The IRS Crimes: a Gift from Providence to Libertarians

Anyone who has libertarian sentiments, in the Libertarian Party or outside of it, in the Republican Party, or elsewhere; anyone who sees himself as supporting the non-existent, imaginary “Tea Party,” is familiar with the difficulty of explaining even basic libertarian principles. There are three problems:

First, most people are lazy, especially when it comes to re-examining the creeds they absorbed in childhood or youth.

Second, libertarianism is paradoxically too familiar to draw interest. It’s more or less what you learned in high school about the work of the Founding Fathers. (Digression: It’s more interesting for immigrants like me than for the US-born precisely, because we had no superficial exposure to it at the time we had acute testosterone poisoning.)

Third, libertarianism is not sexy. It does not enjoy the emotional ease of access that big words procure: “Revolution,” “Justice,” “Fairness,” “the Future.” In other words, it’s not a cartoon; it ‘s not a reality show; it’s not a vampire movie. It’s an intellectual stance for adults only. Tough call!

Sometimes, though Providence throws us a lifeline. Now is such a time. A libertarian Hollywood scriptwriter, if there were one, could hardly come up with a better script than the current controversy regarding the IRS role in singling out conservative organizations, in persecuting them, in forcing them illegally and immorally to disgorge private information about opponents to the Obama administration. Or about imagined opponents.

The IRS storm happens at the same time as other Obama administration discrediting events:

It is trying to convince America that it did not deny protection to the assassinated Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and that it did not subsequently lie about what happened;

It is imposing on all American universities restrictions on free speech unheard for centuries in the Anglo-American legal tradition. (See Greg Lukianoff in the Wall Street Journal of 5/17/13);

It is attempting to justify spying on journalists on the basis of an unknown national security risk. (It might be justified. There are tried ways to convince the nation that the spying was justified. President Obama shows no intention of using them as I write.)

As far as the IRS persecution of Obama opponents, in my mind, it’s not a question of who is getting fired or of “who is going to jail.” Punishment of the more or less guilty would be low on my agenda. There is a more fundamental problem that is being pushed aside in televised congressional testimonies and in most of the printed press (I think. I welcome corrections.)

Given that the IRS exists as a very powerful, autonomous, large government organization of ordinary but overpaid people, with a proven capacity to hurt large numbers of citizens, it was bound to happen.

That the IRS is a government organization matters a great deal because , in practice, such organizations enjoy immunity from lawsuits. They exist beyond the reach of the arm of the law. But the rule of law is what largely defines civilized societies, of course. Such organizations as the IRS thus tend to pull us back toward a lesser state of civilization. That’s true irrespective of who is president and, to an extent, independent of which party is in power. If you have a famished and crazy dog chained in the backyard, you should not reassure yourself that everything is under control because it’s your house, not that irresponsible, other guy’s house.

It’s true that the IRS crimes now being discussed were somewhat more likely to take place under a Democrat administration. First, the Fascist current runs deep in the middle of the Democratic Party river. It’s the party of Roosevelt, who classically, used war to place as much of the American production apparatus under federal government control as he could reach (even artists). Second, the Democratic Party was the Party of Birmingham’s Bull Connor, of his attack dogs and of his water hoses aimed at peaceful black demonstrators. The Democratic Party is also most closely associated with labor unions, some of which (not all) have a history of thuggery extending a century or more.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, is not sinless but it carries in its veins an instinctive mistrust of government power which serves as some protection though as minimal protection. The rank-and-file Republican is much less likely than his Democrat counterpart to assume that anything is correct just because the government is doing it. Nevertheless, frankly, is there anyone who would assert with a straight face that the currently revealed IRS misdeeds would never happen under a Republican administration?

The truth now staring us in the face is that a free society simply cannot have in its midst a monster such as the IRS (described above). It should not be allowed to arise. If its exists, it should not be allowed to grow (as with the Obama administration giving it big additional responsibilities within Obamacare). Such a government bureaucracy should be given practically no discretion, no power to pass judgment without at least close judiciary monitoring.

