Saturday, October 20, 2007

B.W.'s Book Report: Out of Step (Part 1)

When I first hinted that I was reading Out of Step by Frank Chodorov, Wally Conger posted the comment:

"One of the most wonderful things about the author you reference - I will not name him so as not to spoil your upcoming review [Oh, it wasn't that big a secret, Wal] - is that he was a fantastic stylist. IMHO, he is one of the most quotable writers in the freedom authors pantheon."

And Wally's right - for this book report, I could just fill a post with quotes from the book and be done with it. Chodorov's classic essay "Taxation is Robbery" is in here, and it's the most succinct explanation of the robber state I think I've ever seen. A short sample, detailing the hidden costs of taxation:

Taxes of all kinds discourage production. Man works to satisfy his desires, not to support the State. When the results of his labors are taken from him, whether by brigands or organized society, his inclination is to limit his production to the amount he can keep and enjoy. During the war, when the payroll deduction was introduced, workers got to figuring their "take home" pay, and to laying off when this net, after taxes, showed no increase comparable to the extra work it would cost; leisure is also a satisfaction. A prize fighter refuses another lucrative engagement because the additional revenue would bring his income for the year into a higher tax bracket. In like manner, every business man must take into consideration, when weighing the risk and the possibility of gain in a new enterprise, the certainty of a tax-offset in the event of success, and too often he is discouraged from going ahead. In all the data on national progress the items that can never be reported are: the volume of business choked off by income taxes, and the size of capital accumulations aborted by inheritance taxes.

Chodorov died in 1966, but many of the observations he makes about the rise of collectivism remain contemporary. His optimism in the face of the growing state is contagious, however. Although he identifies the challenges with a great writer's precision, and he says "only time will tell" whether the tide will turn, this reader at least detects Chodorov held an underlying confidence that the flame of individual rights can never be extinguished. By clearly explaining the nature of the state beast – politicians who accumulate power by promising to protect freedom and offering constituents something for nothing – he whets the appetite for something different, something more accommodating to the free individuals we really are.

The only choices individualist writers had in Chodorov's time were to struggle to get published in increasingly statist journals or to publish their own magazines and newsletters. In the Murray Rothbard tribute I linked to the other day, Chodorov referred to his 1940s broadsheet analysis as "the one time in my life I could write what I really believed" - again, an optimistic recollection of a period when his views were being suppressed the most.

Opportunities in the Internet era are infinitely greater and much more cost-effective. The soapbox on the street corner has been expanded to encompass the world. Montag and hundreds of far better Web sites are carrying the kinds of thought that Chodorov invested in analysis. As dark as this era is, these candles of freedom are being carried by so many individuals that even the modern state won't be able to extinguish them all. Chodorov's life is a shining example.

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