FT217: “If you want to know what it was like living under an absolute monarchy just think of the IRS.” —Old Pithy
Thomas Jefferson wanted to keep the New Federal Government and Money Apart
Thomas Jefferson did not trust government. And he didn’t trust moneyed men. Because when the two come together they cause nothing but trouble. That’s why he hated and distrusted Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton wanted a strong central government. A central bank. And an economic system favoring merchants and bankers. With big city moneyed men financing the government in return for special favors.
This is why the nation’s capital isn’t in New York City. It once was. But one of the first deals the Hamilton and Jefferson camps made was the relocation of the nation’s capital to a mosquito-infested swamp on the Potomac River. A long, long way from the moneyed men in New York City. To try to keep the new federal government and money apart. To restrict the influence of the moneyed men on the government. And to prevent the government from having easy access to big money.
Why did Jefferson want to do this? Well, they fought for their independence from Great Britain. Which was a constitutional monarchy. Where some in Parliament were no friends of British America. And got the king to agree with them rather than the pro-British America faction in Parliament. Ironically, the Americans got help in their War of Independence from France. Which had an absolute monarchy. Whose king ruled with no check on his power. Both governments were in the big cities. London. And Paris. Where the moneyed men were. In the big cities. Allowing these monarchies to do a whole lot of mischief all around the world. And a fair amount of mischief inside their own countries. Because the money and the government were in the same city.
Government + Money = Corruption
Great Britain and France were forever at war with each other. And with other countries. Requiring a lot of money. Which they got from the moneyed men. In return for special privileges that allowed them to get ever richer. Of course the mischief grew greater as they fought a world war or two. Requiring ever more money. Which they got from, of course, taxing the rest of the people. Even those who could little afford it. And once this starts, once the government starts accumulating debt, that taxation will only get greater.
This is what Jefferson was worried about. And why he so distrusted Hamilton. The Founding Fathers were all gentlemen of the Enlightenment. Disinterested public servants. Honorable men who would never take advantage of their position in government for personal gain. Because for these men honor was everything. Some even fought duels to protect their honor. As Hamilton did. And died. Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Jay and Franklin were men of exceptional integrity. Men who could be trusted. But here is where Hamilton and Jefferson differed. Hamilton believed only men like them would ever enter government. While Jefferson believed that government service would one day attract mostly scoundrels and knaves.
Of course, Jefferson was right. For as the nation grew so did the size of government. And the need for great big piles of money. Which the moneyed men provided. In exchange for special privileges. Patronage. Lucrative government contracts. Etc. Big piles of money flowed into Washington. And favors flowed out from Washington. With many a politician getting rich in the process of getting rich moneyed men richer. Politicians who used their position in government for personal gain. Corrupted politicians. As government + money = corruption. Which is why politicians always leave office richer than when they entered office.
Power + Corruption = Tyranny
This is how it started. As the size of government grew corruption grew. Just as Jefferson feared. All that money flowing into Washington corrupted ever more politicians. Who were not gentlemen of the Enlightenment. But the scoundrels and knaves Jefferson knew would come. Who used their position in government for personal gain. Whose corruption grew so great it exploded federal spending. So great that taxes from the moneyed men AND the middle class were unable to fund it. So the taxation grew more aggressive.
The government created by the Founding Fathers had no income taxes. They funded the few things the new national government did with tariffs for the most part. People lived from day to day without any fear of the taxman. The United States even did away with debtors’ prison. Prison where people were sent who could not pay their debts. A relic of the 19th century. Sort of. For there is one debt people can still go to prison for not paying. Past-due taxes. For the IRS can take everything you have and imprison you if you don’t pay your taxes. And those taxes have grown great as of late. As the tax code has grown convoluted. Requiring businesses to hire armies of accountants and lawyers to comply with. So the government can help the moneyed men who help the government. In return for special privileges, of course. Leaving the masses dreading April 15. As they dread opening any letter from the IRS.
If you want to know what it was like living under an absolute monarchy just think of the IRS. People fear the IRS. Just as people feared the arbitrary power of an absolute monarchy. A king could take your property and lock you away. Just like the IRS. And if you spoke out against the monarchy the king could make your life really unpleasant. Just like the IRS. During the 2012 election the IRS targeted conservative political groups to stifle their free speech. Delayed their tax-exempt status approval. And harassed them with costly tax audits. And now their tyranny has extended to people in the middle class. Who unbeknownst to them had a family member owe the federal government. Years earlier. Even a generation earlier. And the IRS is arbitrarily seizing the tax refunds from these debtors’ distant relatives to pay these debts. Even though they are in no way responsible for these debts. And the government has no documentation for this debt. Doesn’t matter. Because they have the power to do this. And these people are powerless to stop them. Just like people living under an absolute monarchy were powerless to stop their king from doing anything to them. And this is what Jefferson feared. For after corruption comes tyranny. For power + corruption = tyranny. (Just look at every tin-pot dictator that has oppressed his people). Which is why people fear the IRS. And the federal government the IRS is beholden to. Because they have become everything Jefferson feared they would.
Tags: absolute monarchy, Alexander Hamilton, British America, central government, corruption, debt, Enlightenment, favors, federal government, Founding Fathers, France, gentlemen, Great Britain, Hamilton, honor, IRS, Jefferson, king, knaves, middle class, monarchy, money, moneyed men, Parliament, personal gain, politician, power, privileges, scoundrels, special favors, special privileges, tax refund, taxation, taxes, Thomas Jefferson, tyranny, Washington