March 12, 2002
Tax protester followup

Joshua Trevino, who doesn't use permalinks, critiques my critique of Dale Amon regarding tax loonies We the People. Here's the crux of Joshua's argument:

Dale clearly doesn't harbor an opinion either way on WTP's specific agenda -- he provides a link and urges readers to decide for themselves. No editorializing at all, which is a rarity for Samizdata (or any blog, really). That's not good enough for Kuffner:

Had Dale Amon taken a few moments to do some research, he would have discovered what kind of arguments, legal and otherwise, that We the People use against the income tax.

What? Okay, Amon's post wasn't a model of thoroughness. But Kuffner is positing a blogging standard that I'm willing to bet he doesn't always meet. (Heck, I know Yglesias doesn't meet it.) The crux of his critique of Amon is that Amon simply didn't do adequate background research on his subject. Come on. Posting links of possible interest is what blogs do. Heck, I put up a link for chihuahua vindaloo, and I'm afraid I was suckered into posting a fair amount about the probably-baseless allegations of Israeli art students-cum-spies. So what? Live and learn. It's blogging, people. Just because we're better than the New York Times doesn't mean we're Real Journalists.

The real motivation behind this trio of leftist bloggers is, I suspect, a generalized dislike for Samizdata and its ideology per se. War Liberal says it "drives [him] crazy," Kuffner discusses the "tooth-grinding factor" inherent in his reading of it, and Yglesias simply engages in routine petty mockery against it. The result is cases like this, wherein War Liberal is unecessarily caustic; Kuffner is inappropriately condemnatory; and Yglesias is a pathetic bandwagoner. While two of the three mount effective assaults on WTP, none of them can build a realistic case against Dale Amon.

I have several things to say to this. I'll start by reminding everyone what exactly Amon said:

US income tax is illegal

The We The People Foundation held their own hearing as the US Federal Government broke its word to do so. They claim testimony taken under oath shows the entire income tax system to be unconstitutional.

Decide for yourself. The hearing webcast is available here.

Link to webcast omitted. I'd argue that Amon is in fact expressing an opinion on WtP's position. It's right there in the header to his post. He didn't say "Group claims US income tax illegal", or "Group to hold hearing on legality of income tax". If he had, I'd agree with Trevino that Amon was merely pointing to some possibly interesting thing that one might wish to peruse. What he said was "US income tax is illegal". How is that not expressing an opinion?

Even if Amon had hedged, I'd still consider him to be at best disingenuous in pointing out this so-called "argument". Let's take a look at the introduction to the Tax Protesters FAQ to see why:

[T]he assertions addressed in this FAQ are not merely false, but completely ridiculous, requiring not just ignorance of law and history, but a suspension of logic and reason.

In this FAQ, you will read many decisions of judges who refer to the views of tax protesters as "frivolous," "ridiculous," "absurd," "preposterous," or "gibberish." If you don't read a lot of judicial opinions, you may not understand the full weight of what it means when a judge calls an argument "frivolous" or "ridiculous." Perhaps an analogy will help the attitude of judges.

Imagine a group of professional scientists who have met to discuss important issues of physics and chemistry, and then someone comes into their meeting and challenges them to prove that the earth revolves around the sun. At first, they might be unable to believe that the challenger is serious. Eventually, they might be polite enough to explain the observations and calculations which lead inevitably to the conclusion that the earth does indeed revolve around the sun. Suppose the challenger is not convinced, but insists that there is actually no evidence that the earth revolves around the sun, and that all of the calculations of the scientists are deliberately misleading. At that point, they will be jaw-droppingly astounded, and will no longer be polite, but will evict the challenger/lunatic from their meeting because he is wasting their time. That is the way judges view tax protesters. At first, they try to be civil and treat the claims as seriously as they can. However, after dismissing case after case with the same insane claims, sometimes by the same litigant, judges start pulling out the dictionary to see how many synonyms they can find for "absurd."

What I'm getting at is not just that WtP have a weak case. They have no case at all. Giving them any credibility, which Amon did with his post, is like giving credibility to creationists and the Flat Earth Society. Not only are they not adding anything to the discussion, they are actively hindering it. For Amon to cite them uncritically either means he's favorably inclined to their arguments, in which case Amon himself loses all credibility when it comes to discussing this issue, or he hopes to throw sand in everyone else's eyes, in which case he's actively dishonest. The most charitable interpretation is that he's just plain lazy.

And Joshua? My "motivations" were to point out a stupid argument. You are correct that I don't much care for what the Samizdata folks have to say. A big part of the reason for that, as you must have read since you cited my "tooth-grinding factor" comment, is the way in which they present their arguments. I'm willing to listen to people with differing viewpoints until they insult my intelligence. What Amon did here was like citing the Clinton Death List or Alien Autopsy.

Oh, and surely now that several people (myself, Matthew Yglesias, Mac Thomason, Max Power) have pointed out the idiocy of WtP the Samizdata folks would admit that they were wrong in assigning them any credibility, right? Not quite.

I stand by everything I said.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 12, 2002 to Skepticism

I thought you might be interested in a relatively new website, Its primary resource is a book-length essay entitled, JESUS OF NAZARETH, ILLEGAL-TAX PROTESTER, which may be downloaded in pdf without charge. It is the first comprehensive study of the role that taxes played in the life and death of Jesus. It sheds new light on the "render-unto-Caesar" incident, which is missing from the analyses of other exegetes. Your criticism is solicited, and may be directed to the author through the website’s “contact us” page.

Jim Russell

Posted by: Jim Russell on October 25, 2004 3:34 PM