Target the IRS—and the Abusive Administrative State

The IRS scandal has appropriately tarred the Obama administration. But IRS abuse is not new: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Richard Nixon all shamelessly used the tax authorities against their political enemies.

Thus, the problem is nonpartisan. More important, to paraphrase Rahm Emanuel, this scandal will be wasted if we don’t use it to advance the cause of liberty. The real issue is the expansive, expensive bureaucratic state, which threatens any system of limited government, rule of law, and individual liberty.

As I wrote in my recent article on American Spectator online:

the broader the government’s authority, the greater its need for revenue, the wider its enforcement power, the more expansive the bureaucracy’s discretion, the increasingly important the battle for political control, and the more bitter the partisan fight, the more likely government officials will abuse their positions, violate rules, laws, and the Constitution, and sacrifice people’s liberties.

One response to the scandal would be tax reform. But failing to address the broader underlying causes of the scandal would set the stage for a repeat performance in some form a few years hence. At the very least the latest IRS abuses should derail the Obama administration’s efforts to ever-expand the federal government.

The response should not be merely defensive. Americans should insist on abolishing the IRS as we know it. Ending tax-based social engineering would help. Moreover, government–and especially the national government–should do less.

Americans must decide if they want to live in a truly free society. Government increasingly attempts to run our lives at our expense. And now, we see yet again, public officials use their power to reward friends and punish enemies. Firing a couple of mid-level IRS employees isn’t enough. People must insist on real change in Washington.