Copyright (c) 2002 Buffalo Law Review
Buffalo Law Review
ARTICLE: LEGITIMACY AND THE RIGHT OF REVOLUTION: THE ROLE OF TAX PROTESTS AND ANTI-TAX RHETORIC IN AMERICA
50 Buffalo L. Rev. 819
Marjorie E. Kornhauser+
Legitimacy and a steady source of revenue provide the twin foundations of any enduring government. Although groups may gain control of government through illegal seizures of power, they seek legitimization by the populace in order to obtain a stability that mere coercion never can yield. Even legitimate governments, however, lack durability if they have no reliable flow of money to support their functioning. 4 Governments most commonly obtain this steady source of revenue through a combination of three methods: ownership of the wealth itself, borrowing, and taxation. In the long run, taxation is the most successful method, 5 but only if the government collects the tax efficiently, that is, with a minimum of effort and expense. A necessary condition of efficiency is that people pay their taxes voluntarily. Thus, the growing unwillingness to pay taxes that occurs in any serious tax revolt, including the current American tax revolt triggered in 1978 by California's Proposition 13, potentially threatens a government's viability by jeopardizing both the legitimacy of its laws and its source of income.
Most people never pay their taxes voluntarily, in the ordinary sense of the word. Rather, they are generally anti- tax, in that they usually would prefer to keep any income they receive than pay it to the government in taxes. 6 Voluntary, in the context of taxation, simply means that people do not have to be compelled to pay their taxes through actual enforcement actions by the state. Although the threat of governmental ...
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