Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 410, March 25, 2007

"Every boy or girl should have a .410!"


Self-Interested Defenders of 'the Peculiar Institution'
by Vin Suprynowicz

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

From my last name, a lot of folks wouldn't think half my ancestors were English—Clarks and Bishops and Higginbothams, some active in the emancipation movement as much as three centuries ago.

Digging through the family archives, I find a yellowed letter to one Zebulon Clark, penned in 1757—three-quarters of a century before the abolition of chattel slavery in Britain and the possessions. The letter responds to an abolitionist pamphlet penned by my ancestor a short time before:

"Zebulon Clark contends the chattels have a right to the fruits of their own labors. Perhaps he doesn't take sugar in his tea, wear cotton clothing dyed with indigo, or make use of any of the other marvellous products made possible by our modern commerce.

"The institution of chattel slavery, so necessary to such commerce that history shows us no example of it succeeding under any other circumstance, has done nothing for Mr. Clark, he would have us believe. It has not provided him with the exotic foodstuffs that have revolutionized our cuisine.

"The use of 'the press' to round up miscreants and idlers, thereupon requiring them to crew his majesty's ships under humane conditions and at reasonable pay, has not protected the sea lanes so that Mr. Clark can enjoy all the benefits of free trade on seas swept free of pirates, he would have us believe.

"Meantime, in an even more extravagant flight of fancy, he asserts that (once set free) these chanting, superstitious Africans would immediately become literate men of commerce, able to maintain the plantation industry without European help or oversight.

"I know that if I were to try and operate a plantation in a country such as Brazil—where the Portuguee in their wisdom have barred this useful institution—the amount of land I could till and consequently my income would be reduced to a sliver of what it is now. It was a matter of good luck that I was born in the British colonies. Slavery benefits me, it benefits Mr. Clark, and it benefits the Negro himself. Or else it should benefit no one. We can dissolve it and see how much better off we all will be.

"Sincerely, Leroy H. Pelton, Overseer, Maryland Park Plantations."

Well, actually, I'm fibbing. Not about my English ancestors—got plenty of those. But I didn't really find any such letter in the old family archives.

Instead, after I wrote last week that taxation violates the 13th amendment by requiring us all to slave for the state, "buying" the state's "services" whether we want them or not—a moral outrage worse than mere thievery, since the thief does not contend he has the right to keep robbing us again and again—I did receive a letter from one Leroy H. Pelton, Professor, UNLV School of Social Work.

"To the Editor," Mr. Pelton begins: "Poor Vin Suprynowicz feels 'enslaved' in America. He is a 'sharecropper' to a government that steals from the fruits of his labors, which he has earned all by himself. . . .

"Surely he would be better off in a country, such as Somalia, that has no government to steal from him. Since he could then keep all of his 'earnings' without having it taxed, it follows that he would be wealthier working for a newspaper in Somalia, putting forth the same effort that he does at the Review-Journal. . . .

"The community, through government, has done nothing for Suprynowicz. It has not built roads and highways that allows his employer to distribute its newspaper so that he could have a larger income than in Somalia. It has not protected his freedom of speech. . . .

"I know that if I were to work as a university professor in a near-anarchic country such as Somalia, my income would be reduced to a sliver of what it is now—even after taxes—occupying the same position and putting forth the same effort as I do at UNLV. It was a matter of good luck that I was born in the United States. The government benefits me, it benefits Suprynowicz, and it should benefit homeless people. Or else it should benefit no one. We can dissolve it and see how much better off we all will be."

The point, for the irony deprived, is that one cannot erect a moral justification for an immoral act by listing the good things you've done with your slave's labor or with the property you have stolen. Captured bank robbers are not released based on the assertion they used some of their booty to buy medicine for old people. Taking wealth from others against their will, under the threat of brute force, is immoral. If you doubt that's what "taxation" is, try refusing to pay. Refuse to let the armed men in your home or office when they arrive. Do "tax resisters" go to prison, or not? If they try to escape, will they be shot, or not?

Here we have a letter from someone whose main sustenance comes from tax loot, who is retained to train new little fledgling statists how to wrangle ever more tax loot to run ever more government "programs" entrapping an ever wider circle of unfortunates in the "new plantation" of the welfare state, ridiculing the cries of one of his slaves.

At least let him to be honest enough to say, "I authorize armed men to loot for me what I need, because I don't know any other way to get these useful things done, any more than the British could imagine any way to man their fleet or work their plantations without clubbing men over the head." From that premise, some useful discussions might proceed.

Weren't many things now considered impossible without employing monopoly government force once done in other ways?

There were no government schools as we know them before the 1850s. Yet the generation of the founding fathers—Franklin was no rich kid—were literate beyond the dreams of most Americans today. How did that come to pass—why did de Tocqueville find America's working class the most literate on earth, when he toured America in 1831—if "only government" can make us literate?

Who's to say private toll roads couldn't once again be more efficiently built and maintained than the government kind? That voluntary fraternal associations might not offer us better medical coverage (as groups like the Foresters did, a century ago) than shambling government programs that protect the AMA's fee-for-service monopoly? That government regulations (see "McCain-Feingold") may not actually restrict our freedom of speech? That we might not all have three times the buying power—real, effective wealth—if not for the crushing burden of the insatiable state, cause of the collapse of every great empire from Rome to Russia?

Mr. Pelton implies America was built on taxes, that the state is our "community." In fact, America was founded in resistance to taxation, reached its zenith thanks to the constitutional ban on direct taxation not apportioned ("roads and highways" are funded with excises on tires and gasoline, which are at least constitutional), and has seen the individual citizen grow both poorer and less free ever since the socialist takeover of 1913-1965.

Why else does it now take two incomes to support a family, at which point folks still can't afford to pay cash for their own children's medicine and education, as our ancestors did? Why were our ancestors trusted to buy machine guns and morphine and marijuana without government interference in 1912? Were they that much brighter and more responsible than we are today? Is it something in the water?

Most that is great and good about America has been achieved through voluntary work, invention, contract and commerce, all achieved not BY government, but IN SPITE OF the regulatory and financial penalties imposed on such productive activity by the dead hand of our haughty bureaucratic masters.

The last time you paid $5,000 for a used a car, what did the governor or the Legislature do to "earn" their $378 sales tax cut (before we even talk about the "registration" tax)? What's that—they "regulated" the transaction? Ha! They didn't even send Mr. Pelton by to check the oil. But his share of the "take" flowed into his healthy six-figure remuneration, make no mistake.

What did the state or local government do to earn the thousands of dollars in "property taxes" they seized from you last year, other than warehouse other people's children in their mandatory homogeneity camps while whining that they can't possibly be expected to help bring them all to a state of complex literacy (in one language, not three or four like the Europeans) in a mere 12 years unless we start giving them a lot more than the current $10,000 per child per year?

Why are "social workers" now paid with my tax dollars to ridicule my cherished dream of an eventual return to freedom, sneering with sarcasm as they attempt to justify the "peculiar institution" that funds their socially destructive labors—an immoral funding method which will appear just as barbaric to our descendants, 250 years from now, as chattel slavery and "the press" sound to us today?

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the daily Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of The Black Arrow.

First published at
Copyright © 2007 Vin Suprynowicz

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