Liberty, justice, taxes, and the U.S. Constitution

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Article 1 Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution limits the taxation powers of Congress, saying:

“No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.”

This simply outlaws income taxes.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ends:

“…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

This says the government may not deprive the accused of natural rights, and that the government cannot take private property without paying for it.  

Some would argue that the last part does not apply to income or labor, but only to physical property, such as land or belongings.  Let it be recognized, however, that land and belongings are nothing more than tangible storages of income and labor.  Moreover, it would be absurd to suggest that a man’s labor is not his property, and therefore, according to this amendment, the government may not take a person’s labor (income) for public use without just compensation.

The Sixteenth Amendment grants Congress the authority to tax incomes:

“Congress shall have the 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.”

This is a clear contradiction of Article 1 Section 9.

Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

This prohibits any entity from forcing any individual to work by force or by state-imposed coercion (or threats thereof), unless as a punishment for a crime.  

The income tax is not technically a form of involuntary servitude to the government, because the government does not force anyone to work.  However, under the income tax, everyone who chooses to work is forced to work for the government, so the spirit of the amendment may very well apply to outlawing the income tax.  

There are certainly those who feel like slaves to the government, because the government takes a great part of the fruits of their labor; but technically, this is not true, because they may always choose not to work, and while this choice may be a threat to their survivals, it is not a direct threat from government.  This unhappy choice, however, contains the implicit threat: “work for the government, or die.”  So it is not completely clear whether the income tax qualifies as universal slavery, which would be prohibited by this amendment.

When this amendment ended slavery, note that it literally scribbled out all other portions of the Constitution that contradicted the new amendment.  Note also that, when the Sixteenth Amendment was written to allow income taxes, none of the previous portions that outlaw such taxes were removed from the Constitution.  

This practical difference, I believe, shows the spirit with which these two amendments passed.  When slavery was ended, the public was quick to remove from the record all evidence of its existence, because slavery was a stain on liberty and justice; it was an embarrassment to an otherwise proud society of free individuals.  But when the income tax was instituted, the amendment allowing it was the embarrassment to freedom, and all else in the Constitution that contradicted it was left to bear, so the people could still call it their own, and perhaps retain some nostalgic feeling of what it was to be free.

Jefferson v. Hamilton, federal powers, and the Marshall Court

Jefferson and Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were the most prominent representatives of two contrary interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. Two landmark Supreme Court cases, Marbury v. Madison (1803) and McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), show the relative influences of these two interpretations on American political thought.

Jefferson was a strict constructionist. He desired a limited government, and thought Congress should be restricted to the enumerated powers of the Constitution. In 1787, he wrote to James Madison from Paris, “I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.”

Hamilton, on the other hand, believed in a strong and energetic central government. He thought Congress should have more legislative powers than those expressly stated in Section 8 of the first article of the Constitution. He also favored a strong executive power.

Jefferson and Hamilton became political rivals. In 1818, explaining the notes taken during his tenure as Secretary of State (Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury at the time), Jefferson remembered, “Hamilton was not only a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption.”

The two politicians squared off when arguing about the constitutionality of a national bank before the legislature in 1791, and that instance best displayed their different interpretations of the Constitution. The argument centered around a part of the Constitution that has become famously known as the “necessary and proper” clause.

The last power of Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution reads, “To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.”

According to Jefferson, the establishment of a national bank was illegal under the Constitution. His argument before Congress was unsuccessful but legally sound and compelling. He said, “The second general phrase is, ‘to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the enumerated powers.’ But they can all be carried into execution without a bank. A bank therefore is not necessary, and consequently not authorized by this phrase. It has been urged that a bank will give great facility or convenience in the collection of taxes. Suppose this were true: yet the Constitution allows only the means which are ‘necessary,’ not those which are merely ‘convenient’ for effecting [sic] the enumerated powers.” In addition to this logical argument, Jefferson claims that the Constitutional convention specifically rejected the power to erect a bank, because it would cause the Constitution to be rejected by the states.

Alexander Hamilton’s response to Jefferson’s interpretation, which today brings to mind Bill Clinton’s “depends on what the meaning of the word is is” defense, was to alter the meaning of the word “necessary.” With tortured logic, Hamilton explained that “necessary often means no more than needful, requisite, incidental, useful, or conductive to.” He argued as if the Constitution was not a deliberate legal document, but a casually rendered text of hyperbole, a rubber instrument open to broad interpretations.

Government tends to expand its own powers to the furthest extent tolerated by a majority of citizens. As Hamilton’s program proceeded, so did this tendency in the United States; Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland help to commemorate this procession.

In Marbury v. Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the decision against Jefferson’s administration. Jefferson was upset by the decision, but he was not entirely opposed to its points. Reacting to the Constitution in 1787, Jefferson wrote in a letter to Madison, “I like the negative given to the Executive with a third of either house, though I should have liked it better had the Judiciary been associated for that purpose, or invested with a similar and separate power.” The Marbury v. Madison decision established Jefferson’s wish precisely, judicial review, which is the ability of the Supreme Court to declare a law unconstitutional and void.

As a strict constructionist, however, Jefferson believed that the Constitution meant what it said, and was alarmed by Marshall’s claim in Marbury v. Madison that “it is, emphatically, the province and duty of the judicial department, to say what the law is.” According to Jefferson, this dangerously opened the Constitution to liberal interpretations like Hamilton’s.

If in 1803 Marbury v. Madison lobbed Jefferson’s strict constructionist interpretation, McCulloch v. Maryland batted it to oblivion in 1819. The issue hotly debated by the political giants in Congress twenty-nine years earlier, the constitutionality of a national bank, again entered the national political arena, this time in the Supreme Court. Marshall wrote the decision. He affirmed Hamilton’s interpretation of the “necessary and proper” clause, instituting the implied powers of Congress.

These decisions effectively turned the Constitution into the glass-encased relic it is today, and made the United States government one of men, and not of laws. The judges of the Supreme Court, appointed for life by the President and confirmed by a majority of the Senate, granted themselves in Marbury v. Madison the power “to say what the law is” in 1803, after which any statute wished for by the President and a majority of Senators, however offensive to the Constitution, could be legally enacted, so long as there were sufficient vacancies in the Supreme Court to procure a majority of like-minded judges. Congress was granted implied powers by McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819. Despite John Marshall’s lip-service to the Constitution in McCulloch v. Maryland, “its limits are not to be transcended,” his decision legally ended constitutionally limited government in the United States. The Marshall Court assented to Hamilton’s interpretation, and killed Jefferson’s. Jefferson knew he was defeated, and called upon the democratic forces of the people to reinstitute a strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution. That call remains unanswered.

Works Referenced

Hamilton, Alexander. “Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank”. 1791.Dolbeare, Kenneth M. and Michael S. Cummings, Ed. American Political Thought. Fifth Edition. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2004.

Jefferson, Thomas. “Explanations of the 3. volumes bound in marbled paper”. February 4, 1818. Thomas Jefferson Writings: pp. 661-673. New York: Library of America. 1984.

Jefferson, Thomas. “Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank”. February 15, 1791. Thomas Jefferson Writings: pp. 416-421. New York: Library of America. 1984.

Jefferson, Thomas. “To James Madison”. Paris, Dec. 20, 1787. Thomas Jefferson Writings: pp. 914-918. New York: Library of America. 1984.

Marshall, John. “Marbury v. Madison”. 1803. Dolbeare, Kenneth M. and Michael S. Cummings, Ed. American Political Thought. Fifth Edition. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2004.

Marshall, John. “McCulloch v. Maryland”. 1819. Dolbeare, Kenneth M. and Michael S. Cummings, Ed. American Political Thought. Fifth Edition. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2004.  I also referenced the full arguments and decision of this case available at: “http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=17&invol=316

Who are the true patriots?

Young Ron Paul

“Complacency and fear drive our legislation without any serious objection by our elected leaders.  Sadly though, those few who do object to the self-evident trend away from personal liberty and empire building overseas are portrayed as unpatriotic and uncaring.

Though welfare and socialism always fail, opponents of them are said to lack compassion.  Though opposition to totally unnecessary war should be the only moral position, the rhetoric is twisted to claim that patriots who oppose the war are not supporting the troops.  The cliche ‘support the troops’ is incessantly used as a substitute for the unacceptable notion of supporting the policy no matter how flawed it may be.  Unsound policy can never help the troops.  Keeping the troops out of harm’s way and out of wars unrelated to our national security is the only real way of protecting the troops.  With this understanding, just who can claim the title of patriot?  Before the war in the Middle East spreads and becomes a world conflict for which we will be held responsible, before the liberties of all Americans become so suppressed we can no longer resist, much has to be done.

