I saw Aaron Russo’s “America: From Freedom to Fascism” for the first time the other night. Russo was my second choice for the 2004 Libertarian presidential nomination, and a lot of people had recommended the film, so I was eager to see it at last.
I had mixed feelings about it. In many ways it was several short films glommed together, and Russo seemed to make only a modest attempt to tie it all together. The first third was largely about the history and legality (or lack thereof) of the federal income tax; the second third about the rise of the Federal Reserve; and the final part about radio frequency identification tagging, the move toward mandatory national identification, and the loss of privacy. There was also a clip from Lou Dobbs about the “North American Union” that even the film itself says was just kind of thrown in there.
On the income tax matter, Russo makes a pretty strong case for the argument that no law exists compelling individuals to pay. He is careful to point out that corporate income taxes are indeed legal, but that even the IRS is unwilling or unable to point to any law passed by Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court that requires mandatory taxation as it now exists. While the argument presented is pretty one-sided, to be fair to Russo that is only because the “other side” refused to offer a rebuttal. The clearest summary of the situation came from Rep. Ron Paul, who in an interview with Russo said that while there is no written income tax law, there is a de facto law in that the government expects you to pay up, the vast majority of the populace is willing to do so, and big guys with guns will haul you off and take away everything you and your family own if you do not.
I thought the film’s segment on the Federal Reserve was its strongest portion, primarily because the Fed is a subject I know next to nothing about. The history of its creation and impact is told in some detail, but Russo did not convince me that I was getting the full story. He did make me want to learn more about the subject for myself, though, and I intend to do so.
The portion on privacy, RFID tagging, and the like dealt with the subject I am most familiar with, and I don’t feel like I learned much that is new. I consider the Democrats’ capitualition on FISA, the entirely predictable abuse of the PATRIOT Act in the investigation of allegations having nothing to do with terrorism, and similar post-9/11 abuses to be a bigger (though obviously related) pressing matter. But Russo’s look at the privacy issue is an important one. I’ll deal with that in my next post.