On Monday, March 1, 2010 at approximately 11:25 a.m. EST, a caller to Neal Boortz’s nationally syndicated radio show complained about reporting people she knew who didn’t file tax returns. I didn’t hear the full context of how she knew these people didn’t file, but she was bothered that the IRS purportedly didn’t accept her attempts at snitching over the phone.
Neal Boortz spends much of his air time blasting the tax code as unfair. His book, The Fair Tax Book has, on its cover, a red circle and line over the letters “IRS”. He has encouraged listeners of his national audience to engage in tax protests and has appeared at Tea Party gatherings.
Appallingly, this self-proclaimed libertarian helpfully instructed the caller how to accomplish her goal of snitching. Mr. Boortz told the caller she needed to fill out a form on paper (which she could download from the internet) and mail it to an IRS office in California. Neal was very smug and excited that he could help this caller to unleash the power of the federal government to make these scofflaws pay their “fair share”.
The thing is, I have never in my life encountered anyone in the media (newspaper, TV, radio) instruct people how they can send a form to an IRS office to snitch on their neighbors. In over two decades of participating in on-line political debates, which often rage into massive “flame wars” that ocassionally escalated into posting home addresses and making threats, I never once saw anyone mention any such thing, even in reaction to participants who freely admitted that they chose, on principle, not to pay income taxes. I had to hear it from a “libertarian” leader, a featured speaker at Tea Party gatherings.
How utterly sickening.
I know that Neal Boortz gets gas whenever anyone uses terms like “socialist” or “fascist”, even when they are accurate, because he spinelessly fears being called “nutty” or a “McCarthyite” by anti-rational opponents. I use the word “Soviet” with exacting purpose. I do not literally think that when Boortz or his listeners report alleged law breakers to the federal government, the victims are going to be shipped off to arctic work camps. But I do recognize the parallels in the mindset of these IRS snitches to that of those Soviet citizens who turned in their neighbors, friends, and even family members to the Chekists. Some of these Russians did so out of fear or malice. But many, like Boortz and the caller, were offended that someone could get away with breaking the rules that everyone else followed, no matter how oppressive the system. In a “bussel basket of live crabs…the ones in the bottom keep dragging the ones who try [to escape] back in to their level.”
Put aside the tragic cases where the victims of mistaken or malicious IRS levies have not actually violated the law, who paid what the law dictated in good faith, but who had their lives turned upside down because of a mistake or vendetta. It’s possible that Boortz-type narcs could trigger some of these, but I’ll assume, for the sake of argument that the victims of these tattlers are not following the law.
I’ll dispense with people who come up with imaginative arguments that the 16th amendment isn’t valid or that the tax laws don’t actually impose an obligation. Such machinations are, from what I’ve read, futile and misleading. It’s like someone who helped free a runaway slave in the 1800s offering a specious legal argument, rather than simply standing on the principle that slavery is morally wrong.
I pay my taxes, because I know what it would cost me and my family if I didn’t. But there are a number of people who refuse to comply with tax laws for principled moral reasons. I’m referring to people who follow libertarian principles (video) to their logical conclusion. When respondents like Neal Boortz bleat about “the rule of law” or even more thoughtful ones wave the US Constitution about like a talisman, these principled tax evaders deftly cite Thoreau, Spooner, and Garrison (individualists and abolitionists) to knock down such weak arguments.
I have absolutely no problem with someone who rejects government as a whole, choosing to live his life on his own terms, handling business in a free market manner (as much as possible, considering the multitude of government monopolies one cannot easily avoid). Such people risk being dispossesed and prosecuted, and may have to forgo career opportunities so they can work “under the table.” They have to live without bank accounts, credit cards, and property deeds. It sickens me that such people must face such high risks and sacrifices to be free, even though they have done nothing wrong nor tried to take advantage of anyone else.
There are also people who don’t want their money being used to fund things they abhor, such as anti-war types who object to their hard work being exploited to build bombs which are dropped in foreign lands. These are also valid arguments, even if some of these people are hypocritical. (For example, no taxes for military spending, but taxes for schools and welfare. Or, no taxes for abortion, but taxes for unprovoked invasions.) However, the fact that some of them may be hypocrites in no way negates their assertion that it is fundamentally wrong to force them to pay for something they morally abhor. Rather, they ought to be consistent by applying the principle universally.
Mr. Boortz has also called for an end to the War on Drugs. I wonder if he encourages his listeners to report neighbors to the DEA or other law enforcement organizations. To be consistent with his angry insistence that everyone follow law on taxes or be turned in, he should have his callers inform federal law enforcement if they know of someone smoking marijuana for a medical condition, to name one example. After all, they are breaking federal laws. Even if Neal hates those laws and wants them repealed, wouldn’t he want violators of existing laws to face the consequences so long as they are in place? Wouldn’t he want them to be punished like anyone else who gets caught? Drag the crab back in the basket!