I am assured that our course of action should be clear.  Resistance to illegal and unconstitutional usurpation of our rights is required.  Each of us must choose which course of action we should take: education, conventional political action, or even peaceful civil disobedience to bring about necessary changes.  But let it not be said that we did nothing.  Let not those who love the power of the welfare-warfare state label the dissenters of authoritarianism as un-patriotic or uncaring.  Patriotism is more closely linked to dissent than it is to conformity and a blind desire for safety and security.  Understanding the magnificent rewards of a free society makes us unbashful in its promotion, fully realizing that maximum wealth is created and the greatest chance for peace comes from a society respectful of individual liberty.” – Ronald E. Paul, M.D.

Patriotism is not blind nationalism.  In my view, there is none more foolish than the man who pledges his whole life to a government, only because it currently rules the accidental location of his birth.  True patriots are not loyal to a land mass, a government, a person, or group of people; they are loyal to ideas–the ideas that nature and history prove righteous to their own reflection, such as self-government and individual liberty.  It is not only the flag to which true patriots pledge allegiance, but also the republic for which it stands: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  Sadly, these simple lines, which we have recited for as long as we can remember, have nearly lost their meaning for most Americans.

Perhaps we are so long removed from the origination of a free society that we have forgotten its price.  Perhaps we have forgotten what freedom is: the absence of government coercion.  Perhaps we have forgotten that truly beneficial policies almost always stand on their own merit, without the aid of massive government enforcement agencies.  Perhaps we have begun to take liberty for granted, so we allow it to be chiseled away each year by just a few more taxes, just a few more regulations, just a few more unconstitutional spending programs, just a few more harmless potheads turned into untouchable felons, just a few more unwarranted surveillance operations, just a few more troops on our streets to suppress the political dissenters, just a few more unfounded arrests and detainments, just a few more unnecessary casualties in the never-ending war for universal authority, just a few more computerized balloting systems, and just a little bit more government control.  After all, most of us feel we can still go about our business uninterrupted by these controls and live adequately, if not freely.  I fear now that by the time we realize that this is no longer true, by the time our old friends and fellow citizens–educated, hard-working, freedom-loving people of integrity–are declared dangerous enemies of the state, it will be too late to change the authoritarian direction of our nation, and it will be easier for us to act nationalistic and tolerated, silent and unencumbered, compliant and alive, than to be honest and endangered, righteous and imprisoned, patriotic and dead.  The false patriots will have won, successfully driving freedom out of the only safe harbor it has ever known.  American freedom, having long treaded in tempestuous weather, is drowning in the vast seas of prosperity and contentment it produced.  Its only lifeline is We the People.

No liquidity problems for Lawson campaign

Lawson

While every other entity in America is crying about its inability to access cash, BJ Lawson’s Congressional campaign just received a huge injection of liquidity.  Lawson, who is running for a U.S. House seat in North Carolina’s 4th district, raised over $150,000 from thousands of donors on Tuesday alone.

Many citizens across the nation feel betrayed by a Congress that recently passed an unconstitutional $700 billion Wall Street bailout, which has evidently done nothing for market confidence or financial stabilization.  North Carolina’s 4th district voters share in the dissatisfaction.  Their House member, David Price, voted for the record taxpayer bailout, after his office failed to answer phone calls from constituents trying to convince him to vote against it.  It appears that, in David Price’s 4th district, representative government has taken a back seat to other interests.  Since the bailout’s passage, U.S. markets have closed down considerably every day, as Americans are quickly abandoning a system that they feel has thrown them–and their freedom-loving values–overboard.

Despite what we’re told is a vacancy of cash in the U.S. financial system, some Americans are still investing what they have left in a brighter future, and many believe the best way to invest is to contribute money to representatives who will vote to replace an overtly corrupt banking system.  They recognize that free market capitalism has disappeared under the weight of an inflationary system of unrecoverable public and private debt–a corrupt and bankrupt system that continues to garner the support of Rep. Price, despite its detriment to North Carolina’s working citizens.

