Before there was a libertarian movement of that name there was, in the United States, the Old Right. These were anti-Progressive, anti-interventionist Republicans and conservative Democrats (remember them?) opposed to the New Deal. They were staunchly individualist. During the war hysteria that came in the 1940s, the the following Cold War hysteria, the Old Right was pretty much swept off the stage of public discourse. But you probably know some of their names: Albert Jay Nock, Senator Robert Taft, Gov. Al Smith, H.L Mencken, and Frank Chodorov (1887-1966).
Frank Chodorov was involved in a variety of magazines, through the 1940s and 1950s, including his own journal, analysis, and the Foundation for Economic Educations’s The Freeman, which he edited.
However, Chodorov is best known today for his 1954 book, Income Tax: The Root of All Evil, his indictment of the 16th Amendment and the havoc it unleashed on the American way of life. By Chodorov’s audit of the ill-effects of the income tax, it caused a long list of ailments, such as making us more bellicose, enabling the imperial presidency, upsetting the balance between the states and the federal government, feeding class warfare, corrupting our charities, and exploiting the poor.
In name, it was a tax reform. In point of fact, it was a revolution. For the Sixteenth Amendment corroded the American concept of natural rights; ultimately reduced the American citizen to a status of subject, so much so that he is not aware of it; enhanced Executive power to the point of reducing Congress to innocuity; and enabled the central government to bribe the states, once independent units, into subservience. No kingship in the history of the world ever exercised more power than our Presidency, or had more of the people’s wealth at its disposal. We have retained the forms and phrases of a republic, but in reality we are living under an oligarchy, not of courtesans, but of bureaucrats.
The remedy? The same as used to repeal Prohibition: Ratify an new amendment to repeal the 16th Amendment, 3/4 of state conventions. It is an intriguing idea, certainly. Republicans currently control the state legislatures in 30/50 states, or 60%.
Although one wishes a 1954 book on the income tax would no longer be relevant, the intervening years and the full range of tax “reforms” have not undone Chodorov’s original analysis or his recommendations. And not only relevant, Income Tax: The Root of All Evil is a delight to read, a propose full of energy and grace.