The exchange below is from the book “A Lodging of Wayfaring Men”. Michael is a member of a group of Libertarians who have set up a free market on the internet that government spooks cannot decipher which allows its members to conduct business without government oversight. The system is getting large enough that the IRS is beginning to notice the imbalance. Bari is a lawyer, not part of the group, but who they have retained to do part of a deal for them. He is friends with Max, a retired FBI agent. Both are more interested in Justice than legal niceties and have worked together over their careers.
The whole book is very well worth your time, and is free as a pdf all over the net.
Ill be traveling for a few days, so discuss this among yourselves….
I have more information for you, and also need some from you:
First of all, it is not really the FBI that is behind this, it is the NSA. The FBI
is only their tool to get to you. Here is what is going on: The FBI has
several agents tracking your customers. They’ve had a hard time getting
into most of their computers, but have found a few that didn’t see to their
security very well. They verify your statement that these are just normal
people, and that they are doing some of their business off of the books in
your markets. The NSA is very concerned about people avoiding taxes via
the Internet. They want to find a few of your people, and make public
examples of them.
I’ll be honest with you and tell you that I don’t like what the NSA and FBI
are doing. I especially don’t like the idea of them publicly crucifying some
basically honest people, so they can scare other people into staying in line.
I have an old, trusted friend who is helping me with this case; both he and I
have a concern, which I’d like you to answer. This really means nothing to
me as your attorney. But as someone who is gathering information for you,
it matters to me that your cause is just. Please indulge me:
Even though it is not the purpose of your service to interfere with taxation, it
is used to that end. We are convinced that your service does some good,
but we are concerned that the good may be offset by harm from reduced
taxes. We’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject.
Michael read the note, printed a copy to review, and deleted it. He quickly wrote to
the other members of the group about what Bari had told him, of the NSA, and
people about to be made public examples. Warning notes were sent out. Also, one of
the programmers had figured out how the FBI got into the dentist’s computer, and
was beginning to distribute a program that would warn the users and them of every
such hack attempted by the FBI, without letting the hacker know that he was noticed.
Michael re-read Bari’s note, and especially the question. “Dear Lord… the same
one they always ask,” he muttered, and grimaced. “All right, once more, I guess I’ll
deal with taxes.” He sighed, and sat down at his terminal.
I’m very pleased that you understood our position on taxes: That they are
the concern of our users. We don’t have any say in whether they pay or
not. That being said, you are correct that a number of our customers avoid
taxation through the use of our service. And I can understand your concern
that we could be doing more harm than good. That is a fair question.
There are so many answers to your question that I hardly know where to
start. Here’s one quick thought before I really get into it: Most of the people
who use our service to avoid taxation would be doing so with or without us.
So, in tallying ‘damage,’ a significant portion of it has to be written-off right
from the start. (I have no good way of knowing what that percentage might
be, but I do suspect that it is quite significant.)
Now, onto the meat of the subject: It is difficult to discuss taxes. The
problem is that most people consider them to be a force of nature – a thing
whose basic existence is not to be questioned. We can argue in polite
company about the details of taxation (what are the right percentages for
income tax, and so on), but once you question the morality of taxes
themselves, discussion ceases, and you are branded as a radical, an
extremist, and a bomb thrower.
The short exposition is this: Do I have the right to come to your house and
take your property? You answer, ‘No’. How about if I convince ten others
that it is a good idea? (You still answer ‘No’.) Then why does it become
‘moral’ when I convince a majority of the people in your town to take your
stuff? And if I do not have the moral right to loot you, by what right does a
government do so?
My point is this: The collection of taxes is not moral; it involves coercion
and intimidation: things that are rightly branded as evil if a person does
them to his neighbor. All taxes involve the threat or use of force. At some
point in every taxation process, weapons are involved. This fact intimidates
people into paying. None of the arguments for the morality of taxation stand
up to real scrutiny. Ultimately people give in because the rulers are the
ones with all the power, and they would not want to be on the side that
I am a psychologist by trade, and I take my discipline seriously. My doctoral
thesis was on psychological damage caused by living in servitude. I know
how a life of servitude damages the human psyche. Living under a taxing
state is servitude, and it is seriously damaging to human health and
function. This I can prove empirically. For me personally, that is why I
oppose taxation – it is bad for people.
I have a friend who is an economist, and he opposes taxation because it is
incredibly inefficient, taking money out of the most productive hands, and
placing it in the hands of people who produce nothing. He argues that
humanity would do far better without it.
My friend the philosopher says that anything involuntary is contrary to the
best interests of mankind, and that taxation slows the true engine of
progress, individual human energy.
There are a great many reasons to oppose taxation. But the crucial first
issue is the ability to honestly consider the subject. We have all been so
conditioned to accept the status quo, that thinking outside those limits
automatically seems bad.
If all taxes were ended, people would still find ways to purchase the things
that mattered to them, including firemen, roads, and police protection. But
as soon as people think about eliminating taxation, these three things scare
the hell out of them, and they refuse to think about it any further. (Which is
one of the effects of living in servitude that I analyzed in my thesis.)
Now, as right as we may be about this, the world is arranged around
taxation, and pulling a lot of money out of the system could cause
problems. We are aware of this, and wish to avoid it. So, in the next version
of our software, we’ll have a place for our customers to make donations to
various causes. We will then direct the funds to the appropriate places.
Please let me know if you have any further questions. And thank you for
the new information; we’ll do our best to see that innocent people are not
Bari found Michael’s note waiting for him when he turned on his computer the next
morning. He read the note, smiled, shook his head, and said quietly but intensely,
“Damn these guys are good. Not sure whether I completely agree, but they’ve got
their act together.” He printed out the text and faxed it to Max.