Lauryn Hill’s Prison Sentence Was a Harsh Reminder of Slavery
Last year, Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill was released from federal prison after serving three months for tax evasion. Between 2005 and 2007, Hill did not pay any taxes on the $2 million she earned and is now serving out the rest of her sentence under home confinement as part of her guilty plea.
Never one for avoiding controversy and expressing her opinion, Hill made it very known she was not pleased with her treatment. She lambasted the IRS and the system of “inequity and inequality” the justice system perpetuates. Her charity work and six children did not persuade the judge from handing down the sentence. Hill called the judge, Madeline Cox Arleo, a “grotesque slave master” while comparing her treatment at the hands of the state and the music industry to the slavery her ancestors went through.
While some may dismiss Hill’s attitude and statements as hyperbole and the rantings of a frustrated musician, the process which put her in a cage for not paying the proper tribute to the state is eerily similar to the slavery system Hill compares it to.
We don’t have to look much further than the 1984 Grace Commission Report to prove that there is a lot of truth in Hill’s assertions. The report was created by the Reagan administration to find waste and inefficiency in the federal government. They found lots, of course, but the report’s conclusion about taxes and where they go is striking.
According to the report, “100 percent of what is collected is absorbed solely by interest on the federal debt and by federal government contributions to transfer payments. In other words, all individual income tax revenues are gone before one nickel is spent on the services [that] taxpayers expect from their government.”
In other words, the arbitrary amount of money that is taken from us by the state under the threat of force, in exchange for supposed “services,” is used to pay off the interest from the promises, foreign wars, and welfare state expansion of previous politicians and administrations that they knew would or could not be payed on their own. Printing money and borrowing (indirect taxes in and of themselves) apparently fill the gap. And this was almost thirty years ago, when an already bloated federal government was incredibly smaller than it is today.
This may run counter to the mainstream, 6th grade textbook version of government and taxation propagated by the likes of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), but it’s hard to think of a better way to describe a system that literally holds future generations and their productive labor as bargaining chips as anything other than bondage.
Taxation, especially on income, relies on the premise that someone else has a higher legal claim to the fruits of your labor than you. Promises of services are always used as a justification, but that does not excuse the force and coercion used in the process. The Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that the state essentially has no legal obligation to protect you or provide you with services anyway.
Slaves, too, were fed, housed and clothed. Everyone agrees that 100% slavery is wrong, but what about 50%? Why, that’s just domestic policy.
This philosophical argument against the power of the state, or anyone in society, to initiate force is not a new one. The pre-Civil War abolitionists, believing that slavery was an affront to God and a violation of America’s supposed heritage of individual liberty, demanded an immediate and unconditional end to slavery. But, came the retort, slavery is natural; it has always existed; slaves can’t take care of themselves; without masters, there will be chaos, violence and anarchy. As Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute shows, those same arguments are pretty much the same ones used to defend taxation, conscription, and the political process of institutionalized coercion itself against today’s abolitionists.
Private slavery was thankfully abolished in this country, but its free-range public version, responsible for perpetual war and the dismantling of virtually every constitutional protection of liberty, has been growing rapidly ever since.
The Underground Railroad famously helped many slaves escape their bondage. Harriet Tubman bemoaned that she could have saved more “if only they knew they were slaves.”
Lauryn Hill knows it, and isn’t afraid to speak out about it. And much to the chagrin of those in power, more and more of us are sick of being tax-fodder and wish to simply be free.