Walter E. Williams

Our Founding Fathers feared the emergence of an agency such as the IRS and its potential for abuse. That's why they gave us Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, which reads: "No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken." A capitation is a tax placed directly on an individual. That's what an income tax is. The founders feared the abuse and the government power inherent in a direct tax. In Section 8 of Article 1, they added, "But all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States." These protections the founders gave us were undone by the Progressive era's 16th Amendment, which reads, "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."

If federal spending were only 5 percent of our GDP ($750 billion) -- instead of 25 percent ($3.8 trillion) -- there would be no need for today's oppressive and complicated tax system. You might ask, "How could we be a great nation without all the government spending?" When our Constitution was ratified in 1791, we were a weak and poor nation. One hundred forty years later, with federal spending a mere pittance of what it is today, we became the world's richest and most powerful nation. No small part of this miracle was limited and unintrusive government.

The bottom line is that members of Congress need such a ruthless tax collection agency as the IRS because of the charge we Americans have given them. We want what the IRS does -- namely, to take the earnings of one American so Congress can create a benefit for some other American. Don't get angry with IRS agents. They are just following orders.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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