Roosevelt’s claim that we can judge the social conscience of the government by how it collects taxes is true in a way he could not have imagined. Contrary to FDR and Justice Holmes, taxes are neither a price (in the voluntary-transaction sense) nor club dues. On the contrary, they are exactions by threat of violence. Some social conscience! How ironic that organized society and civilization itself are said to depend on the government’s threatening peaceful people if they fail to surrender their property as demanded by politicians who presumptuously and self-servingly claim to “represent” all the people.
Far from some enlightened institution, taxation began when conquerors realized that formal and continuing appropriation of a subject population’s wealth was preferable to hit-and-run pillaging. For this to work, however, the rulers needed to convince the peasants that the regime would protect them from predators in return for their regular remittances. That’s right: It was a protection racket, from which the racketeers and their cronies profited handsomely.