by Jim Davies

For a couple of weeks after Mr Brown's upset US Senate win in Massachussets, mainstream commentators were admitting openly that there is a widespread rage in the country, a deep anger against Washington and all it stands for. Even Brown's Republican Party chairperson admitted that the victory had been greatly helped by "Tea Party" activists, but that she did not know who they are or where they came from; they came, they got him elected, then they vanished. They are, for sure, part of the groundswell of fury.

Then Joe Stack flew his Piper Cherokee into an IRS office in Austin, TX on February 18th, and such talk went underground. It would not do, to admit that the rage has taken practical form; to speak of it might encourage copycats.

Mr Stack left an explanatory letter which is well worth reading two or three times. It was at once derided by reporters, who know nothing and understand less, as a rambling diatribe; but as you'll see, it's no such thing. It's fairly well written. His spelling isn't perfect, but the flow of thought is reasonably coherent. He misses some major truths as below, and badly misunderstands others, but in the main it makes sense. He was an aeronautical engineer, a freelancer, working in a company (Synergistech) that places such engineers; a placement firm. And it was being destroyed by the government by its use of 26 USC 1706, that makes it very hard to be classified for tax purposes as a freelance engineer working on a 1099 basis (in which you keep what you earn until giving some of it away with a 1040 Form) rather than on a regular W-2 basis (in which the IRS skims and keeps your money until they agree to return some of it.)

Apparently, Stack decided that while he perceives many entities as the source of America's troubles (big industry, government, Roman Catholics...) the IRS is the worst - and in that, he wasn't far off the mark. As Irwin Schiff has shown, it's more of an unwritten conspiracy between several powerful entities and government branches than just one agency, but the IRS is at the bleeding edge so that error is understandable. But then he decided to surrender his whole life so as to cause it some embarrassment and perhaps kill a few of its grunts. It was his life, but in my view that was a big mistake.

Let's suppose the IRS is really the key "bad guy" - and it's not; the root of evil is government itself. How then can one person cause it maximum grief? I've never tried it, but one obvious way is to file an amended 1040 every few weeks, each having discovered some minor error in the previous edition. Perhaps one discovers a deduction that had been overlooked, or perhaps $1 of "income" forgotten, so dutifully re-files to correct the error. Each document needs handling and evaluation, of course. If even a small minority of the 130 million filers were to file 12 copies a year instead of 1, it's easy to see the clerical meltdown it would cause. Infinitely more disastrous than crashing a Piper in to one of its branch offices - even though the building was named, like government's odious electronic spying and surveillance system, "Echalon." There's no effective way to bring the IRS down, as far as I know, because they have a lock on all Federal judges (whom they pay handsomely, of course) so no matter what action is taken, legally or illegally, one can wind up in a cage. However, as with many vast obstacles, while there's no way through this one there's certainly a way round it.

I've described that way here before so will not repeat myself, except to say it's just a matter of getting one's head straight and then passing that education on, once a year, to a friend. That is perfectly sufficient; nothing more is needed, and nothing less will do. Once anyone grasps what government really is he will decline to work for it, and when nobody will work for it government will have ceased to exist, along with the IRS and all its other atrocities. Job done; freedom begins.

So while giving due honor to a very brave man, let's examine his letter, and note what he got right, what he got wrong, and what he missed out.

The Right Bits

De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est. Joseph Stack had the courage of his convictions to a degree that I, for one, do not; and while he made some critical errors he got other important things exactly right. So let's start and honor his memory by noting what they were:

(a) "We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy" he wrote, and goes on to call it "crap." I wonder whether he understood what "anarchy" really means, but he did get that spot-on! - so grasping more than 99% of his neighbors and 100% of those who wrote about his attack on the local IRS.

(b) "I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician [who] cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind." Precisely! Yet over 100 million knee-jerk voters haven't seen that. Yet.

(c) "The law 'requires' a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if thatís not 'duress' then what is. If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is." Again: almost correct. Yet 130 million 1040 filers commit that perjury every year. Friendly correction, Joe; the law requires no such thing. The requirement comes only from judges who say that the law says that. But yes, it's the same difference.

(d) " It also made me realize... the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their 'freedom'Ö and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them." Alas, I cannot argue.

(e) "I decided that... I would take responsibility for my own future and myself." Wow! What a fabulous example to follow.

(f) "I spent...at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time." Join the club, Joe. Not one of them ever does.

(g) "Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, letís try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well." What a very remarkable epitaph.

By the brain-dead reporters who told of his demise, Joseph Stack was called a "terrorist." Just along the highway in Texas is a Congressional District for long represented by Ron Paul, who in my hearing once called the IRS "The world's largest terrorist organization." Since Joe Stack was taking aim at that organization, in however misguided a manner, ought he not therefore rather to be remembered as a counter-terrorist?

The Wrong Bits

1. 26 USC 1706 is not at the root of our troubles - though it may have been at the root of Stack's. The problem is not that income tax is collected by pay-as-you-go, the problem is that it's being collected at all. A person's labor is his own property, and to take it away is theft, and theft is ethically repugnant (that follows from the self-ownership axiom) and so ought not to exist. If it's agreed that nobody would fund government voluntarily, it therefore follows that government ought not to exist. Thus, Joe Stack sadly chose the wrong target. He hacked at a branch, but failed to strike at the root of evil.

2. Big companies, such as GM and others Stack mentioned in his suicide note, are not at the root of our troubles either - arrogant though they often do become. Like most people, he failed to think this through. A company only gets arrogant when it ceases to fear competition, when it believes the customer has nowhere else to shop; and that is never possible without government. As Murray Rothbard notes in his masterpiece Power and Market (p.60): "The only viable definition of monopoly is a grant of privilege from the government" [my emphasis.] And has Big Pharma really been "murdering" its customers? The FDA has, by delaying availability of their life-saving drugs, but hardly those who try to sell them.

3. "Organized religion" isn't at the root of our troubles either, though they certainly are accessories to government that give it a veneer of moral respectability. So when Stack writes "Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having Ďtax codeí readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful 'exemptions' that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy." I'd say he is, again, way off target. Anyone who can find a way to escape taxation is pretty smart; I'd find plenty of faults with religions but one of them is not that they are sometimes tax-exempt. On the contrary, if by being exempt they demonstrate how wealthy one can become over time, let's try to follow their fine example.

4. Stack laments the closure of military bases: "Our leaders decided that they didnít need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that" - because it caused local unemployment. He really can't have it both ways; if government spending (and the tax that funds it) is a good idea, someone has to collect that tax and that someone ought not to be disturbed in his work by a Piper Cherokee breaking his office window. Apparently, Stack failed to think through his position clearly and rationally, grasping the economic principles at work. He wasn't alone.

5. "I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change" Stack wrote; and further, "violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer." He was wrong. Again, violence never solved anything. The human race has had an orgy of violence ever since government made its malodorous appearance ten millennia past; it never brought benefit. "Things" will change all right, and very fast, once the re-education process nears completion; if the reader doubts that, let him study my Transition to Liberty.

6. "The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed" is how Stack ends his testament to the world. What a tragedy; he never understood which way is up! True, he clearly had in mind the clutch of State-capitalist monstrosities that dominate things; but if only he had grasped what capitalism really is, he might never have taken off on his final flight on February 18th. True capitalism is about offering products and services which can be refused - with discrimination, not gullibility, just as Stack himself had tried to do, in his engineer placement business; work, save some profit, re-invest it for expansion, grow rich. That's real capitalism, and it is the source of all wealth; the very antithesis of government and its powerful allies - which are properly called "Fascism." To the extent that it's present in capitalism, greed is its powerful motivator, and therefore the very engine of human prosperity. As the fictional Gordon Gekko said, "Greed is good." The Missing Bits By taking aim - literally - at only the IRS, Joe did not, as I see it, think through his strategy very far; and even then, he surprisingly failed to note that the income tax isn't being collected according to law. True, it makes little difference in practice, but it's surely worth a mention.

Suppose though that in the coming months hundreds follow Joe's example - not perhaps by flying an aircraft into an IRS office, but by shooting at its windows, or steering into them a radio-controlled model airplane with an IED strapped on, or even by using connections in the Army to liberate a few RPGs or shoulder mounted missile thingies, whatever they are called. Given the will, a variety of weapons could be used and the result in short order would be 130,000 terrified IRS employees, who might well quit their jobs or call in sick. But what then?

Government's revenues would not be in as much danger as one might imagine. A disintegrating IRS would be unable to harass reluctant individual payers, it's true, but the bulk of income tax is collected by employers, who will not be quick to endanger their businesses by ending "withholding" and sending large checks to the government. Further, if the staff shortage means that refunds don't get paid, retained revenues will be correspondingly larger. And to the extent that they do fall short by a few score billion, that much can readily be printed, pending creation of a sales or value-added tax. And a VAT is far easier to administer - by my count, each IRS professional would be dealing not with 5,000 individuals but about 100 business people - and would yield as much or more.

So even a successful income-taxpayer violent revolt would not bring down anything more than the income tax. Government would still be very much in command, stealing as much as ever or more. Heavy cost, small gain. We need to think out strategy a whole heap more clearly.

A rational strategy is the one mentioned above, to re-educate the entire population within a single generation - about the whole nature of government, of humanity, and of freedom. It can be done, and it is already being done; and when it is finished, all government employees (not just IRS hacks) will walk out on the job - not out of fear of violence from outsiders, but out of disgust at the insiders, their employer. And not a single shot will have been fired, nor a single IRS window broken.

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