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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Skewed tax history

Judge Andrew Napolitano has a piece in Reason titled "Taxation Is Theft." Much of it consists of an argument about Social Security that has a very weak connection, at best, to the headline. But one passage, which does have to do with taxation, is odder yet:
For 150 years, the federal government was run by user fees and sales of government land and assessments to the states for services rendered. It rejected the Hamiltonian view that the feds could take whatever they wanted, and it followed the Jeffersonian first principle that the only moral commercial exchanges are those that are fully voluntary.
This isn't true. The federal government for the first 150 years was funded primarily by tariffs, which are of course taxes imposed on imported goods. Look at the figures here. Also, there was no "Hamiltonian view that the feds could take whatever they wanted." Hamilton favored a whiskey excise tax, and Jefferson didn't, but the many differences between the two men did not include either believing that "taxation is theft." Jefferson, like Hamilton, favored tariffs, which being taxes are not "fully voluntary," and Jefferson also seems to have had some affinity for progressive taxes.

Judges should know what they're talking about. So should writers for Reason.

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