Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 422, June 17, 2007

"Aim at zero!"


Income Taxation Is Immoral, Not Illegal and Unconstitutional
by Todd Andrew Barnett

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Conservative columnist (and Fox News Watch panelist) Cal Thomas, in a column he penned for Jewish World Review on April 17, 2000, said it best about the federal income tax: "People who relieve others of their money with guns are called robbers. It does not alter the immorality of the act when the income transfer is carried out by government."

If only today's so-called liberals and conservatives fathomed the meaning of those words. Furthermore, it would be nice if they could admit that income taxation is immoral and unethical, on the grounds that such a government-induced machination violates an individual's right to keep the fruits of his or her labor, all because he or she has simply earned that money. Don't count on it though; after all, such an admission would mar the so-called sacrosanct image of the Left and the Right and their apologists in the federal government. Simply put, if they admit such a thing, it will constitute a bad public relations nightmare for them.

Unfortunately, the "immorality-of-income-taxation" argument isn't warmly embraced by Edward Lewis Brown and his wife Elaine, two tax protestors who posit the unfounded, warped view that is universally shared by most tax protestors—that there is no law mandating that they must pay a federal income tax. IRS officials claim that the Browns have not filed their income tax returns reporting a total income of $1,310,706 over a period of five years.

On January 18, 2007, the Browns were convicted of three criminal charges with relation to federal tax evasion and conspiring to "defraud the government" by a jury of their peers in a federal court in Concord, New Hampshire. Several days later, Judge Steve McAullife, who presided at the trial, ordered Elaine Brown not to return to her home before his ruling on the case. She made an agreement with the state that she would be released to the custody of her son who resides in Worcester, Massachusetts and agreed to wear a tether and was given permission to leave the home if only her son accompanied her. However, weeks after the jury rendered its guilty verdict, she violated the agreement by destroying the device and rejoined her husband in Plainfield.

On April 25, the Browns were sentenced to more than five years in federal prison, even though the couple did not attend the courtroom proceedings to hear the verdict handed down by the jury. Interestingly enough, they, although initially refused any assistance of a court-appointed attorney, eventually decided to represent themselves for the duration of the trial.

Ed and Elaine Brown's Religious Conversion

The Browns' attempt to dismiss their own case by branding themselves "the court" and "judge" certainly did not impress McAuliffe. According to the April 14 edition of The Concord Monitor, the couple signed and filed legal court documents—that is, documents to "close their case"—that revealed that the couple had legally changed their names. The newly-chosen names, according to the Monitor piece, were "Edward, a Living Soul in the Body of the Lord, of the House of Israel" and "Elaine, a Living Soul in the Body of the Lord, of the House of Israel." The unusual aspect of the filings was not that the couple had these documents filed, but rather that the couple had changed their names after having converted to a non-denominational branch of Christianity that they learned from a religious man named Sonny.

The Monitor also reported:

"According to friends of the Browns, Sonny, who wears a long beard, all-white attire and sandals, flew from Hawaii to New Hampshire to visit the Browns and shared his religious and legal teachings over several days. The couple has spoken extensively about their new religious beliefs, and their bearing on the case, in internet radio interviews."

Moreover, the article concluded:

"In a phone interview last week, Ed Brown refused to answer detailed questions about his new name or beliefs, but he anticipated that the court would not understand his filings.
"'You couldn't possibly understand it,' he said. 'The court barely knows what it is.'"

That went without saying for the Browns. Judge McAuliffe, in response to their announcement of their filings and their newly-found beliefs, ruled that the documents would be rejected, demanding them to be "stricken as frivolous, misleading, and irrelevant to any matter at issue."

McAuliffe Denies The Browns Free Copies of their Trial Transcripts

McAuliffe even did not rule on the Browns' request for free copies of their trial transcript, but that didn't stop the federal government from issuing its objections to the matter. Its bone of contention with the Browns is that they claim they are "indigent," referring to their statements to the Monitor to contend that they possess assets that were not included in their financial affidavits filed with the court.

Elaine Brown submitted a request for the free transcripts, alleging that, in a limited fashion, she draws her income from Social Security. The government argues that an attached financial affidavit is on file with the court, in which Elaine allegedly stated that she has only $3,000 cash on hand. However, the Browns, addressing to what they called a "sham court," responded to the government's charge, contending that they needed the transcripts "for the purpose of trying to understand the legitimacy/jurisdictions of the fiction's actions."

The Browns Decide Not to Fight Court Verdict

On May 18, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported that, during an interview on a talk radio show on May 17, Ed and Elaine Brown said that they didn't plan to fight the court's verdict. The reason for this, as they stated, was that they have "abandoned man's law" and now "follow only the rules and laws put forth by the Bible."

The Leader continued:

"'We know there's a possibility that this will end badly and they will end up killing us,' Elaine Brown told Terri Dudley, host of 'Your Turn' on Hanover's WTSL AM 1400. 'Maybe some of us will die, but that happens in every revolution.'"

According to the same article, the Browns, after having holed themselves up in their home following the January verdict, publicly stated that, if they do leave, they would do so as "free citizens" or "in body bags." Whatever the outcome, said Ed Brown, he believes the situation will have a "positive impact."