$150,000 says North Carolina’s residents will want less interference and more freedom in their financial lives this November.  Congress’ approval rating is 9%, and BJ Lawson is in tune with a lot of angry voters, who seem to understand that David Price voted to take away a chunk of their paychecks and some of their economic freedom.

Open bailout opposition letter to Congress

Stolen from you by U.S.

“That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.” – Thomas Jefferson

There is a lot of hype in Washington this week, a lot of short-term thinking, but very little honest reflection and philosophically sound governance based on the long term prospects of the American economy.  Jefferson was right: our financial markets have fallen into a cycle of government dependence and therefore no longer discipline themselves.  The American economy has lived beyond its means; to deny this is to declare yourself ignorant and unfit to govern.  We have floated on a cloud of credit, and believed ourselves to be in heaven, and though we have ventured far from earth, the latest liquidity squeeze has allowed us to see just how far we must fall when our economy’s bill comes due.  Though the $700,000,000,000 proposal before you may indeed postpone the payment date, the American people will eventually have to pay dearly for living on money that has been given value–not by production–but by irrational faith, and you can be certain that every postponement will make that future payment more painful than it would be today.  Do not be convinced that there are no free market solutions to this crisis.  The unspeakable ideal of economic freedom will pump more liquid capital into our financial markets than the government ever could, and more importantly, the money generated by such a system would be sound and valuable.  The chronic risks of moral hazard and inflation this bailout poses far outweigh the risks of a brief credit crisis caused by market-liquidated debt.

We cannot become wiser before we admit that we have been foolish in the past.  Market interference was, in most instances, foolish.  The Community Re-Investment Act was foolish.  Taxing capital gains was foolish.  Turning over Congress’ constitutional money-coining responsibility to a private, secretive organization was foolish.  Encouraging irresponsible lending through never-ending taxpayer bailouts was foolish.  Artificially low interest rates were foolish.  Price manipulation was foolish.  Giving up on sound money was foolish.  Losing faith in freedom was foolish.  Ours, however, is not a fated existence.  Nowhere is it written in stone that we must remain foolish, or that we cannot obey Constitutional principles.  If, as Senator John McCain likes to say, you “came to Washington to change Washington,” now is your chance to realize your lofty dreams.  Crisis is the proper time for reform.  Now is the time to embrace real capitalism.  The American people should not be told to fear freedom, as they are being told now, but to embrace it.  The time has come for Americans to be rewarded for their own successes, and held accountable for their own mistakes.  The time has come for the ambitious legislators in Washington to stop fiscally abusing the children of this nation.

1994, 2000: Remembering the words of Goldwater and Reagan, American median voters want smaller government and balanced budgets, so they elect Republicans; in return, they receive the most rampant growth in government (and public debt) this continent has ever known.  2006: the median American voters want out of a conflict that is unrelated to their security or welfare, so they elect Democrats; in return, the war’s funding is not cut off but greatly increased.  2008: the American people want no taxpayer bailouts, they want to end the bubble-blowing policies of the Federal Reserve, and they want to stop the growing cycle of debt that has ruined a once free economy; in return, they are presented with the largest taxpayer bailout ever, a more powerful and secretive central bank, the largest economic bubble-blowing scheme ever contrived, and more debt than they can ever afford to pay off.

The blindfold has been removed from the American people.  They are awakening to a pattern that reveals self-government as a myth.  The extraordinary actions of the federal government are only serving to remove its mask, revealing its nationalist, socialist, imperialist, authoritarian, unresponsive, evil face.  We can accurately predict that, on matters of true importance, when a particular course of action is supported by more than 70% of the American people, their government will pursue the opposite course, pretending the people are a force of no consequence–an attitude to be expected of King Louis’ court, but not of a republic’s elected leaders.  I need not remind you of the French response to that attitude.  The United States government has lost so much legitimacy that it may not survive the latest proposal, should it pass.  The American people are well-aware of the truly criminal nature of any financial bailout; a huge one will both injure and offend them.  Moreover, it will not come without consequence; their lanterns are burning, their pitchforks are raised, and they are prepared to halt the criminal acts of this government, should it become necessary for them to do so.

Want some bad debt? Bailing on America.

