Michael Daniel Thoreau: Civil Disobedience 10-30-2006 The best government does not govern.

The American standing army, the Mexican war and slavery are things which all moral men oppose. Voting is useless. Moral men should show their opposition to these things by refusing to pay taxes. When moral men refuse to pay taxes they will be put in debtors prison and their possessions will all be repossessed by the state. This will hurt the state because moral men are all poor so the state will get nothing. Debtors prison is a nice place where you can engage in pleasant conversation with fellow inmates and compose poetry. When you get out of prison you will be a better person than everybody else in your village. You will also be better equipped to fight the tyranny of the government, which is to say that you will be better equipped to refuse to pay taxes again. The author of this work has a true desire to conform to the law yet he does not think about the government. In paragraph 6, pg 29 the author states that, “As for adopting the ways which the state has provided for remedying the evil, I know not of such ways. They take too much time, and a man’s life will be gone. I have other affairs to attend to.” In that statement Thoreau is rejecting the usefulness of lobbying, running for office and voting. Simple voting does not take that much time. If you don’t pay your taxes, however, they will put you in debtors prison for life (paragraph 4). Thoreau himself was put in prison overnight for not paying taxes until a friend paid his taxes for him so that he would be freed. If not for a generous friend, Thoreau would never have been able to take care of the other affairs which he referenced in the above quote. This is an example of a value conflict. I

value freedom outside of prison more than I value tax money. Thoreau claims that he would rather be in prison for life than pay his taxes. ARQing this reading was certainly a target rich environment. Most polemic works are full of non-sequitors, but this one was exceptionally bad. It is irresponsible to refuse to pay most taxes because you should pay for your fair share of government services. The exception to this rule is when it is written into the law that you can refuse to pay it. The only specific exception that I can think of is the federal excise tax, which war dissenters used to be able to refuse to pay until the law was ruled unconstitutional about 6 months ago by the supreme court. The government provides for a structure that allows a country to thrive by creating and enforcing laws that protect its citizens from crimes such as violence and fraud. The government should also create a legal environment that makes contracts between parties enforceable and guarantees that employees get paid. These things don’t fall like manna from heaven. The law has to be created and kept current in order to stay effective. Apparatus for enforcement needs to be created and maintained. All of this costs money. Nobody will take the time to do these things simply out of the goodness of their heart. Thoreau himself said that he has no time for civics so why does he think that anybody else would have the time for civics if they weren’t paid to do so. Thoreau’s description of prison was absolutely ridiculous. It reminded me of a gangsta rapper glamorizing prison and ‘thug life’. There is nothing nice or uplifting about being in prison. I also don’t see how spending one night in a drunk tank qualifies somebody to describe what debtors prison would be like.