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Miss Rand indicated several times (here for example) that she was opposed to the income tax. Is there anything about the income tax specifically that is objectionable from an Objectivist point of view or is just as bad (and no worse, if one may say so) as any other involuntary tax?

asked Jun 30 '11 at 13:46

FCH's gravatar image


edited Jun 30 '11 at 14:12

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Interesting question. I'd say the income tax is more harmful than most other types of tax, but I don't know if more harmful translates into more immoral.

(Jul 01 '11 at 09:09) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Objectivism advocates government financing methods that are (a) voluntary, and (b) limited to funding proper governmental functions, not welfare systems nor wealth-redistribution schemes. For additional perspective on voluntary government financing in a free society, refer to the topic of "Taxation" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

Although Objectivism opposes all forms of taxation (government financing) that deviate from these principles, the "progressive" or "graduated" income tax has been particularly bad. It has become the greatest tax burden on the economy and has done so in the most pernicious, disarming manner. Just imagine trying to extract comparable revenue from citizens through a sales tax, inheritance tax, real estate tax, gift tax, import-export tariffs, etc., while leaving people's incomes otherwise exempt from direct taxation. Remember, also, that the U.S. Constitution originally prohibited any form of "Capitation, or other direct, Tax..." (Article I, Section 9.) It took a Constitutional amendment, number XVI (adopted in 1913) to overcome this restriction.

Here is one of Ayn Rand's most colorful statements about the income tax (from her 1962 L.A. Times article, "Progress or Sacrifice," republished in her book, The Ayn Rand Column, p. 12:

The productive arteries of America were split open by the progressive income tax, and the handouts of "social gains" spurted across national boundaries, oozing, like blood, to the darkest corners of the globe's jungles.

If or when the American people become committed to the establishment of a fully free society, the graduated income tax certainly should be among of the first forms of mandatory taxation to abolish, along with all the rest in due course. But we have a very long cultural road to travel before that level of tax reform could be achievable. A tremendous philosophical foundation in support of reason-egoism-individualism-capitalism will need to be understood and adopted on a widespread scale through intellectual discussion, learning, and persuasion. There are no shortcuts to economics that bypass philosophy -- nor to politics, bypassing ethics.

1964 Radio Broadcast

I also checked the web link provided in the question. It links to a 1964 WKCR radio broadcast in which Ayn Rand was interviewed by a panel of respectful questioners. (WKCR is affiliated with Columbia University. More information about WKCR can be found on Wikipedia.) The broadcast is about 29 minutes in duration. The discussion of the income tax occurs approximately 8 minutes 30 seconds into the recording, and lasts until about 10 minutes into the recording. Ayn Rand was specifically asked about the income tax in relation to various other contradictions in the Constitution, and her answer explains why it is one such contradiction, though not the most serious. Her immediately preceding discussion singles out the interstate commerce clause, along with eminent domain, as major contradictions of the Constitution's basic priciples. On the whole, I found the broadcast to be an excellent but very broad overview of a whole range of topics on capitalism, all of which (and many others) have been covered in more depth in Ayn Rand's numerous articles and books. It is also always interesting to hear or watch Ayn Rand in actual extemporaneous interviews. Her ability to answer serious questions concisely, clearly and calmly (when the questioners are calm and respectful) is astounding.

answered Jul 02 '11 at 12:34

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

"Her ability to answer serious questions concisely, clearly and calmly (when the questioners are calm and respectful) is astounding."

Indeed it is. I think your answer is a good one, as well! Thank you :)

(Jul 03 '11 at 06:25) FCH FCH's gravatar image

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Asked: Jun 30 '11 at 13:46

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Last updated: Jul 03 '11 at 06:25