The paper also reported Brown as saying:

"'Only God knows the time frame,' he said. 'And no matter how it ends, it will be good. It doesn't matter. If they do something to us, they'll make martyrs out of us.'"

Brown even reportedly believed that the U.S. Supreme Court would not allow the couple's Petition for the Redress of Grievances to be heard—a petition which originated from the federal court trial in Concord. This is after Judge McAuliffe would not allow the Browns to argue against the federal income tax law on legal and constitutional grounds.

The piece also noted:

"'They don't follow their own rules, their own laws, unless it's to their advantage,' Elaine Brown said during the radio show."

Federal, State, and Local Officials Converge to Raid The Browns' Property

On June 7, a news story broke on WMUR Channel 9's website and aired on its television affiliate, reporting that a swarm of SWAT and police cars and armored vehicles assembled in a field near the Browns' home in Plainfield. This gathering of federal, state, and local officials fueled rumors of an armed standoff on the Browns' property, although the government's own officials attempted to pooh-pooh the matter by saying that they were there to serve a warrant to seize the couple's property and not to arrest them.

Of course these are the same agents who also claim that they were in the area in raid Elaine Brown's dental office in Lebanon. Clad in "IRS CID" vests, federal agents appeared in front of the office, all the while refusing to comment to reporters. Cars and trucks with license plates ranging from New Jersey to Massachusetts were parked in the driveway, and a federal officer with a sniper rifle was hiding on a second-story balcony.

The press also reported that, during the government's surveillance of the Browns' 110-acre property, a U.S. marshal discovered a man, who was walking the Browns' dog Zoe, noticing the authorities on the property with suspicion. The man was unsurprisingly detained for questioning. Of course, in response to the incident, U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier said it succinctly:

"'Unfortunately, it required U.S. Marshal Service personnel during that encounter to take him into custody,' Monier said. 'Because he essentially discovered us.'"

The man, who was later identified as an Ed Brown supporter named Danny Riley, recorded a video that was posted on the Internet, in which he described his encounter with and detainment by the federal authorities that day. In the video, Riley recounted that a camouflaged U.S. marshal fired two shots over his head after the agent came upon him hiding in the woods near the site. Riley even asserts that the Feds tackled and tasered him, not to mention threatened him with a 15-year jail sentence unless he went on record with the media with the claim that the siege was planned for and expected and was not the outcome of a failed plot to serve a warrant.

A day after law enforcement officials converged near the home, the Browns thanked Riley for "saving their lives." Brown publicly noted that, if it hadn't been for him, he and his wife might not have survived the ordeal.

U.S. Marshalls Cut Power to the Browns' Home

A week after the failed raid, U.S. officials, while clinging onto their "no-raid" response, decided to cut power to the Browns' home. According to the June 13 edition of the Monitor, it was reported:

"'We don't need to make them comfortable,' said Marshal Stephen Monier, who emphasized that despite the utility shutoff, marshals are not stationed near the couple's Plainfield home and have no plans to raid the property.
"'It's another step to take him down the path, to further encourage him to do the right thing,' Monier said of Ed Brown.

On Thursday, the phones were cut off, although they were briefly restored the next day. They were permanently shut off on Monday, especially after the raid and the roadblocks that were set up near the house.

Obviously, Monier and his federal cronies did this to pressure Brown into giving up his fight against the government and to surrender. But this hasn't stopped him from doing that at all.

Income Taxation Is Immoral, Not Illegal and Unconstitutional

As much as I wish that Ed and Elaine Brown were correct in their view that there is "no such law" that requires Americans to pay a federal income tax, unfortunately, they are not. The problem with Ed and Elaine's argument against income taxation is that it has no strong legal and constitutional standing whatsoever. Tax protestors like Ed and Elaine Brown who employ the absurd argument that the U.S. Constitution does not grant the federal government any power to tax individuals on their incomes are either frauds or hoodwinked into believing that story. (One could try to make the argument that these most of these individuals are both, but I'm not inclined to believe that, considering that it would be laughable for a fraud to be snookered into buying the "there-is-no-income-tax-law" lie. It's either one or the other; it cannot be both.)

Sheldon Richman, in part one of his illustrious three-part "Beware The Income-Tax Casuistry" commentary published by the Future of Freedom Foundation on December 18, 2006, correctly pointed out that opponents of the income tax who look up on the infamous Frank R. Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad Co. case favorably—that is, the 1916 U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld the 1913 income-tax law passed under the Sixteenth Amendment—are fooling themselves. (Check out parts two and three of that excellent series, and you'll see what I mean.) He goes on to say:

"That income-tax opponents would look with favor on a Supreme Court opinion that affirmed, in the most sweeping terms, Congress's power to tax incomes "from whatever source derived" seems incomprehensible. But according to their reading of the case, Brushaber is salvation.

"That reading, I'm sorry to say, is wrong—in the extreme. After close study of the case, its context, predecessors, and successors, I am compelled to conclude that Brushaber offers neither aid nor comfort to those looking for a legal escape from the hated income tax. If we are ever to get this monster off our backs, it will not be through casuistry and pettifoggery. We will have to pull off a far tougher feat: convincing a critical mass of the American people that taxation is theft."

