by Alice Salles
To restore democracy, TIME author Mark Weston recently argued, the 65 million Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton must sign a pledge to stop paying their taxes should yet another Republican win the presidency without winning the popular vote.
Never mind the “193 million people [who] did not vote for Trump or Clinton” in 2016. Apparently, what truly matters is electing a president who represents roughly 65 million individuals, a fraction of the population.
Weston explains that “[a]ppeals to fairness have not persuaded [Republicans] of the need to amend the Constitution to establish direct presidential elections.” He asserts that “the real chance that a Democrat could win the presidency with fewer votes than a Republican” does not alarm these callous Republicans into acting.
Instead of appealing to their emotions, Weston then concludes, we must first “pester Republicans where it hurts: the pocketbook.”
But the scope of his argument was limited. What he should have contended is that all Americans should pester their entire government’s pocketbook by refusing to pay taxes at all.
With the U.S. government still involved in countless wars abroad (and at home) and financing and training foreign groups to support America’s allies — using the taxpayer as its main resource — it’s easy to see why many of us feel morally obliged to say no to the taxman.
If Weston had been honest, he wouldn’t have framed this plan as a way to get back at Republicans for not “allowing” Democrats to be “fairly” represented in the White House. Rather, he would admit that neither Democrats nor Republicans can implement their policies without extorting the earnings of millions of Americans, especially while failing to represent all of them.
Beyond the individual level, the very existence of an overbearing federal government responsible for everything from labeling our medication to controlling the acidity of manure forces the governments of all states in the union to comply with immoral and ineffective rules. These rules, which are often first created as a way to further presidential agendas, often fleece the poor in the name of corporatism while also exploiting the very base of our economy, all in the name of accumulating power. “No taxation without representation!” Weston declares, ignoring decades of this exact dynamic.
If the goal is to put an end to the injustice and corruption of a government, anybody who’s dissatisfied is morally entitled to stop paying taxes. After all, voluntary transactions among individuals are only carried out if both parties are satisfied with the product. Once dissatisfaction becomes a factor, you cease the transaction — why can’t we do the same with the government?
If Weston were honest about the American political system’s unfairness, he would admit that living under an all-powerful, highly centralized federal government is, in fact, mathematically impossible and urge all Americans to stand against this particular system. He would also acknowledge that imposing the rule of the majority on anyone is, at best, a sloppy way to make people happy and, at worst, an immoral act considering the very essence of government is the monopolization of the use of violence.
Americans would do well to follow in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau, who arguably had fewer points of contention with the federal government when he refused to pay taxes in the 19th century.
From “Civil Disobedience,” a classic American essay:
“It is for no particular item in the tax-bill that I refuse to pay it. I simply wish to refuse allegiance to the State, to withdraw and stand aloof from it effectually.”
“I do not care to trace the course of my dollar, if I could, till it buys a man or a musket to shoot one with — the dollar is innocent — but I am concerned to trace the effects of my allegiance. In fact, I quietly declare war with the State, after my fashion, though I will still make what use and get what advantage of her I can, as is usual in such cases.”
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