Jack Townsend says that civil disobedience is only really justifiable in the case that there is a possibility of jury nullification, but no jury of US citizens would find a tax evader Canadian citizen “not guilty” for shirking the US tax code. Furthermore, he says that Americans don’t admire those who do their disobedience in hiding. I offer here the continuation of our discussion:
I understand the concept of civil disobedience, but that does not mean that we are entitled to only obey laws of our liking and disobey the rest. All of society would be in shambles if that were the case -’- we may not like tax laws, hence we don’t report or pay, we may not like laws that say we cannot have nuclear weapons, hence we stock up on nuclear weapons, and so on. That is pure anarchy.
Specifically, in a tax context, in your imagination, every tax protestor in the world would be honorable to disobey the law. Yet, tax protestors routinely suffer society’s civil and criminal consequences of disobeying the law. All you are saying is that you and others with similar views are just tax protestors. I do not see any honor in that.
If you don’t like the system the U.S. has, then do what you did — expatriate and surrender your U.S. citizenship and then go somewhere else that has laws that you are willing to honor. (Although, I guess your theory is that, you can pick and choose which laws of Canada you will obey, as well; maybe at some point the citizens of Canada through their government representatives may have something to say about that).
And, to close the loop, I do know about civil disobedience. Depending on context, conduct which you call civil disobedience can be honorable or not honorable. I think you know where I stand on someone making the unilateral choice not to report and pay U.S. tax. The U.S. tax systems gives U.S. taxpayers plenty of opportunity to vet their complaints to Congress (the proper focus) or even in the Courts where in a civil or criminal case the jury could be asked to exercise its power of jury nullification to bless such civil disobedience. My experience with juries is that no jury — let me repeat, no jury — of U.S. citizens would find the sympathy required to exercise its inherent power of jury nullification.
So, if you are looking for sympathy or support for such notions, you won’t find it from me. There are any number of other blogs where you can get the echo feedback chamber you seek, but I hope the bulk of my readers do not sympathize with these notions.
On a final note, since this is not an echo chamber and you will soon dismiss my contrarian views as kooky: may I please remind you that Canadian citizens tried in an American court for alleged form crimes committed in Canada would be travesty of the sovereignty of Canada, not to mention a violation of Constitutional rights. Please consider my post on this subject from 2012. A kangaroo court it would be, and it would be against the fundamental principles of justice which the Founders of the United States shed their blood to protect.
Of course US citizen juries would find me guilty. But no jury of my peers would find me guilty for illegal accounts at my local Ontario branch.
Rosa Parks, by Jack standard of honourable civil disobedience, who have been condemned by an all white jury. So I would be condemned by an all US resident/citizen jury.
Jack Townsend responded:
I will just say that Rosa Parks did her civil disobedience in the open. Failing to file tax returns or omitting income required to be disclosed is not the type of civil disobedience that we so admire in this country.
I guess the analogy is from the Vietnam war era when persons who disagreed with the war refused to be drafted into service. Some in the U.S., refused and bravely took the punishment the law meted out. Others fled to, say, Canada. The type of civil disobedience we admire is the former and not the latter. Applying that to the tax return situation, the person who disagrees with U.S. taxation of expats and is willing to go to jail to express his or her disagreement is in a different category from those who just disappear from the IRS radar screen, either wholly by not filing returns or partially by omitting income.
Viet Nam is an interesting analogy, precisely because some of those who fled, whom Jimmy Carter pardonned, became Canadian citizens, and as a result lost their US citizenship. Then in 1986, that a Supreme Court decision unilaterally reinstated that citizenship. Now neanderthal border guards tell these Canadians who try to cross the border that they must cross with a US passport, and further, without informing of them that they have a right to expatriate–this creates a US citizenship trap. It seems the Federal Government is now more interested in revenue from these people whom you do not admire.
I have to say however that Viet Nam is a very good example of bad policy decisions that are not worth dying for. The US lost 58,200 military personnel and then left the country to the Viet Cong, and subsequently millions of Vietnamese were either killed or had to flee South Viet Nam. Since they let these South Vietnamese victims become homeless or dead anyway, the America casualties were wasted. So while you may not admire those who did not waste their lies on a policy mistake, at least many if not most of them are still alive and well in Canada, paying their taxes to our government, being productive and exemplary citizens of their new country.
Somehow I doubt that you really have much admiration for Irwin Schiff. I do. Also I love Wesley Snipes. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. But I don’t recommend that people become martyrs. However, your critique does not apply to me because I have been public about my civil disobedience, even as you have seen on this page, which I am sure that the IRS probably has an eye on–I’ve been told by a 30 year IRS veteran that the IRS monitors my activities at the Isaac Brock Society. So my open defiance is on behalf of all the Canadians for whom you have no admiration.
My punishment is not being able to return to the US. To be sure, I did once last summer to search my father who, as a result of his Alzheimer’s disease, disappeared in the Alaska wilderness. So apparently, the IRS is too busy to have issued a warrant for my arrest.
I come from a family migrants: my maternal grandfather did once return to the East after emigrating from Korean. The Dunns never returned to Scotland. Yet Scotland and Korea never tried to tax them after they left. And finally, one of us no longer really welcome nor admired in the land of his birth.
I actually recommend that people never present themselves to the IRS. As Christian historian, I will mention that the early church frowned upon those who gave themselves up to the Romans for martyrdom.
Perhaps in my upcoming trip to Europe the USA will have me arrested by one of the countries I’ll be visiting. That is a frightful idea. I have to say the lack of admiration is mutual.