Re: Two great articles on ignoring government

From: James Wetterau (
Date: Fri Dec 01 2000 - 08:25:03 MST

Michael Lorrey cites a number of grounds for questioning the limits of
the 16th Amendment.

Since this whole topic came up, I've done a little more reading. I am
not a lawyer, but I bounced a couple of questions off a law student.
This is however, not legal opinion, just some random discursive
thoughts on the topic. Let me take the points one by one:

1. Some of the arguments are based on the idea that the amendment was
   not properly ratified. I've not seen the evidence, but whatever it
   is is presumably part of public records. Everyone who pays income
   taxes has had a tremendous interest in seeing them nullified for
   decades, but there's been not much progress in that direction. It
   seems that barring a wealth of new evidence, the overwhelming
   success the government has had in getting acceptance that the
   amendment was ratified will not be reversed. It's been almost a
   century. It would probably be easier to repeal the amendment than
   to get it nullified on such grounds, in my humble opinion.

2. The definition of income. The amendment says, "incomes, from
   whatever source derived". I suspect that many ordinary citizens
   who might otherwise be allies in seeking to nullify the income tax
   on these grounds, agree with the Libertarian Party on this: they
   aren't interested so much in judicial theories as in what the
   "plain language" seems to say. Naturally, this may sometimes be
   controversial and misleading, but in this case, if income were
   meant to have a narrow definition, the term used is colossally
   misleading. Even if it is meant that way, again, the long history
   of interpreting it the way it is now extends back nearly a century
   and has been well accepted. As long as there is any room for
   doubt, I suspect the plain language to be so persuasive that most
   people will willingly grant the government the benefit of the
   doubt. Again, I think it would simply be easier to get the
   amendment repealed than to win the argument on these grounds.

3. Yet another argument is that there are loopholes which the
   amendment doesn't cover, such as one established by a really old
   case cited in the article. I suspect this to be a mirage,
   essentially. My guess is that the case history on many laws
   contains some conflicting or inconsistent opinions. It's
   unsurprising that the opinion that seemed to find a loophole was
   very old. By now, I suspect one would meet with near unanimity
   from the courts in rejecting such arguments.

4. Finally, there is an argument that the code itself makes payment
   voluntary. Again, I wouldn't be surprised if there are portions of
   the code that seem to say that -- it's gigantic. However, as with
   the case law, though there may be inconsistencies, I expect the
   courts are not going to accept such a questionable exemption, or
   else wouldn't many wealthy people routinely be paying no income tax
   on those grounds? If their tax advisors thought they could get
   away with it, the wealthy people would. If anyone is getting away
   with it, I suspect it's because the number of people and amount of
   money in question is small.

If people get away with not paying income tax, I'm happy for them. I
think taxation is theft. I pay my taxes because I can't afford the
risk, and I don't expect the courts or our society really to respect
any arguments on these grounds. I think it would be easier to get the
16th Amendment repealed than to win widespread respect for these
questionable loopholes.

James Wetterau

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