Our new unelected, unconfirmed, unaccountable, and unconstitutional Regulatory Czar is Cass Sunstein, a law professor and longtime adviser to Barack Obama. In 1999 Sunstein co-authored an article entitled “Why We Should Celebrate Paying Taxes”. To call the article “appalling” is an understatement. It begins by, basically, crediting government with all of civilization’s progress.
“It’s our money, and we want to keep it!”
“Why should the IRS take our money, when the government wastes it and we want to spend it on ourselves!”
These are piercing sentiments, especially on April 15. But are they defensible? In what sense is the money in our pockets and bank accounts fully “ours”? Did we earn it by our own autonomous efforts? Could we have inherited it without the assistance of probate courts? Do we save it without support from bank regulators? Could we spend it (say, on the installment plan) if there were no public officials to coordinate the efforts and pool the resources of the community in which we live?
Do not get up tomorrow and drape your house in black! For tax day is not a day of national mourning. Without taxes there would be no liberty.
Without taxes there would be no property. Without taxes, few of us would have any assets worth defending.
Cass Sunstein is crediting government with creating wealth, implying that property rights emanate from government. I believe it’s self-evidently logical to equate “taxes” with “government” when reading Sunstein’s article. Government is not responsible for individual innovators and entrepreneurs. If these men of the mind did not put their faculties to use and create wealth, there would be nothing for the tax collectors to collect. As for the emanation of property rights; I’ve stated before my firm belief that they are a natural by-product of man’s right to his life.
There should be no question that man’s life is his and his alone. If we accept this basic premise, we see also that he has an inalienable right to his property. If, by his time (i.e. his life), he has produced property (this would also apply to maintaining property, such as land) he has the right to that property. When man works, he is, in effect, trading his time (a portion of his life) for whatever it is that he is producing. Because he had a right to his time/life, he has a right to whatever thing he traded it for.
As for Sunstein’s claim that government coordinators are necessary to effectively allocate resources – it’s barely worth responding to. The record of history is indisputable that (with the exception of certain non-rivalrous, non-excludable goods and services) the invisible hand of the free market (i.e. individuals acting in their own selfish interests) is far superior to any centrally-planned effort.
But perhaps I’ve jumped the gun. Cass Sunstein offers some examples of the validity of his ideas:
Indeed, property owners are more deeply “dependent” on government than food-stamp recipients. The man who purchases several news organizations owes more to legislative, adjudicative and administrative action than the woman who sleeps under one newspaper at a time.
While it is true that the property owner may be subject to more legislative, adjudicative, and administrative action than the homeless woman, he is hardly “dependent” on government. To the contrary, government is a roadblock in his path of fulfilling his potential as a human being. Government protects property rights because that is a more efficient system than each individual protecting his own property.
Even if we lived in a perfect world, there would still be some need for a government to protect against the possibility of looters attempting to attack the rights of human beings. Perhaps in Cass Sunstein’s perfect world, businessmen are extremely dependent on the government – or to put it more accurately: in Cass Sunstein’s perfect world, the individual is dependent on the collective. I, for one, would call this type of world a hell on earth (those unfortunate soul’s who lived in Soviet Russia under Joseph Stalin would likely agree with me). Some might say that I’m reading too much into Sunstein’s comments. Sadly, this is not so. Sunstein goes on to say:
This is all a truism, in a way. But it has yet to become a commonplace. Its implications are seldom thought through. Most importantly, the dependency of individual freedoms on collective contributions has not sufficiently penetrated the American debate over our basic rights and the proper limits of the state.
Unfortunately for Sunstein and his depraved philosophy, observable reality does not support his premises. There is no such thing as “collective contributions” because there is no such thing as a “collective” among mankind. Man exists as an individual. Any contributions come from an individual mind. This, to me, is self-evident. Spiritual notions about a “collective” aside, can any one name one invention, discovery, work of art, or idea that has come from a “collective” mind? No. Individuals may collaborate and work together, but they are merely using their individual faculties in concert – each specific action, idea, contribution comes from an individual mind. Individual freedoms depend on absolutely nothing. Individual rights are possessed by every human being as an inherent and inalienable quality that is an integral part of his or her nature.
Sunstein continues on in his ignorance and rejection of basic human dignity:
Unlike fees, levied on those who directly enjoy a service, taxes are levied on the community as a whole, regardless of who enjoys the benefits of the public services funded thereby. Most rights are funded by taxes, not by fees. This is why the overused distinction between “negative” and “positive” rights makes little sense. Rights to private property, freedom of speech, immunity from police abuse, contractual liberty, free exercise of religion–just as much as rights to Social Security, Medicare and food stamps–are taxpayer-funded and government-managed social services designed to improve collective and individual well-being.
For all rights–call them negative, call them positive–have that effect. There is no liberty without dependency. That is why we should celebrate tax day. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, the great Supreme Court justice, liked to say, taxes are “the price we pay for civilization.”
There is much in these statements that could be attacked – but every above blasphemy against the individual rests on two statements found in the preceding paragraphs. The first is the notion of “collective well-being”, and the second is the sentence “There is no liberty without dependency.”
What, exactly, does “collective well-being” mean? It could mean whatever allocation of resources is best for every individual member of society. The first problem with this view is that it is highly unlikely that, in a society of millions, one given scheme for allocating resources is optimal for every member. The second problem is that this would require (if we reject a free-market system as Sunstein clearly has) that some central body dictate the uses of every individual’s property. Not only is this abhorrent to anyone who values his freedom, history has shown time and time again that it leads to ruin.
The second possible meaning of “collective well-being” is even more grotesque than the first. This meaning holds that the “collective well-being” is the best allocation of resources for the majority of people – in other words, the greatest good for the greatest number. But if we practice this philosophy, if even one member of society is harmed for the sake of the rest, we have turned the slighted minority into sacrificial animals. If we hold down one to raise up another, we have, as Ayn Rand said, become a society of cannibals.
As for “no liberty without dependency”, this is just false. It is true that in a free market system, individuals depend on one another – but only when they have chosen to. The type of collectivization that Sunstein would like to see take place in America would force dependency on American citizens. For centuries, mankind operated in societies based on dependency. From the earliest human tribes, to ancient Egypt, to feudal Europe, to Soviet Russia: everyone who lived under these systems was dependent, but none were free. Not until the United States of America, where the individual was held to be sacred above all else on earth, was freedom truly understood and practiced (albeit to a limited extent at first, but still to a far greater extent than had previously been known).
Cass Sunstein’s ideals are antithetical to the ideals of the Founding Fathers. They should be abhorrent to all Americans, and his very presence in the White House should be viewed as an abomination to our country, and as a blasphemy against the sanctity of individual rights.