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Enmired in a civil war, the federal government of the United States was wanting for funds. The answer the government arrived at was to impose an income tax. Before this happened though, President Lincoln actually met with his cabinet to determine whether or not such a tax was constitutional. Lincoln’s hesitation should speak volumes.taxes scrabb

The first income tax was 3% and was only imposed on those who had incomes over $800, or around $20,000 in today’s money. This actually worked out to the income tax only applying to about 3% of the population in the north.

Things were not to last. The first income tax was repealed and  replaced with another one. All in all, the United States had an income tax for a period of ten years. From our modern-day perspective, we know that this is not the last of the income tax. There was a 2% income tax issued during peacetime in 1894, but it was struck down as being an unapportioned direct tax the following year by the Supreme Court in Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan & Trust Co. However, In 1913, the 16th Amendment was ratified and income tax has been a fixture of America’s tax system ever since.

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Like any college aged person, my room is well-decorated. However, my decorations are a little different then what you might expect. My collection includes a V for Vendetta poster, a Gadsen flag, an End the Drug War poster, and a Jolly Rodger. However, there is one piece that will always stand out for me more then the rest. Near my desk, hangs the flag of the 69th New York Infantry Regiment, better known as the “Fighting 69th” which was part of the Irish Brigade during the American Civil War.

It may seem ironic that a passionate antiwar activist would have the flag of a military regiment hanging in his room. Is that not a confirmation of militarism, nationalism and unfounded patriotism? Not for me.

For me, this flag represents another story — one of principled patriotism, tolerance and activism. It’s the story that gives me a historical, political, cultural background for my work as an activist. It’s one worth revisiting now.

The history of immigration and assimilation in America is a complicated one fraught with discrimination and fear. Many waves of immigrants have lived through this cycle, but for me, the Irish experience has particular relevance: My family is mostly blue-collar Irish Catholics, based in and around New York. My father was born in New York City, but lived in both NY and Ireland. My grandfather was born in Ireland and later drove a fuel truck that was used to power the cranes that built the World Trade Center. My great-grandfather lived in New York City in the early 20th century and served in the United States Army during the First World War as an infantryman. Their hard work and dedication not only helped build our country, but gave me many of the values I still hold today. Unfortunately, life in America was not always easy for them. (more…)

Emancipation_proclamation cropped153 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, one of the most well known documents in American history. The proclamation ended slavery in the Confederate states and made ending slavery an explicit war goal of the North. Though it instantly freed 3 million slaves in the eyes of the federal government, it also gave the North an important  strategic advantage in the war effort against the South. (more…)

When you first discover libertarianism, there are certain names that jump out. It’s important to learn from intellectual giants like Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, but there are many unsung heroes that are also worth exploring. In this educational series, we hope to introduce students to such individuals. While not all of the figures profiled here explicitly identified as libertarian, they made great contributions to the cause of liberty that are worth acknowledging. The following is a guest submission by Daniel Bier, Immigration Policy Analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and senior editor at The Skeptical Libertarian, where this post was originally published

“The gold was never coined for which I would barter my individual freedom of acting and thinking upon any subject, or would knowingly interfere with the rights of the meanest human being.” -Lydia Maria Child, 1833

You could call Lydia Maria Child a 19th century “abolitionist” and “women’s rights advocate,” but it is simpler to use today’s word for someone who opposes state-supported slavery and inequality: a libertarian. She once said, “I am so great an advocate of freedom that I would have everything done voluntarily.” Child was a prolific writer, mainly of fiction and much of it for children. She is perhaps best remembered (sadly given her life’s work) for her Thanksgiving poem, “Over the River and Through the Wood.”

“In the simplest things I write,” she wrote to friend, “whether for children or grown people, I always try to sow some seeds for freedom, truth, and humanity.” She used her fictional stories to dramatize the plight of 19th century women, blacks, and Native Americans, including exceptionally taboo topics like interracial marriage and sexual exploitation. “Slavery’s Pleasant Homes: A Faithful Sketch,” for example, describes the sexual abuse of a beautiful female slave. When her slave “husband” (who she was prohibited from marrying) confronts her about her nightly trips to the master’s room, she can only weep, “Oh George! What can I do? I am his slave.”

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The authority to judge what are the powers of the government, and what the liberties of the people, must necessarily be vested in one or the other of the parties themselves—the government, or the people; because there is no third party to whom it can be entrusted. -Lysander Spooner, “Trial By Jury,” 1852

Supporters of liberty often get confused over the path towards advancing liberty. Indeed, entire seminars, conferences, meetings, and discussions are devoted to this sole topic, “How do we free the world?” This is as grandiose a question as it seems; bringing about a free society is a long, tiresome path that may take one’s entire life to carry through. For others, the difficulty bringing about a free society is lack of specialization. If one’s career is not set in a liberty-oriented path, such as being a lecturer for the Institute for Humane Studies or the Foundation for Economic Education, or being an attorney for the Institute for Justice, then it may seem disheartening when trying to find avenues advancing personal, social, and economic liberty. However, this is not to say that the common individual cannot make a profound impact in the lives of others and work towards the destruction of dangerous and tyrannical social institutions at the same time.

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