I didn’t know that Rose Wilder Lane, best-known probably for collaborating with her mother Laura Ingalls Wilder on the Little House on the Prairie books (although she was an accomplished writer in her own right), was a tax resister.
An early and consistent critic of Roosevelt, Lane withdrew to her farm in Danbury, Connecticut (), where she refused to participate in Social Security or to publish writing which would be a source of revenue, through taxes, for government. “Taxation is armed robbery,” she declared. “Tax collectors are armed robbers.” In regard to the state, she maintained: “I am law-abiding purely for expediency, for self-defense, in the main against my conscientious principles, so at bottom I am ashamed of not being a conscientious objector practicing Gandhi’s or Thoreau’s civil disobedience.”
I was made aware of Lane’s tax resistance by reading the essay/chapter To Shrug: An Alternative Lifestyle for an Individualist by David King, who was inspired by Lane’s example. By “to shrug” he means something similar to what I’m doing or to the “economic secession” that gets debated from time to time in libertarian circles. He calls it “shrug” in tribute to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. He shrugged in and hasn’t looked back:
The best way to gain economic freedom is to cut expenses. People who squander their prime years on excessive work to pay unnecessary expenses, and then spend the remainder of their lives working just to stay sheltered and fed, can’t enjoy much freedom.
As part of her exercise in subversion, in Rose Wilder Lane began an attempt to reduce her income below taxable levels. My own implementation of this has been a great success. As of , the base (federal) taxable level of income in the USA is above $5000 per year. This represents over twice the amount necessary for me to live comfortably. For the final 14 years of my working life I worked two 8-hour shifts per week at or near the minimum wage (as dishwasher/janitor in local restaurants). My standard of living rose continually during that time, mainly because almost the entirety of my income was “disposable income.” I had followed Ms Lane’s example and reduced my living expenses to just about nil.
My standard of living has been rising continually since , when I had fully implemented my lifestyle. Whether I consider the amount of material wealth that I possess or the amount of leisure time available to me or the amount of time I must devote to earning my living or the amount of economic security I have. In all these respects I am better off now than I have been at any previous time of my life.
An interesting thing about all this is that I believe anybody could do what I have done. Anybody in America could work 10 years at minimum wage and then retire for life. As screwed up as it is, this is still the richest society the world has ever seen.