The Cold War and The Income Tax

The Cold War and The Income Tax

A Protest

Edmund Wilson


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In Edmund Wilson's The Cold War and The Income Tax, the leading twentieth century critic writes about his protest against the Internal Revenue Service.

Here, Wilson details his refusal to file income tax for nearly ten years and draws fascinating parallels between the Soviet Union and the Kafkaesque US tax system which, to Wilson's dismay, supports a nuclear weapons arms race.

"The truth is that the people of the United States are at the present time dominated and driven by two kinds of officially propagated fear: fear of the Soviet Union and fear of the income tax. These two terrors have been adjusted so as to complement one another and thus to keep the citizen of our free society under the strain of a double pressure from which he finds himself unable to escape -- like the man in the old Western story, who, chased into a narrow ravine by a buffalo, is confronted with a grizzly bear. If we fail to accept the tax, the Russian buffalo will butt and trample us, and if we try to defy the tax, the federal bear will crush us.

The 60,000 officials who are appointed to check on us taxpayers are checked on, themselves, it seems, by another group of agents set to watch them. And supplementing these officials -- since private citizens are paid by the Internal Revenue Service to report on other people's delinquencies, and their names of course are never revealed -- there is a whole host of amateur investigators. . . Does this kind of spying and delation differ much in its incitement to treachery from that which is encouraged in the Soviet Union?"


Edmund Wilson:
Edmund Wilson (1895-1972) was a novelist, memoirist, playwright, journalist, poet, and editor but it is as a literary critic that he is most highly regarded. His more than twenty books include Axel’s Castle, Patriotic Gore, To the Finland Station, and Memoirs of Hecate County