Campfire Blog

Greedy Government Gobbles Up Liberty Again

IRS slaps $29.2 million tax bill on family for bald eagle sculpture that can’t be sold

Calling the bald eagle cowardly and lazy, Ben Franklin preferred the turkey as a representative of America. Sure, turkeys are a little “vain and silly,” he wrote, but just try crossing that bird who “would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.” Not a chance.

While the Turkey is kind of funny but brave and serious when necessary, the Bald Eagle is always imposing and imperial and it needs to be coddled: The government treats it as more important than the freedoms it’s supposed to represent; in return, the Eagle gives the government an august respectability that it does not warrant.

Here’s one reason why:  A family inherited a sculpture featuring a stuffed bald eagle. It’s illegal to sell bald eagles alive or dead so the sculpture has no monetary value. But the IRS doesn’t care, it just takes what it wants, appraising the valueless sculpture at $62 million and demanding the heirs pay $29.2 million in taxes on something they could never sell!

What if they couldn’t afford that? Doesn’t matter, says the IRS, cloaked by its imperial bald eagle symbol. You can afford it, so pay up.

That’s wrong, but what’s also wrong is the worship of a national symbol: If the eagle can’t be sold because it’s a symbol of America, then America shouldn’t have a symbol. Our revolution got rid of the idolatry of the State that monarchies, dictatorships, and tyrannical regimes rely upon. We don’t value symbols and pomp; we value our hard-won freedoms. If the symbols interfere with those freedoms, then they are a lie, betraying the values they claim to represent.

If the turkey were our national symbol, we might laugh at it a bit, and that would be a good thing, because we should never take government too seriously. Imagine if all government employees had to wear Turkey patches, or if the logo of the IRS had a silly looking turkey instead of an imposing Bald Eagle. Or if there was a big ol’ turkey on the seal of the president, appearing in front of him every time he spoke. The turkey would be like the servants whispering into the ears of triumphant Roman emperors parading in their chariots: “Remember, you’re only a man.” And it would be a much more accurate representation of American government today–doing wonders to eliminate the notion that we exist at the pleasure of our Ruling Elite, like the little helpless fish the eagle swoops down to eat.

Even the New York Times seems to think the IRS attempt to tax something with no value is preposterous (2 pages).

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