Some entries for the FAQ, if I ever get around to assembling it…
- Don’t you know that you don’t have to pay income tax because wages aren’t really income and the mumbleth amendment wasn’t really ratified and anyway it doesn’t apply to people living in states, only those who live on federal land and all you have to do is declare yourself a sovereign citizen and buy this book?
I get a lot of advice like this, but I see one fatal flaw: The IRS and the courts are the ones who get to decide what the rules of the game are and when they can seize your property or throw you in prison, and they don’t read the same book you’re reading. They’ve pretty much decided that arguments like this don’t hold water. It’s true, however, that even completely phony tax arguments often work just because it’s so much work for the IRS to unravel them and win their cases. Unless there’s plenty of money involved or it’s a high-profile case, it just isn’t worth their time. So although the logic behind these schemes have about as much to recommend them as Nigerian Scam emails, pyramid schemes and a blissful afterlife, I’m glad some people have taken this on as a hobby. I think I’ll pass, though.
- Do you think you’re going to enjoy a life of abject poverty?
Woah, cowboy! Who said anything about abject poverty? I just want to live under the tax line. In I will have earned about $25,000 — of which about $5,500 will go to retirement accounts. The rest I get to use to live on. Thanks to some perfectly legal, above-board, IRS-approved deductions and exemptions, I’m not going to have to pay any income tax on any of that. In , the average disposable personal income per person in the United States was $25,944. Other stats I’ve seen suggest that between 90–95% of the world’s population earns less in a year than I get to spend. A billion people try to get by on less than 2% of what I earned. Fully half of the people sharing Earth with me live on less than $700 per year. I’m filthy rich! And I’m not paying taxes! It’s the American Dream! I’m not going to have to sell my body for top ramen money any time soon. I’ll be fine.
- Don’t you know that many brave people have fought and died so that you would have the right to espouse the tripe that is your opinion?
I’ll try to hold up my end of the bargain.
- How would you have stopped the tyranny and torture of Saddam’s regime if you don’t think war was the right way to go about it?
Well, I hope you don’t expect that I’ve got the answer to something as complex as this. But by saying that I don’t have a simple answer I’m not saying that I don’t have any basis to criticize a simplistic answer like “let’s bomb and invade!” I think that the United States could do a lot to fight tyranny and torture by raising the rank of human rights among the concerns it uses when evaluating its foreign policy. These days, it raises human rights concerns when convenient, and ignores them when convenient — all the while pursuing other goals that it ranks higher. If I were to shape U.S. policy to fight tyranny and torture, this is where I’d start. It might not have toppled Saddam so quickly, but it might help people remove the other tyrants and shackles you see all over the world.
- How can you reconcile withholding financial support for our federal government and continuing to derive benefit from services supplied by that same government?
Well, I see what you’re getting at, but I think this is a sham argument. Let’s say that Al Capone sets up shop in your neighborhood and offers the standard mob protection racket deal: “We’ll make sure your home doesn’t get burned down and your kneecaps don’t get broken if you pay us $50 every week — it’s great insurance.” You grumble, but go ahead and pay, resenting it all the while. Now what if Al Capone uses some of the money you and your neighbors have been paying to add a new wing to the hospital, or to throw a party for returning war veterans, or to buy a truck for the volunteer fire department? Do you have to stop resenting the fact that you’re getting shaken-down every week? Should you start feeling glad that you’re being shaken-down? Should you feel guilty if somehow you can get out of paying? How much of your money does Al Capone have to spend on philanthropy before it becomes okay that he’s extorting it from you?
- Is this site going to end up just being some shady excuse to beg money from people?
- Do you really think you’re going to change the government’s policies this way?
No, I don’t. The primary reason I chose this course of action was to stop supporting the government personally — to wash my hands of it. It was born of a selfish desire to live my life according to my principles, and not of a more overarching agenda of regime change or reform. Which isn’t to say that I don’t want a broader change, just that this path wasn’t chosen with that goal in mind. That said, I do flatter myself to think that by writing about what I’m doing and how it’s going that I might encourage other people to come along for the ride. What if 10% of the people who are of the opinion that the war was a terrible mistake or that the government is run by a bunch of crooks actually did as I’m doing and withdrew their support? Well, I don’t know what would happen, but I think it would matter more than if they all sent email to their senators. It’s a good exclamation point at the end of your convictions — a way of saying “and not only that, but I mean it.”