Progressive statists tend to think of Constitutional conservatives holding the notion that “all taxes are theft.” This is not a position held by us in general, and it is instead a strawman created to attack us. Here is my thinking on the topic:

Laws and Rights

First of all, the Constitution is the highest law of the United States, having been ratified by the people in state ratification assemblies. It outranks all other laws. The Bill of Rights added shortly thereafter in a similar process documented and endeavored to protect citizens’ rights from encroachment by government. A non-theist conservative like myself uses the phrase “natural rights”; a Christian would say “God-given rights.” That distinction (as explained by Thomas Aquinas) is not crucial. What IS crucial is that these rights are NOT created by or granted by government, and not instantiated by being mentioned in the Constitution as amended.

The unfortunate practical effect has been that if a right is not mentioned there, it doesn’t exist … with exceptions that suit progressives from time to time, such as the right to kill a developing human in the womb or to take money from citizens for various social engineering boondoggles.

So, what was this Government supposed to do that We the People created and approved? Only a limited set of things, all of which are enumerated in the Constitution. Things outside of that list are relegated to the States, or are not the business of government at all.

There are provisions for example to set up courts, to raise an army and navy, to build forts and to build post roads. There is no provision for setting up a conduit to extract money from some citizens to give this money (after a substantial government cut) to other citizens. Nor is there a provision for any federal executive-branch bureaucracy writing regulations to control the activities of citizens within their states.

Agreed Taxation

Paying for what was agreed to does not trouble Constitutional conservatives. But progressive statists have found an ever-increasing list of new things that should be paid for by an ever-decreasing proportion of the populace. Much of this has been in the general category of vote-buying.

The United States made it roughly a century without doing this, generally, but Grover Cleveland in the 1880s saw it coming and argued against it, when Congress wanted to take $10,000 out of the Treasury and give it to farmers whose crops had been damaged in a disaster:<blockquote>I can find no warrant for such an appropriation [giving money to farmers whose crops had failed due to drought] in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people. The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. <b>Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character</b>, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.</blockquote>As I wrote years ago, Cleveland’s argument prevailed, though Congress was busily trying to vote itself new power and create new agencies to dole out money to potential voters. The above quote is from the veto of such a bill, which planned to put most of the money into the hands of local politicians to give to constituents they liked.

The Dam Broke

Congress, of course, did not give up. Once the very first one made it through, the trickle became a flood: it was now a precedent. And what the government can support, it can control: One half century after Cleveland’s veto, the federal government outlawed a farmer growing wheat in his own backyard to feed his own family — a case that went to the cowed Supreme Court in the 1930s and was determined to be within the scope of the federal government to regulate “commerce” “among the several States.” The logic ran that if the farmer fed his own family, he’d buy less wheat from the market, which could conceivably affect imports of wheat from one state to another. Hey presto! It’s interstate commerce, and thus under federal jurisdiction, and the federal “wheat quota” system was Constitutional.

Now, you’ve grown up with this level of government interference and control. You’d have a hard time imagining a world in which the US government was not the benefactor of billions of dollars to people in want, having taken much more than this from those who the government considers “rich” (i.e., people who are net positive taxpayers).

Social Support and Social Security

And yet the appetite for spending is rapacious, and even the productive US taxpayers cannot rise to the level of ambition of Washington. So the US is going into debt it may never repay, and taking positions it may never recover from, to accomplish a mission it should never have undertaken. We are stuck with it as a “modern” thing, leaving US charities to devote hundreds of millions of dollars per year on less-worthy efforts such as promoting communism and “studying” the massive failures of government in education, healthcare, and other areas, to support increasing those failures.

Social Security, to me, is not quite in this class. Had it been structured properly, the concept of giving your own money back to you is not an unreasonable one, and it is not the same as a “tax” to be distributed to others. But the government is involved, and as a result the program is unsustainable. Were a law passed that said that it much be privatized tomorrow — that the US government must hand over assets to a separate entity to run this program — we could not afford to do it.

A Choice to Change

That’s another unfortunate aspect of using the government to accomplish something with money. It makes no sense, it is executed badly, but the federal government makes laws so that we have no choice.


There IS a choice, an Article V Convention for Proposing Amendments, which can re-establish some of the original controls and unwind some of the statist “reinterpretations” of the document that is the highest law of our land. It is time to do this.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle