CD Media
Analysis

The Income Tax Really Is Evil

Reprinted with Permission Mises Institute J. Bracken Lee

This was, to be sure, “the home of the free and the land of the brave.” Americans were free simply because the government was too weak to intervene in the private affairs of the people—it did not have the money to do so—and they were brave because a free people is always venturesome. The obligation of freedom is a willingness to stand on your own feet.

The early American wanted it that way. He was wary of government, especially one that was out of his reach. He had just rid himself of a faraway and self-sufficient political establishment and he was not going to tolerate anything like it in his newly founded country. He recognized the need of some sort of government, to keep order, to protect him in the exercise of his rights, and to look after his interests in foreign lands. But he wanted it understood that the powers of that government would be clearly defined and be limited; it could not go beyond specified limits. It was in recognition of this fear of centralized power that the Founding Fathers put into the Constitution—it never would have been ratified without them—very specific restraints on the federal government.

In other matters, the early American was willing to put his faith in home government, in a government of neighbors, in a government that one could keep one’s eyes on and, if necessary, lay one’s hands on. For that reason, the United States was founded as a Union of separate and autonomous commonwealths. The states could go in for any political experiments the folks might want to try out—even socialism, for that matter—but the federal government had no such leeway. After all, there were other states nearby, and if a citizen did not like the way one state government was managing its affairs, he could move across the border; that threat of competition would keep each state from going too far in making changes or in intervening in the lives of the citizens.

The Constitution, then, kept the federal government off balance and weak. And a weak government is the corollary of a strong people.

The Sixteenth Amendment changed all that. In the first place, by enabling the federal government to put its hands into the pockets and pay envelopes of the people, it drew their allegiance away from their local governments. It made them citizens of the United States rather than of their respective states. Theft loyalty followed theft money, which was now taken from them not by their local representatives, over whom they had some control, but by the representatives of the other forty-seven states. They became subject to the will of the central government, and their state of subjection was emphasized by every increase in the income tax levies.

The state governments likewise lost more and more of their autonomy. Not only was their source of revenue being dried up by federal preemption, so that they had less and less for the social services a government should provide, but they were compelled in their extremity to apply to the central authorities for help. In so doing they necessarily gave up some of their independence. They found it difficult to stand up to the institution from which they had to beg grants-in-aid. Furthermore, the federal government was in position to demand subservience from the state governments as a condition for subventions. It has now become politically wise for governors, legislators, and congressmen to “play ball” with the central government; they have been reduced to being procurement officers for the citizens who elect them. The economic power which the federal government secured by the Sixteenth Amendment enabled it to bribe the state governments, as well as the citizens, into submission to its will.

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In that way, the whole spirit of the Union and of its Constitution has been liquidated. Income taxation has made of the United States as completely centralized a nation as any that went before it; the very kind of establishment the Founding Fathers abhorred was set up by this simple change in the tax laws. This is no longer the “home of the free,” and what bravery remains is traceable to a tradition that is fast losing ground.

For those of us who still believe that freedom is best, the way is clear: we must concentrate on the correction of the mistake of 1913. The Sixteenth Amendment must be repealed. Nothing less will do. For it is only because it has this enormous revenue that the federal government is able to institute procedures that violate the individual’s right to himself and his property; enforcement agencies must be paid. With the repeal of the amendment, the socialistic measures visited upon us these past thirty years will vanish.

The purchase of elections with federal money will no longer be possible. And the power and dignity of the home governments will be restored.

This measure should be supported by the governors and legislators of all the states. Every state in the Union now contributes in income taxes to the federal government more than it gets back in grants-in-aid; this is inevitable, because the cost of maintaining the huge federal machinery must come out of the taxes before the citizen can get anything. With the abolition of income taxation the states will be better able to serve its citizens, and because the state governments are closer and more responsive to the will of the people, there is greater chance that the citizens will get their full dollar’s worth in services.

However, the principal argument for the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment is that only in that way can freedom from an interventionist government be restored to the American people.


Published as the foreword to Frank Chodorov’s The Income Tax: Root of all Evil (1954).

Bracken Lee (1899–1996) was governor of Utah (1949–1957) and a leading opponent of the income tax. Murray Rothbard praised him in The Betrayal of the American Right, calling him “the closest thing to a libertarian in political life.”

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8 comments

Marbran August 14, 2022 at 12:54 pm

Wow. States so well nearly 70 years ago, yet here we still are. This is why a Convention of States is sorely needed.

