Taxes and Slavery: A Parallel


There is an ominous historic parallel between the way taxation is viewed today by our three major political groupings – Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians – and the way those same groups looked upon chattel slavery on the eve of the nation’s most disastrous civil conflict – the War for Southern Independence.

In 1861, America faced a crossroads.  The issue was slavery – the forcible confiscation and ownership of other human beings and the fruits of their labor.  The Democrats believed slavery essential to the economy, that you could not run the economy without it.  Slavery was in the nature of things.

The Republicans, a minor party of diverse, disaffected elements, thought there was something wrong with slavery, but they did not want to take any drastic action.  They did not want to abolish anything.  They just wanted to slow the further extension of slavery into the territories. Republicans then, as today, were composed of craven corporatists, belligerent nationalists, "Know Nothing" nativists, fanatical moral reformers, and a few wayward, courageous souls dedicated to the constitutional vision of a decentralized republic of the framers.

Republicans called for a decrease in the increase of slavery – much as modern Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan, never really wanted to cut taxes, but only decrease the increasing amount that is taken out of your paycheck each week.  Reagan sponsored the largest tax increase in American history in a move which pleased the pro-tax bipartisan majority in Congress.

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Present-day embryonic "tea partiers" within the GOP are comparable to this "free-soil" element within the party of yesteryear. They know something is not right about confiscatory taxes and run-away spending but have not quite worked out a comprehensive frontal attack strategy and systematic analysis of the problem.

Now if Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and all the rest of the South wanted slavery – fine.  Lincoln and the Republicans supported a constitutional amendment to permanently guarantee slavery in the South.  In fact, this amendment passed the Congress, and was ratified by three states before the war began at Fort Sumter.

Today it is impossible for us to imagine that a majority of our fellow Americans held these opinions on this barbaric institution, that slavery virtually went unquestioned for thousands of years.

The Libertarians of that day – the abolitionists – were vilified and attacked by the press as impractical idealists or worse.  As the conscience of America, they believed that slavery was an affront to Almighty God and a gross violation of the essential individual human rights and dignity that were the glories of America’s heritage.  The abolitionists demanded that slavery be immediately and unconditionally ended.

In 1861, America was at a crossroads.  Today we are again at a crossroads.  The paramount issue we face is a parasitic system of taxation draining the economic lifeblood of our ability to feed, care for and clothe our families.

Politicians have long led us to believe that individual freedom and self-reliance can only bring chaos, while taxation and centralized government planning are essential to impose order.  In truth it is liberty and the competitive free market that gives us a productive and harmonious economic order; it is government and confiscatory taxation that bring chaos, corruption, and arbitrary power.

According to published accounts, millions of Americans are engaged in active tax resistance, refusing to participate in their further enslavement by a government out of control; millions more are engaged in passive tax resistance in the “underground economy” – much as their predecessors used the “underground railroad” to escape slave masters and their governmental hirelings.

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(On a personal note, genealogical research of my ancestral roots shows that my great-great-great-great-great grandfather John C. Burris was a soldier in the French and Indian War, later in the American Revolution, who became a Quaker and married a Cheraw Indian woman Ester. Their son, my great-great-great-great grandfather, Daniel H. Burris, was also a Quaker and an abolitionist who fiercely opposed slavery and who helped runaway enslaved persons escape on the Underground Railway. Daniel and his wife Mary had sixteen children. Fourteen of their grandsons served in the Union Army during the Civil War, including my great-great grandfather, Eden Henry Burris, who fought with Company A, 57th Indiana Infantry regiment. He and his wife Rebecca had thirteen kids.)

The choice today is quite clear.  It is between peace, freedom and prosperity on the one hand, taxation, tyranny and impoverishment on the other.  Faced with this fundamental choice, we should see clearly that what we desperately need to do is not limit or reform the tax system, but to abolish it – and breathe the fresh, clean air of freedom.

Immoral taxation must be made to go the way of immoral slavery.

Contemporary libertarians must proudly and unashamedly embrace our abolitionist roots in the struggle against the welfare-warfare state and the Fed which enables it.

We must eagerly study and learn from its grand strategic and tactical history, as well as that of its sister movements of nullification and secession, in formulating our concentrated assault on the systematic destruction of our rights and liberties, whether TSA tyranny, the war-making of our imperial narco-state empire, and the erosion of economic freedom and private property.

December 20, 2010