Anti-Tax Activist Arrested for Tax Evasion

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Anti-tax activist, Douglas Bruce, 61, was arrested at the post office and thrown in jail for allegedly not paying enough in state taxes. Local politicians, most of whom loathe Bruce with the heat of a thousand suns, are no doubt giddy at the prospect of the middle-aged Bruce rotting in a taxpayer-funded cage for a few years and having his property seized by the state that would be much, much bigger if it weren’t for Bruce’s efforts.

Bruce was the author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), which has significantly limited state and local taxes and revenues in Colorado since the measure’s passage by ballot initiative back in 1992. I wrote an article for the Mises Institute on TABOR, which notes, to a limited extent, some of the many tactics and hyperbolic rhetoric used against TABOR over the years. TABOR is a major contributor to the fact that Colorado is not presently flirting with bankruptcy like states such as California. Thanks to TABOR, Colorado simply couldn’t run up spending quickly enough to put itself in a California-like hole. Not that anyone will be thanking Bruce.

That said, Bruce is pretty much impossible to like as a person. As far as I can tell, he treats everyone he meets, whether government employee or not, like garbage, and during his brief stint as a member of the Colorado House of Representatives, he assaulted a photographer on the House floor for the great crime of annoying Douglas Bruce. Apparently, Bruce’s problems with unwarranted aggression don’t extend beyond taxation.

However, the fact that the man is probably a lousy dinner companion doesn’t make his arrest and indictment any less questionable. As an anarchist, I obviously don’t care if other people pay their taxes, although I don’t recommend evasion to anyone who likes the outside of a jail cell. I always pay my taxes because I don’t want to watch my children grow up from a cage. But, tax law is so arcane, so complex, and so open to interpretation of motive and intent that virtually any of us could be indicted of tax evasion if the state tries hard enough.

Is Bruce guilty of the charges? Possibly. But it’s certainly not a coincidence that the authorities have gone over his tax returns with a fine-toothed comb. Nor is it a coincidence that he was arrested and thrown in a jail cell rather than given the sort of deferential treatment afforded to high-ranking political officials who cheat on their taxes.

Bruce’s biggest crime, it seems, is not being a member of the plutocracy. When Timothy Geithner’s tax evasions came to light, he simply promised to pay the money back. No jail time for Tim. Not even a stiff fine. Geithner, of course, was only one of several officials, including Tom Daschle and Ron Kirk, who cheated on their taxes, but received nothing more than some slaps on the wrist.

10:32 pm on April 8, 2011