The Sixteenth Amendment has widened the area of government power, and as a consequence has reduced the area of liberty.”Frank Chodorov (1954)

“Good people” with “good intentions” are just as prone to stupidity as anybody else:

Some people object to the 16th Amendment. Why would they ever do that?

To be sure, the original Populists, and the aping Democrats and Republicans, to say nothing of the conscious Socialists, little thought that their income-tax gadget would ever be used to “soak the poor.”

It was an instrument, they thought, that could lend itself to no other purpose than to expropriate the rich in favor of the poor. How the poor would benefit from the expropriation, they did not explain; their intense hatred of the rich conveniently filled this vacuum in their argument. Their passion blinded them to the fact that this “soak the rich” law would enable the government to filch the pay envelope.

Some lessons never get learned:

The class-war doctrine is most vicious not in that it sets man against man, producer against producer, but in that it diverts the attention of the contestants from their common enemy, the State. Men live by production, but the State lives by appropriation. While the haves and the have-nots struggle over the division of existing wealth, it is the business of the State to improve itself at the expense of both; it picks up the marbles while the boys are fighting. That has been the story of men in organized society since the beginning. That this lesson of history should have escaped the reformers of the 19th century, when the habit of freedom was still strong in America, can be easily understood; what is not easily explained is the acceptance of the doctrine of benevolent government in our day, when all the evidence to the contrary is before our eyes.

It’s all too easy to rationalize bad decision making — and once a government program gets going, it’s almost impossible to stop it:

However, one good “reason” followed another for making better use of the 16th Amendment. After 1913, the government, which for over a century had managed to get along without income taxation, felt a continuing need for more funds. The income-tax rates kept climbing, and the exemptions kept declining; the mesh of the dragnet was made finer and finer so that more fish could be caught. At first it was the incomes of corporations, then of rich citizens, then of well-provided widows and opulent workers, and finally the wealth of housemaids and the tips of waitresses.

Social security recipients (and I’m one) need to hear this:

Despite the fact that social security is a fraud in every respect, there are many who, ignoring the evidence, support it because “we must not let the old folks suffer destitution.” This implies that before 1937 it was habitual for children to cast their nonproductive parents into the gutter. There is no evidence for that, and there are no records supporting the implication that all over 65 regularly died of hunger. The present crop of children are just as considerate of their old folks as were the pre-1937 vintage, and it is a certainty that if their envelopes were not tapped they would be in better position to show their filial devotion. Besides, if the government did not take so much of our earnings, we would be better able to save for our later days.

The fact is, there is no such thing as social security; only the individual grows old and is in need.

Society is never in want and never grows old, simply because society is not a person. Security against the exigencies of old age has always been a problem of life, and each person in his own way has tried to solve it. Paying up the mortgage on the old home so that one would always have a roof over one’s head was one way; laying up a nest egg was another; annuity insurance is the most recent form of security.

These methods of taking care of oneself through thrift, however, call for self-reliance, and that is exactly what the advocates of social security would destroy. It is contrary to the whole philosophy of socialism. If the individual is allowed to shift for himself, there is no need for the services of the self-anointed do-gooders. Hence it is necessary to develop a slave psychology, a feeling of helpless dependence on the group. If this calls for the use of police power — and it always does — so much the better; that means the organization of a bureaucracy with a vested interest in continuing poverty.

Read all of Chodrov’s essay, “Soak the Poor”, at the Mises Daily website.