We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

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.

Sheldon Richman

20 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Steve

    Many years ago, I had the hex-board and counter wargame kit called “Strategy One”, which included rules for everything from antiquity until now. In order to fund your forces, you needed to levy taxes — and depending on period you either got to use rules labelled “Sporadic Pillage” or, in more modern times the rules labelled “Organized Extortion”.

    Taught me all I needed to know about the subject, I can tell you.

  • Paul Marks

    “Justice” Holmes was the man who held that a women should be held down by government thugs and forceably sterilised.

    Because he ragarded her as “inferior”.

    Lectures on morality from people like O.W. Holmes ring somewhat hollow.

    Especially as he regarded his oath to uphold the Consitutiton of the United States as nonbinding (as he repeatedly showed in relation to unconsitutional government schemes).

    What is a sacred oath to a “superior” person such as “Justice” Holmes.

  • for sure

    Only the other day, liberal-dimocrat Alexander Douglas was on TV, pontificating about taxes being ‘a subscription cost for living in a civilized society’.

  • for sure

    …sorry, mean the other cretin, Danny Alexander (Chief Secretary to the Treasury,) not Douglas A., the labour cretin.

  • John K

    …sorry, mean the other cretin, Danny Alexander (Chief Secretary to the Treasury,) not Douglas A., the labour cretin.

    Easily done, they are both Scottish socialists with IQs in single figures. One is ginger I believe.

  • staghounds

    There is a theoretical difference between taxation on a free, self governing society and in a feudal system or tyranny.

    And Mr. Marks might actually READ Buck v. Bell. His opinion is not about the “inferiority” vel non of the woman, it’s a constitutional question. Holmes bases his logic on conscription, the tax of life itself. If it is constitutional to take citizen’s lives because the legislature decides the State is in danger , why are ovaries immune?

  • There is a theoretical difference between taxation on a free, self governing society and in a feudal system or tyranny

    A free, self governing society? Like… where? I would love to move there. If my society was ‘self governed’ I doubt I would have so many people helping themselves to my money via the menaces of the state.

  • Regional

    If you want to know how government works try to get hold of a book titled ‘The Mafia Manager’
    Government has always been the élite sitting in their castles with their goons who’d they send out into the countryside to pillage along along with massive debt to finance largess to buy influence.

  • Laird

    staghounds, I have read Buck v Bell, although it has been quite a number of years so I reread it (it’s short). It does indeed present a constitutional question (else it would not have been before the Supreme Court), and is framed as a due process issue. A significant portion of the opinion addresses procedural due process and is simply a recitation of the facts, but Holmes then states that “[t]he attack is not upon the procedure, but upon the substantive law.” So all that preceded was unnecessary, a straw man; this is actually a substantive due process claim, which he summarily rejects without much thought (or at least without much discussion in the opinion).

    And yes, he does mention that the state takes people’s lives and so should have the power to impose lesser exactions. But that’s not really much of an argument; at the very least he should have expanded it to provide a more satisfactory justification. But instead he seems to think it’s a self-evident truth. And I suspect that is precisely because, in his mind, the case was “about the ‘inferiority’ vel non of the woman.” Otherwise he would not have included the famous (and wholly unnecessary) dictum “three generations of imbeciles are enough”.

    Frankly, I think the opinion reads as though Holmes was annoyed with the Court for having taken the case in the first place. Certainly as a decision on the contentious issue of whether substantive due process exists at all it is wholly unsatisfactory. It’s probably Holmes’ best-known opinion, but it’s far from his best.

  • Brad

    As a person who is philosophically an anarcho-capitalist, who is savvy enough to know that governments will exist regardless of how I feel, and even am so obliging so as to compromise on having some degree of cooperative services, what galls me is those who use the “civil society” argument to support the level of taxation in place. The amounts required to have roads and signs and garbage collection and water works and gendarmes and bare bones assistance to those in dire straits is about 5-7% of GDP. If armies needed to be raised for defense those costs would ride on top of that figure. It’s the 18-27% of the rest of the collections, as well as the debasement of currency “tax”, as well as regulatory command that “private” funds be spent a certain way by law, and the use of the tax code as a behavioral tool where they are full of shit. It’s beyond insulting. Of course those for whom the State is a religious institution from which all Good emanates culturally and socially, the 30-45% total GDP controlled by the First Among Equals is hardly enough.

  • Rich Rostrom

    ….politicians who presumptuously and self-servingly claim to “represent” all the people.

    I don’t know about Britain, but the U.S. income tax, and the Illlinois income tax, and the Illinois sales tax were all enacted by legislators who were elected to their offices by the explicit votes of millions of my fellow citizens.

    I don’t like the result, but I consider it rather absurd of Mr. Richman to pretend that these politicians somehow imposed themselves and these tax laws on the country and state with no authorization from the people.

