Recently, one of liberty’s greatest heroes, and one of the cause’s biggest martyrs, passed away. Irwin Schiff, prominent figure in the tax protester movement, died in prison. While we honor his sacrifice, he provides a cautionary tale of what not to do.
An investor and author, Schiff came to the conclusion that U.S. citizens were not legally obligated to pay federal income taxes. He wrote several books on this subject while speaking out against the federal government, all the while refusing to pay income taxes himself. Even after landing in prison over tax avoidance, Schiff continued his resistance, writing more books from prison. He was eventually given a longer sentence, and spend the remaining decades of his life shackled in a prison cell, finally succumbing to cancer.
What caused Schiff to draw the ire of the government to that great an extent was his fundamental challenging of their very ability to function. The state operates through power, and it maintains the ability to wield that power through funding. It receives that funding through taxation of a people under the impression that they are obliged to pay taxes, and will face repercussions if they do not. Irwin Schiff asserted that, not only did the federal government have no legal right to collect income taxes, but that the people had a way to successfully opt out. That posed a potential challenge to the very continuing existence of the state, and he therefore had to be dealt with.
The sad reality is, the government will respond to any existential threat with brutality. Make enough of a serious difference in rolling back the influence of the state, and they will strike back. And, in all likelihood, you will lose; and that will mean losing your liberty, or worse. Schiff stood bravely in outright defiance of the government, challenging them on an ability fundamental to their grip on power, and paid the price.
We absolutely should continue to fight for liberty, and we should by all means try to ensure that our efforts are as effective as possible. However, it’s important to do so with care. Overtly become an enemy of the state, and you could end up like Irwin Schiff.
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