Conservatives Worried About Taxpayer Complicity Should Know Where to Look

In Jim Kiser’s opinion piece for the Arizona Daily Star, he notes the concerns of some taxpayers that their money may be funding, quite against their wishes, embryonic stem cell research. Kiser says that in their attempts to keep from funding activities they believe to be wrong, “the conservatives may find supporters in places where they might never think to look”:

I gleaned some suggestions for them from the Web sites of three groups that have a long history of resisting the use of their members’ tax dollars for morally offensive activities.

The conservatives could withhold $10.40 of their income tax, for instance, and contribute it to a nonprofit organization in which they believe. That is a strategy suggested by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee.

Such a protest is largely symbolic, of course, but it would be powerful symbolism if practiced by people such as [Mike] Pence, [Tom] DeLay and [Gary] Bauer.

Withholding part of your taxes is illegal, however, and for that reason the conservatives may prefer a suggestion by the War Resisters League that protesters trim their lifestyle to the point they earn so little money they don’t have to pay taxes.

This is legal, and while difficult to do, I am sure the conservatives have sufficient discipline. I understand, though, it may not fit with some of their other values.

The conservatives should find common ground, however, with the approach of a nonprofit group that wants Congress to pass a law called the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act.

“The Peace Tax Fund is part of a long and distinguished history of religious freedom, freedom of conscience, and conscientious objection to war in the USA,” the Web site says. “We want to grant conscientious objectors the right to refrain from paying for war, just as they already have the right to refrain from fighting in war.”

Kiser seems to be saying this with tongue-in-cheek — not really suggesting that the conservative “pro-life” crowd learn a thing or two from the peaceniks but implying that these conservatives probably have a fairly partisan notion of which taxpayers’ consciences ought to be respected.

But why shouldn’t tax resistance — the conscientious kind I mean, not the loony “you’re not a real judge because your flag has the wrong kind of fringe around it” kind — become a strategy of dissidents on the right as well as the left?

Imagine a former staff member of Soldier of Fortune magazine and cop beat reporter for the Washington Times, who calls the Vietnam Memorial “Jane Fonda’s wall” and says that “without men, civilization would last until the oil needed changing.” That’s Fred Reed, and a liberal peacenik he’s not.

But here’s what he has to say about tax resistance:

I wish to propose a salubrious anarchy, a deliberate renunciation of fealty to country, society, and government, an assertion of independence from folly and moral decay. Permit me to offer a taxing political idea: When a society ceases to be worthy of support, it is reasonable to withdraw support. The time, I submit, has come.…

Let me suggest that one owes loyalty to one’s family and friends, to common decency, and to nothing else. Render under Caesar what you must, keep what you can, and swear allegiance to nothing. Here I do not mean just the government, but the zeitgeist, the miasmic fetor of trashy culture, the desperate consumerism, the entire psychic odor of a society in decomposition.…

Ask not what you can do for your country, but what it can do for you — you ought to get some of your taxes back.

Do not tie yourself to… anything. The price of freedom is poverty: freedom grows as your needs diminish.…

I lived years ago in a second-hand house trailer in the woods. I do not know what it cost, or would cost today, but perhaps fifteen thousand dollars. It was perfectly comfortable, warm in winter, air-conditioned in summer. Mornings were blessedly quiet unless you regard birdsong as noise. A brick barbecue provided a place to produce ribs and drink bourbon and water. A couple of companionable dogs rounded out the ensemble. They had the run of the trailer, as was right.

Now, living in a trailer is to the consumerist sensibility simply too degrading and so… I mean, my god, how could you face the neighbors? (There weren’t any.) But aside from damage to a servile dependent vanity, what is the drawback? A couple of hundred dollars buys a remarkably good stereo, music is free, libraries are good, and I for one am more comfortable in jeans and tee shirt than in Calvin and Klein trappings.

When your expenses are few, your susceptibility to economic serfdom is small. You do not need to work miserably in a pointless job for a boss you would gleefully strangle. Yes, you need money. The first principle is never to work in a job that you cannot afford to quit. This means avoiding any job with a retirement, of which you will become a prisoner. The second principle is to work at something portable that you can do independently and, preferably, without capital. Retirement? Save.…

Finally, work the system. The government, if you let it, will take roughly half of your income, give much of it to useless bureaucrats, much to various forms of welfare, use much to bomb countries you may have no desire to bomb, and much to force upon you services, such as horrible schools, that you do not want. The central question regarding government is whether you can take more from it than it takes from you. It is much better to receive than to give. Live cheap, work only as much as you like, enjoy life, and keep your taxes down.