15A055 Schiff's Crusade by Jim Davies, 10/20/2015    


Scene one: the lobby of the NH State Capitol, 1996. Irwin Schiff prepares to enter his name as candidate for President in the first-in-the-nation primaries, and gathers with a handful of supporters. He asks us for the loan of a $20 bill, and one is found. He folds and refolds it until it's the size of a thumb nail, in the clear sight of several pairs of eyes only a few feet away. Then he unfolds it again and - hey, presto! - it's a $1 bill! With his impish grin, he says, "See! I can do what government does: I can make 95% of your money disappear!"

The anxious owner is reassured and recompensed, and Irwin goes on to launch his campaign.

Scene two: the same year, at the Libertarian Party nominating convention, live on C-SPAN. Thanks to some far-sighted preservation work by one "thinkformeself" on mises.org, there is a wonderful set of video clips here of his short speeches to that audience of delegates. In all of them he emphasizes that in America there is no tax on personal earnings, a.k.a. an "income tax", and he can prove it up, down, inside out and sideways; that if nominated by the LP he will carry that message to the American public and, whether elected or not, thereby begin a massive revolution in which the FedGov's primary funding scheme will be cut off at the knees and so its size and scope be slashed.

He's wholly serious, yet all his presentations are spiced with the same kind of delightful humor that we saw in his impromptu magic show in New Hampshire.

Scene three: any of his hundreds of UnTax seminars and workshops, held across America and on the radio in the 1980s and 90s; he presents his latest findings from the tax law itself (US Code Title 26, of which he becomes a prime retailer) to an interested audience - and then shows us how to deal with the IRS in practice; what letters to write, what forms to fill in and how, when denying that the agency has any legal right to any of our money, and how to deal with them face to face. He drills us, with role-playing classes, himself acting the part of Agent Frank N Stein or Greb de Monay. It's hilarious, but instructive.

Result: thousands of "zero-income filers", or Zedheads, give IRS agents nationwide major headaches by monkeywrenching their confiscations. The revolution is under way.

Scene four: a courtroom in Las Vegas in 2005. Faced with a rebel that good, the FedGov just had to close down Irwin Schiff, so as to preserve its power and money flow; and that's where it was done, as summarized here. Not one of his eloquent legal arguments was answered (in the sense of being logically rebutted, as in an honest debate) - simply "denied", by the use of raw power in the hands of Judge Kent Dawson. He was to be caged for 13 years, for the awful crime of revealing that Dawson's employer is the biggest thief in human history.

Given a 15% discount for compliant behavior, his release date was to be July 2017; and during his first ten years of incarceration Irwin Schiff wasted not a moment in filing one brilliantly reasoned appeal after another, including a "habeas corpus" one at the time of his death, from cancer, last Friday. Some of those legal briefs appear here; I wonder if any that good were ever composed by any other non-lawyer. Or, for that matter, by any "real" lawyer; a profession's name over whose pronunciation he frequently stumbled, as if it were "liar."

All of them were rejected; never with reason but always with authority - or with reference to precedent decisions which were themselves never answered with reason. The racket known as the government's "justice" system was kept very busy by this one-man dynamo; and while it was increasingly clear that government had him where it wanted him and would never let him free even on "compassionate" grounds during the last few weeks after lung cancer was diagnosed, Irwin was always confident that his latest effort would succeed; that he'd be "out of here in 60 days." He was an irrepressible optimist.

Irwin passionately desired a drastically smaller government - but despite my efforts he continued to suppose that some, small level of it was necessary. Somehow, he was able to believe that big government is bad but small government mysteriously morphs, at some size, into something good. My main regret is that he never applied his outstanding mind to the nature of all government as he did to the subject of the "Great Income Tax Hoax." As a wise anarchist friend who knew him put it last week, "Irwin's triumph was that he understood the enemy's game; his tragedy was that he did not understand the breadth and depth of their malevolence."

But the evil that he did understand, he fought with all the great talents he had, and so laid down a standard for the rest of us. Irwin Schiff was one of a kind, and it's been a high honor to have known him as a good friend and generous mentor. The world is much poorer for his passing.

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