Oliver Wendell Holmes, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, believed that "taxes are what we pay for civilized society." The guy lived at a time when the federal income tax code could still be read in an hour and understood by most non-lawyers. Over the next 80 years we have chopped down tens of millions of trees just to produce IRS forms. Today our civilized society is torn apart by a barbarian invasion: millions of tax legislators, tax collectors, tax advisers, tax preparers, tax lobbyists, and tax litigators. These hordes of accountants and lawyers are more efficient in diminishing our economic vitality, sabotaging our social progress, and extinguishing our personal freedoms than any foreign enemy America has ever faced.
We have forgotten that the purpose of taxation is to raise revenue so the government can protect our God-given rights. Instead we have allowed politicians to use it as a tool of social engineering. In his acceptance speech for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination, Jimmy Carter called the income tax system "a disgrace to the human race." With his typical sense of humor, Ronald Reagan defined the taxpayer as "someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take a civil service examination."
"Without justice," asked St. Augustine, "what are kingdoms but great robber bands?" After Americans are done producing goods and services and would like to enjoy the fruits of their labor, they still have to spend billions of hours every year on tax compliance. Our government is violating the Constitution, inflicting a "cruel and unusual punishment" on most of its citizens. And they punish us not for stealing and murder but for creating jobs and wealth.
My fellow economist and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey calls it a "virtue tax." How long shall we put up with this injustice? We would be fools not to demand from our next president to lead Congress in removing this unbearable burden by scrapping the entire tax code and replacing it with something simple, clear, fair, predictable, enduring, and uniform. We need a bill that is no more than a dozen pages long. Flat tax, sales tax, a combination of both-take your pick. What we have now breeds corruption and subverts the democratic process. It is insane and it has to stop.