J. Tony Serra Celebrates 40 Years of Tax Refusal

J. Tony Serra is an attorney with a soft spot for the anti-establishment types. If you’re a Native American who shot a cop, a Symbionese Liberation Army trooper wanted for planting bombs under police cars and shooting up a bank, a Black Panther on trial for murder or just a dope smoker — Serra wants to be on your side.

He also brags: “I haven’t paid taxes for 40 years — my whole career!” Three times — in , , and earlier  — he’s been convicted for resisting taxes. “I stopped paying taxes during the Vietnam War,” Serra says. “I didn’t want my money paying for war.”

You won’t find much mention of him in war tax resistance circles, in spite of his stand and his radical cred — I’m not sure why. He’s nowhere to be found on the list of Convicted War Tax Resisters at Ed Hedemann & Ruth Benn’s site, for instance, although he is one of the few war tax resisters to have done time for his action.

the Los Angeles Times put together a good article about Serra, his causes, and his many pro bono defenders: Always a Man of His Convictions.

I’ve blogged before about “alternative currencies” — things like Calgary Dollars or Ithaca Hours. I pretty much let it drop after a little investigation because it seemed to me that there wasn’t much of a tax resistance angle to be had.

I may be wrong, though, or it may be that I’ve overlooked some of the other advantages of alternative currencies — for instance, that local currencies encourage people to rely on their neighbors for products and services and help frugality and reuse by greasing the wheels of the barter economy.

But something new caught my eye: The Ripple Project bills itself as a “decentralized peer-to-peer currency and payment system.” Each person in this peer-to-peer network…

…indicates which other participants he or she trusts, by offering to accept their IOUs up to a certain amount, like a line of credit. To make a payment to someone who trusts you, you simply adjust your IOU balance with them to indicate that that you owe them the amount of the payment.

To pay someone who doesn’t trust you, the Ripple system finds a chain of credit connections between you and the payment recipient. Then you pay the first person in the chain, who pays the second person, and so on until the recipient gets paid.

This is exactly what happens when someone writes a normal cheque. Their bank deducts from his account (which is his IOU balance with the bank), and pays the central bank, who credits the recipient’s bank, who further credits the recipient’s account. In other words, the payer gives some of his bank’s IOUs back to his bank, his bank gives some of the central bank’s IOUs (national currency) back to the central bank, who passes them along to the recipient’s bank, who issues its own IOUs (bank account digits) to the recipient.

Note that all three intermediaries are banks. Ripple lets everyone act like a bank.

This is the sort of application that gives cyberpunks the wide-eyed jizzies. I’m going to keep this one in my bookmarks and on my radar screen.