THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 132, July 30, 2001
"DING DONG, ...!"
Tax Slavery Reparations!
by Kent Van Cleave
Special to TLE
I just read an interesting article by Paul Craig Roberts www.townhall.com/columnists/paulcraigroberts/pcr20010719.shtml, which treats the controversial slavery reparations movement as a diversionary ploy intended to provide cover for the establishment of global taxing authority. Now, I'm more than a bit skeptical about the existence of such a plot. I think the furor over reparations is better explained by the hate, envy, and greed of the proponents than by some globalist puppet mastery. But I was very interested to see the issue of slavery reparations linked to the issue of taxes. It hit me with the force of a drive-by inspiration.
Yes, we're all tired of the insistent chirping from gaping gullets demanding reparations. Compared to the ongoing evils of taxation, of course, it's a mere annoyance. But it is emblematic of the attitudes that have allowed once-free people to become tax slaves. Why not demand reparations for that?
Don't tell anybody, but we probably can't expect actual reparations for tax slavery, however compelling our case. In the first place, we'll never catch all the guilty parties. Sure, we might be able to nail everyone who committed overt acts in front of witnesses -- people who campaigned for taxes, or who voted for them in legislatures, or governors and presidents who signed them into law, or judges who upheld them in the courts. But when nobody will admit any longer to having been a Democrat ... well, the secret ballot pretty well places the complicit voter out of reach. And what could we require of those tax slavers who are caught and convicted? To be sure, it would be just to require the perpetrators of tax slavery to pay off their debt of restitution to their victims, working however long it takes to pay the debt in full. Forced labor, even in payment of real debt, will seem too much like slavery all over again. Any hope of real restitution for tax slavery is gone with the wind.
But all is not lost. Simply making the claim for reparations could be a really great way to apply pressure to at least end the abuse!
Think of the situation this way: two birds -- one big old momma bird, bloated by decades of effortless feeding on a continuous stream of tax dollars, and right in front of it a noisy baby bird eager to develop a new stream for itself. Here's your rock. ...
Perhaps the fastest way to obtain dramatic silence from the reparationists is to adopt their own arguments (made suddenly much stronger, for reasons that should become obvious) in favor of reparations for today's tax slaves. Such arguments have the force to penetrate claims for reparations and do serious damage to the background dogma regarding taxation.
1. Aside from sadistic torture, enslaving a person is about the most vile thing a human being can do. Slaves deserve restitution -- with interest -- from those who have enslaved them. Now, while the slaves of antebellum America are as dead as their masters, both tax slaves and the proponents and agents of taxation are still alive and kicking (some of them kicking more than others, but all entitled to redress). Justice, delayed, has been denied the former, but the latter can still be freed -- if not made whole.
2. Imagining for the sake of argument that a debt of justice owed one person can be inherited by remote descendants, we must begin by acknowledging the debt to the original victim. What of those individuals who might claim reparations owed to ancestors, but have been receiving and enjoying the fruits of tax slave labor? Darned if there doesn't appear to be a considerable overlap between alleged victims-by-proxy of ancestral slavery and here-and-now beneficiaries of "entitlement programs" powered by tax slave labor! Certainly if those who belong to both groups are entitled to reparations for the slavery of their ancestors, they must be liable to pay reparations to the direct victims of their own institution of tax slavery. I'm betting the balance sheet would not look favorable to them.
3. How could anyone argue against the proposition that justice must first be rendered to the actual, living victims of involuntary servitude before the claims of remote descendants of slaves (not slaves themselves) could be given even cursory consideration?
4. Tax slavery cuts across nearly all demographic lines. Just about everyone has been victimized to some extent. Even those who have benefited most from tax slavery as recipients of "entitlement" funds and the like, and thereby qualify as slaveholders ... even they can actually claim in most cases to be tax slaves themselves. Using the same excuse for economic logic that has perpetuated tax slavery as a tool for redistributing wealth, it could be possible to get these people to focus more on the piddling benefits they might get from reparations for their tax slavery than on the losses they would sustain by losing the benefits of involuntary servitude from their countrymen.