How about collecting taxes for freeways, some will say? Supposing it has to be the federal government’s task to build freeways (just supposing) and to perform other necessary functions, it should be done with a simple flat tax allowing no deductions. It should be a low tax of 15% of gross income or less. (I live within my means; so can the government learn to do.) Federal tax collection would look like this.

You would receive a short postcard saying:

“1. Your income last year was___.

2. Send 15% (or less ) of that amount.

Thank you.”

Tax cheaters would have to deal with the local sheriff who would be paid a flat fee for each recovery.

Unrealistic? How about our existing system, is it realistic?

2 thoughts on “The IRS Crimes: a Gift from Providence to Libertarians

  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this, even though I hold quite different views. You have a clarity of expression that made it easy to sail through. I appreciate that.

    The IRS really has no friends, which always makes them vulnerable to extra scrutiny and unfair judgment. All citizens are tempted to cheat on their taxes if their situation is under stress. It doesn’t matter what your political views are. Even if you support paying your taxes in theory, you sometimes hate having to do it. That’s an inescapable context for any kind of organizational mistakes they might make.

    There’s a big problem with the very existence of 501(c)(4) organizations. The Citizens United decision gave a green flag for people to try and cheat by pretending to be “social welfare” alliances, when they are often political advocacy groups – that (by law) should not be able to function tax-exempt, and keep their donor lists secret. It’s true of both liberal and conservative 501(c)(4)s, but there’s still a further difference, one that speaks directly to the vested interest of IRS employees.

    Tea Party and Libertarian types hate taxes. They think we are all taxed too much, and the solution is to shrink the size and power of the IRS. If some group was trying to kill my career, and they were also walking a tightrope about whether they are a political or social advocacy organization, I can easily see myself wanting to make life hard for them. They are trying to take the food out of my kid’s mouths. Their bosses should have controlled them and made them treat all the 501s equally, and they are losing their jobs for not doing that, but I still think if you try and hit the IRS, you have to expect they will find a way to resist your efforts.

    The idea that this behavior came directly on orders from the administration is absurd, and I know you didn’t suggest that. For the reasons I already explained, the IRS wouldn’t need any outside encouragement aside from the actions already taken by groups that oppose their existence.

  2. Invisible: You say:

    “If some group was trying to kill my career, and they were also walking a tightrope about whether they are a political or social advocacy organization, I can easily see myself wanting to make life hard for them.”

    You said it better than I did: Corruption comes easily to many of us. The enormous power to tax and therefore to destroy should not be put in the hands of a bureaucracy that cannot be made accountable because it combines large size and being a government organization. When its members err individually, there is little chance that they will be straightened out in a way that would satisfy common mortals.

    Whether or not some organizations were pushing the envelop in trying to obtain tax-exempt status is irrelevant, I would bet some did. I would not be ready to bet that only conservative organizations were doing so though. There is a cover-up going on. That’s enough to make me believe the IRS is guilty of more than its usual barbarity.

    If we need taxes, I already indicated in my essay how we can collect them without a monstrous organization like the IRS.

    Of course, the IRS is hated. There is nothing to love about it. Citizens have no recourse against it. Understand this enormous difference: Not only does the Red Cross do some good but when it acts badly, there is something effective I can do about it as an individual without recourse to the courts (where I would always be the underdog). I can stop giving!

    I can even speak ill of it with zero fear of retaliation: “The Red Cross is wasteful.”

    By the way, I haven’t even started on the idea that the IRS and income taxes are an extremely inefficient way to gather government revenue. It’s ugly, it’s threatening, it’s too powerful; it does not even have the merit of efficiency. What’s not to hate?

    PS Your near-confession was not necessary!
    Thank you for the compliments; they make me blush, an ugly scene!

Please keep it civil (unless it relates to Jacques)

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