Tax Resister Rose Wilder Lane

I’ve been meaning for some time to track down more information about the tax resistance of Rose Wilder Lane. Lane was the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame and an accomplished writer herself. She is also an influence on the American libertarian movement.

She is a rare example of an American conscientious tax resister coming from the libertarian / paleoconservative tradition. That tradition tends to breed either people who merely complain about or disparage taxes, people who try to work within the system to reduce taxes (a la Howard Jarvis or Grover Norquist), or people who come up with tortured legal arguments for why the existing tax laws are illegal or inapplicable. Conscientious tax resistance is, in contrast, very rare.

Lane began her tax resistance in the middle of World War Ⅱ. The New York Times covered her protest in :

Rose Wilder Lane, novelist and individualist, has gone into retirement until the American scene produces “a politician who’ll stand up and tell the truth.”

Mrs. Lane, without capital, with two sons in the Army, 600 pounds of pork and 800 jars of home-preserved vegetables and fruit in the cellar, has settled down to a farm life and oblivion until the New Deal has been succeeded by a new national administration.

Living on a three-acre farm just outside Danbury [Connecticut], Mrs. Lane said she had decided “to resist regimentation.” She has given up her New York apartment, ceased all fiction writing to reduce her taxes and is receiving only $60 a month income — from a newspaper column. She lives on $50 a month and has refused to register for a ration book.

Mrs. Lane makes her own butter — she owns an interest in a cow — and she raises chickens. She uses honey instead of sugar and from her own garden she has preserved corn, peas, peppers, beets, berries and other fruits and vegetables.

Mrs. Lane denies bitterness over the national administration. She terms current national [illegible] as “nonsense” and cites the income tax law as “the last straw.”

“I don’t see why I should work to support the Writers War Board, the Office of War Information and all such New Deal piffle while men are dying and there is work to be done at home,” she said.

“The thing to do, if you believe such practices are wrong,” Mrs. Lane declared, “is to resist them. The American people did it with prohibition. The Colonists did it when King George tried to overtax them. The New Deal is only going back to King George’s economy and scarcity. I feel that very, very hard times are coming, but I also feel that the people will pull through.

“We’ve got to resist. The vote will have no effect until we have a politician who will stand up and tell the truth.”

Lane also steadfastly refused to accept a Social Security number or to apply for Social Security payments, and liked to tweak the nose of government any way she could — using democracy (rallying her neighbors to abolish local zoning codes) or civil disobedience (working a late-night shift at Vivien Kellems’s cable grip factory to protest laws that prohibited women from working night shifts).