Slaying Leviathan: The Moral Case for Tax Reform by Leslie Carbone
America’s income tax system is a visionless policy that has reduced a free people to moral slaves, squabbling over goodies. This is Leslie Carbone’s view as posited in her book, Slaying Leviathan: The Moral Case for Tax Reform.
The book is a history lesson of American tax policy. Beginning with the Stamp Act and other oppressive taxes the British foisted upon the colonies that spawned the Revolutionary War, Carbone describes the abusive tax systems that government has used to suppress, create disincentives and exploit its subjects.
She pulls no punches in describing the unconstitutional nature of the income tax system and the effect it has had on all aspects of life. While she notes the first income tax and the first Internal Revenue Service (IRS) were created in 1862, she lays the blame for the unconstitutional attack on freedom at the feet of Congress. She falls into the politically correct trap of blaming Congress rather than placing blame where it belongs: President Abraham Lincoln and his efforts to centralize government.
“That legislation was the most comprehensive, far-reaching tax measure up to that point in United States history,” Carbone writes, “Every manufactured article was subjected to excise taxes, as were gross receipts of railroads, ferryboats, steamships, toll bridges and advertisers. It imposed an inheritance (death) tax, license fees and stamp duties. Finally, it raised and graduated the income tax, imposing a rate of 3 percent on annual incomes from $600 to $10,000 and a marginal rate of 5 percent on amounts about $10,000.”
Carbone does an excellent job of laying out an argument that the tax system of the 20th Century destroyed justice in the name of fairness. She also provides examples of IRS abuses, such as violating the privacy of unconvicted people through “economic reality audits”—enacted in 1995—in which taxpayers, rather than their tax returns, were audited.
Today’s system is designed to—in President Barack Obama’s famous words—spread the wealth around through higher taxes on the wealthiest wage earners and reducing or eliminating the tax burden on lower income Americans through tax breaks and credits.
But what the system has done, she says, is lead to a breakdown of America’s moral society.
“Progressive taxation and redistributed spending policies encourage laziness among both those who are taxed and those who are given,” Carbone writes. “Those who are taxed at increasing rates are discouraged from work because they receive diminishing fruits from their labors. Those who receive are discouraged because they receive without having to work at all. Beyond the daily laziness of simply not working, or working less, there is the more dangerous moral laziness of not taking responsibility for one’s own life. Finally, there is the disincentive to marriage, as it can leave beneficiaries ineligible for so-called entitlements.”
Indeed, the marriage penalty—in which married couples are taxed at a higher rate than if the couple filed individually—is cited by Carbone as one of the primary causes of the breakdown of the familial unit and a scourge on American society.
Finally, Carbone presses her case that the tax system cannot be reformed, but must be torn down and rebuilt.
She then lists the reform plans that have drawn the most interest in recent years: flat income tax, national sales tax (also called the Fair Tax) and the value-added tax. She lists the pros and cons of each, and also covers other areas that need reform.
If you are of either a conservative or libertarian bent and need an argument against tax increases and liberal tax policies to use on your progressive friends, Carbone’s book provides you with lots of ammunition. If you are a progressive seeking a way out of the wilderness in which you find yourself, you need this book as well.