In this lecture Adams talks about the Enlightenment which was the philosophy of the eighteenth century. It was the high water mark of man’s thinking on taxes. They were wise; we’re not. These thinkers used the past as a guide.
Among ten principles of the Enlightenment is Paine’s observation that government is at best a necessary evil. America was the land of liberty because it was a land with low taxes. Montesquieu wrote that the real wants of the people ought never to give way to the imaginary wants of the state. The Vietnam disaster is an example of this.
Governments should stay out of business. Agents think state wealth is inexhaustible. They are careless with expenses. Adams gives examples of the deadly Canadian medical system. Liberty carries the seeds of its own destruction. Liberty produces excessive taxation because men let their guard down. Direct taxes are the badge of slavery; indirect taxes the badge of liberty. Tax evasion is not a criminal act. Liberty’s most dangerous foe: arbitrary taxation. Common sense economics: the supply siders. The marks of a bad tax system: Adam Smith’s four points. What a good tax system should be: Lord Kames’ six rules.
Lecture 6 of 10 from Charles Adams' The Rosetta Stone to the US Code: A New History of Taxation.
Charles Adams (1930-2013) was an attorney and specialist in international taxation. He wrote extensively on taxes and their impact on civilization, for outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. He was also an adjunct scholar at the Mises Institute and the Cato Institute. Among other books he was the author of For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization.