Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Consumer Tax Vs Income Tax

Why Do We Have VAT (Value Added Tax)?

"To understand why we have VAT, we need to know what it is.

What is VAT?

V.A.T. is an acronym that stands for Value Added Tax. In essence, it is a tax on the things that we buy. It's a tax onsupplies.
In the UK, a government tax agency (currently called Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs or HMRC for short) holds and manages the registry of sellers who can charge and claim VAT. When a registered seller makes a sale, they add tax onto the price of that transaction - thats the Value Added Tax. The exact amount to be added is calculated using 'the rate of VAT' which is a percentage of the 'price before tax'. I.e the price that would have been charged if there was no tax on it. See an example calculation showing VAT being added to a price.
There is more than one rate of VAT, but the most common one is the Standard Rate which is applied to most types of goods and services. Another rate, the Reduced Rate, applies to things like the installation of energy saving materials or women's sanitary products. There are also other supplies that are zero-rated and also others that are exempt from VAT. You can learn about all the nuances of the VAT system on the HMRC web site.
The VAT rates are set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Important changes to the VAT system are commonly announced during the government's Budget Report. For a long time, the UK Standard Rate of VAT stayed at 17.5%, but we recently saw this drop to 15% during 2009. This was an attempt to boost the economy by reducing the 'cost of buying things'.

So, why do we have it?

Like any tax, it's a source of revenue for public spending. It simply generates a lot of money for the government. In fact, VAT is quite a big proportion of the UK government's income.
Pie chart UK HMRC Annual Receipts 2008-09
In the year 2008-2009, VAT provided about 17.9% (GBP £78,439 million) of the HMRC's total annual receipts (GBP £439,107 million). The only other types of taxes that brought in more than VAT were the 34% that came from Income Tax (GBP £147,856 million) and the 22% that came from National Insurance Contributions (GBP £96,882 million).1
Furthemore it is quite a fair system. Because the rate is tied to the sale of goods and services, those who have more disposable income tend to buy more things and hence pay more VAT."
1 Source: Raw Data From HMRC Statistical Library
Pie Chart generated using OnlineChartTool.com
Taken from an article found: here

Following quote taken from Institute for Fiscal Studies 2012:

"Of a UK adult population of around 51.4 million, it is estimated that there 
will be 29.7 million taxpayers in 2012–13. Around 3.8 million of these will 
pay tax at the higher rate, providing 36.5% of total income tax revenue, 
and 307,000 taxpayers will pay tax at the additional rate, providing 24.6% 
of total income tax revenue. "

Sunday, 16 June 2013

What about barcodes and 666: The Mark of the Beast?

What about barcodes and 666: The Mark of the Beast?
by Terry WatkinsCopyright © 1999 Dial-the-Truth Ministries

Is the barcode the Mark of the Beast?Do barcodes really contain the number 666?Is the barcode paving the road to 666: the Mark of the Beast?
Before we answer these questions, we need to briefly examine the barcode technology. . .
What are barcodes?
Barcodes, of course, are those ever-familiar "bars" and "numbers" on virtually everything. In 1973, "Mr. Barcode" (or is it Mrs. Barcode?) quietly strolled into our world. In just over 25 years, Mr. Barcode has literally taken over the world. Now there's a barcode for virtually everything. There's short barcodes, and tall barcodes. There's skinny barcodes and fat barcodes. There's postal barcodes and international barcodes. There's 2-D barcodes. And there's even barcodes for the humble "bumble-bee". From letters, to cokes, from fishes to smokes - it's "clothed" with friendly "Mr. Barcode".
As someone truthfully said, "If it exists, bar code it".
The primary barcode used in the United States is the UPC (Universal Product Code) barcode. The UPC is also the "original" barcode. The UPC was designed for the grocery industry. Because of the large number of items normally "checked-out" at the grocery store, a method was needed to speed up and eliminate "human" cashier errors. In 1973, the UPC barcode was born.
To the average person, the barcode looks confusing and complex, but to a "bar-coded" friendly computer, it's actually very simple.
How does a computer-scanner reads a barcode?
A single barcode number is actually seven units. A unit is either black or white. A unit that is black would display as a "bar". A unit that is white would display as a "space". Another way of writing a barcode unit is "1" for a single unit "black bar" and "0" for a single unit "white space". For instance, the number "1" is composed of the seven units, "0011001" or "space-space-bar-bar-space-space-bar". Remember, a single barcode number requires seven units.
Also, on a UPC barcode the same numbers on the left-hand side (the Manufacturer Code) is coded different than the numbers on the right-hand side (Product Code). The left side numbers are actually the "inverted" or "mirrored" codes of the right side numbers, for instance what is a "bar" on the right-side, is a "space" on the left-side. The right-side codes are called "even parity" codes because there is an even number of "black bar" units. For instance the right-side "6" is "101000" - 2 even-numbered "black bar" units. The left-side is called "odd-parity" because there is an odd number of "black bar" units. For instance, the left-side "6" is "0101111" - 5 odd-numbered "black bar" units. Having different coded numbers for each side allows the barcode to be scanned in either direction.
The following tables are the left and right side codes matching the corresponding numbers, separated into the seven single units.

