement in movements critical of the Administration, even though privately they are in sympathy with such movements.

If individuals persist in trying to circumvent the political establishment … or if they preach doctrines inimical to the interest of the ruling group, then … freedom of thought must be suppressed.

A government is as strong as its income. Contrariwise, the independence of the people is in direct proportion to the amount of their wealth they can enjoy. We cannot restore traditional American freedom unless we limit the government’s power to tax. Trace this wholesale infringement of our rights to the power acquired by the federal government in 1913 to tax our incomes—the Sixteenth Amendment … the “evil” has reached the point where the doctrine of natural rights has been all but abrogated in fact, if not in theory.

A people who are intent on getting something-for-nothing from government cannot cavil over the infringement of their rights by that government.

The government says to the citizen: “your earnings are not exclusively your own; we have a claim on them, and our claim precedes yours; we will allow you to keep some of it, because we recognize your need, not your right; but whatever we grant you for yourself is for us to decide.”

The right of decision as to the disposition of your property rests in the government by virtue of the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution … it gives the government a prior lien on all the property produced by its subjects. When the Sixteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution, the American political order, which rested on the axiom of inalienable rights, underwent a major operation.

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