While I was in Australia doing evil things for my evil corporate masters in the oil and gas industry last week, I saw TurboTax Timmy’s assertion that the “rich” must pay more taxes for the “privilege of being American“.
Being that what he said is so completely and diametrically opposed to traditional views of liberty and therefore ridiculous on its face – and due to the fact that we have dealt with this theme endlessly here at the RNL, I didn’t jump right on it, but thankfully there are those who are not as lazy as I am in response.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Lawrence Lindsey, the a former Federal Reserve governor and assistant to President George W. Bush for economic policy, writes an opinion piece that could have been written by either Black3 or myself – as a matter of fact, this is exactly what we have been writing – we just aren’t famous enough to get on as big a platform as the WSJ.
Lindsey correctly states that:
The Founders argued that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were rights that preceded government—not things to be granted by it.
Last week Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said that the “most fortunate Americans” should pay more in taxes for the “privilege of being an American.” One can debate different ways of balancing the budget. But Mr. Geithner’s argument highlights an unfortunate and very destructive instinct that seems to permeate the Obama administration about the respective roles of citizens and their government. His position has three problems: one philosophical, one empirical, and one logical.
Philosophically, the concept that being an American is a “privilege” upends the whole basis on which America was founded. Privileges are things granted to one individual by another, higher-ranking, individual. For example, in my house my children’s use of the family car is a privilege. One presumes Mr. Geithner believes that the “privilege” of being an American is granted by the presumably higher-ranking, governing powers that be.
This is an age-old view that our Founding Fathers rejected. First, they argued that the basic rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (i.e., economic liberty) were natural rights, endowed by our Creator, not by government. Second, the governing powers do not out-rank the citizens. Rather it is the citizens who grant government officials their “just powers.” As Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, governments are instituted among men based on their consent in order to secure the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The notion that a governing authority grants privileges to those it governs directly contradicts Jefferson’s declaration.
The wind up and the pitch:
Still, the real problem with this whole privilege argument goes back to what the Founding Fathers were thinking. Being an American is a right, not a privilege. The privilege belongs to those who are temporarily allowed to serve this great nation in a decision-making capacity. When they turn this privilege into a right to distribute government largess in ever larger quantities—and in ways, to use Jefferson’s phrase, a “wise and frugal government” would not—it is those in government, and not the governed, who bear the responsibility for our budgetary problems.
This cuts to the bone of my argument in “Thoughts On Liberty: Locke, Montesquieu and de Tocqueville” – that as the Declaration of Independence states…
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
It really isn’t a chicken or the egg sort of argument. Our rights, endowed by our Creator, existed before men, using those same natural rights, chose to create a government to preserve the liberty that they enjoyed for them and their posterity (us). They also constrained it for one reason – they understood the nature of the free will of man and how evil can corrupt via power. How sad it is that we seem doomed to re-learn this painful lesson over and over as these simple, natural and universal truths are corrupted by the very forces that our country was designed to resist.
I do Mr. Lindsey a great disservice by not posting it in its entirety, so please go and read his three point destruction of Turbo’s collectivist drivel in its cream filled, chocolaty nougat goodness…