Ben Franklin, the "first American", once declared that nothing in life was certain but death and taxes. Brother, if he only knew. In colonial and post-revolutionary America, the government funded itself using taxes, levied against certain goods made in America, and tarriffs, levied against imports. The occasional armed revolt broke out. Shay’s Rebellion in 1787 was at least partially about taxes although largely about more general economic hardship faced by Massachusetts. The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was explicitly a response to a tax on whiskey dreamed up by Alexander Hamilton; the hard-drinking frontiersmen of western Pennsylvania didn’t take kindly to the idea, and rose up to fight until the rebellion was quashed by a militia under the personal command of President George Washington. In wartime, however, sin taxes and tarriffs didn’t suffice. Income taxes were first levied during the war of 1812, and again during the Civil War. In 1894, a tarriff-reduction measure brought with it the first peacetime income tax; the Supreme Court promptly struck it down as unconstitutional in 1895’s Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan. In 1909, the Sixteenth Amendment, legalizing the federal income tax, was proposed. To the joy of editorial cartoonists nationwide, it was ratified; decades later, cartoonists were still making a living off mocking the taxman (link via Kieran Healy). If one feels that income tax is bad or that progressive taxes are bad, one will find a great deal of company. The argument that income taxes are unconstitutional, however, would seem to be on shakier ground — there are all those laws and editorial cartoons as evidence! But people say it, and a whole microindustry has sprung up around providing escape mechanisms for tax protestors (link via Making Light). One might think that the idea that Nebraska was not a state or that the flag in a courtroom annulled judicial authority or that a hidden Thirteenth Amendment made Congress obsolete would be harder to swallow than the idea that not paying one’s taxes is a crime, but apparently not. Just last week, a federal judge contemplated banning Irwin Schiff’s The Federal Mafia: How It Illegally Imposes and Unlawfully Collects Income Taxes in front of "a courtroom filled with vociferous tax opponents." I’m pulling for Mr. Schiff; banning books, even if they’re tax fraud manuals designed to sucker the unwary, creeps me out. I wonder, however, if Schiff is charging sales tax on those things. None