State Tax Resister Gives In, Says Why

Nathaniel “NTodd” Pritsky reflects more on his decision to run up the white flag and surrender his state taxes, in his post “Render To Vermont The Things That Are Vermont’s.” He reached an agreement with the State prosecutor to pay the taxes he had been resisting, and shares with us how the throwing-in-the-towel process works.

Much of this process has been amicable since I signaled I would not fight the State. I didn’t retain counsel, which seemed a complete waste in this context, and everything went smoothly. Were I to continue my non-compliance things would go very differently, but this was a tactical retreat and I sought to avoid complications. Despite the fears oft expressed by others when I mention tax resistance, prison is never inevitable if you understand the long, methodical process and where the point of no return lies — no seeking jail time for me at this juncture.

I have other concerns to engage me today: the birth and care of my son being primary.

I never expected this particular tactic to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor bring the Military Industrial Complex to its knees. And while I’d hoped that maybe some people would join in WTR as part of the national boycott movement — particularly if they saw a coward like me who loathes change and confrontation get involved — I didn’t delude myself into thinking 150 million Americans would suddenly stick it to The Tax Man.

One can say this experiment was a failure in that it didn’t achieve unrealistic goals that I never set. Yet for me, as Quixotic as the exercise was, it was a success.

It allowed me to withdraw consent in a very tangible way, put my concerns on official record, prove to myself that I could take some risks, etc. The entire multi-year experience has also taught me quite a bit about many things: how other resisters live, how other people react when you discuss tax resistance and other forms of dissent, how the interactions with state apparatus work, what my own limits are, and what ways I might adjust my approach in the future, amongst other things.

In the second section of the third book of The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle distinguishes a particular subset of voluntary acts as chosen.

Chosen acts are those voluntary acts that are not just from spur-of-the-moment whim or a sudden emotion like anger but that may involve rational deliberation. Choice is distinct from things like wish or opinion in that it concerns things that are actually under our control, and concerns means (not just ends).

Reading this section, a few questions came to mind that I hope Aristotle will resolve:

  1. If we only choose means, not ends, where do the ends come from? Or is the ultimate end, eudaimonia, considered a given at this point, and all the other ends just amounting to subordinate means to that end? If we don’t choose this end, is it built-in to human nature or is it taught or is it discovered rationally/experimentally?
  2. Can you choose not to choose, or from habit or instruction can you remove certain acts from the category of the deliberately chosen?
  3. Can you be ignorant about whether or not a course of action is chosen or voluntary?
  4. What if you choose to commit yourself to a certain goal or future course of action? Does such a vow change the voluntary nature of future acts, or merely the set of consequences?

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics