Four Branches of Dysfunction in US Government, Part III


By Mike Cronin

Another dysfunction that has corrupted the fabric of our freedom in countless ways is the confiscatory (i.e. to take) income tax system.  It is a dysfunction because it corrupts all of us.

Income taxation allows lawmakers and appointed bureaucrats to use the coercive power of government to take our property (i.e. the fruits of our labor) from us without our consent. That power then further corrupts our elected leaders by enabling them to “re-distribute” the collected revenue by spending it on government programs that favor their own constituencies. It has corrupted the citizenry by enabling us to obtain “benefits” that exceed the limits imposed on our government by its founding charter. Such “benefits” ultimately come to us from our neighbors’ pockets, which is property we had no right to. Our taxation system has essentially made Americans simultaneously into thieves and slaves.

Prior to the Civil War, there was no income tax. During that war, there was small tax of 3% on high incomes ($600-10,000 per year – a lot of money then!). It was abolished after the war. Congress flirted with income taxes a few more times between the Civil War and the turn of the century. In 1913, the government started taxing our income again, and it hasn’t stopped since.

Our founders went to war with Britain over far fewer provocations, including unfair taxation, than our own government imposes on us today. In fact, their grievances were listed on a single sheet of paper – the Declaration of Independence.  Could we catalog all of the grievances our tax laws generate today on even just one ream of paper? Our taxation bondage may not seem brutal to you, especially compared to what people living under fully tyrannical governments have to endure, but the proper comparison of our burden is not to what others have to endure elsewhere, it is to what it means to be “the land of the free.” If your government takes half of everything you earn, or more, either directly or indirectly, are you free?

Perhaps it sounds to you like I am advocating violent revolution, or that you break the law and dodge your tax obligations.  I am not.  As long we have the freedom of speech, we have the means to peaceably restore a bit of sanity to our system. One possible way is by switching from a confiscatory income tax to a national sales tax, such as that espoused by The Fair Tax proposal.

When it comes to income taxation, you may be happy to “pay your fair share,” or you might deny that withholding income taxes is any kind of slavery, but consider: If your property is taken from you by threat of force by  another, we call it robbery. When people are treated as property and forced to work for others, with no right to keep the fruit of their labor, that is slavery. Our taxation system is a whole lot of both .

Four Branches of Dysfunction in US Government, Part II


By Mike Cronin

“What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright in 1993, to then Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell, in reference to Bosnia

In Part I, I opined that slavery was the first of four major branches of dysfunction that plague our government, and that slavery led us to the worst instance of the second: the Civil War. George Washington once compared government to fire: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” Government attracts the power hungry, and war is the most attractive method for the power hungry to exercise their power. War negates reason, and provides a fertile field for yet more power to accrue to the government.  It changes the balance of power in the relationship between people and government – war gives unjust power to the government, powers NOT derived from the consent of the governed.

It is to America’s credit, and to the genius of the founders, that for the most part our government’s powers have retracted somewhat after our wars, but it is to our detriment that that power has never ebbed to the level it was at before each war.  In other words, our government assumes new and greater powers with each war, and then sheds some measure of the accrued power after the war, but never all of it. Hence, with each succeeding war, our government grows and become more intrusive.

Certainly, some wars are more just than others, and our nation must be prepared to them. I felt strongly enough about that to serve in the military, but not blindly. Which wars are just?  Smashing Al-Qaeda was (and remains) a national defense imperative. Going after Saddam Hussein was just, but appears to have also been unwise. Was the Spanish-American war just and wise? It put America on map as a great power, but was it necessary to the defense of the nation?  We weren’t attacked or threatened by Spain.  Historians have alleged that President Roosevelt pressured and goaded the Japanese in to attacking us in order to get us into WW II. We probably would have been drug into the war at some point, regardless, but, if true, was it just and wise to encourage and hasten it? If the Spanish-American War put us on the map as a great power, WW II left us (briefly) as the only superpower, and the Cold War left us alone on the superpower stage. It may be good to be the king, but is it wise to be the largest target in a hostile world?

Slavery and war have exposed us to several virulent strains of hypocrisy: Our founders held that all men were created equal…unless one didn’t count as a man. We abolished the chattel slavery of Africans and their descendants in the south, but periodically enslaved men of all colors and creeds through conscription until the 1970s.  We want to bring peace and freedom and prosperity to the world, but we have allowed (or engineered) ourselves to engage in the biggest wars in history, and suffered internal paroxysms as a result.  If there can be such a thing as a national psyche, these dichotomies are not conducive to its health.

Four Branches of Dysfunction in US Government, Part I


By Mike Cronin

Ronald Reagan once said that government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem. What did he mean by that? After all, he was president at the time; surely he must have felt that at least some government is good and necessary. As I have expressed in previous posts, our government has become dysfunctional. Just as cancers are flawed cells that grow uncontrollably, consume resources, and displace healthy tissue, dysfunctional government supplants healthy government.  This is what Reagan was referring to.  How is our government dysfunctional? In my opinion, there are four major, interlocking branches of dysfunction: Slavery, war, confiscatory taxes, and currency debasement. In turn, these branches of dysfunction are fueled by ignorance and ambition to power.

Our government was established to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but dysfunction was present right from the start. The founders articulated the notion that all men are created equal – but they didn’t recognize slaves as wholly men. Slaves counted only as 3/5ths of a person. Our nation began its life trying to cope with a terrible cognitive dissonance and human injustice – one that would cause arguably the greatest existential crisis it has yet faced: the Civil War.

You might argue that the Civil War was about states’ rights, not slavery. Well, there was one “state right” in particular that the South’s economy relied on: slavery. The Southern States seceded in order to hang on to the institution of slavery, but President Lincoln would not tolerate the dissolution of the union, so the first dysfunction led to the second: war. While Lincoln is widely hailed as the Great Emancipator and one of our best presidents, he assumed virtually dictatorial powers during the war, and expressly violated the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, thus setting precedent to his successors that might wish to do the same. One example: Lincoln ordered two newspapers critical of him to be shut down and had their owners and editors arrested for disloyalty.

While the aftermath of the Civil War may have seen the restoration of the country and the abolition of one form of slavery, it did not absolve us of the original dissonance slavery caused. It took another hundred years before the law and most of the nation accepted the full humanity of blacks, but vestiges of racism still haunt us, and our presidents still exercise more power than the Constitution allots them.