Irwin Schiff – A ‘Most Dangerous Man’

Late last week Irwin Schiff passed away. He died in prison, shackled to his hospital bed. His crime? A sincere belief that the US government did not have the authority to collect income tax from American citizens. He was considered by many a political prisoner.

Ron Paul: Hello everybody and thank you for tuning in to the Liberty Report. With me today is Daniel McAdams. It’s good to see you Daniel.

Daniel McAdams: Good morning Dr. Paul.

Ron Paul: It’s good to be here, but I sort of have a sad story today and I know you’ve seen the article of the report of a friend of liberty that’s just passed away and that’s Peter Schiff’s dad, Irwin Schiff. When you know that story it’s really tragic that something like happened to him happened in this country.

Daniel McAdams: Yeah, a lot of people referred to him as a real political prisoner and the circumstances of his death chained to a hospital bed in prison is just…

Ron Paul: Yes and it’s so difficult to understand, Peter wrote a nice tribute to him and for him since he passed away. He was 87, but when he was 77 he was sentenced to prison for 14 years, actually for freedom of speech, because his theme in life really was to point out to the American people that the process of the IRS was unconstitutional and therefore illegal and even though he was not saying down with the government, no government, as a matter of fact he had served in the military, it was just that he was outraged over the IRS and of course, the one principle the IRS is that you are guilty until proven innocent and the IRS writes all these rules and it’s just so out of context and that’s beside the point on whether you should have an income tax to tax the people’s incomes.

Daniel McAdams: Did you know Irwin at all, have you met him?

Ron Paul: I did on several occasions. It was mainly in the 70s, we would have gold conferences then and he would attend there and he would give his lecture and he had written quite a few books on this. It always outraged the government and the sad part is a lot of people went along with the criticism because they say they accept this notion that it’s unpatriotic to challenge one’s government and yet some of us believe that challenging our government is the patriotic thing to do when you think what the original patriots of this country, they were sort of challenging the British government at that time.

Daniel McAdams: Yeah, exactly, that is true. How was he? Was he a radical anarchist, was he waving the black flag or?

Ron Paul: He was a real gentleman, but very firm, he had strong convictions, but we just crossed paths on several occasions and we would have conversation, but the next time of course I had some personal thoughts about him was in 2008 when he was being moved from one prison to another prison, from the east coast where he’s with his family, he could see his family, he was sick and having all kinds of problems. Peter and I got to know each other then, as a matter of fact it was in the middle of the ’08 campaign and we had some work done in the Congressional office and I tried to intercede, but it was like talking to a stone wall.

When I found out the tragedy here is to what extent that they’ll do this. This literally was torture. You wonder why the people who participate in this wouldn’t have some conscience when you think of what’s happening. He’s a sick man and he died. He said he still had his hands handcuffed to his bed and he’s 87 years old and dying of cancer and they asked for just a chance that he would go with his family on his last days and the government wouldn’t do this. I wonder why this wouldn’t be considered a cruel and unusual punishment for somebody who never committed a violent act? I think he was absolutely sincere and probably right on all his arguments about the Constitution and the tax code and that’s how they are treated. It’s a rather scary thing.

I want to refresh people’s memory because there is a famous quote by H.L. Mencken.

Daniel McAdams: My favorite.

ROn Paul: Yeah. I wonder how H. L. Mencken would do today. He’d probably be politically incorrect and they’d probably want to put him away too, because this in a way is what they did to Schiff, because he was charged and in prison a little bit, and then he came out and he was instructed never to talk about your book, never to answer questions. He answered a question about his book and that was the ultimate charge that they finally put him away and at his age and his health that meant that he had a death sentence and a life sentence, because he believed in the Constitution and that is a lot of dedication.

Let me just read this quote by H. L. Mencken, because it’s been around a long time and it sort of describes Irwin Schiff. “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable.” Pretty strong stuff, isn’t it?

Daniel McAdams: That’s a great quote.

