The necessary result, then, of the unequal fiscal action of the government is, to divide the community into two great classes; one consisting of those who, in reality, pay the taxes, and, of course, bear exclusively the burthen of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds, through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into taxpayers and tax-consumers. . . .
[T]he more the policy of the government is calculated to increase taxes and disbursements, the more it will be favored by the one and opposed by the other.
The effect, then, of every increase is, to enrich and strengthen the one, and impoverish and weaken the other. This, indeed, may be carried to such an extent, that one class or portion of the community may be elevated to wealth and power, and the other depressed to abject poverty and dependence, simply by the fiscal action of the government; and this too, through disbursements only — even under a system of equal taxes imposed for revenue only. If such may be the effect of taxes and disbursements, when confined to their legitimate objects — that of raising revenue for the public service — some conception may be formed, how one portion of the community may be crushed, and another elevated on its ruins, by systematically perverting the power of taxation and disbursement, for the purpose of aggrandizing and building up one portion of the community at the expense of the other.
This is one of the most concise arguments for limited government ever made, but one seldom gets the chance to quote it, and you see why. In his column, Gerson invokes both slavery and Jim Crow as alternatives to his own particular philosophy. This is a strawman — no one is advocating either slavery or segregration, nor is there any comparable evil now demanding federal intervention — but it is a very effective strawman. One dare not invoke the name of Calhoun to contradict Gerson, since the invocation invites the accusation of bad faith.
It’s odd how this works. Russell Kirk featured Calhoun (along with Randolph of Roanoke) in the fifth chapter of The Conservative Mind, but somehow this fact doesn’t taint Kirk, whose name can be safely invoked as an authority without inspiring suspicion. Don’t dare mention Calhoun directly, however, or you’re beyond the pale.
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