At a time when the political class is obsessed with ‘increasing the tax base’—which translates into increasing the number of income-tax payers—it may sound weird, if not blasphemous, to favor the abolition of the income tax. But then the supposedly weird ideas have often brought beneficent changes for mankind. The idea of income tax abolition is certainly good, as we shall see.
In his The Income Tax: Root of all Evil, the American thinker Frank Chodorov (1887-1966), wrote: “Indirect taxes [like excise and sales] are mere money raisers; there is nothing in the character of these taxes that involves any other purpose. In levying them, the government does not call on any principle other than that the citizen must pay for the upkeep of his government, in proportion to the amount of goods he consumes… The government does not question the right of the citizen to his property. The citizen need not pay these taxes; he can go without.”
That is, if a person chooses to live without selling or buying the goods and services from others—if they decide to live like Bear Grylls of Man-vs-Wild fame in a state of nature or immerse themselves in meditation in the Himalayas, for instance—they need not pay any taxes.
The same doesn’t apply to the income tax, which is a direct tax. The income that I earn, however, is my property; claiming a portion of it, the government actually attacks my right to property.
Since time immemorial, the basic motive of any economic activity has been making money or getting some material reward. Thus, property is a natural, inalienable right of man; great liberal philosophers like John Locke and John Stuart Mill have written extensively about this. It needs to be emphasized here that the right to property drilled huge holes in the ramparts of the erstwhile all-powerful, autocratic, medieval, and monarchical state.
In the twentieth century, however, collectivists of various hues were able to fill up these holes; some of the consequences were Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Moaist China, and Nehruvian India. Fortunately, the world has recognized the evilness of collectivism, but the relics of the past still survive.
Left-liberals find it churlish to blame Jawaharlal Nehru for every problem that India faces today. They are right on this count: he certainly cannot be blamed for everything. But it is undeniable that he, like other intellectuals, had blindly accepted the correctness and goodness of socialism hook, line, and sinker. In his presidential address to the Indian National Congress in Lucknow on April 12, 1936, he said: “I am convinced that the only key to the solution of the world’s problem and of India’s problem lies in socialism, and when I use this word I do not do so in a vague humanitarian way but in the scientific economic sense. Socialism is, however, something even more than an economic doctrine; it is a philosophy of life and as such also it appeals to me. I see no way of ending the poverty, the vast unemployment, the degradation and subjection of the Indian people except through socialism” (emphasis added).
Nehru went on to delineate the contours of his economic policy, much of which he implemented. He wanted “vast and revolutionary changes in our political and social structure, the ending of vested interests in land and industry, as well as the feudal and autocratic Indian states system. This means the ending of private property, except in a restricted sense, and the replacement of the present profit system by a higher ideal of co-operative service. In short, it means a new civilization, radically different from the present capitalist order. Some glimpse we can have of this new civilization in the territories of the USSR… If the future is full of hope it is largely because of Soviet Russia and what it has done, and I am convinced that, if some world catastrophe does not intervene, this new civilization will spread to other lands and put an end to the wars and conflicts which capitalism feeds on” (emphasis added).
It is astonishing that Nehru, who was exposed to the Western influence, never knew or acknowledged the horrors of socialism. Over a hundred million people dying under communist and socialist regimes; purges and murderous collectivization drives; police state and concentration camps; suppression of civil liberties and human rights; total control of the economy, society, cultures, arts, and literature—this was the reality of socialism. George Orwell had published Animal Farm in 1945 and 1984 four years later, vividly describing the dystopia socialism creates.
There is no moral or philosophical justification—at least no justification that can be cogently argued—for taking money from citizens in the form of income tax. Various arguments are offered to justify the income tax. On its website, the income tax department has quoted Kalidas from Raghuvansh where he eulogizes King Dalip, “It was only for the good of his subjects that he collected taxes from them, just as the Sun draws moisture from the Earth to give it back a thousand fold.”
The great poet might be correct about King Dalip, but one has to be extremely credulous to believe that the contemporary Indian state is munificent. For decades, it has been unable to efficiently carry out its basic, essential duties—that is, running the administration, maintaining law and order, national security, and foreign affairs. One can write volumes about the myriad failings of government, under various political parties, on each of the essential duties. Yet, politicians have the cheek to claim that they can use the government apparatus to end poverty, improve healthcare, etc. They, along with pinkish intellectuals, keep talking about building the welfare state; they regularly come up with welfarist measures—the measures that need money which comes from taxes, direct as well as indirect.
But the welfare state, first and foremost, a state; and the Indian state, as it exists today, is rickety and sclerotic. As we mentioned earlier, it is incapable of carrying out even the most basic and essential functions: protecting the life, liberty, and limb of citizens. There have been reports from several states of synthetic milk and its products—that is, milk made out such hazardous substances as urea and detergent. Adulteration in edible items is rampant. Likewise with medicines.
Equally unconscionable activities about the establishments mandated to provide shelter and safety to children have come to the fore. There are a number of monitoring mechanisms—the social welfare departments, the Central and state commissions for women and children, the district administration, the local police, local intelligence units, local media, local NGOs, et al. Yet there were Muzaffarpur and Deoria. There was Brajesh Thakur whipping, raping, and pimping young girls, some in preteens. And there are canting politicians who seldom use the term ‘girl children’; they say ‘hamaari betiyaan’ instead!
Against this backdrop, entrusting government with helping the poor or improving healthcare is fraught with major risks. And if government remains focused on its basic functions, as it should, it would not need money by way of income tax.
- "The taxpayer: that’s someone who works for the federal government, but doesn’t have to take a civil service examination.” Ronald Reagan, US President (1981-89)
- “The income tax created more criminals than any other single act of government.” Barry Goldwater, an American conservative icon
“The difference between death and taxes is death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.” Will Rogers, an American actor
“For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister
“Income tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today.” Herman Wouk, a Pulitzer Prize winning author
“Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.” Calvin Coolidge, US President (1923-29)
“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” Albert Einstein