home > archive > 2002 > this article
Just taxation: An early American primer
By Steve Farrell
Sad fact of life: The current administration and the "conservative" party which backs it, has an out of control penchant for multiplying your tax burden. All propaganda aside: compassionate conservatism is about socialism, not Americanism. From AIDS relief for Africans, to foreign loan "forgiveness" plans for dead beat nations, to multimillion dollar poppy reduction subsidy programs for Afghan farmers, to UN donations which end up in the hands of Palestinian terrorists, to welfare benefits for illegal immigrants, to school vouchers for poor kids - but not your kids, to prescriptions for seniors and health care for loonies, and to extensions in unemployment benefits - there really is no end to how "compassionate" a "conservative" can be.
These guys love socialism, and because they do, they are adept at taking what should be a simple question, "is the tax moral and constitutional," and converting it into the complex and cloudy, the old: "Yes we are for free enterprise, but we understand, everyone needs to work together if we are to emerge from this crisis a better, freer, more prosperous people!"
Perhaps you get it. Modern politicians make a living making simple things, complex. The Founders, on the other hand, had a better idea; they tended to reduce the complex" into the simple -- as per their duty to keep government just, limited, and by-consent.
Think about it. Any other approach is nonsense. Free government requires just laws, limited powers, and consent. Consent requires understanding. Understanding requires laws that are unambiguous, precise, and transparent - and one thing more: a citizenry that understands fundamental principles. Without these, self-government is a charade, public virtue wanes, unjust causes multiply, taxes and government grow, and liberty declines.
John Joachim Zubly, pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah Georgia, a man who took an early lead in representing the dissenting denominations against the threat of Anglican tyranny, took to educating his congregation and countrymen, and did so from a perspective that believed tax law, like all law, ought to be consistent with basic moral and constitutional principles -- or they were not laws. So here's his gem of a solution.
His 1769 sermon, "An Humble Inquiry," taught:
1. "The . . . constitution is made to secure liberty and property; whatever takes away these takes away the constitution itself, and cannot be constitutional . . . and is not law."
Since a man's liberty fits under the broad definition of property, this makes the entire business of government protecting property, and thus, any law which assaults property becomes unconstitutional, or as Hamilton said, "void," regardless of popular support. (Federalist 16)
2. Consistent with this principle, Zubly taught: "The electors cannot confer any right on those whom they elect but what is inherent in themselves."
This means: If individuals don't possess the right to rob their neighbor; they cannot empower representatives to rob for them!
3. As for representatives: "No man can give what is not his own."
Compassionate conservatives brag about their charitable spirit - but how can that be? What's charitable about giving away other people's money! If they don't own it, they can't give it away!
4. "[The right to tax] cannot be inherent in [representatives], for they are not born representatives, but are so by election." Thus: "Without representation there can be no taxation."
Globalists, including many compassionate conservative, are quietly working for the "right" for the UN to tax the US. Yet, no UN officials are directly elected, and only 1 of 190 plus UN delegates are Americans. Have they forgotten the cause of the American
5. "[Representatives] cannot extend their power of taxing beyond the limits of time and place, nor indeed for any other purpose but that for which they have been chosen."
A valid point. As to time and place:
* Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution, mandates: "no appropriation of money . . .[for the military] shall be for a longer term than two years."
* Nonmilitary budget proposals should be annual.
* "Saddling future generations with debt," taught President Jefferson, "is immoral."
* Entitlements (untouchable programs, not subject to congressional approval), and ten year budgetary plans, should not exist.
* Legislative proposals which seek to abdicate Congresses constitutional taxing powers to international bodies, and which seek, contrary to the rules of representation, to impose international taxes upon other nations, should never see the light of day.
We need to return to this rule.
6. "Taxes are a free gift of the people to the [government]"
Property is an inalienable right, thought Zubly, thus, the only just form of taxation is voluntary. To be voluntary, tax bills must be voted upon in person or through representatives, as already noted; and through one other method.
Prior to 1913, all federal taxes were raised by indirect forms, such as import, or consumption taxes.
"The amount to be contributed by each citizen will in a degree be at his own option, and can be regulated by an attention to his resources. The rich may be extravagant, the poor can be frugal, and private oppression may always be avoided by a judicious selection of objects proper for such impositions." (Federalist 21)
That's voluntary! The removal of the income tax, and the return to relying upon import taxes, or a national sales tax as the only legitimate tax, would honor the right to property, while providing for law and order and public safety.
8. "[Representatives] cannot . . . [tax] those they represent without . . . [taxing themselves] exactly in the same proportion; every bill must be equally binding upon all."
That's right, equality meant equality before the law and God, not equality of ends. No graduated income taxes, complicated tax codes, loopholes, shelters, wealth redistribution, and victim's classes.
We can do better!
Pastor, John Joachim Zubly, had a simple plan. "No tax can be laid . . . but [in a manner consistent with the laws of representation] . . . natural rights, and . . . civil and constitutional liberties." "No power can alter the nature of things, that which is wrong cannot be right," he concluded. He was right. Modern tax laws ought to be similarly reduced and scrutinized - plain and simple.
Steve Farrell is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. Contact him
© 1996-2023, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.