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  • Paul Marks


    I could not care less what self justifications evil people write out to “justify” their wickedness.

    The real reason that “Justice” Holmes did what he did was that “three generation of ……. are enough” (his words). By the way the women was not retarded – she just did not have his elite ways (what a terrible crime).

    The man also made no secret of the fact that he had nothing but contempt for the whole idea of constitutional limits upon government. In short he was not a fit and proper person to be in position of trust (let alone a judge) as he did not believe in objective right and wrong (this is clear from his correspondence).

    As for taxation being something to do with “a free self governing society”.

    Where does one start with that?

    First tax is not “free” – sorry but tax IS “taxing” (to tax is to burden).

    Also you are confusing (deliberatly confusing) “society” with STATE.

    That really is naughty and you should have your bottom spanked till it is rosy red.

    As for “feudal”.

    Better, a thousand times better, a “feudal” place like Sark (as it was only a couple of years ago) than a tyrannical “free self governing society”.

    Not that such an unlimited government is a long term option anyway.

    Such a system inevitably leads (by its endless govenment spending and regulations) to de facto bankruptcy and economic breakdown.

  • Laird

    Paul, without disputing anything else in your comment, why do you assert that “the woman was not retarded”? Everything I have read indicates that she was. She is specifically referred to as being “feeble minded” (which apparently was the proper technical term in use at the time) and was an inmate of a state mental institution for such persons. I can see nothing to indicate that was in dispute. Are you familiar with more facts than appear in the published opinion?

  • veryretired

    I had a dog once who wouldn’t come no matter how I called him. I don’t know if he was genic or not, but I wouldn’t rub my face on him.

    Anyway, a couple of the seminal documents in western history are largely about the citizenry objecting to taxation that is felt to be arbitrary, i.e., the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence.

    At one time, as all was held of the king, he got a piece of everybody’s action. The abuse of that alleged authority, usually to fund wars, caused much of the movement toward the concept of citizens having a right to be consulted, and then the necessity of their consent, regarding any taxes.

    The progressive, or collectivist, movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries proposed a state which had a need for ever increasing amounts of revenue to fund its ever increasing size and complexity. Of course, that was not how the argument for more was put to the people.

    I just read an article that said the overall tax burden is around 40% when all the various types are added up, from local to federal. Since I’ve been estimating that very number for many years, I was gratified to see I wasn’t far off.

    The current “big deal” is going to end up with higher taxes, and some minor, and mostly illusory, spending cuts, but it won’t really solve the underlying problems, any more than a nice bandaid heals gangrene.

    We are rapidly approaching the end of the road for the progressive/collectivist/statist model of a state controlled society. The banked capital of a century or more of economic progress and investment has been depleted, and a society that has only known wealth and power for the last few generations is going to confront the ugly fact that wishing doesn’t make it so.

    When you’re broke, you’re broke.

    And when the preference cascade begins to snowball down the mountain, the end will come rather suddenly.

    I’m afraid Mr Thompson might have to go without his grapefruit one of these days…

  • Rich Rostrom

    Paul Marks: Also you are confusing (deliberatly confusing) “society” with STATE.

    In a democratic country, the state is the agent of society. As I wrote earlier, taxes in the United States are onerous – but they were enacted by legislators chosen by millions of my fellow citizens.

    When a democratic government collects taxes, it is exercising a power explicitly granted to it by the will of the people, as expressed through their freely chosen representatives.

    Blaming the government for doing what it is directed by society to do is like blaming a gun or a knife for a murder.

    One may complain that a government is not representative; that it is arbitrary and thus tyrannical. Russia, for example. Or the EU. Or countries where an entrenched “political class” and its auxiliaries in the media effectively neuter democracy.

    But that does not delegitimize all government. If one is a libertarian anarchist, come out with it. Complain that one’s fellow citizens oppress and enslave one through government. There is a hand holding the whip.

  • markm

    Laird, you might start with Wikipedia. Carry Buck was raped and impregnated by her foster parents’ nephew. They committed her to a state institution to cover up the rape. After she was sterilized, eventually the institution released her, and reporters who visited her later in life found her of normal intelligence.


    Fact-finding is the job of the trial court, not appeals courts, and especially not the Supreme Court. So you can’t blame Holmes for believing the facts in the record – although possibly the SC should have dug into the trial court’s fact-finding process, because it sounds like just talking to the girl should have led to suspicion of the doctors’ reports. What I do blame Holmes for is allowing government officials far more power than any human being should be trusted with, in this and many other cases.

  • Laird

    Interesting link, markm. Thanks.

  • Paul Marks

    Where are my later comments?



    I got that info from J. Goldberg – I do not know where he got it from (if it wrong I apologise).

    I am not going to type out my (long) reply to Rich R. all over again.