The Income Tax: Root Of All Evil – Frank Chodorov (Selected Quotations)

I recently took a course on Mises Academy taught by Tom DiLorenzo regarding the economic nationalism of Hamilton, Clay, and Lincoln.  In the final week, one of the assigned readings consisted of a few chapters of this book (available for free online at  Instead of the few assigned chapters, I read the whole thing (it’s rather short, only about 90 pages) and was quite impressed.  Despite being written in the 1950s, everything Chodorov says in this book is still applicable today.  Throughout the book, various small selections were emphasized in either bold or italics, and I found myself noticing how these selections were in fact quite profound and mostly able to stand completely on their own.  So I decided to present them here, as little pearls of wisdom.  Enjoy!

The Constitution, then, is held in high esteem only because of the high esteem Americans put upon the doctrine of natural rights.  Any law, political practice, or even amendment that infringes those rights is automatically deemed “unconstitutional.”  The infringement is “evil.” p4

A people who are intent on getting something-for-nothing from government cannot cavil over the infringement of their rights by that government. –p5

This treatise on the Sixteenth Amendment will proceed under these general lines:  That as a consequence of this law our government is being transformed into one alien to the American tradition.  That social and individual values are likewise undergoing transmutation.  That, in short, America is no longer the America of the Declaration of Independence.  Finally, and most important, we shall suggest a means for reversing the trend and restoring the “good” of our tradition. – p6

All indirect taxes are added to price.  – p7

Income and inheritance taxes imply the denial of private property, and in that are different in principle from all other taxes. – p8

In short, when this amendment became part of the Constitution, in 1913, the absolute right of property in the United States was violated. – p9

All socialists, beginning with Karl Marx, have advocated income taxation, the heavier the better. – p9

The individual has an inalienable right to his property. – p10

The basic axiom of socialism, in all its forms, is that might is right. – p11

Therefore, when you cause these things to exist, your title to yourself, your labor, is extended to the things.  You have a right to them simply because you have a right to life. – p12

In other words, your ownership, entitles you to use your judgment as to what you will do with the product of your labor – consume it, give it away, sell it, save it.  Freedom of disposition is the substance of property rights. – p13

Therefore, the general production of a socialistic society must tend to decline to the point of mere subsistence. – p14

The income tax is not only a tax; it is an instrument that has the potentiality of destroying a society of humans. – p14

The contemplated government would simply be the foreign department of the several states. – p16

Every war is fought with current wealth. – p18

We pay as we fight. – p18

The bondholder is simply a partner of the tax collector. – p18

Since all bonds are claims on production, what really happens when bonds are issued is – let’s call it by its right name – counterfeiting; the amount of purchasing power, or money, is increased. – p19

Government borrows on its ability to tax, because taxes are the only source of its revenue, the only security it has to offer the lender. – p19

The ability-to-pay doctrine proceeds from a direct violation of this principle of equality.  It establishes a legal classification of society.  It sets up a principle of government that was not contemplated when this nation was formed; it is a reversion to the caste system that had existed in Europe. – p20

The advocates of ability-to-pay; however, do not distinguish between wealth obtained by production and wealth obtained by privilege. – p21

People make wealth; government can only take it. – p22

Hence, the effect of income taxation is to impair the capital structure of the country. – p22

The income tax therefore hurts the wage earner to a far greater extent than by what is filched from his pay envelope. – p22

When all the capital in the country is in the hands of the government, then all of us must work for the government under the conditions it prescribes – and that is slavery. – p23

Income taxation appeals to the governing class because in its everlasting urgency for power it needs money. – p26

Income taxation appeals to the mass of the people because it gives expression to their envy; it salves their sense of hurt. – p27

So that, the sum of all arguments for income taxation comes to political ambition and the sin of covetousness. – p27

The end product of government intervention in the economy of the country is more power for government. – p28

In name, it was a tax reform.  In point of fact, it was a revolution.  For the Sixteenth Amendment corroded the American concept of natural rights; ultimately reduced the American citizen to a status of subject, so much so that he is not aware of it; enhanced Executive power to the point of reducing Congress to innocuity; and enabled the central government to bribe the states, once independent units, into subservience.  No kingship in the history of the world has ever exercised more power than our Presidency, or had more of the people’s wealth at its disposal.  We have retained the forms and phrases of a republic, but in reality we are living under an oligarchy, not of courtesans, but of bureaucrats. – p32

Thus, the immunities of property, body and mind have been undermined by the Sixteenth Amendment.  The freedoms won by Americans in 1776 were lost in the revolution of 1913. – p35

The poor, simply because there are more of them, have more ability to pay than the rich. – p37

Every cent taken from wages is thrown into the till of the United States Treasury, and is spent for anything the government decides upon.  So, too, are the “contributions” from the employer.  That is to say, social-security taxes are taxes, pure and simple; they are “forced dues and charges” levied by the sovereign on his subjects for the expenses of the state.  None of the money is held in reserve, none of it is invested in business.  All is spent, and it is spent long before the “insured” is entitled to benefits. – p37

So that, in effect, the children are supporting their parents collectively, and without love. – p38

The employer must include in his expenses what he is compelled to “contribute.”  This expense shows up in the price of his goods, and the wage earner, as consumer, actually pays it. – p38

The money taken from the worker’s pay envelope is worth more, will buy more goods, than the money he will get when he is old, simply because these bonds are in existence. – p38

It wanted more taxes, and it dipped further into the pay envelope; that is the real purpose of the social security laws. – p39

