April 14, 2004 -- Americans celebrate July 4 with pride as the day we gained our independence. However, we should lament April 15—tax day—as the day that too many of us all too willingly surrender our liberty and opportunities in life.

Here's why.

All free individuals want to run their own lives. When we leave the loving protection of our parents, we should express our love for those who raised us by acting as independent adults. As grown men and women, we should look forward to the challenge of discovering and creating the goals and purposes that will give us joy in life; of acquiring the knowledge and skills we need to make a living; and of earning the resources necessary to realize our dreams.

We should consider it an insult if others—whether from well-meaning or paternalistic motives—take us by the hand and say, "There, there, little boys and girls, I'll take care of you." And we should be embarrassed if we allow ourselves in a moment of weakness to be so treated.
Yet this is just the relationship between most citizens and the government. Politicians tell us, "We know you're not up to the burden of raising your own children, earning enough money to educate them, insuring yourselves against illness or unemployment, saving for your retirement, tying your own shoes or wiping your own noses without our help. Don't worry, we'll give you all you need."
If we have any integrity we should spit on such offers. We should resent the theft of the opportunity to experience the pride that comes from taking responsibility for our own lives as well as the theft of our money by tax collectors to make good on these politicians' promises. Rather, we should tell our government to protect our lives, liberties, and property—that is, our freedom and independence—and otherwise leave us alone. Instead, a majority of citizens applaud politicians and candidates who drag them further down into the depths of dependency.
Many Americans concede liberty but console themselves by pleading for the return of some of their money in the form of government loans for their kid's college, a Medicare prescription drug benefit or trade protection for the company for which they work. But this misses the full moral point. As responsible individuals, we should feel anger and resentment at the politicians who created and perpetuated this system, who are turning us into beggars. When such politicians offer us more handouts, we should react as we would if they offered us heroin. We should see politicians as pushers who addict us to government.
Taxes are the fuel that feeds big government, and April 15 is the day when we must surrender to this system.
If the choice were offered, many of us would give up our government benefits and handouts in exchange for having most of our taxes eliminated, which would leave us with tens of thousands of dollars of our own money for our own purposes and, most importantly, would restore independence and control to our lives. Those of us who would make this trade should make it our mission to rescue our fellow citizens the way we might rescue an alcoholic or drug addict from their self-destructive ways.
We should appeal to their reason, pointing out that a system that punishes the most productive people by taking a greater portion of the wealth they create will inevitably make us all poorer. We should appeal to their moral sense, pointing out that it is wrong to maintain a tax system that encourages us, through our politicians, to pick each other's pockets. We should appeal to their deepest sense of self-respect, pointing out that there is no higher joy than taking responsibility for our own lives.
Those who repent their support for this system can redeem themselves by rebelling against politicians who offer us the Faustian bargain that in the end leaves us morally as well as materially impoverished. Then, someday, April 15 will cease to be a day of shame and instead mark the time that subjects stood and became free citizens, reclaiming their lives, liberty, and property.


Edward Hudgins

About The Author:

Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

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