Joshua Goldberg, Canadian War Tax Resister

Yes, Virginia, there are conscientious tax resisters in Canada. Joshua Goldberg is one, and he’s profiled in The Georgia Straight of Vancouver. Excerpts:

, when the U.S.-led so-called war on terror came into full swing, Goldberg has been withholding about eight percent of his yearly income-tax bill, the percentage equivalent of what he says Ottawa normally allocates from the federal budget for military spending.

The 36-year-old Victoria man then sends a cheque representing the amount held back to the peace trust fund administered by the Toronto-based antiwar group Conscience Canada, with a copy furnished to the Canada Revenue Agency. He has since received letters from the agency reminding him that he owes money to the government.

“I don’t want to contribute financially to war and to killing,” Goldberg told the Georgia Straight. “I would be really thrilled to have the military portion of my taxes go to the government to be used for peaceful purposes, whether it’s domestically or internationally.”

Goldberg isn’t losing sleep over the prospect that one day he’ll be dragged to court by the government to force him to pay. “They may, and if they do, I’ll deal with that with the support of other people who have gone through that,” he said. “I really don’t worry about that. My father came to Canada as a war resister during the Vietnam War. People make all sorts of difficult decisions.”

Bruna Nota, president of Conscience Canada, told the Straight that in , some 73 Canadians across the country didn’t pay their income taxes in full and contributed to the peace fund as their way of objecting to Canada’s participation in the U.S.-led war on terror.

Nota said that the peace trust fund has totalled about $30,000 . Although Conscience Canada started advocacy work in , its trust fund was liquidated when a previous set of officers decided to refund all contributors in . Nota said that many former contributors haven’t returned yet since she and her group decided to continue the organization’s work.

“There are many ways of doing conscientious objection,” she said. “One is to withhold taxes and send it to the peace tax fund. Another one is to live below the poverty line so you don’t pay taxes. There are quite a number of them who choose voluntary simplicity as part of the witnessing.”

I’m a sucker for stories of people who try to take their radical convictions to their logical conclusions. Here are some folks who are walking the talk, and in doing so, marking off paths that the rest of us may find useful:

  • No Impact Man — A Guilty Liberal Finally Snaps, Swears Off Plastic, Goes Organic, Becomes A Bicycle Nut, Turns Off His Power, Composts His Poop and, While Living In New York City, Generally Turns Into a Tree-Hugging Lunatic Who Tries to Save the Polar Bears and The Rest of the Planet from Environmental Catastrophe While Dragging His Baby Daughter and Prada-Wearing, Four Seasons-Loving Wife Along for the Ride.
  • 100 Mile Diet — Local Eating For Global Change (see also today’s review in Reason of the book associated with this site.)

A reader writes, in response to my recent rant about Ed and Elaine Brown, “You have said that they have asked to be shown ‘the law’ that makes them a ‘taxpayer.’ To me this is perfectly legitimate.… I don’t find that an exorbitant request. Do you really feel that if there is a law that makes the Browns, or anyone else for that matter, ‘subject to any internal revenue tax,’ that they should not be shown the law?”

Sigh. Some day I will learn just to ignore this stuff. But until then:

The Browns have been shown the law; in fact they’ve had a closer look at it than most people get. It’s a shame they seem to have learned very little about it from their close encounter.

The Browns believe there is no law on the books that makes them liable for federal income tax. The people whose job it is to adjudicate such disputes over the meaning of the law, and who have authority in the legal system to give such adjudications authority, completely disagree. These people also make a whole lot more sense and talk a whole lot less rot (“We are fed up with the Zionist Illuminati!”), which ought to be surprising, since they’re lawyers and work for the government. But that’s where it stands.

The demand to “show me the law” is dishonest, because it implies that there is no such law. There is, but if someone “shows” it to you, you’ll then move the goalposts and say “show me how this law was correctly enacted” or “show me why it applies to me” or what have you, and then if someone takes the bait and does show you those things, you’ll move the goalposts again and argue about the next set of things down the list, ad nauseam.

There’s never any fixed point of legal disagreement that can be settled, so there’s no point in arguing.

A rational person might say: Aha! the legal system is wrong, I am right, therefore I will try to get the legal system to change its mind! Or: the legal system is wrong, I am right, therefore to hell with the legal system! But the Browns and the tax protester set say: the legal system is wrong, I am right, therefore I am the legal system! This is pathological delusions of grandeur and ought not to be humored.