By Ken Matesz
Ken’s election website is at www.MateszForOhio.com.
When I decided to run for Governor of Ohio, some people close to me asked about my thoughts on the State income tax. I immediately answered that, if I had my way, I would do away with the income tax altogether. The suggestion my friends gave was that I choose a less “radical” position on the topic because, “Most people think of that stance as very unrealistic” and therefore may not take my candidacy seriously. In other words, these new advisors to my candidacy were already asking me to compromise my position for political expediency. I will not do it. Ever.
I cannot tell a lie. Now, I don’t know whether George Washington ever really did say that, but I just did. When it comes to my candidacy for governor, I will not lie for political position. What George Washington did say is that, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” Mr. Washington, more than two centuries ago understood why I cannot support income taxes. A tax on the fruits of labor of individuals is theft – the forceful taking of what is not rightly owned.
Any person in the State of Ohio or anywhere else in these united States of America who took the earnings of another under threat of punishment would be arrested, convicted and thrown in jail. If a bully in the school yard tells another kid that he must relinquish his lunch money or face a beating after school, the bully is viewed as a fearful tyrant, a threat, perhaps even a terrorist. Yet the common person in America today is expected to relinquish anywhere from 7-35% of his earnings to IRS belligerence.
The argument, from those who think abolishing income taxes is wishful thinking, is that if we don’t have the income tax, we will not be able to “get” the various “services” that the State of Ohio provides. Those who wage this argument have forgotten that there was no individual State income tax in Ohio as recently as 1971. That’s right; the Ohio income tax is less than forty years old. All of my peers and their parents actually lived during a period when there was no State income tax in Ohio. According to www.OhioHistoryCentral.org:
Ohio implemented this income tax for numerous reasons, chief among them being the need for additional funds to finance state projects. Some of the money generated by the income tax went to education. The personal income tax also allowed the state government to reduce taxes on businesses. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, many businesses were leaving Ohio. Ohio officials hoped to reverse this trend by reducing the tax burden on businesses. Unfortunately for Ohio residents, the state needed to find a new source for money lost by the business tax reductions. Thus, the income tax began.
I guess the idea was that since taxes were already driving businesses out of Ohio, the next step is to see about driving citizens out of Ohio too. I call attention to the first part of this quotation in which it was said, “Ohio implemented this income tax for numerous reasons, chief among them being the need for additional funds to finance state projects.” As with all tax increases, the funds are for the use of a centralized “authority” to do what its members deem to be necessary. I could similarly walk down a city street and stop a local person and demand he give me several dollars or whatever he has in his wallet, under threat of a gun or violence from my friends. Then I could assure him that there is no need to call the police because I have decided to use his money for charitable purposes. In other words, I could claim I’m not really committing a crime because my actions are entirely to benefit some particular group or even the community as a whole. This is the State of Ohio instituting an income tax.
No rationale can defend an income tax. No one with pure reason can support it because it conflicts directly with the proper role of government. A statement in the Constitution of the State of Alabama puts it very plainly: “That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression.” Thomas Jefferson advised (with emphasis added), “Still one thing more, fellow citizens — a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it had earned – this is the sum of good government.” Frederic Bastiat in 1850 reflected Jefferson’s claims when he said (emphasis added):
“The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.”
It is a logical impossibility for (-x) to be the same as (x); if the proper role of government is to protect people’s liberty and their property, then it is not simultaneously its role to take people’s property away under the threat of force (penalties, fines, incarceration -which is loss of liberty). Further, Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” If government derives its powers from men who do not have the right to “take from the mouth of labor the bread it had earned,” then government does not have the power to do so itself. Men cannot delegate powers they themselves do not have.
The reader at this point may still be voicing objection: “Well, this is fine logic, but still the revenue for government programs must come from somewhere.” The crux of the matter is hereby reached. For, the only rational conclusion that can be surmised is that, if income taxes are completely improper as outlined here, the State “projects” must be diminished or made efficient enough to match whatever sources of revenue the State rightly possesses. Since the State of Ohio already experienced that businesses exit the State when taxes are too high (prior to the institution of the personal income tax), it is clear that what is most necessary is for government officials to find ways to operate with the meager resources they have. Likewise, since government programs have no profit-motive, they likewise have no efficiency motive. Therefore, the only alternative is to cut programs entirely or in part.
The Ohio citizen should take a moment to look around the home or office when concerned that “services” from government officials might be lost. Did government officials grow the food in the refrigerator? Did government officials provide the television, the toaster, the bread machine, and the automobile? Do government officials clean your teeth, mow your lawn, fix your plumbing, or mow your grass? Did government officials physically build the school your children attend? Do they teach the classes? More importantly, do they learn for your children or do the children learn with their own minds? Is there any “service” that government officials can provide that could not be supplied by private individuals or companies? Is there any “service” provided by government entities that does not involve first taking money under threat of force? If, like me, you answered, “No” to every one of these questions, then you fully understand why an income tax is insidious, wasteful, and counterproductive. You too realize that government programs are middlemen standing between you and the ones who actually provide the services. Like me, you should be ready to do away with income taxes.
I am all for lower taxes. If elected, I will support and sign any proper legislation that reduces tax burdens on both business and individuals. These are a good step toward the ultimate prize – the elimination of all personal income taxes. With lower taxes, more people will enjoy living in the State of Ohio. With no income taxes, people will gladly come to Ohio and think at least twice before leaving the State after college graduation. I fully support the ability of all citizens to pursue their happiness without government institutions taking the fruits of their labors. It is time the people finally take a meaningful, principled stand against the biggest thieves in history – the government taxing authorities.
The notion of eliminating large chunks of government entities causes fear among many individuals. It is as if they are children losing a parent in old age. The separation can be frightening and worrisome. Yet, most all of us one day will experience the loss of parents. We will mourn. Then we will get on with our lives, providing for our own families, fully knowing that, though our parents provided some things for us, we are now capable of doing things on our own.
Sometimes it feels like we need government services to make everything work just right. Someday every child grows to be a teenager, yearning to be free of the parents’ structure and support. Eventually, a teenager rejects the parents’ desire to “make everything work just right.” Every teenager grows to be an adult who wants to determine his own course of action without the interference of the parents. Every adult knows that life can be hard at times, but family, friends, neighbors, ministers, and even complete strangers are amazing safety nets when things get to be their worst. And none of these helpers pick the pockets of the person in despair before offering assistance.
It is time all Americans recognize that it is people who do things. It’s people who help others. It is people who make, grow, fix, and provide things and services to other people. Government officials do not have anything they do not first take from the productive people. It’s time to starve the robber and feed the productive people.
I say it is time to end the income tax.
Ken Matesz is a Ohio businessman running for Governor of Ohio in 2010 as a Libertarian. He is not a politician and seeks only to make a difference, then return to his life and business in the private sector. He does not seek to be a lifelong politician. Ken’s election website is at www.MateszForOhio.com. He is happy to accept speaking engagements and contributions to his campaign.