Barry Bonds and the State

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By now you
know that Barry Bonds has surpassed
Hank Aaron
to become the greatest home run hitter in Major League
Baseball history. And you also know that this new record does not
come without controversy. Many baseball fans and regular Joes alike
have made moral arguments against Bonds and the legitimacy of his
record amid widespread allegations that he's cheated over the years
by using steroids.

Perhaps he
has. But I have a question for you: Which is more immoral? A baseball
player who may have used performance-enhancing drugs en route to
accomplishing one of sports' greatest achievements, or a federal
government that essentially created this scandal by hauling non-violent
citizens in front of Congress to testify against themselves for
allegedly doing something only to themselves? Depending on your
outlook, you might think it’s a toss-up. Allow me to attempt clarification.

If you believe
Bonds’s new record is tainted as a result of the superstar’s alleged
steroid use, you may very well dismiss his latest accomplishment
as meaningless and insignificant. Very well. As someone who doesn’t
really care one way or the other whether Bonds juiced up to augment
his play, I can’t get too worked up over this issue. Indeed, I believe
we all have much more to lose in the way of freedom as a result
of the government’s involvement in this whole steroid fiasco, than
we do in, say, the way of bruised sensibilities in the event the
record was actually taken from Hammerin' Hank artificially.

It is only
as a result of the government’s arrogant and senseless “war on drugs”
that it even deigns to believe it has the right to police Major
League Baseball in the first place, when the league is perfectly
capable of conducting its own affairs.

folks already know that if the government can claim for itself the
power to patrol and punish voluntary behaviors and transactions
between consenting adults that result in no harm or benefit to anyone
but those immediately involved — and which, oh by the way, take
place in private facilities — then the government essentially has
the authority to regulate, manipulate, and monitor virtually any
transaction in which we freely choose to engage. If this is of less
concern to you than a relatively unimportant baseball record, then
we are all in trouble.

Ever since
the passage of the 16th
, which granted the federal government the power to
directly confiscate our income — our property — we basically
are allowed to own nothing to which the government cannot also lay
claim, at least in part. If there is a valid argument justifying
taxes levied on voluntary consumer purchases, there is absolutely
no justification for a tax that is nothing less than outright, state-sponsored
theft. Though I would be incarcerated — and rightly so — for walking
next door and taking money out of my neighbor’s wallet without his
permission, the government makes this very act routine.

So is it a
surprise that before 21-year-old Matt Murphy probably could even
call his folks to tell them he’d caught Barry Bonds’s 756th home
run ball, tax experts were already cautioning him about the fiscal
“obligations” he may very well have to the State? According to an

“It’s an
expensive catch,” said John Barrie, a tax lawyer with Bryan Cave
LLP in New York who grew up watching the Giants play at Candlestick
Park. “Once he took possession of the ball and it was his ball,
it was income to him based on its value as of yesterday,”

By most estimates,
the ball that put Bonds atop the list of all-time home run hitters
with 756 would sell in the half-million dollar range on the open
market or at auction.

That would
instantly put Murphy, a college student from Queens, in the highest
tax bracket for individual income, where he would face a tax rate
of about 35 per cent, or about US$210,000 on a $600,000 ball.

It should come
as no shock that Murphy will be expected to pay taxes on his earnings
in the event he sells the ball. But Barrie notes that Murphy may
be subject to taxes based on a reasonable estimate of the ball’s
value even if he doesn’t sell it. (Murphy could sell
the ball, the so-called logic seems to go, so the government may
as well take its cut now. By this rationale, the government ought
to just toss us in jail arbitrarily because we all could
commit a crime.) Only under a government that employs a tyrannical,
confiscatory tax structure could anyone be expected to pay taxes
on income he doesn't even have yet.

Hence the immoral
nature of the property tax. Not only are we taxed on goods at the
time of purchase, but we're often also taxed on the value of our
property after we've bought it. Taxing a baseball on a value that
hasn’t even materialized in the form of a sale would be the same
as paying local and state taxes every year on, for example, land
or a car — taxes which are levied almost universally (where they
exist) even if the owner has no outstanding debt on the property.
Taxing Murphy's baseball on its value would be no different than
the government taxing me every year on my lamps, televisions, toilets,
frying pans, couches, bar stools, you name it, for no other reason
than the mere fact that I own them.

Never underestimate
the State’s desire to tax us, especially when it identifies a succulent
opportunity to hit the jackpot. There is as yet no official word
from the IRS on whether Matt Murphy will be forced to pay taxes
on the value of his prize. However, if the government decides to
swoop in and steal from him simply for possessing a baseball the
market deems more valuable than another, it would only be logical
for it to tax everyone who catches a home run ball at a baseball

If it seems
as if this would be irrational and excessive — even outright fascistic
and evil — that's because it would be. And though the idea's the
same, it is even more depraved for the State to steal a chunk of
our paycheck or any other property to which it believes it is entitled
simply because we own it.

All the juice
in the world couldn’t put Barry Bonds in that category of immorality.

In my
previous piece
, I mistakenly wrote that Ron Paul raised
more money than John McCain from April to June. At the time, McCain
had actually raised more money, but Paul was in a better financial
position due to lack of debt. I regret the error.

10, 2007

Trevor Bothwell
[send him mail] maintains
the web log, Who's
Your Nanny?

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