Links of Interest

Today: a roundup of some things I’ve found on-line:

  • Silence and Courage: Income Taxes, War and Mennonites : An interesting paper from the Mennonite Central Committee that gives a good overview of the history of the income tax and its close association with war. If it seems awful to you that fully half of your income tax dollar goes to pay for military spending, you might be surprised to find that this is a historically low percentage — in , 92.4% of the money raised by the federal income tax went to the military. This paper also discusses the response of Mennonite institutions to war taxes. Mennonites in the United States took unpopular stands against paying for war bonds during World War Ⅱ, but most didn’t argue with the income tax. The paper quotes a letter from the Hutterian Brethren to Lord Frederich von Zerotin of Moravia in in which they plead for some way to be considered good citizens without paying war taxes: “Our greatest fear, however… is that only the name, but not the tax would be changed, so that we would be led into it before we could turn around. If we then discovered that it was used for war or other purposes we oppose, this would distress us greatly.” The paper’s authors ask: “When the government introduced a permanent mass income tax during WWⅡ, did the tax for war (war bonds) change in name only? Did the government overcome our refusal to purchase war bonds, by creating a mandatory income tax which was used for the same purposes?” If this page of testimony is anything to go by, Mennonite tax resistance has become more substantial in recent years.
  • Hiroshima and Nagasaki is part of Ralph Raico’s analysis of Harry Truman’s presidency. It puts the lie to many of the revisionist myths that still cloud the memory of these bombings in the United States. He quotes Leó Szilárd, a physician who worked on the Manhattan Project: “If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them.” (Here’s an interview with Szilárd in which he reflects on the bomb.)
  • The Borgen Project is trying to dramatize the contrast between the cost of addressing global problems like, say, getting rid of recklessly-distributed landmines, providing safe water to people without it, or charitably retiring the debt of developing nations, with, say, the U.S. budget for Star Wars or for stealth bombers.
  • Brian Doherty asks us to go Beyond Conventional Thinking — ignore the political conventions and newsblahblah and advertisement: “Believers in progressive politics who are interested in the arts and experiments-in-living, as they so often are, have much more to offer the world — and, if I may be so bold, their own lives — by producing art and experiments in living rather than indulging in electoral politics… While attempting to perfect the entire world, or even an entire nation, is inherently futile and impossible, attempting to make our own lives, and those of our immediate family, friends, and block, successful and peaceful and cared for is something within the realm of possibility. And it’s a path whose rewards (and, of course, failures) would be real and immediate and fulfilling. But it is, make no mistake, harder than voting, or getting out the vote, or attending political conventions, or writing about them… The people who try to forge something new — whether an object, or a technology, or a way of life — will change and benefit the world far more directly than any conventioneer or politician is likely to, and probably have more fun doing so.” I take him even more seriously since he’s using the Burning Man festival as his case-in-point (he’s written a book on the subject).
  • I was curious as to how much of what we pay for gasoline is actually excise taxes and such. Thanks to the fabulous internet, I’ve got some numbers: a stack of taxes from my home state plus a short history of the federal excise tax on gasoline. Dubya’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors thinks that we ought to “cut income taxes by 10% and finance it with a 50-cent-per-gallon hike in the gasoline tax” (a view Dubya doesn’t share, at least in when gas prices are already high) but it’s bad enough already, and tax resisters should take note that they’re paying 18.4 cents per gallon to the federal government. One more reason to hop on the bike instead.