Where the Libertarian Right Gets the Tax Thing Wrong


Picture 2The Pink Flamingo recently saw a comment by libertarian economist Peter Schiff about taxes during the lead up to the Revolutionary War.  Since it occurred on a day where I was having a similar twitter conversation with a guy, it made me stop and think about a few things.

“…When reading the “long train of abuses” listed in The Declaration of Independence, one marvels at how relatively benign King George III was when compared to the president Barack Obama and the courtesans of Congress. The Intolerable Acts would appear completely tolerable in the eyes of typical American citizens, who increasingly resemble the subjects of Washington politicians...”

The statement like Schiff’s is a heck of a lot of the libertarian problem. For some strange reason they appear to be fundamentally incapable of comprehending history. Sure, they have their facts, but, history doesn’t work well unless you look at both sides of the story.  When you start examining the reasons the Brits were imposing taxes here in the Colonies, it makes you wonder what sort of rabble rousing jerks some of our founding fathers were.

During the process of fulminating revolution, in much of their fiery rhetoric, their pamphlets, our so-called founding patriotic fathers were a bunch of sore-heads who, like their Tea Party counterparts today, were absolutely irrational about taxes.  They were so focused on their own situation, that they utterly failed to consider what was going on in England.

In Great Britain at the time, the country was suffering from a series of truly bad prime ministers and a king who was mentally ill because of a genetic disease. The country was nearly broke due to a series of wars, one after another.  Raising taxes, at home and the colonies, was the only way to do it.  The hot-heads hear were so involved in their own belly-aching, that they never even bothered to see how high the taxes across the Pond were.

In England, they were even taxed on window glass, to the point where even the wealthy, living in those magnificent palaces removed their glass windows and replaced the glass with parchment, and closed the shutters to hid the fact that they could not afford the glass tax.

You don’t see anyone discuss this, today.  Nor do you hear that there were huge political and social arguments over the fact that people living in England felt that the colonials should become self-sufficient, and cease being a drag on the treasury in Great Britain.  They were fed up with what they saw as social benefits going to people who paid only a small percentage of the money they were taxed, to care for what they basically saw as the colonial takers.

The French and Indian War was a violent, horrible war.  It nearly broke Great Britain.  When the British citizenry was taxed, to the point of being broken, in order to maintain what was basically the same thing we are now doing in Afghanistan, fighting back the French, who had inflamed the Native tribes here to the point where they were murderous, committing some truly nasty atrocities.

The British public saw the colonials as unwilling to pay their fair share, to learn to protect themselves.  They also felt they were a complete drain on the military and the British economy.  You never hear this discussed, nor the fact that the Brits always paid a Stamp Tax.  Franklin even, initially signed off on it. The Brits paid taxes on paper, news print, fabric, flour, tea, and everything in between.  The reason those atrocious powdered wigs went out of style is because the flour and powder to maintain them was also taxed.

If the British people had been given a vote, there would have been no war.  The American Revolution, in England was their version of Vietnam.  They general consensus  was the hell with it, pull out, take the loss, and quit spending money.  There were protests, arguments, threats, and governments rose and fell.  The appointment of Cornwallis as commanding general was the primary reason the Brits lost.  Militarily he was a disaster, nearly causing the Brits to lose to Napoleon years later.

Let’s put it this way, if Wellington has been old enough to be put in charge of the war, we would be speaking with a British accent and watching the BBC. Unlike Cornwallis, who was an arrogant jerk, Wellington probably would have not hung the rebel leaders.

The only reason we won the war, was not divine intervention, but the fact that there was a series of incompetent prime ministers who were incapable of listening to reason.  What we are told is there is this legacy of tax rebellion, which is true, but it is also a legacy of a bunch of drunk “patriots” who decided to rebel by throwing a shipment of tea into the Boston Harbor.  Never mind that the business who owned the tea, lost a fortune.  They were too drunk to realize what they were doing.

You know, they really haven’t changed.  The same bunch of spoiled brats, today, are complaining about high taxes, but they’re not the ones who are truly suffering.  The Billionaire Boys Club did not want to pay the same 35-39% that other small business are paying.  Because of their position in life, they consider themselves, special.  During the years leading to the Revolutionary War, the folks back in England felt the same way as those of us who think everyone should pay the same tax percentage rate, today.  Back then they were such bust heads, that they caused a war that managed to get a heck of alot of people killed.  What did it really get them, in the end?  Today, we’re just as close to Great Britain, closer, than we were in 1776.  They are our closest friends, allies, and our cultural “betters”.  We spend more time fixated on the Monarchy than the Brits do.

Makes you wonder who really won.