Tax Resister Karl Hess

On , Karl Hess’s book Dear America was reviewed in Time magazine. The review began:

Back in , Karl Hess was a true believer of the right. As a speechwriter, aide and ideologue to Presidential Candidate Barry Goldwater, he packaged the slogan that may have helped lose the campaign: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” , at 51, Hess is a welder. He now opposes war, government in general and most U.S. Government activities. He has become, in fact, an anarchist and a tax resister. As much out of sheer angry cussedness as conviction, he admits, he refused to pay the Internal Revenue Service a penny in ; nor has he given them any money since then. The IRS, in response, slapped a 100% lien on any money Hess earns and any property or savings he may have. So Hess lives mainly by barter, trading his welding skill directly for food, clothing and shelter.

…and further along…

As Time Correspondent Arthur White learned when he visited Hess recently, the man seems to be practicing the classical, nonviolent anarchism he advocates. Hess owns little more than welding tools and the blue denim clothes on his back. “I had a bicycle,” he admits, “but it was stolen.”

He owes the IRS some $15,000, and to outwit them he has even sold the rights to Dear America to a community organization for which he works. “I can’t own anything,” he explains in a soft voice. “Those IRS people are like a gang of thugs.” … He exudes what a friend has described as “the ethereal, inexplicable cheerfulness of a nun scrubbing floors.”

Ruth Benn was interviewed about NWTRCC’s War Tax Boycott campaign on Australia’s Breakfast with Peter Godfrey .

An argument I never expected to see explicitly uttered on Cato Unbound showed up there last week.

You very likely own stolen goods. The gas in your car, the circuits in your cell phone, the diamond in your ring, the chemicals in your lipstick or shaving cream — even the plastic in your computer may be the product of theft. Americans buy huge quantities of goods every day that are literally stolen from some of the world’s poorest people.

What you say? For instance:

The lavishly tyrannical Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea has become richer than Queen Elizabeth by selling off the country’s oil and gas while killing or menacing anyone who might try to stop him. Obiang is the kind of dictator who has not shied from having himself proclaimed “the country’s God” on state-controlled radio, or from having his guards slice the ears of political prisoners and smear their bodies with grease to attract stinging ants. Obiang sells two-thirds of Equatorial Guinea’s oil to American corporations like ExxonMobil and Hess, and has recently spent 55 million of these petro-dollars to add a sixth private jet to his fleet. His playboy son and heir (who earns $5,000 a year as a government minister) prefers Lamborghinis, and recently spent $35 million on a house in Malibu. Meanwhile raw sewage runs through the streets of the country’s capital, three quarters of the country’s people suffer from malnutrition, and most citizens are forced to exist each day on what you can buy in America with one dollar. Obiang does not need to worry about the health or education of the population: he gets the money he needs to maintain his despotic rule by allowing foreign corporations to set up offshore platforms to extract the country’s oil.

Did the internet’s tubes get crossed? This doesn’t sound like Cato — it sounds like Kevin Carson writing a guest column for CommonDreams.

The natural resources that the strongmen and civil warriors sell off are made into products sold in America. The money we spend on these products goes back to pay for their Kalashnikovs, helicopter gunships, and fleets of private jets. Paul Collier estimates that 290 million of the world’s “bottom billion” people are caught in what he calls “the resource trap.” Millions of these poor people must watch helplessly as their countries’ resources are sent overseas while our money flows in to the men with guns.

How bad is the problem of stolen resources? The U.S. government uses the seven-point Freedom House scales to rate each nation on how much control citizens have over the those who hold power in their country. The very worst countries — the “sevens” — are places like Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Taking these very worst countries as the places where the people could not possibly be authorizing the dictators and civil warriors to sell off their country’s resources, we can measure the amounts of stolen resources that enter America each year. By these official U.S. criteria over 600 million barrels of oil — more than one barrel in eight — have been taken illegitimately from their countries of origin. Stolen oil may be in your car’s gas tank right now. Stolen oil might have been used to make the computer mouse in your hand.

The author’s solution to this problem strikes me as unlikely, but I’d enjoy seeing what would happen if it were tried: “to enforce property rights directly: to take legal action in U.S. jurisdictions against the middlemen who trade Americans’ dollars to the worst regimes in exchange for stolen resources. This means taking corporations like ExxonMobil and Hess to court for receiving stolen goods.” To supplement this, he advises attaching tariffs to imports from countries that use such stolen resources as raw materials for their exports, and using this money to reimburse the people the resources were stolen from.