Cindy Sheehan: War Tax Resistance Makes Me a More Credible Peaceworker

Cindy Sheehan points out that one advantage of practicing war tax resistance is that it makes you more credible in your work encouraging soldiers to refuse to deploy or to resist in other ways:

Even if you do go to prison for taking a principled stand, wouldn’t that be better than killing a baby in one of those countries, or killing your own mother’s baby?

You may also say: “Cindy it’s easy for you to say, you are not risking prison yourself.” But I do, I risk it everyday because I am a conscientious tax objector. I refuse to pay my income taxes. Personally, I find it morally repugnant to be a combat “enabler.”

Please don’t bloody your hands for the Empire.

Peace is only possible if we do the morally upright thing, because our governments will not.

One thing I’ve been meaning to investigate but haven’t yet had the time for is evidence of Thoreau’s political philosophy as found in surviving letters from him.

Here’s an example, from a letter from Thoreau to Harrison Blake, on this date in :

[Daniel Ricketson] says that he sympathizes with much in my books, but much in them is naught to him, — “namby-pamby,” — “stuff,” — “mystical.” Why will not I, having common sense, write in plain English always; teach men in detail how to live a simpler life, etc.; not go off into ——? But I say that I have no scheme about it, — no designs on men at all; and, if I had, my mode would be to tempt them with the fruit, and not with the manure. To what end do I lead a simple life at all, pray? That I may teach others to simplify their lives? — and so all our lives be simplified merely, like an algebraic formula? Or not, rather, that I may make use of the ground I have cleared, to live more worthily and profitably? I would fain lay the most stress forever on that which is the most important, — imports the most to me, — though it were only (what it is likely to be) a vibration in the air. As a preacher, I should be prompted to tell men, not so much how to get their wheat bread cheaper, as of the bread of life compared with which that is bran. Let a man only taste these loaves, and he becomes a skillful economist at once. He’ll not waste much time in earning those. Don’t spend your time in drilling soldiers, who may turn out hirelings after all, but give to undrilled peasantry a country to fight for. The schools begin with what they call the elements, and where do they end?

I was glad to hear the other day that Higginson and —— were gone to Ktaadn; it must be so much better to go to than a Woman’s Rights or Abolition Convention; better still, to the delectable primitive mounts within you, which you have dreamed of from your youth up, and seen, perhaps, in the horizon, but never climbed.

In the fourth section of the third book of The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle, having already insisted that choice and deliberation deal with means, not ends, says that the corresponding mental act dealing with ends is the wish.

“Some” say that the only things we can really wish for are actually good things, “others” say that ends are purely subjective and that there is no Actually Good standard to compare them to. Aristotle, characteristically, aims for some position in the middle, acknowledging that there is an objective good, but insisting that we’re perfectly capable of being mistaken or unwise in our wishes, and that the goals we wish for are subjective ends that may or may not coincide with the objective good. Usually, he says, when you wish for something objectively bad, you’re being misled by pleasure.

To me this seems an odd debate. Different people wish for different things, often incompatible things, certainly opposing things, so they can’t all be objectively good, so we must be able to wish for things that are merely subjective goods, right? There must have been some debate that used a more specialized definition of words like “wish” or “good” that I’m not aware of.

Who are these “some” and “others” that Aristotle refers to? That might be a key to what the debate was all about. After doing some hunting, I found a footnote in Edward Moore’s edition of The Nicomachean Ethics that solves the mystery. Aristotle seems to be referring to the debate between the Platonists and Sophists, as preserved for us in Plato’s Protagoras. Plato/Socrates thought that wish could only be oriented toward The Good (since The Good coincides with that which is worth wishing for); the Sophists were more of the subjectivist school.

In any case, this answers the first of the four questions I had after reading section two of this book, about where the ends come from if choice is only about means.

Index to the Nicomachean Ethics series

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics

According to this article, “The cost [to the IRS] of processing a single paper-filed tax return is $2.87, compared to $0.35 for an e-filed return.”