“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by another name would smell as sweet.”
William Shakespeare’s immortal lines, spoken by Juliet pining on the balcony for Romeo, argue the point that words hold far less power than that which they describe.
I understand what my colleague James Maier is saying when he says that taxation is not slavery, but I humbly submit that such a claim boils down to mere semantics. Taxation is not slavery in the same way that molestation is not rape or that the killing of Middle Eastern children with drones is not murder.
Lesser atrocities or crimes committed in the name of some secret cause are no less heinous than their more obscene counterparts.
I am an American citizen, birthed and raised on American soil by American parents. I am free. My life is my own. I cannot be bought or sold.
Mr. Maier argues that this alone is enough to separate me from slaves born in chains, from chattel which can be exchanged and sold. Yet nominal freedom is not freedom. I have a choice to not pay my taxes, certainly, but doing so comes at the expense of my own liberty. I was not born into chains but if I refuse to give a percentage of my earnings to the government I will be put into chains, put into a cage, deprived of my freedom.
But no, I am not a slave.
I have never been forced to work upon pain of death, never been beaten, never been tortured, never been forced to breed and had my baby torn out of my arms to be sold. I have not watched my friends and family starve to death, have not myself starved. I am able to eat and sleep when I wish, to wear whatever clothes I like, to come and go as I please.
But this does not mean I am free.
Semantics aside, I find a greater flaw in Mr. Maier’s logic. He claims that “taxation will eventually be phased out” just as slavery was. There is no evidence for this and, indeed, history suggests the opposite will happen. Slavery tarnished the early years of the United States but was eventually abolished around the world. The early Americans owned slaves and hated taxes-let us not forget that one of the main squabbles the founding fathers had with Britain was over taxation without representation. While slavery existed from the nation’s earliest days, it was not until 1861 that Congress imposed its first personal income tax to fund the Civil War.
Taxation began to grow completely out of hand in the 20th century with the passing of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913 which states:
“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”
Since then, taxation has grown at a steady rate both here and abroad and shows no signs of slowing down.
Taxation would probably be more accurately compared to feudalism; the government is the lord of the estate and we, the people, are the serfs working for the protection of the lord’s army and a place to sleep. Our freedom is limited. We are chained to the government.
Is taxation slavery? Not in the strictest sense. But when a government considers its people beholden to it and charges us for its (dubious) benefits, we are nothing more than servants to the system. Our lives are indentured and as such, we are not truly free.