Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
In the spring of 2008, Senator Harry Reid gave an interview on television in which he stated that the income tax was voluntary. His remark caused quite a stir. Google “Harry Reid and voluntary income tax,” and see for yourself. His kindest critics thought him crazy, the less charitable used the word “idiot.” If the Senator was indeed crazy, and an idiot, it was because, uncharacteristically, he had told the truth.
Of course, the IRS itself has frequently referred to our tax system as based upon “voluntary compliance.” So if Reid was crazy, and an idiot, he was in good--or was it bad?--company. But let’s look into it a little further.
The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” And we know from the Preamble of that document that “We, the people . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution.” So it’s “We the people” who delegate the power.
The Constitution of Missouri is similar: “That all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.” Your state’s Constitution probably contains similar language. Let’s assume that it means what it says, and is to be taken seriously.
I have not taken any oath of allegiance to either the federal or state Constitutions. However, my public servants--the rulers--have done exactly that. They have sworn, in other words, that whatever political power they have is derived from us, or delegated to them by us. It is crucial that they do this, if they are to maintain any claim to legitimacy.
Without exception, so far as I know, every government declares that it exists to provide for the people; specifically, to guarantee their rights. Our rulers are to protect our rights to life, liberty, and property. Indeed, the Missouri Constitution is specific: “. . . all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry . . . that to give security to these things is the principal office of government, and when that government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.” So here’s the rub: How can a group of people who piously insist that they exist to secure your enjoyment of the gains of your own industry, (and are a failure should they fail to do so!), then claim a greater right to those “gains of your own industry” than your own? In other words, if the Revenue Department demands that you send it thousands of dollars as a tax, it matters not at all if you have a serious and urgent need for the money; their claim supercedes yours. You will have to do without; they come first.
But wait! If their political power is derived from “we, the people,” then we must have that power. You can’t derive power from people who don’t have it. You can’t delegate a power you lack. So we can organize some of our neighbors and demand that all of the people in our community give us money to fund the projects that will be so beneficial to all: vaccinations for cats and dogs, widening of sidewalks, better lighting, prohibition of certain drug use, etc., (and, of course, a suitable compensation to us, personally, for all our hard work). No doubt some would object, but we would organize a system of courts, and some of us would put on black robes and solemnly rule in our favor against the nay-sayers. They’d have to pay! It’s the “law,” because we say so.
Of course, you could look at it the other way. If we do not have the power to force others to finance our schemes, then we could not have delegated that power, nor could it be derived from us--the source of all political power. That means that the government does not have the power it claims to have received from us. Their demands are utterly without force or effect, just as ours would be if we circulated through the countryside demanding money and obedience from strangers.
But we all know that in the real world, the government routinely does things that we cannot do, even while claiming that we are the source of its power. So how can government demand money from us, while disregarding as preposterous the idea that we can demand money from each other? How can there be legitimate government when it violates the very rights that it claims to exist to protect?
Simple, in my opinion: it’s all voluntary! That, I think, is behind the consistent references by the IRS to “voluntary” compliance. They’re not violating the rights they claim to protect! Heavens, no! They’re asking you--quite menacingly, of course--to volunteer.
Yes, I know many people have been fined and/or imprisoned for violations of tax “laws.” How can this be, if the system is voluntary? There are several explanations. The first, and most obvious, is the corruption of the criminal “justice” system. People trying to defend themselves in court have been forbidden to do so, by not being allowed to enter the law in their defense. Judges have virtually ordered jurors to render guilty verdicts by their jury instructions, in which they are told they may not consider the law, only the “facts.” Did he pay, or not? He didn’t--case closed! Guilty!
Of course, many people volunteer into the system by filling out the forms, and signing them under penalty of perjury. If the government should decide to “get” you, you’ve signed your own warrant. The tax laws are so convoluted and confusing that literally anyone, no matter how scrupulously he completed his 1040 form, could be accused of some violation. And if it could be shown that some of the numbers you provided were incorrect, (and of course it can!) you’re at the mercy of the government’s attorneys.
"An individual may be under no obligation to do a particular thing and his failure to act creates no liability, but if he voluntarily attempts to act and do the particular thing, he comes under an implied obligation in respect to the manner in which he does it.” Guardian T & D Co. v. Fisher, 26 S.Ct. 186.
I’m no Pollyanna. I know that our rulers are corrupt and contemptuous of the law. The proof of their hypocrisy, to my mind, is their insistence that our compliance is voluntary. It is the only way they can hope to justify their routinely doing what they have no power to do, and routinely prohibiting us from doing what we do have the power to do! Thus, I was saddened to see Senator Reid’s remark taken as a sign of stupidity. What is needed is ever increasing numbers of people telling the rulers, “If you can do it, we can do it; if we can’t do it, you can’t do it, either. And we’re not volunteering!”