THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 69, April 15, 2000
My Three Tax Programs
by L. Neil Smith
Special to TLE
From time to time America suffers what boils down to doubly artificial -- and completely unnecessary -- "shortages" of petroleum. The story that usually makes it to the headlines is of naughty OPEC reducing production in order to get higher per-barrel prices.
Less publicized is a dismal truth that there's plenty of petroleum right here in the USA -- hundreds of years of "proven reserves". This isn't counting natural gas -- there's another 2000 years' worth of that. Nor does it count oil shale which, contrary to popular belief is not impossible to extract, just a little more expensive.
The truth is dismal because environmentalists have politicians by their tiny little cojones, despite the fact that policies they push -- aromatics to replace lead, catalytic converters, and MTBE all come to mind -- do worse damage to the planet and its inhabitants, human and otherwise, than what they replaced. Even the idiot liberal Democrat governor who preceded the idiot liberal Republican governor currently slopping at the public trough in my state had enough sense to oppose political tinkering with the chemistry of gasoline until he was overruled by an idiot liberal Republican legislature.
As usual, when gas prices take a hike, there's talk of lifting the burden on "working families" by reducing federal excise taxes that add a thick percentage to the price paid at the pump. (Industry estimates that completely untaxed gas would cost 68 cents a gallon.) That's all it ever amounts to, of course -- talk. Democrats, the theft and mass murder party, don't even bother talking any more, while Republicans, the we can rob and kill you cheaper party, are too cowardly and stupid to do anything about it even when they're in the majority.
At the moment, they can't even bring themselves to cut gas taxes a measly 4.3 cents, while real people ask why not do away with gas taxes altogether, at least for the duration. The money isn't being invested in any special dedicated fund -- any more than Social Security money is. It's being poured into the gaping maw of a general fund where highways compete with the War on Drugs and funding for the BATF.
I'm often asked what I'd do about taxes if I were President. Keeping in mind a general policy I'll save for the end of this article, two things need to be done right away.
The first, which I'll call Program One, would bring relief to all of us, not just "working families". It's also a test of the motives of apologists for the Welfare State. It would permanently remove all taxes, at every level of government, on the necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, and transportation.
By "all taxes", I mean all taxes.
Farmers, for example, would be exempt from property tax on the land they work, and from taxes on equipment and supplies. They'd pay no income tax because it would just be passed on (no way to avoid it, even if they wanted to) to consumers. Transportation, processing, and sales of food would likewise be exempt. How could a program be kinder, gentler, or more humane? Yet I guarantee Democrats and Republicans will scream like stuck pigs at the very thought.
They'll scream louder when nothing that you wear, head to toe, can be taxed at any level of production. And when nothing about your home can be taxed, from the steel and lumber in its frame to the glass and gypsum in its walls, to the asphalt or tile on its roof.
The same policy would apply to production, distribution, sale, and possession of all the nation's private rolling stock: cars, trucks, planes, trains, boats, and ships. No more drivers' licenses, no more license tags -- in short, no more police state tracking numbers. Of course it would be illegal to tax lubricants and fuels.
Program Two: it's widely recognized that "the power to tax is the power to destroy". Therefore, in the interest of preserving the Bill of Rights, anything mentioned in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution -- any object or activity protected by the highest law of the land -- will be tax exempt.
We already exempt religions from taxation, although the hoops they jump through to obtain recognition from the government defeats the very purpose of the First Amendment. It's inconsistent not to exempt speech, as well; many states won't permit the sale of newspapers to be taxed for that very reason, although the policy doesn't go far enough.
The Smith Administration would go further. And unlike Program One, under which the necessities of life would be detaxed, there's room for a President, having sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, to act unilaterally. Since taxes can be (have been) used to chill or destroy the free exercise of liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, it makes sense to nullify those taxes.
No act of self-expression would be taxable. No pen or pencil, no sheet of paper, no typewriter or word processor, no computer, radio, telephone, or television could be taxed, from factory to user. Nor any canvas, clay, paint, or block of marble. Telephone and internet service would be tax-free. Those who live by self-expression -- writers, painters, sculptors, programmers -- would pay no income tax: not preferential treatment, simple obedience to the First Amendment.
Likewise, I'd eliminate all taxes on weapons, ammunition, and accessories, starting with an 11% excise tax crammed down our throats by the NRA. There'd be no further punitive taxes on items -- like machineguns and short shotguns -- the government doesn't approve of. To make sure this ban stayed in place, I'd make it a felony for anyone to record the serial number of a weapon that belongs to someone else, and perhaps even require the removal of serial numbers once they'd served their legitimate purpose during factory production.
The other eight amendments would be protected exactly the same way. Nothing to do with the security of your home and possessions or your defense of them or yourself in a court of law would be taxable.
No real libertarian -- and not many real conservatives -- will ask how I plan to "pay" for all this tax hatcheting. Fact is, we suffer at least 100 times as much government as we need (conceding we need any) at every level: city, county, state, and federal. If I enforce the law, eliminating agencies and programs not permitted by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments and by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, there will be less government to pay for. How much less depends on who you listen to. Walter Williams estimates 2/3, I say 95%. Read the pertinent documents and see what you think.
It'll be fun finding out.
Someone's bound to ask how I hope to get these programs through in the current political climate. If I were President, it would hardly be in the current political climate, would it? Also, these programs are designed to appeal to touchy-feely prejudices: how can we possibly permit children's clothes and babyfood to be taxed? Finally, nothing can ever be accomplished if someone doesn't break the ice by being the first to talk about it publicly. That's what I'm doing here.
Make no mistake: all taxes are evil. When you take somebody else's property and they don't want to give it to you, there's only one word for it, no matter how many others voted to do it or what kind of funny hat or silly uniform you wear.
That word is theft.
Until recently, historically, hardly anybody paid taxes. What little taxation there was was in the form of tariffs, or an income tax that only applied to the top 5% (which isn't right, either, I'm simply discussing history here). Taxes were virtually invisible. But they are not invisible any longer, and our culture is much the worse for it. What example does it give children -- has it given children for the last 75 years -- to run a civilization on theft?
Which brings us to Program Three, an everyday struggle in which I pledge to rid civilization forever of the very concept of taxation. Let such starved and withered future governments as we allow to exist try funding themselves with telethons and bake sales.
It works for Jerry's kids.