Notebook — From the April 2008 issue

Why I Pay My Taxes

And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?

He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?

Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

—Matthew 17:24–26

neader

 

I.

I hope and intend, by the placement of this note in what I understand to be a venerable publication of record, to distance myself from those millions of Americans who find their government incompetent and cruel, and so, as a matter of course and conscience, absolutely refuse to pay it any taxes. Just how many of these protestants exist out there I cannot say with any accuracy, as I have not bothered to check, but given the heartfelt expressions of anger from so many different quarters for so many difficult years, and given the American’s well-known reputation for courage in the face of tyranny, I assume the number to be of a size by now that it will very soon bring the world’s largest federal apparatus to its knees and bind it once again to the will of a proud and furious people.

Before that happens, and I am condemned as one of the few holdout collaborators with an unpopular and, yes, murderous system, I would like to explain why it was that I paid my taxes at the start of the twenty-first century, when so many of my peers risked both fortune and freedom to make their heroic stand. In truth I can find no fault with these revolutionaries, nor is that my purpose here. Our nation was birthed, after all, by a similar protest during the late eighteenth century, wherein the inhabitants of this land found themselves tithed but unlistened to, devoid of either say or advocacy in a governance they were required by law to fund. The people did more than simply withhold their monies then: they raised up and paid for an army to go against the red-coated tax collectors sure to come, and with God on their side (and the French) they prevailed. A second try at the money, in 1812, fared the English no better and saw them sunk in New Orleans (for lagniappe, I suppose) even after the debt had been canceled and the account in perpetuity closed.

No, I would not dare speak ill of any American who today dodges a bill he finds politically ruinous or morally obscene. Nor would I look to deny him his right to dispute that bill out of everyday penury or greed: our nation owes at least as much to its hopelessness as it does to its celebrated faith. I seek only to convey why I myself have continued to offer up indulgences to an institution my fellow citizens have so bravely contrived to destroy, as I would greatly prefer to be thought a pervert in this matter than I would an outright coward.

Previous PageNext Page
1 of 5

More from Ben Metcalf:

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

  • Belle

    You’re a terrible person.

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2014

Israel and Palestine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Washington Is Burning

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On Free Will

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

They Were Awake

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content