Ron Paul: I think Irwin came to this conclusion as many of us have. I think in one my book I talked about truth and when you have an Empire, truth becomes treason and in a way this was the ultimate treason to challenge the government’s ability to control us through the financial sector, because if you have big government, the first things they do is they tax and there’s a limit. It’s the whole system, it isn’t just the income tax. What about the borrowing tax? You borrow and you pass it on to the next generation and you pay interest. That is a tax, it sort of delays the payment, but what if you just inflate the money? Then you just distribute the cost to different people, usually the middle class gets punished that way.

It’s the idea that big government has to be financed and that if you don’t do it you are unpatriotic, sort of like what about our arguments we are using for staying out of war? Many charged would say you are unpatriotic, you don’t support the troops and all this other stuff.

Daniel McAdams: You are pro-Saddam or you are pro-Putin.

Ron Paul: Yeah, but that’s a lot of what’s going on. Just think in recent history, I mean into he last few years. How many people have really had the heavy hand of government come down and history will show they did us a big favor trying to wake us up, when it comes to people either teaching us what’s going on or whistleblowing on actual facts.

Daniel McAdams: Yeah, sure, there’s a long list of them, from Snowden on down. We have plenty of them, Kiriakou.

Ron Paul: And they end up going to prison. They do this out of firm belief. It’s a real shame that the American people are able to tolerate this much, but this idea, Irwin Schiff’s father came to this country in 1908 and then his father was born 20 years later. They are of Jewish descent and they loved it, they came for freedom and economic prosperity and they thought it was the greatest country in the world and thrived, but just think of the transition. Generally, I’ve used that date in the hundred years, 1913 and income tax and everything coming in, as a date we started losing it and here it is, here’s a guy, a family that came here, loved it, did their very best and they got and ended up being treated like that.

Daniel McAdams: It strikes me the end of his life and why he was not given some sort of home leave in the very last days and really I think because he would not recount, he would not back down and it reminds me of the character Rubashov in the great anti-Stalinist book ‘Darkness at Noon’, where it wasn’t enough to arrest him and then kill him, they had to torture him until he would recant his views. That was most important, even more important than killing him. Schiff, a victim of a totalitarian like society, himself was the same sort of victim, but he would not recant, so he was not able to get out.

Ron Paul: Every once in a while you will see people involved in the military, they are fighting, they are killing, which is needless and they will wake up and become anti-war, but just think of how many people who crossed Irwin Schiff’s life in this prison system and we’ve never heard anybody saying I’m participating in this, but I’m not going to do this anymore. There has to be hundreds of people who have crossed paths. What about the guy that stood outside his door, with probably weapons and him shackled to a bed, dying with cancer at age of 87 in this country of so-called freedom?

It is to me very sad, I want to express my deep sympathy to Peter and the family, I wish I could have done more, but I think the greatest thing that we could do in honor of Irwin Schiff would be to continue the cause of liberty and hopefully it isn’t to the point where we can’t talk about the IRS or we can’t talk about the horrible wars and unconstitutionality, because we are desperately close to something climactically happening and then I see it as an opportunity that we can restate our principals.

Right now, they are very, very weak and having this experience in Congress there are not very many true believers, but there are more true believers outside of Washington, who have to know what’s going on and there’s every reason in the world that if we are going to rebuild America, there’s no reason that we can’t take the attitude of an income tax from the Founders. They didn’t give us the income tax and they didn’t give us the welfare state and they’ve strongly said staying out of entangling alliances. I think there’s a lot we can do to renew those principles, at the same time I don’t think for a minute we have to go backwards, we can always build, build on the concept of liberty.

There’s a better understanding of how the market works and there’s a better understanding in this world of integration that things can get done without more government. Everybody believes that you have to have more and more government. I think that is the opposite of liberty and that is why we have too many taxes, whether it’s property tax, sales tax, income tax, inflation tax or whatever. That is just the symptom of big government and the people’s dependency on big government and that is everything from the people who believe that poverty can be treated by government handouts and to the very wealthy who know exactly what they are doing with the transfer system and what goes on at the Federal Reserve. I would like to say that we take this as an opportunity to look at this carefully and recognize the sadness for the Schiff family, but hopefully we can use this to spur us on in the fight for the cause of liberty.

I want to thank everybody for tuning in today to the Liberty Report and come back soon.