5. It will be downright fun to deal with the lame arguments against reparations for tax slavery. At the top of the list would certainly be the claim that taxes aren't really involuntary, and thus don't constitute slavery. Much rolling on the floor and gasping for breath ... then we'll have to explain things to the folks who really believe in the "social contract" theory of polity: No, I never signed no steenking contract. "But it's implicit in your choice to remain here that you accept what is required of you by government!" Would this be the same sort of acceptance of their legal status as slaves that black Americans in 18th century America demonstrated -- simply by failing to flee, no matter what the consequences of the attempt would be? Maybe today's tax slaves can leave the country and keep their skins intact, but they will certainly not be allowed to depart with all of their property. And where will they go to live free of taxation? The fact is that, just as with their earlier brothers in involuntary servitude, escape to freedom is not a real option. But freedom where they are is their inalienable right.
6. Social Contract Argument, Part II: "Well, even if you didn't contract to abide by America's tax laws, your parents did on your behalf." Can we assume then that the sales contract acquired by a slave trader from some waif's parents commits that child to a life of slavery? The reparationists won't like that much. ...
7. "But taxes are legal (even constitutional), and therefore don't constitute slavery." Exactly like chattel slavery of 17th, 18th, and 19th century America was legal and constitutional at the time? Oooh ... that one hurt, didn't it? But if "legality" can't excuse slavery (and who would argue that it can?), our tax laws stand exposed as illegitimate and oppressive.
8. "Without taxes our society would be thrown into chaos!" Without slavery, the pre-war South would have been thrown into chaos. In both cases, the chaos would result from removing a policy that never should have been in place. So your point is...?
9. "But there are essential things government does that require funding!" Voluntary funding for services I want and appreciate? No problem -- and no need for the coercion of tax laws. I'll just pay as I go. "No, I mean important things for which some people wouldn't pay their fair share unless forced." Well, stop thinking like a slave owner for a moment and try thinking like a neighbor. Maybe there will be "free riders" who take advantage of services paid for by others. You have a choice. You could base your society on the notion that nobody can be trusted to be responsible, and institute slavery as a substitute for responsibility; or you can base your society on the expectation of individual responsibility, and apply moral suasion (not force) to discourage freeloading, and use personal judgment to deny sustenance to parasites. On the one hand, nobody is free, and freeloaders just move from conning individuals to exploiting impersonal institutions. On the other hand, everyone is free and those who want to be jerks find it to be a costly choice. Kind of a no-brainer, isn't it?
10. David Horowitz has made the case that reparations based on allegations of economic harm to the descendants of slaves makes no sense. After all, the average black American is much wealthier than her distant relatives remaining in Africa. The best case for reparations, I think, recognizes a psychological or spiritual damage suffered by black Americans. Some attribute this to the legacy of slavery and residual racial discrimination. Maybe ... partly. Whatever the cause, everyone agrees the effect has been a sense of inadequacy or inferiority that prevents many black Americans from recognizing and pursuing those opportunities available to them. A sense of oppression has seeped to the very core of their being.
Much more immediate an influence than the shadow of slavery, however, is the modern welfare state. Every American who will listen -- especially if a member of a minority group -- is implored by an entrenched bureaucracy to take advantage of tax-funded programs available to (you guessed it) those who are inadequately prepared to help themselves or are inferior (purely in terms of qualifications) to competitors in the job market. We now see families who have gone for generations without seeing what it's like to have a working adult in the household. What must it feel like to think that everything you have has been earned by someone else -- someone you don't know who, given the choice, would not have contributed what she did? And how are we proposing to fix this problem? Right. We just have these folks get in another line for another unearned handout called 'reparations'! "Here's some gas to put out that fire. ..."
What if, instead, we went right to the source of the problem? Repudiate the notion that we must build our society around fulfilling the needs of "second class" citizens, and insist that we are all free to develop our talents and abilities as far as they will go, to reap the benefits of our creativity and labor, and to guide our lives as masters of our own destinies. Accentuate the good will that has been characteristic of American society wherever socialism has been kept in abeyance -- the glad willingness to help a neighbor who is simply doing his best, and the determination not to interfere in the personal choices and honest, peaceful activities of anyone and everyone around us.
What does this approach give us, aside from the tonic needed to restore the victims of psychological/spiritual oppression to optimistic and productive vitality? Well ... for starters, there's an automatic consequence: the end of tax slavery.
After that, there won't be much advantage beyond the greatest economic expansion in human history, the most vibrant society ever experienced by humankind, and the most psychologically healthy and happy individual human beings to grace the surface of planet Earth.