There is something about the peaceful quiet of Christmas time that I believe leads the human mind naturally to reflection. As I sit in the afterglow of a perfectly happy Christmas I’m drawn back with a reflex to our founding. Like many of us I am guilty of romanticizing this time in our history and those involved. However, there is still a treasure-trove of information available to us on the intent of our founding fathers that provide for us today an idea of their dreams for our future. And it is in this left behind lore that we can gain insight into our current situation and view the present in light of the past to judge our progress and lack thereof.
Keeping in the area of interest covered by this website we will be focusing specifically on the issue of taxation viewed at our founding and by certain luminaries throughout our history. It is clear from the outset that our founders understood what was at stake when it came to the federal government’s power to tax. Thomas Jefferson is attributed with this quote, “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” From the beginning the founders understood that a redistributive tax structure would lead to a disastrous end. John Adams looked at a larger picture when he said, “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.” Rather unfortunately from President Adam’s point of view we no longer allow the “laws of God” as acceptable public discourse and those that hold property as sacred are counted as “greedy one-percenters”. From the perspective of our second President there are two dismal outcomes awaiting us.
Our founders also realized the danger of unchecked government. James Madison, the author of our Constitution, stated, “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” Today we have the displeasure of sitting back and watching the wisdom in these words materialize under the very Constitution written by the man who forewarned us about it. Thomas Paine discussed the tendency of those in power to manipulate words to mask truth. “What at first was plunder assumed the softer name of revenue.” This is an important quote that fits well into today’s tax debates and one we would all do well to remember. Semantics is a favorite game of the bureaucrat and elected official, the only losers are the ones cut out of the game, the voters. John Marshall wrote in one of the first landmark Supreme Court cases involving the idea of federalism, McCulloch v. Maryland, “The power to tax involves the power to destroy.” Today that power rests with the federal government and a myriad of opaque agencies cloistered away from the oversight of the voting public. This is antithetical to the specific and enumerated example set forth by our founders. All of the above exemplify the distaste and distrust our country has shown in the past toward a powerful centralized government. What we face today is such a government insulated from public criticism by layers of faceless bureaucracy. Our tax system adds to this needless complexity and serves to sever our connection to our representatives.
The income tax itself has been discussed by many throughout history. In fact, Plato wrote in The Republic, “When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount.” One of history’s greatest minds recognized the inherent injustice of an income tax, what hampers us from reaching the same conclusion? Even the progenitor of the Keynesian economic theory, John Maynard Keynes, concluded, “The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that carries any reward.” Our current system breeds dishonesty and avoidance, hardly the principles that helped to found our nation. In addition to dis-incentivizing virtue the current tax code is impossibly complex. Albert Einstein said, “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” Apparently unraveling the secrets of a universe carefully crafted by an omnipotent Creator is nothing compared to grappling with the IRS.
Luckily we are not left merely with warning. We have been given guidance by the strong and sure steps of those that have come before us. Tax changes that have made the greatest positive impact on the country all have one thing in common, giving money back to the people. John F. Kennedy recognized this when he spoke, “Prosperity is the real way to balance the budget. By lowering tax rates, by increasing jobs and incomes, we can expand tax revenues and finally bring our budget into balance.” It is unfortunate that many sharing his party designation have taken the polar opposite approach. The FairTax accomplishes all of the above and more. It lowers the tax burden and gives money back to the people, where it originated. It dismantles the centralized power of Washington bureaucrats and simplifies the tax code so that it can fit on a receipt. It respects individual freedom and stops encouraging theft and fiction. Ronald Reagan said, “I am more than ever convinced of the greatness of our people and their capacity to determine their own destiny.” The FairTax frees us to do so, so that we may fulfill our loftiest aspirations without the overwhelming burden placed by government.
As we peer into the future and see the dawn of a new horizon before us there is wisdom in looking to our past, even if briefly. It is to the words and actions of those that have come before us that we owe our current position. We do currently enjoy liberty that was paid for with the blood of patriots, the freedom created for us by the sharpest political minds in human history, and the strength of every entrepreneur that has taken a risk for an idea. We have much to learn that they may teach. In 1783 the author of the same Constitution that has protected our livelihood for over 200 years said this, “Taxes on consumption are always least burdensome, because they are least felt, and are borne too by those who are both willing and able to pay them; that of all taxes on consumption, those on foreign commerce are most compatible with the genius and policy of free States.” It is time we had a system that strove for the genius and policy of free states instead of shunning them. The FairTax represents a return to that ideal spoken so long ago. A new year brings with it opportunity and promise, and with your help, a turning of the tide.