Turn on the tube and economic ignorance seems to be everywhere. There is constant shilling for more government. Business is demonized. Man is said to be trashing the environment. “Workers and women are oppressed” is the constant mantra.And members of the clueless media nod their heads in unison.Only John Stossel has provided the fresh air […]
In early July 1944, delegates from 44 countries gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. A three-week summit took place, at which a new system was agreed to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the Second World War.The U.S. was already the world’s commercial powerhouse, having eclipsed the British […]
In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets […]
Some people are saying it is just what the doctor ordered. Others are saying that the cure is worse than the disease.The Affordable Care Act? Reengagement in Iraq? Tea Party bullying in the GOP?Not this time. Just as protracted in the corridors of Congress and the White House is the debate over the proposed reform […]
In 2012, money mandarins running the European Union chose stagnation over restructuring. Here’s a consequence of that choice: expectations for a self-sustaining economic recovery keep getting crushed.Two years ago, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to hold the eurozone together. He bluffed nervous investors into believing in a […]
People jacked up about income inequality can find a new hobby. The 1% are victims of a doomsday machine, and the countdown is ticking. Machine, thy name is “family.”This came to mind as I was reading a preview of Columbia Professor Andrew Ang’s forthcoming, must-read book on Asset Management. Ang is that oxymoron, an exciting […]
It might sound like the latest new product from Apple, but IPAB is actually the newest major legal challenge to Obamacare.Recently, a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, a 15-member panel created by the Affordable Care Act and empowered […]
Americans have come to believe that the IRS and the income tax are inevitable parts of our lives. After all, most everyone alive today has lived his entire life under federal income taxation.It wasn’t always that way. For some 125 years, the American people lived without having any tax imposed upon their income.The obvious question […]
Here’s a fun fact: Although we all hate the U.S. dollar, as it continues to hemorrhage wealth, its foothold as the world’s reserve currency isn’t going to disappear overnight.A Russian gas deal with China won’t change that — as we’ll highlight below.But before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s dive into a story that’s right […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
The Keynesian disaster recovery plan has been to lower rates, force people to take more risk in search of yield, and entice others to borrow and spend and, magically, more jobs will be created. If people won’t buy stocks, central banks will.Back in 2011, Ben Bernanke, when asked if QE2 was driving up stock prices, […]
I want to share some insight and give you a front-row seat to America’s next big shale play.Let’s get to it…Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has turned the ship around, quite literally.We’ve gone from a country that was expecting to import massive amounts of oil and gas — to a country that’s sitting […]
Whatever your views on the role of government, one thing is clear: There will be no way to pay for it if the economy doesn’t grow. And I’m not talking by a measly percentage point or two. If we can’t find our way back to 5% annual economic growth or above soon, America’s accumulated federal […]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices are rising at a 2.1% annual rate. This suggests to us that the current stock market boom will die with a bang, rather than a whimper.Fed economists say they don’t think inflation rates are rising. They think the most recent reading is a fluke. But why […]
Politicians love raising the minimum wage because they don’t have to ask voters to pay more in taxes. They just dump the costs onto shop owners. But they don’t act like politicians and go into debt to pretend like they have all the money in the world. They face real world situations. And sometimes that means replacing workers with more affordable options...
Regulation is supposed to keep you safe and make the economy function smoothly. At least that’s what they tell you in the news. But there’s another cost to regulation. One that you won’t hear about unless you have to deal with directly. And for the people in the economy who do, they’re the ones who have to pay the final cost.
The experts will tell you the recession is over, but they’re only torturing the data to hide the truth. The economy never recovered from the downturn it experienced. But the downturn happened in 2000, not 2008. The country’s been in the middle of a 14 year recession and hardly anyone knows the truth.
Every time Bitcoin crashes, it winds up at a price greater than it’s previous high. Yet the experts still call it a currency fad that will fade away. But a little over a year since it really took up, the digital currency is still going strong, and is once again seeing its price rise. But is there another reason why people are buying Bitcoins.
All paper currency has a shelf life. It could be 5 years or 500 years, but at some point, the value of any paper currency eventually reaches zero. That's why, for centuries, people have turned to one shiny metal to safeguard their personal store of wealth. And, as Jim Rickards explains, you still have that option. Read on...
According to some estimates, one man - whose name you're probably not familiar with - has saved over a billion lives. Who is he? And how has he influenced the current crop of innovators? Josh Grasmick explains...
It’s a destructive cycle that comes around everytime your politicians ask you to take to the polls. The government’s meddling creates unexpected problems that eventually overshadow the planners’ original intentions. But that only leads the way for even more interventions.
Politicians love inflation. It’s a way to pay for the government’s debts without upsetting the public by raising taxes, or their special interests by cutting government. So they’ll flood the economy with easy money and eat away at your savings. But that’s only part of the story...
You can count the number of people who went to jail over the 2008 financial crisis on one hand. Which is strange considering the U.S. loves to put people away in jail. But as one author discovered in his most recent book, having the right connections and a big enough bank account, can protect you from even the worst crimes.
Obama recently claimed this was the “Decade of the Brain”. But it not the first time the government made that promise. The last time they did it, they wasted millions of your tax dollars. Now they’re back for round two. But this time, their failure could mean more than squandered money. It could mean making Alzheimer’s even worse for those who suffer from it.
