Thou Shalt Not Steal

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To: Bob Schulz From: Gary North Re: Your fast unto death against the IRS

Your decision to begin a fast on July 1 reveals a dedication that few people possess. But you have made a bad decision. I pray that you will reverse yourself, not out of fear or discomfort, but out of principle.

The Internal Revenue Service is on every American freedom-lover’s list of the first five organizations to abolish. It feeds the Beast. The income tax should be abolished. It should not be resurrected. The IRS should be limited to, at most, taxing other branches of civil government. We the people should have no direct dealings with the IRS. But, of course, such is not the case.

Your Web site proclaims that the income tax was brought into existence illegally. The evidence does indicate that the Sixteenth Amendment was not ratified according to law. Bill Benson and Red Beckman made this case in their 1985 book, The Law That Never Was. (Who knows? Maybe someday Mr. Benson will do us the enormous favor-for a profit, no less- of publishing the full documentation on-line or on a CD-ROM. I would be happy to buy a copy.)

The subsequent legislation that created the IRS is, at best, muddled. You think that it was never passed. Your decision to challenge the IRS on its legality is surely legitimate.

But there is always the question of means. Is your threat of self-starvation legitimate? Is it even rational? It will get some publicity for your cause. It may not get enough publicity to force the IRS to meet with you publicly on September 21. You cannot be sure. You have said that you will not stop your fast until IRS officials meet with you and answer your questions publicly. But they may decide to ignore you. Then what?

A rational tactic has a plan. A one-man stand had better have a constituency in mind. An obvious constituency that you should attempt to mobilize is this one: members of a tiny handful of conservative Christian churches. The pastors of mainline churches and most evangelical churches will ignore you. They will not risk a confrontation with the IRS, which might revoke their churches’ tax-exempt status. You must therefore go over the heads of the pastors to the members.

Christians will see your tactic as literally suicidal. All branches of the church throughout history have placed suicide in the category of a mortal sin or its equivalent in the particular denominational tradition. Suicide is seen as murder: the deliberate destruction of God’s image in man. The church has always said that each man belongs to God, and God therefore places limits on killing. This includes self-killing.

Your decision to place your life on the line, on your own authority, will be regarded by Christians who hear about your stand as morally wrong and tactically misguided. You do your cause enormous harm by adopting such a tactic.

Then there is the question of the magnitude of the threat to our liberty posed by the IRS. This agency should not be at the top of any freedom-loving American’s list of institutions to be eliminated. Decades ago, R. J. Rushdoony made the point that any call for a tax revolt is futile in modern American society. This nation has for too long placed enormous faith in government-run schools. He concluded: “Americans have willingly tithed their children to the State. They are not about to take a stand against the mere confiscation of their money.”

The public schools are America’s only established church. Rushdoony made this point in his book, The Messianic Character of American Education, in 1963. Sidney E. Mead, a liberal church historian, made the same point in the same year in his book, The Lively Experiment. The public schools are where most Americans’ public faith lodges. You should not waste your efforts in a vain hope of shutting down the IRS until after the worship of the State in these secular churches ends.

The public school system operated for over a century without funds collected by the IRS and distributed by the U.S. Treasury. Even today, federal subsidies to state and local education are only a small fraction of the total funding of the tax-funded schools. The IRS is not our primary target. Shut down the IRS without first shutting down the public schools, and the Beast will recover.

There is another underlying error in your tactic: your abiding faith in salvation by law. You seem to think that a technicality in the law will save America from the tyranny of the IRS. But the letter of any law is interpreted by politicians dressed in black robes. You are operating under the naive assumption that the federal courts are ready to cut off the source of their own funding. That the IRS’s own administrative law court will decide against you is obvious. I have in mind a Constitutional court. The judges are not about to commit institutional suicide. They would much prefer to have you commit literal suicide.

We live in a nation so utterly blinded by the doctrine of the absolute authority of federal judges that a declaration by eight of them that it is illegal for states to prohibit abortion persuaded the vast majority of American voters, including Christians, that nothing could be done about it. They shrugged their shoulders and dutifully went on with earning a living and paying their taxes.

Why do you believe that these people are ready to join you in a tax revolt based on a legal technicality? Most of them will never hear of you, and if they do, they will think “nut case.”

You are not Gandhi. This is not India.

Today’s tax laws are the visible manifestation of Americans’ deeply entrenched involvement in the politics of plunder. Our tax laws are consistent with this national faith in the power of the State to redistribute wealth by force.

You may have found an ancient glitch in the letter of the tax laws, but the spirit of these laws is universal. A jury of your peers would probably convict you if you put the case before them. As surely as the Israelites of Samuel’s day paid no attention to his warning that the king would extract a tithe from their production (I Samuel 8:15-17), so are today’s voters and jurors.

The spirit of the law is our problem. The letter of the law may protect this or that person from a specific act of government tyranny, but it should not be expected to protect taxpayers from themselves.

I implore you to continue your struggle by other means. Call off your fast. Use your Web site to make your case that the tax laws are rigged and technically illegitimate. Move your argument from the verifiable facts of illegal acts by politicians and their appointed bureaucrats to the broader issue of immoral law and immoral voters, who believe in a rewritten Mosaic commandment:

“Thou shalt not steal, except by majority vote.”

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of an eleven-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible. The latest volume is Cooperation and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Romans. The series can be downloaded free of charge at

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