Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wesley Snipes, A Victim

Tibor R. Machan

The actor Wesley Snipes, known mostly for so called “action pictures,” was reportedly sentenced to three years in prison, on tax evasion charges, on Thursday, April 24th. This was deemed to be victory for prosecutors by some in the media--so much for objective reporting--because prosecutors “sought to make an example of the action star by aggressively pursuing the maximum penalty.”

And there are those who argue that taxation is voluntary! Bah. It’s extortion and Snipes’ case demonstrates this quite clearly. “If you don’t pay us some of what you earn, we will destroy you.” That’s how extortionists announce themselves as does the tax man.

Of course Snipe is guilty of something. That is being naïve and imprudent. No one who isn’t it dire straits ought to go up against the government blindly, given how powerful it is (mainly because it can arm itself easily with all that money it has extorted from us). If you oppose taxes you are especially misguided to fail to pay up since you are likely to be watched. (Some of us of course don’t matter since we earn too little. Snipes obviously isn’t among those.)

The sentence handed down wasn’t anything related to justice, needless to say. It was a warning by the extortionist to all those who might be considering resisting the extortion. And this is clear from the prosecution’s reported intention to “make an example of the action star.”

Justice isn’t about making examples of the guilty but about punishing them for their crimes. If Snipes were really a criminal--if he were guilty of having violated the rights of some innocent people--there would be no concern about making an example of him. Genuine crimes need to be punished, lesson or no lesson. The role of criminal prosecutors isn’t to make examples of anyone but to convict people who are bona fide criminals. That is the end of it. Snipe’s case goes to show how arrogant are these folks who have the power and legal rationale backing their mendacious conduct.

My advice to the likes of Mr. Snipes is to keep paying but also start supporting all efforts to abolish taxation. As I have been pointing out for a long time, that public policy is akin to serfdom and belongs, with serfdom, in the age of feudalism where kings, queens, tsars, and other thugs lay claim to a country and everyone who lived there. Taxes were collected as payment for the “generous” privilege of living and working in these regions ruled by the thugs.

What has changed is that now the narrative laid out in support of governments extorting us is that we are paying it voluntarily, to ourselves (the government is, you see, us!). Sheer sophistry! In fact nothing but the form of rule has changed. Now it is “democratic,” meaning the majority gets to extort from anyone they want to. (If the majority were only interested in paying its way, there would be no need for taxation--those in the majority are plenty and could easily pay what they think they should.)

Every revolution is costly. Abolishing serfdom was, as was abolishing slavery. These all involved some people confiscating the lives and earnings of others too weak to defend against the thugs. Abolishing taxation will also take some sacrifices. And just as the lords of the serfs and the masters of slaves had to find some other way to get the work done that their victims were made to perform for them, so all of what taxes go to fund will need to be funded in proper, peaceful ways, without resort to extortion. Are there such ways? Well, when serfdom and slavery got abolished it was quickly discovered that paying people got the job done. Free labor amounted to paid labor. And productivity improved, too.

Taxation supports some functions of governments that are proper, even though paid for in criminal ways. Those functions can be funded without those criminal ways. Fees and such can cover the cost, as I have argued in several places (see my “No Taxation With or Without Representation, Completing the Revolutionary Break With Feudalist Practices” in Robert McGee, ed., Taxation and Public Finance in Transition and Developing Economies [New York: Springer, 2005]).

If a way to do something important is a moral abomination, a new way that’s not must be found. Sorry Mr. Snipes that you got caught up with all this. Most of the rest of us haven’t escaped either.

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