On April 18th, National Tax Day, Brandon Flores, Daniel Johnston, and Jeff Lewis sat in front of the IRS building in Washington DC, in comfortable chairs, with a stack of books on a table beside them. With cameras rolling, they began to read. The text sounded like another language but with English words. In fact, that is exactly what it was.
They were reading the tax code, as written by the IRS. It’s a manuscript nearly seventy five thousand pages long in dozens of hardbound books. Well dressed and downing water bottles in the heat, Brandon, Dan, and Jeff took turns reading from page one, in an (obviously futile) attempt to read through the whole thing.
To me, the notion of running our whole society (financially at least) by these ludicrously complex, voluminous set of rules is patently absurd. I can only hope this protest might help others to see it this way as well, and perhaps begin to question whether the system we have is legitimate. Because, in fact, it is not. It is a con game, with rules so complex that nobody in their right mind would even consider trying to comprehend them all.
Granted, this was DC. As they were reading, a nice-looking lady walking by stopped and said, “Oh, article 204” (or some such designation) “I know that.” She worked in a financial firm, or as a tax attorney, I can’t recall, but she actually recognized one of the codes that was being recited. So some of these codes or laws or whatever they are recognizable to people in the industry, but I doubt there’s a person alive today who would recognize every single code. That would be like memorizing every verse of the Bible, times sixty or so. It’s just nuts.
I was glad I happened to be in town, and happened to see that it was going on. It turns out we had many mutual friends, though I didn’t know any of these guys before I showed up. I spoke first with Ford, who was videotaping the protest. I also spoke with Brandon and Dan, applauding them for a good show. Dan was kind enough to talk with me on camera a bit, so here’s what he had to say.
He estimated they would, in eight or ten hours, get through less than one percent of the whole tax code. And you should hear this stuff! Talk about dry, flavorless, mechanical language. All to explain how everybody’s earnings are to be confiscated.
Dan and Jeff are part of an organization called the Tax Revolution Institute. “The Tax Revolution Institute (TRI) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to researching and developing innovative, voluntary tax solutions to promote transparency, accountability & integrity in the delivery of public services in the U.S.”
Voluntary taxes. That’s the issue right there. This giant book of laws about taxation isn’t valid because none of us have consented to it. Many liberty lovers would say we should have no taxation at all, but a voluntary tax isn’t a tax, really, because the word tax implies compulsion, backed by force. They say voluntary tax solutions to help us realize that just because we take away the use of aggressive force doesn’t mean we do away with the services taxes provide. We must simply come up with ways to raise funds for public projects through voluntary means.
TRI is doing great work to help people see the importance and feasibility of this. And ask yourself, of all the things government spends money on, what would you actually choose to contribute to paying for, if it were up to you? What things would you not support? Dan puts it best. “What if the government had to earn your money?” What if you could choose which government programs to support? What if the government couldn’t do anything unless it could raise the funds to do it legitimately, without forced taxation?
Imagine how society would change if we were not allowing ourselves to be ruled by dissemblers swindlers! We could create a fair society where people were totally free to do anything except harm others, where only the things that people collectively wanted to accomplish would be funded. This is the kind society we are striving to recreate. This is how we redesign our world.