The government will meet its obligations by handing out brand-new printed dollars, with declining purchasing power, and the old folks will have to depend on what support they can beg from their tax-ridden children. – p39

When the individual is relieved of the obligation of self-respect, he acquires the habits of helplessness; he is inclined to retreat to the security of the prenatal state.  The more he is taken care of the more he wants care. – p41

In Germany, the social-security philosophy of government led to the moral decadence which facilitated the advent of Hitler.  In England, it made a once-proud people into a nation of panhandlers.  What will it do to America? – p42

But while the private spendthrift is held in leash by the threat of bankruptcy, government is unhampered by any such fear; it can print money or something equivalent to money, and compel citizens and banks to accept this paper in payment for its debts; it can rob its subjects by the trick of inflation, and thus make up for its overspending. – p43

The main point is that the Sixteenth Amendment has widened the area of government power, and as a consequence has reduced the area of liberty. – p43

It is written into our consciousness that “mine is mine” and all the tomes in support of income taxation cannot wipe out that thought. – p45

All taxes come from production. – p46

The corruption is written into the law. – p47

It has the means of harassing, intimidating, and crushing the citizen who falls into its disfavor. – p48

Practically every textbook used in our college economics courses proclaims the virtue of progressive income taxation as a means of “distributing wealth.” – p50

The so-called lobbying law has had the effect of bribing Americans into abandoning their right of protest. – p51

The corruption of freedom is in proportion to the moral deterioration of the people.  For a people who have lost their sense of self-respect have no need for freedom.  And the income tax, by transferring the property of earners to the State, has disintegrated the moral fiber of American to such a degree that they do not even recognize the fact. – p52

The income tax, by attacking the dignity of the individual at the very base, has led to the practice of perjury, fraud, deception, and bribery.  Avoidance or evasion of the levies has become the great American game, and talents of the highest order are employed in the effort to save something from the clutches of the State.  People who in the private lives are above reproach will resort to the meanest devices to effect some saving and will even brag of their ingenuity.  The necessity of trying to get along under the income tax has made us a corrupt people. – p52

The business he is in, politics, drives the politician toward the acquisition of more and more power, and a good politician is one who takes advantage of every contingency to increase his power. – p55

We will ask for a savior and we will get communism. – p56

In no country where centralism got going did the regime have to contend with divided authority such as our Constitution provides. – p58

Divided authority is the bulwark of freedom. – p60

Freedom is the absence of restraint.  Government cannot give freedom, it can only take it away.  The more power the government exercises the less freedom the people will enjoy.  And when government has a monopoly of power the people have no freedom.  That is the definition of absolutism – monopoly of power. – p60

Throughout history, those to whom the job of rulership has fallen, whether by hereditary or popular selection, have shown a tendency to use their position to dominate, not serve, the ruled. – p61

Popular suffrage is in itself no guarantee of freedom.  People can vote themselves into slavery. – p61

As long as anything is left of our tradition of States’ Rights, the danger of absolutism in this country can be avoided.  In fact, it is that tradition that must be depended upon in any effort to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment. – p63

After 1913, however, and without either a war or a change in the law of the land, the states were gradually and almost imperceptibly rid of their sovereign position and reduced in importance to dependent subdivision of the nation.  It was done by the subtle arts of bribery and blackmail, made possible by the Sixteenth Amendment. – p64

Before 1913, the country was in difficulty several times, but it never suffered from an “emergency”; that national disease is a product of the income tax, and as the levies increased, the affliction recurred with greater frequency and greater intensity. – p65

The odd thing about these “emergency” taxes is that they hang on after the original occasion for them disappears. – p65

The first concern of a politician is to be elected, the second is to be reelected. – p66

The practice of buying votes with political favors is inherent in popular government.  It is the weakness of democracy.  It is not due so much to the depravity of the politician as to the human hunger for something-for-nothing. – p66

Thus, every federal dollar spent in a state becomes an obligation on the state.  The obligation is paid off with sovereignty; the state sells out its independence.  It is all done without change of the law, without any modification of the Constitution, and is as imperceptible as the gradual wearing down of a proud horse by a resolute trainer. – p67

But the fact that every state is now a loser gives them all a common interest in the repeal of the Amendment. – p68

The only group that could logically furnish that leadership are the governors and legislators of the states. – p70

Repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment would amount to secession of the forty-eight states from Washington – and restoration of the Union. – p71

As a result of income taxation, we now have a government with far more power than George III ever exercised.  It is self-sufficient, independent of the will of the people.  The elections do not alter that fact; they are merely periodic changes of the guard.  Whoever is elected retains the power vested in the office and, as usual, tries to augment it.  The end in clear sight is the liquidation of all social power and the advent of a regime of absolutism.  – p75

Unless Americans want to be free, unless they put their tradition of freedom above all else, the Sixteenth Amendment will stay in the Constitution until it wrecks both the tradition and the civilization from which it emerged. – p75

The straight-thinking pioneer knew full well that the power of the government is in direct ratio to its income, and he was therefore all for cutting its income to the bone; that way it could not get out of hand. – p76

The case for repeal rests on this tradition.  If there are still enough Americans who are of the opinion that the government governs best which governs least, if there is among us a group willing to risk their fortunes, their lives, and their sacred honor for freedom, then repeal has a chance.  If, on the other hand, the habits of mind acquired under income taxation have completed obliterated the American tradition, then any effort to restore citizen sovereignty is futile. – p77


About Dude Where's My Freedom?

My name's Matt and I love Freedom.
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