“So we have, indeed, had a disappointingly slow recovery, and our consistent expectations for a pickup in growth have been dashed over a number of years… And the labor market is behaving in some perplexing ways and showing patterns that are novel.”–Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen in a speech to the Economic Club of New […]
When Michael Lewis’ new book Flash Boys came out, the author caused a stir while making the media rounds to promote it. “The stock market is rigged,” he told 60 Minutes flatly. His comments set off a firestorm of debate as to whether sharp techies and their fast computers are screwing small investors.As titillating as […]
Last November, when the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) proposed moderating years of escalating mandates by reducing the amount of ethanol that must be mixed into gasoline, a top ethanol lobbyist seemed perplexed. “We’re all just sort of scratching our heads here today and wondering why this administration is telling us to burn less of a […]
Have you ever heard the claim that paying income tax is voluntary? The term “voluntary” is variously used in government documents, including the 1040 form itself, and some very naive people have actually taken this to mean that they don’t have to pay if they don’t want to. They think that “voluntary” actually means voluntary, as in the free exercise of human volition.
It’s an odd position that seems not to comprehend the meaning of the word “tax.” What makes a tax different from a contribution or a trade is that the revenue is extracted by force. You can choose not to comply just as you can choose to resist arrest. But then you must face the consequences. A truly voluntary tax is like a friendly insult, a peaceful war or a healthy cancer. The two words just don’t go together.
By the way, this point doesn’t apply to just the income tax. It is true for all taxes. You sometimes hear that excise taxes are voluntary because no one is forcing you to buy the taxed good or service. This is false. The point is that if you buy gasoline, cigarettes or anything else that is taxed at the point of sale, you have no choice but to fund the government with part of your purchase price. That is not voluntary.
Yet many people, convinced that they should take the government at its word, persist in believing otherwise. The courts have been dealing with these people for decades. They file what the government calls “frivolous lawsuits.” In fact, the IRS has heard this claim enough to actually address it on a special webpage it has created to address these and other far-flung claims made by people who imagine that they have a right to keep what they earn.
The agency writes:
“The word ‘voluntary,’ as used in Flora and in IRS publications, refers to our system of allowing taxpayers initially to determine the correct amount of tax and complete the appropriate returns, rather than have the government determine tax for them from the outset. The requirement to file an income tax return is not voluntary and is clearly set forth in Internal Revenue Code 6011(a), 6012(a), et seq. and 6072(a). See also Treas. Reg. § 1.6011-1(a).
“Any taxpayer who has received more than a statutorily determined amount of gross income is obligated to file a return. Failure to file a tax return could subject the noncomplying individual to criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment, as well as civil penalties. “[A]lthough Treasury regulations establish voluntary compliance as the general method of income tax collection, Congress gave the secretary of the Treasury the power to enforce the income tax laws through involuntary collection…The IRS’ efforts to obtain compliance with the tax laws are entirely proper.” United States v. Tedder, 787 F.2d 540, 542 (10th Cir. 1986).”
In other words, you are free to comply. If you choose not to comply, you could go to prison. As proof that this is law, the agency cites court cases from 1938-88. Guess what? The courts, as creations of the government, have sided with the government’s right to collect taxes from your income. But you say that this is not fair. This is not just. This is un-American. This contradicts the government’s own claim that its system is voluntary.
Well, if you are writing the dictionary, you get to define words however you want to define them. However the government uses language, the reality is that the money is being taken from you without your consent. The only real difference between the robber (such as what was once called a “highwayman”) and the government, as Lysander Spooner said, is that the robber doesn’t claim to be doing this for your own good:
“The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a ‘protector,’ and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to ‘protect’ those infatuated travelers who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road against your will, assuming to be your rightful ‘sovereign’ on account of the ‘protection’ he affords you. He does not keep ‘protecting’ you by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy if you dispute his authority or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures and insults and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.”
What strikes me about the legions of marginalized people who file “frivolous” lawsuits is not that they hate the government, as people often believe. It is not that they have lost confidence in the system or otherwise treat their public servants as their enemies.
My impression is exactly the opposite. They have actually underestimated the depth of the problem with the system. They believe that the courts really are independent and will side against the interests of the government. They imagine that the system is surely and fundamentally just and fair, and once challenged, it will take their side. They imagine that agencies of the government will stick to their word. They imagine that the system is not so corrupt as to not give them a fair hearing.
Keep in mind that there was no income tax in this country for the 126 years after the Constitution was ratified, except for a brief period during the Civil War. Even after the Constitution was amended to make income taxes possible, only a few actually paid. It was much later before it hit most every American. Before that, your income was your own, period. Imagine! Most people can’t.
The 16th Amendment represented a fundamental change in the nature of the American regime. From that point forward, there was a shift in ownership over national wealth. It belonged first to the government, and then to you only as the administrative apparatus permits.
These “frivolous” people who claim taxes are voluntary are doing what good citizens do. They are reading founding documents. They study the American Revolution. They contemplate the words of Jefferson, Paine, Madison and all the others. They take their words and ideas seriously. They look at the current system and see that it resembles the founding vision only in the most superficial ways. And they imagine that it is their right, as Americans and as human beings, to stand up to the powers that be.
What they lack is that critical intelligence to comprehend that the present regime does not agree. There is no real consent of the governed. There is no authentic social contract. The government isn’t really of, by and for the people. To realize this is the beginning of true political wisdom. On this core point, it appears that both libertarians and the tax police are in full agreement.