year, the Heritage Foundation in Washington,
D.C., publishes an Index of Economic
Freedom. It is a valuable work that ranks
countries in four categories: free, mostly
free, mostly unfree and repressed.
The index gives no comfort to those who
believe in Big Government or the equality of
cultures. The per capita incomes in the free
and mostly free countries are many times
higher than those in the unfree ones, thus
confirming that economic freedom is an
extremely important factor of production.
One of the most striking features of the
Heritage Index is the scarcity of freedom.
Despite its economic advantages, and despite
the power and influence of Great Britain in
the 19th century and the U.S. in the 20th
century, freedom is barely present in the
world. Free peoples comprise a small
percentage of the world population and
occupy a tiny portion of the landmass.
Contrary to multicultural claims, successful
cultures are rare.
The index presents paradoxes. For
example, according to objective measures
Chile is one of the freest countries. Yet
that country's economic and political
institutions are entirely the product of
reforms implemented by the
"tyrant" Gen. Pinochet. Obviously,
the demonization of Pinochet is not
supported by the facts.
The index's measures are not without
problems. Most of the countries ranked as
free owe their inclusion in that category to
a definition of economic freedom that
ignores a person's right to the fruits of
his own labor. The income tax has taken this
Successful Americans own no more of the
income that they produce than did medieval
serfs and 19th century slaves. The share
claimed by the IRS is equal to the share
claimed by feudal lords and slave owners. We
can be said to be free only by ignoring
government's extraordinary claim to our
The Heritage Index greatly exaggerates
the security of property rights in the
United States. The ever-expanding asset
seizure laws have made American property
rights among the least secure. Over the past
18 years, federal, state and local
governments have acquired the power to use a
large number of pretexts to confiscate the
assets of citizens without bringing any
charges against the owners.
The new anti-terrorism laws have expanded
the number of pretexts. Most Americans are
unaware of the danger, but as the
confiscations continue to mount, sooner or
later everyone will know someone who has had
The outlook for income and property
security in the United States is bleak.
Everyone has a vote, but the percentage of
voters with income tax liability is
shrinking. Currently there are about 129
million taxpayers, but the top 25 percent of
income earners – 32 million people – pay
83 percent of the total personal income tax
collected. The remaining 75 percent of
taxpayers – about 97 million people –
bear only 17 percent of the income tax
burden, and 70 million voters have no income
tax liability whatsoever.
Forty-three percent of those who file
income tax returns actually benefit from the
income tax, as they collect refundable
credits in excess of their tax liabilities.
With 167 million voters with little or no
income tax liability and 32 million burdened
with 83 percent of the total, it is unlikely
that successful Americans can escape their
situation as an exploited minority. They are
outvoted by five to one, and immigration is
worsening the odds.
The massive legal and illegal immigration
from the Third World guarantees the tax
captivity of successful Americans. Although
many of us know immigrants who are
successful, the vast majority are "tax
users" and comprise a voting bloc for
politicians who support
Recently, California GOP gubernatorial
candidate Richard Riordan, seeking immigrant
votes, addressed the Greenlining Institute,
a "nonprofit" organization of
Asians, Latinos and blacks that lobbies
(illegally?) for minority benefits.
The Jan. 14 San Francisco Chronicle
described Riordan's audience as minority
businessmen, but the newspaper reported that
the audience's concerns were whether Riordan
would support their goals for more income
taxes on the rich and the repeal of
Proposition 13, the landmark measure that
limited California property taxes.
Few Americans know it, but many immigrant
businesses originate in preferential
financing or loan set-asides from the Small
Business Administration. What many see as
immigrant success is really the fruits of
The feeble reduction in income-tax rates
that President Bush managed to have enacted
is probably our last. Democrats – the
party of income redistribution – are
already trying to take it back before it
The Heritage Index's measure of income
and property security in the United States
is unrealistic because it ignores the
vulnerability of taxpayers, who are a small,
shrinking and demonized minority.
Dr. Roberts' latest book, "The
Tyranny of Good Intentions," has just
been released by Prima Publishers.
Copyright 2002 Creator's Syndicate, Inc.