Friday, February 7, 2014


Interesting conversation the other night with a Dade City lawyer named Chip. He’s opposed to the income tax. Says you can’t believe how many people in the United States have never filed a tax return. Millions.

I can believe it. The talking heads are always telling us that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. I’m sure they are, but not the way Washington thinks. The household service industry, kitchen, basement and garage based factories, and family businesses, for example, employ millions of people who get paid in cash and never give a dime to Uncle Sam.

For anything. No income tax. No social security tax. No Medicare tax. They don’t pay, and neither do their employers. It’s called the underground economy. It is raw free enterprise. Capitalism at its basic, most natural, most instinctive level.

And no government, least of all a national government thousands of miles away, is ever going to be able to stop it, slow it down or tap into it to pay politicians, bureaucrats, teachers, policemen or soldiers.

Which is why local governments collect real estate and sales taxes. Everybody’s got to sleep someplace and everybody’s got to eat.

We read that the social security system is going to go broke sometime in this century. When FDR invented it, there were dozens of people paying social security taxes for every one recipient of benefits. Not so today, and in a few years there will be only two or three workers for every old timer living on monthly checks from Uncle Sam.

We live in an artificial economy in which children are seen as a luxury and a financial burden. For most of the planet’s seven billion people, children and grandchildren are still assets: God’s social security. The family is the basic economic unit. Kids help on the farm. Child labor? You betcha. Mom and Dad are the bosses. There is no retirement age. People work until they die or until their kids and grandkids can take care of them.

UnAmerican, you say? Uncivilized? Third world living? How wrong you are. It’s natural, instinctive and it is exactly the way the underground economy which supports millions of Americans works. And works better than the intelligentsia are willing to admit.

Which brings me to another exchange I recently had with a correspondent on the Internet. It had to do with the national government requiring employers to compromise their religious beliefs by providing employee health insurance that covers birth control and abortifacients.

My friend’s argument was that religious beliefs give way to sound public policy. It’s a strong argument. The state of Utah was denied admission to the union until they adopted a constitution that prohibited polygamy. If God hadn’t stopped Abraham from setting Isaac on fire, someone would have called the cops.

In our day, we talk about cultural warfare; the conflict between traditional Judea-Christian standards of behavior and the libertarian hedonism that is justified as personal freedom and privacy.

Unhappily, too few Americans realize that culture, like the economy is a layered phenomenon. The smaller the universe of the layer, the more minute are the regulations. The household has rules about when to eat and sleep; the village tells you when you can water your lawn, the county tells you where to vote, and the state makes you get a drivers license.

In a republic, we put up with localized cultural dictates because free men and women can get up and go. The easier it is to relocate, the more regulation by the majority can be tolerated.

Modern communication tends to blur the boundary lines of communities. Facebookers and Facebookettes chat from afar like neighbors, but they aren’t.  Appleton, Wisconsin and San Francisco, California are not interchangeable communities, despite the symbiosis of dozens of teenagers on the Internet.

The great tragedy of our times is the assumption that the United States of America, through its courts, its congress and its executive has proper authority to decide the minutia of human life in the fifty states. What kind of light bulbs you can use, how much water you can flush down the toilet, who can get a driver’s license, a barber’s license or a marriage license are decisions which our constitution never intended or authorized to be made in the national capital.

Not when there were only three million Americans, much less when there are three hundred million Americans.