America: Where Children of Slaves Know the Legacy of Lysander Spooner

IA match made by the IRSnternational recording artist Lauryn Hill channels Lysander Spooner in her defense against the IRS.

It appears that the Washington Times has the choice quotes for this article, so please excuse me for using their slow-loading, digitally messy website for this article.

Here is Ms. Hill in part of her statement to the tax judge: I had an economic system imposed on me.

Haven’t we all, dear, haven’t we all.  This imposition touches all races and all social backgrounds.  One of the problems with it, is that it is not fair at all.  Many people, like the wealthy Mrs. Windsor (subject of the SCOTUS DOMA case) get shafted by the tax man in inheritance, while people with marriage licenses get a better deal.

To further Ms. Hill’s defense, she invoked the slavery of her parents: I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them.  This is a powerful statement.  He father was apparently a slave computer programmer, and her mother a slave English teacher in New Jersey, USA.  How this history of New Jersey keeps getting swept away is beyond me.  Slavery in the Southern USA was eradicated with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.  However, any casual reading of the Emancipation Proclamation reveals that New Jersey was not included in slavery emancipation.  this is an outrage that President Obama should focus on a bit more.

The descendents of slaves in America have had some high-visibility success.  Doug Wilder, reported to be the grandson of slaves, became the governor of Virginia, then later the mayor of Richmond.  Jack Johnson was the son of slaves, and became a fabulously successful boxer.  Of course, every child and grandchild of slaves did not have it as well as those examples.

Let us not forget the many Jewish people descended from the slaves who built the pyramids, and the throngs of Eastern Europeans and Asians who only recently escaped the bonds of slavery in the Soviet Bloc and Red China.  Each of these groups have many individuals who became financially successful.  Again, not all but many.

The wealthy Ms. Hill is no different.  She made millions of dollars off of her talent, talent that others found valuable.  Actually the only way one makes money with talent is when other people find your talent valuable enough to pay for.  Okay, there is that PBS/NPR/NEA exception, but someone at those organizations must find your talent valuable enough to spend other people’s money on.

Ms. Hill then was caught in the trap that Lysander Spooner wrote of over a century ago:

And yet we have what purports, or professes, or is claimed, to be a contract—the Constitution—made eighty years ago, by men who are now all dead, and who never had any power to bind us, but which (it is claimed) has nevertheless bound three generations of men, consisting of many millions, and which (it is claimed) will be binding upon all the millions that are to come; but which nobody ever signed, sealed, delivered, witnessed, or acknowledged; and which few persons, compared with the whole number that are claimed to be bound by it, have ever read, or even seen, or ever will read, or see.
― Lysander SpoonerNo Treason: The Constitution Of No Authority

There you go, and the Hill defense is a more concise version of Spooner.  This idea is so self-evident that one does not have to read a word of Spooner to discover the idea.

The young Ms. Hill performed, apparently as a free child of slaves, in the television show “As the World Turns.”  As of this writing, I could not find if New Jersey prohibited children of slaves from learning to read and write, so we can suppose that she learned her lines by rote.  Later in  life she joined a band of refugees, The Fugees, and expressed her musical talents.  It is almost as if we have a modern day Schindler’s List unfolding before us.

Part of the sad history of slavery in America is that many slaves and their descendants do not receive a good economic education.  This is not to say they do not receive any economic education at all, but the one they do get sounds Marxist.  Daughter of slaves Hill protested at her tax court sentencing:

In a forceful but controlled statement to the judge punctuated by occasional raps with her first on the podium, Hill described how she failed to pay taxes during a period when she’d dropped out of the music business to protect herself and her children, who now number six.

She said the treatment she received while she was in the entertainment business led to her decision to leave it.

“There were veiled threats, there was blacklisting,” she said, without giving specifics. “I was told, ‘That’s how it goes, it comes with the territory.’ I came to be perceived as a cash cow and not a person. When people capitalize on a persona, they forget there is a person in there.”

And now, here is the thing.  She was being paid to perform and had a good stream of money coming in from her past performances.  Apparently her popularity declined, i.e., fans were not buying as much of her newer art, yet her older art was still making money.  At least that it the typical usage of “cash cow.”

Other articles quote her as complaining that the total receipts from all recording sales may have totaled $600 million dollars, yet she ‘only’ received a small portion of that.  This is a Marxist Labor Theory of Value argument.  The notion that a “worker” should own all of the value they add to a product, rather than an arrangement where they perform a valued task for some amount or for part of the possible end value of the product.

Ms. Hill and her six children are in luck!  Perhaps while she is in jail for her honorable tax protest, she can figure out how to create her own studio and sell her performances on iTunes or similar outlets.  She can manage herself, perform live and assemble her own stage, figure out her own contracts, become a one-woman show, and keep all the money for herself and her children!

Follow Steve @AustrianAnarchy or view his Austrian Anarchy blog.  His work-in-progress, “The Anarchist’s Soufflé Book“, should be done any year now.