He is absolutely right on the money. Tax protestors, who misleadingly place themselves under the guise of "tax honesty," believe that, based on their misinterpreted readings of the Brushaber case, a tax on income was meant to be a tax on government income, corporate income, corporate profits, government employment, government contracts, etc. However, they are fundamentally mistaken. The Constitution certainly does provide room for an income tax. Since the Sixteenth Amendment was properly ratified and Congress did properly pass the 1913 income-tax law, including Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code, the federal income tax, whether one likes it or not, is legal and constitutional.

However, just because the income tax (or any other form of taxation) is legal and constitutional does not make it moral. Over two centuries ago, it was argued that human slavery—that is, the involuntary servitude of black slaves on the plantations up until the Emancipation Proclamation—was legal and constitutional. Our American ancestors who once held the popular view that slavery was legal and constitutional refuted the notion that such a system was immoral, unethical, and illegitimate. That principle applies to the income tax (and taxation in general) as well.

Income taxation (and taxation by any other means) is force. It is a means to coerce individuals to forfeit their incomes to the state, which will, in turn, use it for the "moral good of society." Moral good, whether one cares to acknowledge it or not, is an arbitrary construct, and statists who justify such a construct with all sorts of cop-outs cannot legitimately win the moral argument for it. If the state sends an IRS agent to coerce you into sacrificing a percentage of your income just to "pay for government programs," it is, by no means, theft. It is no different from an armed robber who points a gun at your direction and demands that you either hand him all of your money "or else."

The Truth About Direct and Indirect Taxes

The interesting aspect of the tax protestors' arguments is that they claim that there is an indirect link between taxable income and federal privilege. This assertion is terribly baseless and malarkey! However, in order for us to both comprehend the invalidity of this claim and debunk the myth of this argument, we must take a gander at 1894 when Congress passed the Wilson-Gorman Tariff, which included an income tax. (Recall that the first income tax arose during the War Between the States.)

We must first look at the matter of direct and indirect taxation, both of which serve as a paramount distinction in the Constitution. In Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution, it states, "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States." Article I, Section 9, Clause 4 states, "No capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken."

Of course, the most widely held interpretation of the above-mentioned articles is that the direct taxes—also known as poll taxes or head taxes—must be apportioned to the states in accordance with population, and indirect taxes must be uniform through the United States.

The problem with many of those tax protestors is that they really have no idea of what the language with reference to Sections 8 and 9 really mean. The language is vague on the specifics and is quite arbitrary to say the least. At the height of George Washington's presidency in 1794, Congress passed a tax on "carriages for the conveyance of persons," regardless of whether they were used for hire or personal reasons. It was not a sales tax per se, but rather an assessment on every carriage owned in the amount of $16, and that included those owned at the time Congress passed the tax. Because the tax was truly not apportioned among the states, the court was requested to declare it unconstitutional. But what was the purpose of this tax? Did it assess the ownership of property, making it "direct" and in need of apportionment? Or was the tax meant to be assessed on the use of property, assuming that it was an excise tax and not an indirect tax, thus not requiring apportionment but rather uniformity?

Nevertheless, the tax resisters are wrong to use the "taxable income/federal privilege" argument, on the grounds that it does not hold any water.


Tax protestors, along with their nutty arguments against the income tax, are wrong—not to mention incorrect—to employ the constitutional and legal theories as ammunition against the tax. The problem with the tax is not that, as Sheldon Richman correctly puts it, it is an income tax; it's that it is an income tax. It is not "voluntary," as many apologists for the IRS would contend; on the contrary, it is mandatory. How can such a tax system be voluntary if the IRS can seriously penalize you for accounting errors (no matter how innocent they may be) and late filings (which can incur severe penalties or possible threats of fines or imprisonment) or accuse you of evasion or fraud? There is nothing remotely voluntary about it. Such a claim to the contrary is balderdash!

The tax protestor movement is ripe with two types of individuals—con men and true believers. The con men are those who trick people into believing that the income tax is bogus and the true believers are those who think that the claims advanced by the frauds are for real.

Don't get me wrong; just because I oppose the poppycock claims of the tax protestors does not constitute my political approval of the income tax. I oppose the income tax across the board, but I oppose it on moral and ethical grounds, not via arbitrary legal and constitutional technicalities.

Ed and Elaine Brown should oppose the income tax on moral grounds, not on legal and constitutional grounds. It is for that reason that income taxation is immoral, not illegal and unconstitutional. The Browns, however, are right if they feel that the tax violates their natural rights. After all, it certainly does.

It is, because of that argument, that the income tax must be repealed. And the only way to accomplish it is to educate the American public on this most insidious tax, which has unfettered access not only to our wealth but to our freedoms in every imaginable way.

© 2007 by Todd Andrew Barnett. All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint any portion of or the entire article is hereby granted, provided that the author's name and credentials are included.
Mr. Barnett is Host of Liberty Cap Talk Live (Host AIM Name: LibertyCapTalk1). Official Website of Liberty Cap Talk Live He is also a Columnist with Liberty For All Online Magazine


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