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The IRS and the Cult of Arbitrary Power

The IRS and the Cult of Arbitrary Power

3 Mins
May 14, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service has targeted “Tea Party,” conservative-leaning, and even Jewish non-profits for special harassment. There is even an indication that the IRS might have targeted reporters perceived as hostile to President Obama.

Why are we surprised? This is the essence of the philosophy and politics of statist elites that are at war with the essence of America.


Our Founders held two basic principles: First, the purpose of government is to protect the lives, liberty, and property of individuals. Second, government is the greatest potential danger to liberty that exists, and it thus must be constrained by a constitution of limited and enumerated powers, checks and balances, federalism, and a Bill of Rights.

Wielding arbitrary power is the philosophy and spirit of our times.

Today, the Founders' ideals are opposed by statist elites with a multi-headed monster of motivations. Some want to “do good” by spending other peoples’ money and by directing other peoples’ lives. Some are ignorant control freaks who think they’re smarter than everyone else and who get their kicks from wielding power. Others are driven by envy, an immoral urge to punish the successful and the prosperous for the “sin” of being successful and prosperous.


In the way of the statist elites stands the Constitution. Over time they’ve chipped away at its limits on power, pushing the envelope as far as possible at any given time. Now the scope of federal power is virtually unlimited. Health care, schools, cars, guns, toilets, diets, gardens—can you think of anything over which the feds don’t wield power?

The targets of Obama’s power are those he demonizes as the “rich.” Not his crony capitalist buddies to whom he gives bailouts and subsidies, but those who don’t volunteer to foot more of the bill for his profligate spending. And it gets personal.

For example, when Chrysler went bankrupt the administration developed a bailout scheme to protect its union allies. Under normal bankruptcy law, investors holding certain bonds would receive more compensation than the administration favored. Some of institutional investors wanted to protect the wealth of their clients—e.g. large pension funds—and refused to voluntarily give up their legal rights and acquiesce in Obama’s scheme. So White House operatives personally threatened certain non-compliant investors that the government would use its power to destroy them if they didn’t go along with the Obama bailout.

So why is anyone surprised that the IRS now has targeted perceived political opponents of the administration? Wielding arbitrary power is the philosophy and spirit of our times. This is just the logical next step.


Those appalled by the IRS’s behavior should be appalled at the political regime that has been replacing that of the Founders. They should be appalled at the immoral arrogance of politicians who presume to be our rulers, even in the guise of benefactors.

The revolution to restore liberty must restore constitutional limits to government and spread the love of our own lives and personal autonomy to all of our hearts and minds.

For further reading:

*Edward Hudgins, “ Obama’s Grab-Bag Socialism. ” April 4, 2009.

*David Mayer, “ Completing the American Revolution. ” Spring 2009.

*William Thomas, “ What Is The Objectivist View Of Law And Government (Politics)?

Edward Hudgins


Edward Hudgins

Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

About the author:
Law / Rights / Governance
Regulation and Taxation