I.R.S. vs. Atlanta Workshop in Nonviolence

Today, it’s almost embarrassing how little attention the government pays to war tax resisters. We willfully refuse to pay, and encourage and counsel others to do so, and not only does the government not persecute us as the traitorous subversives we’re trying so hard to be, but often they never even get around to coming after us as simple tax evaders either.

It hasn’t always been this way. During the Vietnam War, the government took war tax resistance very seriously, and went to great pains to stamp it out.

Here’s a note that appeared in a publication from The Atlanta Workshop in Nonviolence:

IRS Unleashed

For some time, AWIN has refused to pay the 10% excise tax on phone calls. In this tax was initiated for the sole purpose of subsidizing the cost of the war in Vietnam. It is one of the few taxes that is ear marked specifically for the continuation of the war in Indochina. (Paying the telephone tax is the next best thing to being there yourself).

In the past, the procedure for collecting the tax has been simply to go to our bank and withdraw the amount of delinquent tax payment from our account.

It seems that a new procedure has been initiated.

On , two agents from the IRS wandered into the office looking for Denis Adelsburger. I told them that Denis wasn’t in and they flashed their ID’s and presented a bill for $5.50 in back taxes. They said they were told to stop war tax resistance — especially the refusal to pay the telephone tax — because tax resistance is “getting out of hand” and that they would shut us down if they had to. This is an indication that there are more people than we imagined involved in war tax resistance.

I explained that I couldn’t make the decision about paying the tax myself, and they would have to wait until our next meeting where we would make a collective decision and they could check later to find out what we would do. However, the agents had a different idea about handling the situation and said that if I didn’t give them the $5.50 immediately they would put a government lien on the Workshop, put a lock on the door, put an IRS seal on the lock, and auction the Workshop’s property.

I checked with a lawyer, and sure enough, the IRS has what amounts to a blank check from the government when it comes to official extortion. We weren’t prepared to go without an office for a month (it takes awhile to arrange for the auction), so I gave them the money.

They wanted to know where we bank, but I refused to tell them. They wanted to know why we were refusing to pay the tax and I gave them a leaflet on telephone tax resistance and they left.

I’m not sure who won the first round. We weren’t prepared to go without an office (an oversight we should correct) and they got the money. However, it probably cost more than $5.50 to collect the tax. At any rate, the tax collector had to do his job — collect taxes.

Up to now, in books two through five, we have been discussing the moral virtues — most recently justice, and before that courage, temperance, liberality, magnificence, pride, drive, good temper, amiability, a variety of truthfulness, wit, and the quasi-virtue of shame. Now we’ll switch gears a bit.

In the opening section of the sixth book of The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle begins to discuss the intellectual virtues.

You may have noticed that there’s been something that Aristotle has been keeping behind-the-curtain up ’til now. He’s got us well drilled in his theory of virtue: a virtue is found at the golden mean on a continuum of some dimension of character between two opposing extremes of vice. He has, for various dimensions of character, named and described the virtue and the pair of vices it lies between. But he hasn’t said much about how we go about locating this golden mean and how we know when we’ve found it.

I imagine Aristotle going out for breakfast:

Server: How would you like your eggs?

Aristotle: Just right.

Server: Come again?

Aristotle: Neither cooked so briefly or at such a low temperature that they are too runny and mucilaginous, for this we would call raw or underdone; nor cooked so long or cooked at such a high temperature that they are tough or burned, for this we would call overcooked. Instead, cook them at just the right temperature for just the right amount of time, so that they are satisfying and delicious.

Server: Have you considered our fruit plate?

Here, Aristotle acknowledges and promises to relieve our frustration.

First, though, we’ll have to examine the lay of the land. There are two parts of the soul, in Aristotle’s framework: the rational and the irrational. The rational part is itself divided into two parts:

contemplates “the kind of things whose originative causes are invariable” (the domain of science, intuition, and philosophy)
calculative / deliberative
contemplates variable things (the domain of practical wisdom and art)

That’s just a teaser; he’ll go to go into more detail in the coming sections.

Index to the Nicomachean Ethics series

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics