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“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton
Lord Acton first made this statement in 1887, and it is likely that he was inspired by a line in William Pitt’s speech to the UK House of Lords in 1770 while he was Prime Minister; “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”
Whatever the ultimate source of this profound – and most certainly accurate – observation, it is even more interesting to contemplate how it relates to and interacts with another extremely potent aspect of human nature; the fact that all of us; especially powerful people and powerful organizations are always focused on and hard at work at increasing their power.
And don’t argue with me here… Neither you, nor I, nor anyone else wants to become less powerful – ever! Look left, right, straight ahead or behind you, and every time, you’ll see somebody trying to get ahead simply because that’s what we humans do. We want better lives for ourselves and our families, right? Since everybody around us wants a better life for themselves and their own family, they’re all trying to gain an edge – all the time. If we don’t work toward that same goal ourselves, if all we do is maintain the status quo, relatively speaking we’re falling behind – becoming weaker – ensuring a relatively lower standard of living for ourselves and our families.
Same goes for each and every one of the organizations each of us belongs to. If the company that employs me does nothing to improve its value to its customers, its competitors most certainly will – and run us into bankruptcy. We therefore work our tails off to make our company better and more powerful.
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If the church down the block is constantly providing more and more and better and better spiritual guidance, our own church – if it is standing still – will constantly be looking like a weaker and weaker source of spiritual support. Other parishioners, and eventually we, will start heading to the church down the block.
Pick an institution. Any institution. The same applies. Grow more powerful or cease to exist.
Let’s throw one more fact into the mix… Power and money are tightly integrated. Money leads to power. Power attracts money. More money leads to more power. More power attracts more money.
So what does all this have to do with the 16th Amendment?
The answer is, “LOTS!” And it’s LOTS because the 16th Amendment marks a inflection point in the sucking up of power into the federal government.
If you haven’t read the Constitution lately, you’re likely wondering, “What is the 16th Amendment? Well… it led to the creation of every American’s favorite institution, the IRS. Article I, Section 9 Clause 4 of the Constitution, and the 1895 “Pollock Ruling” by the Supreme Court made it clear that any income tax imposed by the Federal Government was unconstitutional.
So… in 1909 (William Howard Taft, a Republican, was president) Congress submitted #16 to the states for ratification. It became law a month before his term ended in 1913.
In that year, the IRS collected about $27 million, which is $690 million in today’s dollars. It collected $3.4 trillion in 2017. That’s an inflation adjusted increase of 4,900. Four thousand nine hundred times as much money. But, you say, that’s a misleading statistic because the number of taxpayers has grown substantially since 1913. True enough! Adjust for that and the average tax bill has gone up by an inflation-adjusted factor of “only” 1,500.
So back to my main point, which is that I don’t much like the 16th Amendment.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s because the 16th Amendment marked an inflection point in the sucking up of power into the federal government. That power-suck has inexorably increased year by year for each of the past 105 years. If the power and money at the federal level is not already at a dangerous level, it’s most certainly headed there, and at an ever-increasing rate.
For the record… I’m spooked by the 16th Amendment NOT because I’m some anarchist or ultra-extreme libertarian that wants to eliminate the federal government. It IS because I believe the pendulum needs to swing back in the other direction before the Feds have their noses stuck into one too many aspects of our lives.
More money in the control of the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, DC means more power in the control of the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, DC. Without an uproar from “We the People,” their more-money/more-power cycle will continue to accelerate until it becomes truly oppressive. (Some would say it’s already truly oppressive…)
In my view, the money/power flow toward Washington needs to be stabilized then reduced. I want to see the money and power in the control of politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, DC. reduced. For starters, I’d be happy even, if the total amount remained the same and some of it were merely redirected into the 50 states. We can work on stripping money and power from the governors and putting into the hands of all the county commissioners later.
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
I think we need to slow down the growth of Washington DC’s money and power – then freeze it – then decrease it.
What do you think?
I’m your Intentionally Vicarious host, Todd Youngblood – looking forward to the day when I can rant about too much money and power in the hands of our state legislators – and of course, I’m still questioning, exploring, learning, thinking and working at having more fun than anyone else I know – Thanks for listening.