10 episodes

This series of lectures by tax historian Charles Adams—based on original research—illuminates episodes in light of the tendency of government to tax beyond the point where people will tolerate. This is the fascinating story of how taxes have shaped history.
Download the complete audio of this event (ZIP) here.

The Rosetta Stone to the US Code: A New History of Taxation Mises Institute

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This series of lectures by tax historian Charles Adams—based on original research—illuminates episodes in light of the tendency of government to tax beyond the point where people will tolerate. This is the fascinating story of how taxes have shaped history.
Download the complete audio of this event (ZIP) here.

    1. The Making of a Tax Historian

    1. The Making of a Tax Historian

    Charles Adams, the tax writer, tells young people to get a liberal education and go with the flow. He took tax law and he taught history. He saw that there was a tax story behind every event. Taxes, not slavery, caused the Civil War.Taxes began in Sumer. “Taxes are the fuel that make civilizations run,” but how we tax and spend determines to a large extent whether we are prosperous or poor, free or enslaved, and most importantly, good or evil. Taxes are forced exaction.

    10. Learning from the Past: What History Teaches

    10. Learning from the Past: What History Teaches

    Adams suggests nine reform items to tame the tax monster: 1) tear down the spy system, 2) establish a crime for tax extortion as well as a civil action for damages, 3) establish a civil action for damages for tortious tax administration including: malicious tax investigations, extortions, leaked information and grand jury abuse, 4) have all federal tax districts coincide with congressional districts and provide for the recall of district directors, 5) adjudicate tax disputes like any other debt, 6) decriminalize the tax law, 7) make congressional representatives and federal judges immune from the IRS, 8) make our federal tax system indirect as much as possible, and 9) another reform measure that may take the forefront in tax reform is a national consumption tax, like a sales tax. 

    2. The Bible's World of Taxes

    2. The Bible's World of Taxes

    Adams begins this session with facts about taxation being the basis of the Civil War, not slavery. If the British had not taxed the colonies, the colonies would have remained with Britain and slavery would have been ended when Britain ended it. The thousand year history of the Romans covered everything about taxes.

    3. The Kaleidoscopic Romans

    3. The Kaleidoscopic Romans

    Adams begins with a few tidbits: taxation problems caused the end of Egypt and the taxes that the Greeks put on the Jews were an excessive one-third. Sulla of Rome created special tax agents, essentially IRS agents, to collect taxes. Cicero felt that the era of chaos made a military dictatorship inevitable, saying that, “And so in Rome only the walls of her houses remain standing… our Republic we have lost forever.”

    4. The Middle Ages

    4. The Middle Ages

    Lady Godiva’s naked ride on her horse was a protest over taxes.  Ship money for war ships was collected in Britain even though there was then no war.

    5. The Swiss: From William Tell to No Tell

    5. The Swiss: From William Tell to No Tell

    Note:The Swiss are not mentioned in this lecture.King Solomon, king of Israel from 970 to 931 BC, lusted after women as he grew older. He had a thousand wives and concubines. Solomon spent tax moneys for luxurious palaces and his harem. His treasury was soon empty, so he found new ways to drain money from his people.

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