Reply
Wilburforce August 15, 2022 at 7:24 am

Duh, taxpayers, hello?
Read the definition for Exempt income in US tax regulations.
Most Americans are exempt, you owe nothing.
Google “the term exempt income means any gross income”
Google “income that is not considered tax exempt”
Stop paying what you don’t owe,. Politicians have been scamming you, your parents and grandparents for decades.
Yoir tax pros certainly won’t tell you about it.
Stop being used by liars and thieves, politicians.

Reply
PdL August 14, 2022 at 1:44 pm

“The Internal Revenue Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are successors of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Puerto Rico, the BIR to IRS name change being effected by T.D.O. 150-29, in 1953; BATF was split from IRS in 1972 by administrative order, not by Congress’ statutory authority. No new governmental entity was created. These agencies, which are not part of the Department of the Treasury of the United States or the Treasury of the United States, have legitimate authority only in insular possessions and territorial waters belonging to the United States, all of which are subject to Congress’ plenary power under Article IV § 3.2 of the Constitution. Neither has statutory authority beyond borders of the District of Columbia save in insular possessions of the United States, per 4 U.S.C. § 72.” [Dan Meador, The Masters of Deceit] https://www.svpbookstore.com/Masters-of-Washington-DeCeit_p_597.html

Reply
Htos1av August 19, 2022 at 10:57 am

My ENTIRE taxable income over 50 YEARS is STILL less than a month;s salary, A MONTH’S SALARY for any US politician! I can prove that!!! I went to JAIL 17 TIMES for fathering a child out of wedlock in the 70’s.
We desperately need a MASSIVE PURGE in this country!!!!

Reply
Danger Powers August 14, 2022 at 11:34 pm

The 16th amdt. was NEVER properly ratified. See http://www.thelawthatneverwas.com After an extensive year-long nationwide research project, William J. Benson discovered that the 16th Amendment was not ratified by the requisite three-fourths of the states and that nevertheless Secretary of State Philander Knox had fraudulently declared ratification.

It was a shocking revelation; it reached deep to the core of our American system of governance.

The Discovery

Article V of the U.S. Constitution defines the ratification process and requires three-fourths of the states to ratify any amendment proposed by Congress. There were fourty-eight states in the American Union in 1913, meaning that affirmative action of thirty-six was necessary for ratification. In February 1913, Secretary of State Philander Knox proclaimed that thirty-eight had ratified the Amendment.

In 1984 Bill Benson began a research project, never before performed, to investigate the process of ratification of the 16th Amendment. After traveling to the capitols of the New England states and reviewing the journals of the state legislative bodies, he saw that many states had not ratified. He continued his research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.; it was here that Bill found his Golden Key.

This damning piece of evidence is a sixteen-page memorandum from the Solicitor of the Department of State, among whose duties is the provision of legal opinions for the Secretary of State. In this memorandum, the Solicitor lists the many errors he found in the ratification process.

These four states are among the thirty-eight from which Philander Knox claimed ratification:

California: The legislature never recorded any vote on any proposal to adopt the amendment proposed by Congress.
Kentucky: The Senate voted on the resolution, but rejected it by a vote of nine in favor and twenty-two opposed.
Minnesota: The State sent nothing to the Secretary of State in Washington.
Oklahoma: The Senate amended the language of the 16th Amendment to have a precisely opposite meaning.

When his project was finished at the end of 1984, Bill had visited the capitol of every state from 1913 and knew that not a single one had actually and legally ratified the proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution. Thirty-three states engaged in the unauthorized activity of altering the language of an amendment proposed by Congress, a power that the states do not possess.

Since thirty-six states were needed for ratification, the failure of thirteen to ratify was fatal to the Amendment. This occurs within the major (first three) defects tabulated in Defects in Ratification of the 16th Amendment. Even if we were to ignore defects of spelling, capitalization and punctuation, we would still have only two states which successfully ratified.

Reply
Fido August 15, 2022 at 12:03 am

There is little point in repealing the income tax, without first reverting to the gold standard we were on when it was “enacted”. Forgery is just as effective at monetizing as extortion, moreso even.

If we want our freedom back, we cannot obey their unconstitutional “laws”, and we cannot use their money.

Reply
Htos1av August 19, 2022 at 10:54 am

We Birchers have TOLD YOU this since BEFORE 11/22/63…..

Reply
gvillewill August 20, 2022 at 6:14 am

The 17th amendment has to go as well.
The Senate was designed to be an advocate for the States.
It is now a club of 100 free agents.

Reply

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