Happy Chandler’s Dangerous Statism

In Burton and Anita Folsom’s new book, FDR Goes to War, the following quote appears …

[A]ll of us owe the government; we owe it for everything we have—and that is the basis of obligation—and the government can take everything we have if the government needs it. . . . The government can assert its right to have all the taxes it needs for any purpose, either now or at any time in the future.

The quote is from celebrated Kentuckian A.B. “Happy” Chandler, a former Kentucky governor and grandfather of current 6th District U.S. Representative Ben Chandler. The quote is among several statements offered during the debate over the Current Tax Payment Act of 1943. If you don’t like federal withholding on your paycheck, you have that legislation to thank.

Think about what Chandler is saying here. It’s a breathtaking assertion that individuals have no innate property in their productivity or themselves. Under Chandler’s view, the government may rightfully take whatever it wants from you for whatever purpose. Does Chandler’s view really leave any room for a government that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed? Is there any room for the protections provided by the Constitution? Does Chandler’s view leave room for the “inalienable rights” that we each possess by virtue of our existence? I don’t see how it could.

As Robert Higgs points out, if we can weather the dangerous claims of sweeping government power from people like Happy Chandler, we shouldn’t worry so much about the soft statism of gadflies like Elizabeth Warren.

You can watch Professor Folsom discuss his book here.

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