It’s Time to De-Tax the Bill of Rights

by L. Neil Smith
Patronize Me!

Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Reprinted from Issue Number 23, March 1, 1997.

Ira Magaziner, Marxoid architect of Hillary Clinton’s insane scheme to take over America’s medical marketplace, has been asked to investigate the internet and figure out how it might be regulated and taxed. Preferably to death.

There’s a reason. It’s hard to say which part of the electric resistance movement was more instrumental in short-circuiting Polly Pot’s fascist health-care ambitions, conservative radio, or the libertarian internet. In either case, it represents a little heralded but significant milestone, an historic first victory of “new media” over the “old”, who set off every weapon in their arsenal in a corrupt, collusive effort to offer fire-support to the Bride of Arkanstein.

Stung by what biographer David Brock sees as her self-inflicted defeat, the girl Americans love most to hate immediately sent up trial balloons aimed at curtailing freedom of speech in the broadcast media. Happily, the First Fishwife was almost laughed out of the country, thanks largely to the musical merriment of Rush Limbaugh. His “Try to Remember” parody deserves a major award.

So now La Clinton and the Gulag Guru have turned against what they see as a softer target—or at least one that they’d assigned a lower priority and felt they could safely afford to hand over to Algore—anybody who believes in and enjoys the absolute freedom of expression afforded by the internet. Personally, I perceive this as an opportunity, rather than as a threat. It’s the perfect occasion to launch a long-overdue initiative of our own.

Most of us are all too well acquainted with the historic observation that “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” Such power has been employed, for example, to all but destroy the unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right of every man, woman, and responsible child to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon, rifles, shotguns, handguns, and most especially machineguns, absolutely anytime, anyplace, without asking anyone’s permission.

Sometimes the process is subtle (or at least invisible to the public). New York, for example, enjoys no natural monopoly in book publishing. Their monopoly was seizedduring World War II by the Writers’ War Board and other groups, using artificial shortages and rationing as an excuse. Before Mister Roosevelt’s war, publishing flourished in half a dozen other great American cities.

If you’ve ever wondered why it seems so hard for new writers to “break in,” look no further than an inventory tax the IRS imposed on publishers about the same time I was getting started. The new tax reduced the amount of capital publishers were willing to invest in new writers. It also exacerbated a tendency they already had to treat books like magazines and regard them as commercial failures if they failed to sell within weeks of going on the racks. And, of course, it provided publishers with another excuse to pay writers less. The worst effect it had was to all but eliminate new ideas from science fiction, leaving us with little besides Star Wars, Star Trek,unicorns, dragons, singing swords, happy halberds, and more dwarves than a Judy Garland movie.

The power to tax is the power to distort a civilization. The average Japanese car imported into this country is burdened by $4000 in tariffs and other punitive fees. Americans prefer and purchase Japanese cars anyway, but if disincentives were removed, the picture would be clearer and maybe Detroit would give up and start manufacturing something we Americans are good at manufacturing.

Like guns.

By the same token, those who see an American trend away from manufacturing and toward and “information and service economy” as due to the “impersonal forces of history,” or at least something beyond prediction and understanding, like the weather, couldn’t possibly be more wrong. Manufacturing was taxed and regulated out of existence in America. If those taxes and regulations were repealed, America would become—seemingly overnight, and as if by a “miracle”—the most powerful manufacturiung country in the world, all over again.

But I see, once again, that I’ve digressed. The invasion of the internet by Ira Magaziner, I said, is the perfect occasion to launch a long-overdue initiative.

The Founders of this country, the authors of the Bill of Rights, intended to impose on the government they created certain absolute limits. They didn’t want it, for example, to suppress or even diminish the freedom to speak one’s mind. (They were even more explicit when it came to the private ownership of weapons.)

The Founders made two mistakes, however. They failed to provide harsh—no, let’s make that draconian—criminal punishments for politicians and bureaucrats who transgress against the Bill of Rights. And they failed to foresee the way that taxes—let alone outright regulation—could be used to keep folks from saying what they want and exercising their other rights, as well.

To begin to remedy the Founders’ mistakes, I hereby propose that anything even obliquely mentioned in the Bill of Rights—religion, speech, the press, and peaceable assembly; weapons, ammunition, and accessories; home ownership; our persons, papers, and effects; life, liberty, and all private property; assistance of counsel; trial by jury (not to exclude everything covered by the 9th and 10th Amendments)—must henceforth be rendered immune to government interference of any kind, including regulation and taxation. Otherwise, any guarantees of protection the Constitution is supposed to offer us are utterly meaningless.

Anything mentioned in the Bill of Rights must be immune to regulation and taxation.

We’ll discuss how to achieve that goal very soon. In the meantime, talk it up among your friends, with your enemies, with legislators and creatures in the media. Mention it in every article of e-mail you send and every reply you make.

Let Ira Magaziner chew on that a while.