Friday, May 14th, 2010

Federalist Number 12

Thank you to Dr. Paul Teller for your insightful post today, and to Dr. Joe Postell for your enlightening post yesterday! We are blessed to have Constitutional scholars such as yourselves helping us on our journey through the Federalist Papers!  And thank you to everyone who continues to comment, and share your thoughts!  I am learning so much from each of you.

“The assiduous merchant, the laborious husbandman, the active mechanic, and the industrious manufacturer,–all orders of men, look forward with eager expectation and growing alacrity to this pleasing reward of their toils.”

Taxes. No one like them.  Since biblical times the tax collector has been seen as one of the most despised members of society.

Taxes sparked the American Revolution.  It is in our heritage to resent taxes, especially when we feel we have little or no say in how the money is being spent!

Yet, Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist No. 12 makes an argument we may not like to hear – taxes are necessary.  We must find ways to fund the government :

A nation cannot long exist without revenues. Destitute of this essential support, it must resign its independence, and sink into the degraded condition of a province. This is an extremity to which no government will of choice accede. Revenue, therefore, must be had at all events.”

The question is how.

It is fascinating to observe the progression of taxation in our country.  From the Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To a federal tax code that is over 7,000,000 words long (thank you to my friend Steve Moore for this fact, cited in a great piece he did for National Review

What happened?

In federalist No. 12 Hamilton advocates consumption taxes because they are more fair, people will tolerate them better, and they are easier to collect.   There were no assured means of assessing personal property ownership or personal income during this period in our country, and as Hamilton wrote, “because personal assets are difficult to trace, large tax contributions can only be achieved through consumption taxes.”

In three years we will “celebrate” the 100th anniversary of the income tax, the ratification of the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  It is hard to believe that this complicated, lengthy tax code has been in existence for less than 100 years.  The explosion of this code in such a short time shows the tendency of government to grow and intrude into our life and liberty, unless we vigilantly keep it at bay, guarding the boundaries of our freedom.

It was eye opening to read Federalist No. 12, and see that in the early days of the Republic, an income tax was the furthest thing from the founders’ minds.   These were men of great vision, and this is one more area where their foresight shines.

If only we had listened to them more closely!

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie


0 replies

Join the discussion! Post your comments below.

Your feedback and insights are welcome.
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *