“We object to the taking of our property by organized society just as we do when a single unit of society commits the act. In the latter case we unhesitatingly call the act robbery, a malum in se. It is not the law which in the first instance defines robbery, it is an ethical principle, and this the law may violate but not supersede.
If by the necessity of living we acquiesce to the force of law, if by long custom we lose sight of the immorality, has the principle been obliterated? Robbery is robbery, and no amount of words can make it anything else.
By way of preface, we might look to the origin of taxation, on the theory that beginnings shape ends, and there we find a mess of iniquity. A historical study of taxation leads inevitably to loot, tribute, ransom — the economic purposes of conquest. The barons who put up tollgates along the Rhine were tax-gatherers. So were the gangs who “protected,” for a forced fee, the caravans going to market. The Danes who regularly invited themselves into England, and remained as unwanted guests until paid off, called it Dannegeld; for a long time that remained the basis of English property taxes.
The hue and cry over the cost of living would make more sense if it were directed at taxation, the largest single item in the cost. It should be noted too that though the cost-of-living problem affects mainly the poor, yet it is on this segment of society that the incidence of indirect taxation falls most heavily. This is necessarily so; since those in the lower earning brackets constitute the major portion of society they must account for the greatest share of consumption, and therefore for the greatest share of taxation. The state recognizes this fact in levying on goods of widest use. A tax on salt, no matter how small comparatively, yields much more than a tax on diamonds, and is of greater significance socially and economically.”