Ed & Elaine Brown Getting Showed the Law Real Good

Constitutionalist tax protesters Ed and Elaine Brown have been convicted of tax evasion and were recently sentenced to, among other things, five years in prison. Neither was present at the sentencing hearing; instead they “have holed up in their hilltop home in Plainfield, which has a watchtower, concrete walls and the ability to run on wind and solar power. The couple also say they have stockpiled food and other supplies.”

They’ve also said that they will not surrender, and they have a number of armed supporters who have vowed to help them defend their home against government assault.

So the networks are busy photoshopping new text over their Waco Massacre graphics.

It’s especially sad, because the Browns and their friends are planning to martyr themselves over the silliest claptrap the tax protester movement has to offer — stuff that’s so fatuous and inconsistent that I can’t imagine that the Browns themselves really believe it:

Ed and Elaine Brown have agreed, from the beginning, to pay all taxes that they owe. They have sworn in court that if the government simply shows them the law that requires them to pay an “Income Tax,” they would pay all owed taxes with penalties and interest. The government has yet to show the law. The government simply says, “you must pay, because we say so,” and “if you don’t pay, we will throw you in jail and take all that you own.”

(“I told the robber that I’d be happy to hand over my wallet if he’d only show me the gun. But he refused to show me the gun, he just shot me and took my wallet. Now, is that fair?”)

It’s true that Ed and Elaine Brown don’t owe the government a dime, and they shouldn’t be threatened and attacked for failing to pay up. But this isn’t because “there is no law.” Indeed there is a law, and many other laws besides, and if the Browns believe that government laws tell them what their obligations are, then they should have paid up all along.

People have always disagreed about what The Law means, and guess what — The Law comes fully-equipped with a built-in method for resolving such disagreements. The Browns have a disagreement, the built-in method says they’re full of it, that’s that. That’s how The Law works. Thanks for playing. If you don’t like it, stop pretending you love The Law.

If someone walks up to me and says “you’re out” and points at the dugout, I’m under no obligation to slink away in the direction he indicates. But if he’s the umpire and I don’t do what he says, I may be well within my rights but I’m not playing baseball.

Once you’ve decided that The Law is legitimate, you’ve given up the game, even if you challenge the legitimacy of some specific law. If you think you’re the one who gets to decide what is or isn’t The Law, judges be damned, then you don’t really believe in The Law at all and you’d be better off just admitting it.

All this pointless nitpickery over bullshit like whether the 16th Amendment was properly ratified by the appropriate number of states with identical capitalizations and so forth — it just insults the intelligence. Do the Browns really expect me to believe that they have decided to hole up in their fortress for a great last stand because of some dispute over whether Ohio was properly admitted to the Union in ?

Such arguments are embarrassing and absurd, and yet people I respect are falling for them. And some people may get themselves killed over them, and too many people are encouraging them to do so.

A Congressional fight is ramping up over the IRS’s new privatized debt collection program. One of the program’s defenders, Senator Chuck Grassley, sent a letter to his colleagues setting out his position.

There were some interesting statistics in the letter that I haven’t seen elsewhere. For instance: “Every year, over $20 billion of unpaid taxes are lost due to the tolling of the 10-year statute of limitations.” And:

[T]he average fully trained field function collection officer costs the government approximately $154,000 a year. This includes salary, bonus, benefits, taxes, and a portion of direct overhead cost like supervision and administrative services, rent, travel, technology, telecommunications, postage, training, recruitment and other costs of business (not including a percentage of the Washington bureaucracy). The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that in , these folks collected on average $577,000 each. Now, that is an excellent return on investment, but simple math shows that for every dollar collected by these important IRS collection personnel, it cost the government conservatively 26 cents.

Cindy Sheehan continues to beat the tax resistance drum. , she spoke in Sacramento, California.

She urged people to stop paying for war and militarism through tax resistance, as well as dedicating themselves to increased personal sacrifice in their roles as anti-war activists.

“One way to cure the disease of militarism is not to pay taxes,” she said. “If millions across the country did this, there would be no money for war. I refuse to subsidize their killing. It is a moral decision that I have made not to pay my taxes any more for war and militarism.”