05 December 2016
By Jacob G. Hornberger
Sometimes popular culture is able to deliver political commentary more
effectively than editorials, op-eds, and articles. A great example is a
current theme running through the popular cable television series The Walking
Dead, which is about a zombie apocalypse.
We are all familiar with the standard concept of slavery. When we hear the
term, we naturally think in terms of the plight of pre-Civil War blacks. Under
slavery, many blacks lived their lives under total subjugation to their
owners. They could't just walk away. They couldn't live their lives the way
they wanted. They couldn't pursue happiness in their own way. Their choices in
life were extremely limited. They were forced to work for someone else and to
obey his orders and commands. When they disobeyed or attempted to flee, they
were subject to being punished by their masters.
We also think of the slaves that lived in ancient times under the pharaohs.
Coming to mind is the movie The Ten Commandments, which depicted Jewish slaves
who lived their lives under the control of Egyptian masters. The Jews were
forced to spend every day of their lives making bricks and doing other things
to build the pyramids for the pharaohs. Under slavery, they too could not just
None of that type of thing is occurring in The Walking Dead. Rick Grimes, the
star of the show, and the people in his group, are pretty much free to live
their lives the way they want, except for one big thing: A man named Negan,
along with his followers, wields the power to seize anything he wants from
Grimes' camp, including food, bedding, and other assets that Rick and his
What happened was that Rick's group was captured by Negan's group, whose
numbers far outweighed those in Rick's group. After brutally murdering two of
Rick's group — murders that absolutely stunned The Walking Dead audience —
Negan made it clear that Rick and his group now belonged to him. He
effectively owned them.
But what is fascinating is that Negan didn't enslave them directly, like
blacks in the Old South or Jews in ancient Egypt. Instead, Negan permitted
Rick and his group to return to their camp and live the way they lived before,
but with one big proviso: Negan and his gang would wield the authority to
periodically visit Rick's camp to collect any portion of Rick's and his
group's income and assets.
You know, just like income taxes! Whatever Rick and his group find scavenging,
a certain portion must be paid to Negan to fund his group. Or property taxes.
Whatever Rick and his group own is subject to being taken by Negan.
What's also fascinating is that everyone within the show — and undoubtedly
everyone within the viewing audience — recognizes that Rick and his group are
now living their lives as slaves, notwithstanding the fact that they are not
in the same position as American blacks in the Old South or Jews under the
Obviously, this holds a powerful political message for Americans of our time,
a message that we have been stating here at The Future of Freedom Foundation
ever since our inception 27 years ago. That message is this: When Americans
adopted the federal income tax, they lost their status as a free people and
became serfs and slaves under the control of their federal masters, just as
Rick and his group have become serfs and slaves under the control of Negan and
Keep in mind that our American ancestors lived without income taxation for
more than 100 years. There was a simple reason for that: Our predecessors
understood that freedom necessarily entails the right to keep everything you
earn and to decide for yourself what to do with your own money.
You might save it or spend it. You might invest it or squander it. You might
donate it or hoard it. It is your call. It is your money. You have the right
to decide what to do with it.
No IRS returns. No IRS audits. No rushing to the Post Office every April 15.
No withholding taxes. No FICA taxes. No deductions. No taxation on income at
all. For more than a century, Americans were free to keep everything they
earned, and there wasn't anything the federal government could do about it.
Everything changed with the adoption of the income tax in 1916. From that day
forward, Americans were converted into serfs or slaves of the federal
government, just as Rick's group has been with respect to Negan's group. From
1916 on, the federal government wielded the same authority to take whatever
percentage of people's income that it wanted as Negan wields over Rick's group
in The Walking Dead.
Sometime the federal government is nice, and takes a smaller percentage of
people's income, just as sometimes Negan is nice and leaves Rick's group with
more provisions. Sometimes the federal government isn't so nice and takes more
to fund its welfare-warfare state operations, just as sometimes Negan isn't so
nice and takes more to sustain his group.
But the point is that by now wielding the authority to set the percentage that
it could take, the federal government became the master and the American
people became its serfs or slaves, just as Rick's group has become serfs or
slaves to Negan's group. Whatever people are still permitted to keep, either
by the federal government or by Negan, essentially becomes an allowance, just
like the allowance that parents give their children.
There is only one way for Rick and his group to regain their freedom in The
Walking Dead: to somehow remove the power that Negan has over them to seize
their income and their assets. The same holds true for today's Americans.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom
Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in
economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the
University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He
also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught
law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become
director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has
advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the
country as well as on Fox News' Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and
he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano's show
Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full