Rights wronged

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” – Presidential Oath of Office in its entirety

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face!  It’s just a goddamn piece of paper!” – George W. Bush, (so help us God)

“Go f*** yourselves, America.” – U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson (paraphrased)

“Amen, Mr. Secretary!” -Barney Frank (shockingly not a retard…according to standard definitions), and Christopher Dodd (aka, Oppressive Slimeball)

The unwritten American law: when any financial institution makes any bad loan anywhere, that institution is not accountable for its error: the American taxpayer is.  Actually, for the sake of preserving the market (and when they say “preserving”, they mean “undermining”, the American taxpayer will now prop up any large corporation, assuming it is a complete and total failure.  GM, Ford, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, IndyMac, AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and every other non-competitive corporate loser: do not worry, because the United States no longer believes in capitalism.  Therefore you cannot fail; in fact, as a reward for your magnificently unsuccessful business models, you get free money from the American taxpayer.  The D.C. mafia are perfectly happy to crap all over the average American in order to sustain a politically friendly (albeit criminal) banking system.  What’s the old saying about America’s hospitable nature? Give me your swindling, your greedy, your corporate jet-flying masses?

Guess what, America? Henry Paulson is officially above the law.  $700,000,000,000 is not nearly enough; $2,000,000,000,000 is far from “enough” for the socialist journey upon which your government now embarks.  There will be more to pay, more to print, more to steal from your labor.  This new socialism is insatiable.

America does not have leaders anymore.  It has rulers.  It has owners.  They rule you, they own you, they have spent over a century subverting the supposedly binding agreement between you and them called the U.S. Constitution, and they have the power–through formal taxes and inflation–to take every last real dollar you ever saved, and they will, because their cars aren’t fast enough, their jets aren’t new enough, their diamonds aren’t big enough, and they know you are a bunch of suckers who still think the Presidential election matters.  Wake up and read the Constitution.  You’re getting royally screwed, America, and by a creature many of you still consider friendly: the federal government.  This President, this Congress, these judges and bureaucrats, these candidates–the agents of change–are, for the most part, your masters and your enemies, and if you let them, they will strip you of everything but your soul.

When you ask why or how this could happen–how the freest modern society could fall so far, and become economically depressed and politically oppressed–they will respond as they do now, explaining that they are not accountable, but you are–and sadly, in a way, they will be right.  The further their explanation strays from the truth, the more oppressive they will become, the more dangerous dissent will become to them.  The Constitutionalist will take on the foster name “terrorist”.  The reflective person will be legally termed the dangerous person; the truthful person: an enemy of the state.  As a wise man once said, “truth is treason in the empire of lies.”

Thomas Jefferson on “implied powers” of the Congress

Constitutional Convention

Thomas Jefferson gave his opinion on the Constitutionality of a national bank on February 15, 1791. In that testament, he not only provided a brilliant legal argument against the institution of a national bank; he also explained the intent of the Constitution’s two most controversial phrases. Today’s political analysts exchange differing opinions on the “general welfare” and “necessary and proper” clauses, but Jefferson’s explanations of them are more than a matter of opinion; they reveal the true intent of the American republic’s framers. Here is Jefferson’s historic opinion (verbatim, even the italics were added by Jefferson–not me–for emphasis):

1. To lay taxes to provide for the general welfare of the United States, that is to say, “to lay taxes for the purpose of providing for the general welfare.” For the laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.

To consider the latter phrase, not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please, which might be for the good of the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and, as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please.

It is an established rule of construction where a phrase will bear either of two meanings, to give it that which will allow some meaning to the other parts of the instrument, and not that which would render all the others useless. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straitly within the enumerated powers, and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect. It is known that the very power now proposed as a means was rejected as an end by the Convention which formed the Constitution. A proposition was made to them to authorize Congress to open canals, and an amendatory one to empower them to incorporate. But the whole was rejected, and one of the reasons for rejection urged in debate was, that then they would have a power to erect a bank, which would render the great cities, where there were prejudices and jealousies on the subject, adverse to the reception of the Constitution.

2. The second general phrase is, “to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the enumerated powers.” But they can all be carried into execution without a bank. A bank therefore is not necessary, and consequently not authorized by this phrase. It has been urged that a bank will give great facility or convenience in the collection of taxes. Suppose this were true: yet the Constitution allows only the means which are “necessary,” not those which are merely “convenient” for effecting the enumerated powers.

Jefferson makes it clear that much of what the Congress does today is not allowed by the Constitution.