In the famous decision of McCulloch v. Maryland Chief Justice John Marshall declared that “[T]he power to tax involves the power to destroy. . . .” M’Culloch v. State, 17 U.S. 316, 431, 4 L. Ed. 579 (1819). This quote came to my mind today as I heard about the latest scandal to engulf the beleaguered Obama Administration. Starting as far back as the 2010 midterm elections, the IRS apparently targeted conservative non-profit groups for special questioning. There are also allegations that confidential documents and applications were illegally leaked to liberal watch dog groups. 

This scandal is an especially disturbing one. Moreover, it seems to gnaw at the very core of the notion of expanded government. The progressive vision of increased government services and care for all really only works when that government operates in an impartial fair fashion. If government is favoring some groups over others, it shatters the notion that government is impartial. Is it any wonder that trust in the Federal government is so low? Here, groups that had words in their titles such as ‘patriot’ or ‘tea party’ were given invasive questions about their donors, family activities, past affiliations and a myriad of other things. In contrast, groups on the opposite side of the political spectrum were given a pass. This type of invasive questioning is chilling to free association and to free speech. A marketplace of ideas can only function adequately when all groups know they are on an equal playing field and able to compete for hearts and minds. Such government targeting distorts a market and drives individuals away from activism and involvement in politics.

The power to tax unjustly or unevenly truly is a power to destroy, which is why I don’t think this scandal is going away anytime soon

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