A review of For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization by Charles Adams (Madison Books, 2001).
Why can’t American Presidents learn that if you raise taxes on the American people they will vote you out? George Bush crashed because he raised taxes, and Bill Clinton will go down as soon as the people get a shot at him. Maybe the people are awful to react to taxes in such a negative way, but the fact remains that the political consequences of raising taxes today is death.
It was not always like this. Americans pay their taxes when they support the government’s policies. They did in World War II. Irving Berlin wrote, “You see those bombers in the sky / Rockefeller helped to build them / so did I.” If, however, the government, like George III, is pursuing programs the people don’t believe in, taxation may lead to a revolution.
The problem today is that the democratic bond between the people and their elected representatives has snapped. If that proposition seems a little extreme to you, try to remember the last time Congress passed a law that you liked. You have to go back a long way. The people, by tax resistance, are saying: if you won’t listen to us on the things that are important to us, the things that determine what kind of society we live in, e.g. affirmative action, criminal justice, pornography and schools, we will do what we can to cut your money off. Even a failed government can probably float along if it asks little or nothing from the people. Maybe a 4.3 cents a gallon gas tax is o.k., but maybe 10 cents a gallon is not. At some point, though, a little wind is going to turn the boat over.
For Good and Evil: The…
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