no third solution

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Provide No Quarter: An Argument Against War Taxes

June 23rd, 2008

The Third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, like the Second Amendment preceding it, the “necessary and proper” clause, etc., left too much room for error interpretation and future abuses.  I used to fancy myself a constitutionalist, whatever that means. Of course, I don’t see myself that way any longer, but from time to time it’s fun to don that mask for a day, and argue Constitution, if only because Statists are so fond of the document, and it’s nice to have a quiver full of arguments based thereupon for future discourse.

The Third Amendment reads in whole:

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

As it currently stands, every taxpayer in the country is effectively providing quarter to the troops during times of peace and of war, alike.

There are no two ways about this: your tax dollars are hard at work siphoning off the rewards for your productivity, then used to purchase or otherwise pay for the real goods and services required to house, feed, and arm the military. In principle and in practice, this is no different than if the government installed a soldier in your house, and demanded that you provide for him “three hots and a cot.” The net result is the same: citizens are paying for a standing army and doing so against their will, both of which defy the spirit (and at least in part, the letter) of the law.

The Amendment probably was not designed to prohibit a particular method of quarter in favor of any other, but rather was designed to protect the citizens against the purpose of quartering troops. In temporal context of the Constitution, the only sort of quarter that would generally be required, was actual provision for a soldier or soldiers, in one’s house, with one’s own food and drink.

At the time of drafting the Constitution, there was no income tax, and outright commandeering of goods or property (i.e., quartering in one’s house) was the only conceivable way to provide quarter for a standing army. Malheureusement, Amendment Three does not set forth a general prohibition on the quartering of troops during peace time, but rather it explicitly states that troops cannot be quartered in a particular fashion; it is too limiting for a textualist interpretation.  Because the founders despised the idea of a standing army, one can reasonably presume the Amendment’s purpose was to prevent the formation of a standing army through the confiscation of citizen’s property; and that it need not matter how such confiscation might have taken place.

Had there been an income tax in effect, I presume the amendment would’ve read something like:

No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor otherwise provisioned by the publick; nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

In the context of the times, then, the Third Amendment established a de facto general prohibition against peacetime quartering.

When we examine the Constitution in the context of the times during which it was drafted, and understanding the circumstances surrounding its creation, there is at least the semblance of a Constitutional argument against paying taxes which are used to provide quarter for a standing army. Unfortunately, the Amendment does make an exception for lawful quarter to be provided during times of war.

If you want to resist “war-taxes” (whatever that means) you might try to demonstrate that the taxes are not lawfully provided for in accordance with the Third Amendment. Some people think that the Sixteenth Amendment permits Congress to collect income taxes, but because the Sixteenth Amendment doesn’t revise or repeal any portion of the Third Amendment, it seems that even if the Income tax is lawful (many people think it isn’t) there are still grounds for refusing to remit a portion of one’s taxes as a war-tax resister. Since an individual’s taxes aren’t in-fact earmarked towards specific purposes, one could argue that any taxes one remits might be ultimately used to provide quarter for troops during peacetime (or unlawfully prescribed, during wartime) and that until and unless the government could demonstrate otherwise, taxes need not be paid under the Constitution.

Most cogent arguments against taxation have been declared “frivolous” by the entity which establishes and interprets the laws and codes governing taxation.  Most attempts to exercise one in a court of law will generally be met with disdain and a heavier-than-normal penalty. Many of these “frivolous” claims will be suppressed by the counter-party (the government), being singularly possessed of the ability to be the judge of its own cause.  If the claim actually reaches the sham that passes for trial by jury, the jury likely will be instructed by the counter-party (the government) as to how the law ought be interpreted.  I do not pretend to offer legal advice, this appears to be a Constitutional argument against taxation which has not yet been tried, but for all I really know, it has been dismissed as frivolous, too.

The implementation of income taxes effectively rendered the Third Amendment impotent. Outright quarter was thus usurped by financial quarter; the people by and large, didn’t even know it, and even if they did know it, the Constitution can be read in such a manner that it appears to say nothing against it.

The potential loophole is the fact that XVI did not repeal, rescind, or revise III.  Try it at your own risk.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics