What I’m Reading: The Federalist Papers Pt. 2

federal

While finishing up the Federalist Papers (the series of pro-Constitution essays by revolutionary thinkers John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison) a few random bits and pieces jumped out at me.

From essay 57: The aim of every political constitution is or ought to be first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern and most virtue to pursue the common good of the society, and in the next place to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.

In my estimation the combination of both wisdom and virtue are difficult to come by. There may be plenty of politicians who are wise to the workings of government, but few of them also have the added benefit of virtue. Our current presidential candidates may be considered prime examples of this truism.

From essay 62: It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.

One of the ways which government exerts its power over the people which it rules is by making so many laws that, by merely existing, a citizen will find himself in violation of some of those laws. In this way, a government who finds a citizen critical of its actions can leverage the weight of the law against any who would dare speak out or condemn these actions.

This has become the case today. Though, there is some debate about whether the tax code of the United States is 70,000 plus pages (this probably refers to the CCH Standard Federal Tax Reporter which includes legislative history, regulations of the Treasury, various editorial commentary, and a compendium of court cases on tax topics) or whether it is 2,600 pages long.

Whatever the answer, I would presume to suggest that even the most modest estimate of 2,600 pages is too long and that even the most honest and scrupulous of tax payer will inadvertently find himself in violation of some of the tax code … if he has angered the government enough to look.

This puts every one of us in danger, and those that scoff at such suggestions need only look at recent cases where the IRS targeted and brought its power to bear against registered non-profit groups who held differing political opinions than those of the Executive Branch.

-Joel Jenkins
Author of Weird Action & Adventure Fiction

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