Over the past few days, I’ve gone back through historical debates about tax
resistance to try to understand how both of these extremes — and many points
in-between — have been attacked and defended over time.
I underestimated just how much of a project this was going to end up being. I
had to take detours into complicated legal and philosophical discussions of
complicity and responsibility. I’m still nowhere near done yet. If you’re
curious, you can watch me
taking notes on a wiki, and you can add comments if you’d care to.
Way back in Ralph asked the board of
WRL not to
withhold income tax from his pay. He had joined the staff
and thus became the first war
tax resister on the
the first to press the organization to take a stand against cooperating with
It wasn’t until , after various collection
efforts and a court case, that the
took money from
bank account for four years of Ralph’s many years of refusal to pay war
promoted tax day actions for years and handing out pie charts at the
office in Manhattan was an occasion Ralph rarely missed. He loved leafleting
and would be there whether the action was large or small. In recent years he
couldn’t stand up the whole time, but he’d sit on a big cement planter at the
edge of the sidewalk near the
offering out the pie chart to anyone who would take it. In recent years he
looked forward to going even more because one of the
employees made a special effort to come out and greet Ralph’s arrival each
year. They’d have a good chat before returning to their respective posts.
If you really think that by making yourself worse-off, you can wean the State
from its violent cycle, by all means go for it. I just don’t think it works.
Almost every transaction in which you participate is taxable, so as long as
you spend those notes you’re simply choosing a different form of
taxation! If withholding $17.76 from your tax return this year makes it
easier to sleep at night, by all means, do it. But don’t be fooled into
thinking that you’re going to stop the State by so doing. If you’re
withholding your taxes, you’re not going far enough.
I think victory is freedom from the State. Symbolically fighting the State
with its own laws isn’t going to get anyone very far because it’s only
possible to de-fund the government if it were using legitimate currency,
which it is not. And even if it were, there simply aren’t enough tax
protesters in existence to starve the State by withholding some nominal sum,
and therefore their efforts are misguided.
The principal argument, though, is that you can’t de-fund Leviathan by
withholding from the State the very fiat money the creation of which it
controls! Because the government operates on monopoly money backed only by
the people’s general faith in that fiction, I understand that the only way to
bring down the system is to stop having faith in that fiction, to stop using
that money, and to practice counter-economics. There probably are enough
resisters to begin a counter-economy, which has greater chance at succeeding,
if you define success as “freedom from the State.”
I think we probably agree more than we disagree when it comes right down to
it, but I’m too impatient to wait for the perfect solution. I’m eager to start
right now with less-perfect but still practical solutions, hoping that
although “there simply aren’t enough” of us to defund the government right
now, thanks to me there’s one more than there used to be, and in order for
that “enough” to ever come about, people like me will have to decide,
one-by-one, to be the next not-yet-enough one.