Taxes, Taxes, and more Taxes....and some Judges too.

We continue our discussion of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers this week with number 12.  Some really fascinating stuff here about taxes, revenue and commerce.

Alexander Hamilton begins this paper by discussing the interaction of commerce and government:
The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a primary object of their political cares. By multiplying the means of gratification, by promoting the introduction and circulation of the precious metals, those darling objects of human avarice and enterprise, it serves to vivify and invigorate the channels of industry, and to make them flow with greater activity and copiousness.
As always, my own bold and italics......Hmm, sounds like the colonial version of "Greed is good."  Which of course, I have no problem with since, being the Grouchy Historian, I try to deal with the reality of human nature instead of mushy-headed liberal notions of utopia.  People are inherently greedy and will look out for their own self-interest.  Except for some exceptional holy men and maybe MOMS, I know of very few humans, including yours truly, that don't in most situations look out primarily for number one.  And...our Founding Fathers knew that enlightened self-interest, that is the principles of free enterprise based on honesty, hard work, and reward, tempered by the even application of the rule of law, was the best way to ensure domestic tranquility and keep the money moving, so to speak.

Hamilton continues in a very prophetic passage:
It is evident from the state of the country, from the habits of the people, from the experience we have had on the point itself, that it is impracticable to raise any very considerable sums by direct taxation. Tax laws have in vain been multiplied; new methods to enforce the collection have in vain been tried; the public expectation has been uniformly disappointed, and the treasuries of the States have remained empty. The popular system of administration inherent in the nature of popular government, coinciding with the real scarcity of money incident to a languid and mutilated state of trade, has hitherto defeated every experiment for extensive collections, and has at length taught the different legislatures the folly of attempting them.
Wow, that passage could certainly be ripped from the headlines.  Indeed, as Hamilton notes, the US government could and did, draw most of its revenue from duties on imports...that is until the PROGRESSIVE Woodrow Wilson oversaw the first imposition of an income tax. Considering the minimal reach of that first income tax, it is, of course astounding how income taxes and DIRECT taxation has flourished in the last 100 years.  Sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, capital gains taxes, oyyyy, the appetite of the various forms of government seem endless, just as Hamilton more or less noted IN THE 1700s.  Goodness knows what they would think today.

So, could the US government exist without taxes?  Well no...but what should it do and who should pay for it?  These seem to be eternal questions for an informed citizenry.  What I find fascinating is that when income taxes were first imposed they were paid ALL at once in a check to the government.  It was FDR, that other hero of the Progressive movement, that began the insidious, hidden payroll deduction to HIDE the effect of taxation to the mass of sheeple.  I mean, CAN you imagine if people had to actually write a check to the government on April 15?  WOW, that would be fun to watch.  I of course, agree with the political wag who said we should make tax day the week before election day...then see what happens.

Not a bad idea, overall.

Continuing on with Anti-Federalist #12, Brutus continues his criticism of the proposed Federal Judiciary and its potential for abuse:

Perhaps the judicial power will not be able, by direct and positive decrees, ever to direct the legislature, because it is not easy to conceive how a question can be brought before them in a course of legal discussion, in which they can give a decision, declaring, that the legislature have certain powers which they have not exercised, and which, in consequence of the determination of the judges, they will be bound to exercise. But it is easy to see, that in their adjudications they may establish certain principles, which being received by the legislature, will enlarge the sphere of their power beyond all bounds. 
This brings to mind the ridiculous statement by Sen Arlen Specter (RINO-PA) during one of the recent Supreme Court Justice confirmations that Roe vs Wade has "SUPER DUPER PRECEDENT" for being an irrevocable law...hmm much like Dred Scott or Plessy versus Ferguson  did before they were by war and the other by reality.  But I digress.

Brutus then breaks down the preamble to the Constitution in the context of the judiciary, showing how the unbridled power of an out of control judiciary, combined with a powerful national government, can only end up expanding central power to the detriment of the states and citizens:
The courts therefore will establish it as a rule in explaining the constitution to give it such a construction as will best tend to perfect the union or take from the state governments every power of either making or executing laws. The second object is "to establish justice." This must include not only the idea of instituting the rule of justice, or of making laws which shall be the measure or rule of right, but also of providing for the application of this rule or of administering justice under it. And under this the courts will in their decisions extend the power of the government to all cases they possibly can, or otherwise they will be restricted in doing what appears to be the intent of the constitution they should do, to wit, pass laws and provide for the execution of them, for the general distribution of justice between man and man. 

Clearly Brutus was not a big fan of the idea of "separation of powers" or "checks and balances"  assuming that the national government AS A WHOLE would and could only assume more and more power...which meant the diminution of the states as the primary vehicle of government.

AND, of course, that is exactly what has happened...the complete trampling of state's rights to the point that the Federal Government, in the hands of progressive, liberal, big government activists, fight the states' ability to control their borders, set limits on abortion, or even regulate and utilize their own natural resources.


Anonymous said…
Excellent analysis, Grouchy Historian. Could it be that, "Reaganomics," had it's beginning in the reading of Hamilton's words, in Federalist No. 12? Part of what Hamilton said, was what Conservatives are still saying today. Let the Federal Government get out of the way of Commerce. From Commerce and Commerce alone will you have the tax revenues necessary to run the affairs of Government.

Regarding the Anti-Federalist position, I am confused by your post. Your comments are about Brutus and the Judicial powers of Government. Anti-Federalist No. 12 was written by, "Cincinnatus," was it not? He talks about the raising of revenues and the difficulty encountered in doing that. Please explain what I missed.

Mitch Miller
Hmm according to this link this is anti-federalist 12

I can double check in my book.
Anonymous said…
Here is the site I am using for the Anti-Federalist Papers:

Anonymous said…
The comments you attribute to, "Brutus," as being Anti-Federalist No. 12 are put forth on the site I am using, as Anti-Federalist No. 17. One of them is obviously wrong. We need to find out which one before proceeding any further.

Mitch Miller
Anonymous said…
Here is another site that supports the one I am using:

Here also, is another site that supports the one you are using:

The site I just listed, which aligns itself with your discussion of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, seems to be the more correct. Why do you think there exists this conflict? I am curious. Suspicious, too. Is this just an anomaly of interpretation, or is someone trying to re-write our history for us?

Mitch Miller