Taxation and the State, Part IV

The Constitution was written to bind down government, and hence severely limit its powers of taxation, but it has long since been twisted, distorted, and misinterpreted as to be far different than what it was originally intended to be.

How did this happen?  There are three clauses which have been completely taken out of context: the interstate commerce clause, the general welfare clause, and the necessary and proper clause.  Each one of these clauses have been linked to an abrogation of rights, to the scaling up of the state in power and influence and the scaling back of individual freedom and personal liberty.

This deterioration is an on-going process that affects many aspects of government.  Examination of just one example will illustrate the general pattern of how these rights are compromised.  In the 1970s, Congress passed the FISA act, which allowed the Fourth Amendment (opposing unlawful search and seizure) to be violated at the discretion of the President, so long as a secret federal court was notified within 72 hours after the spying event.  Notice this was not a Constitutional Amendment, but merely a congressional act.

In recent years and in response to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Executive Branch (President Bush) has declared this to be inconvenient and not feasible: they is spying on American citizens without FISA approval.  The implication is that either the FISA court will not support specific spying incidents, or that a FISA court would be unable to deal with the volume of spying incidents.  Either implication is troubling.

Civil liberties advocates threatened to sue telecom companies which had complied with Executive Branch (Presidential) requests for information and assistance.

Democrats, in general, seemed upset at the prospect of deliberately disobeying the FISA Act.  Both Democrats and Republicans, in general, express a concern about American security, and both parties support increasing government power to spy, monitor, arrest, etc., to keep America safe.  Both parties, for instance, support the PATRIOT Act, or at least huge portions of it.  (It should be noted that historically speaking, empowering the government usually does not go far towards keeping the citizens safe).

Just this week, another congressional majority passed a compromise, supposedly the best of both worlds: the government retained the right to have warrantless searches at the discretion of the Executive Branch, and the telecoms were protected from lawsuits.  Peachy.

This is one example of how rights can and are taken away gradually, by degrees, rather than in a sudden manner such as in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.

With respect to taxation, this means that any act of government must be paid for by the citizens being governed, via compulsory means.  Increases in government power and spending mean compromises in liberty and increases in taxation (direct, indirect, or hidden, as in inflation).

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Filed under Austrian Economics, Libertarian, politics, role of government

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