1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0001101 0011001 0010011 0111101 0100011 0110001 0101111 0111011 0110111 0001011
1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1110011 1100110 1101100 1000010 1011100 1001110 1010000 1000100 1001000 1110100
Notice, a few things about the codes:

  1. As previously mentioned, the left and right numbers are "inverted" or "mirrored".
  2. Every barcode number is equal to "four" different marks. A "mark" can be either "black" (bar) or "white" (space). The "marks" vary in width, but there is always four different marks, 2 "bar marks" and 2 "space marks". For instance, the left code number "one" is "3 spaces (mark 1), 2 bars (mark 2), 1 space (mark 3), 1 bar (mark 4)".
  3. The left side codes always begins with a "space" or "0" and ends with a "bar" or "1". The right is just the opposite, it begins with a "bar" or "1" and ends with a "space" or "0".

Note: The computer does not read the numbers underneath the barcode. These Human Readable (HR) numbers are printed so a "human" can easily read the barcode, if necessary.
Number System Character: This number is a UPC system number that characterizes specific types of barcodes. In a UPC barcode it is normally on the left of the barcode. The actual "barcode" (the "bars" and "spaces") is the first "barcode" after the first "guard bar". The Number System Character is the blue box on the "Anatomy of a Barcode".

Codes of the Number System Character:
  • 0 - Standard UPC number.
  • 1 - Reserved.
  • 2 - Random weight items like fruits, vegetables, and meats, etc.
  • 3 - Pharmaceuticals
  • 4 - In-store code for retailers.
  • 5 - Coupons
  • 6 - Standard UPC number.
  • 7 - Standard UPC number.
  • 8 - Reserved.
  • 9 - Reserved.
3 Guard Bars: There are "3 guard bars". They are located at the beginning, middle and end. The beginning and ending guard bars are encoded as a "bar-space-bar" or 101. The middle guard bar is encoded as "space-bar-space-bar-space" or 01010. The guard bars "tell" the computer-scanner when the manufacturer and product code begin and end. For example, when the computer-scanner reads the first "101" or guard bar, the computer knows the next series of numbers is either the manufacturer or product code. And when the computer reads the "01010" or middle guard bar, the computer knows another number is coming. The 3 guard bars are also the supposedly "666" hidden in the barcode (we'll look at this in detail later). The 3 guard bars are highlighted with a green box on the "Anatomy of a Barcode".
Also, the first guard bar scanned is used by the computer to calculate the "width" of one unit.
Manufacturer Code: This is a five digit number specifically assigned to the manufacturer of the product. The manufacturer codes are maintained and assigned by the Uniform Code Council (UCC). Every product the manufacturer makes, carries the same manufacturer code. For example, the manufacturer code for Kellogg's is 38000. Every product Kellogg makes carries 38000 as the manufacturer code in the bar code. The manufacturer code is yellow on the "Anatomy of a Barcode".
Product Code: The product code is a five digit number that the manufacturer assigns for a particular product. Every different product and every different packaging or size, gets a unique product code. For instance, a 16oz bottle of coke gets a different product code than a 24 oz bottle of coke. For example: Kellogg's 13.5 oz Rice Krispies barcode is 38000 90530 — the 38000 is the manufacturer code for Kellogg and the 90530 is the product code for 13.5oz Rice Krispies. Kellogg's 16oz Mini-Wheats is 38000 02720 — the 38000 is the manufacturer code for Kellogg (the manufacturer never changes for Kellogg products) and the 02720 is the product code for 16oz Mini-Wheats. A manufacturer can have 99,999 unique product codes. The product code is orange on the "Anatomy of a Barcode".
Check digit: Also called the "self-check" digit. The check digit is on the outside right of the bar code. The check digit is an "old-programmer's trick" to validate the other digits (number system character, manufacturer code, and product code) were read correctly. The check digit is red on the "Anatomy of a Barcode".
How the computer calulates the check digit:

  1. Add all the odd digits. In our "Anatomy of a Barcode" we would add 0 (yes, you include the number system character digit) + 2 + 4 + 6 + 8 + 0 = 20
  2. Multiply the sum of step 1 by 3. Our example would be 20 x 3 = 60.
  3. Add all the even numbers. In our "Anatomy of a Barcode" we would add 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 = 25. You do not include the 5 or the check digit because that's what you are calculating.
  4. Now add the result from step 2 and step 3. 60 + 25 = 85.
  5. The check digit is the number needed to add to step 4 to equal a multiple of 10. 85 + 5 = 90. 5 is the check digit in our example. Another way to calculate the check digit would be simply to divide the number from step 4 by 10. The remainder is the check digit. Example 85/10 = 8.5
You'll notice the price was NOT included in the barcode.
Where is the price?
The price is kept in the store's centralized computer database. The store's "item database" contains a record for every item the store sells. The item record is "keyed" by manufacturer code and product code (same numbers as on the barcode). The price is kept for each item in this database. When the item is scanned by the employee, a computer program reads the barcode. It then converts the "bars and spaces" into the manufacturer and product "digital number". Using the manufacturer and product "digital number", the program reads the store's "item database". It then retrieves the price from the "item database" for that item. When a price changes, all the store has to do is update it once in the stores centralized database.
Is the number 666 "hidden" in the UPC barcode?
One of the most popular and shocking accusations concerning the number "666" is that the number "666" is quietly "hidden" in every UPC barcode. Mary Stewart Relfe's book, "The New Money System 666", published in 1982, is the "pioneer" of the "666 in the UPC barcode" teaching. Relfe's book contains over 50 pages of excellant doumentation on the UPC barcodes. Relfe's discovery is repeated in many publications touching the mark of the beast, within the last fifteen years. Including tracts published by this author.
Here's a few samples:

Terry Cook, The Mark of the New World Order, 1996:". . . the entire system [UPC barcode] is very deceptively designed around the infamous numerical configuration, Biblically known as 666, the mark of the Antichrist or devil (Revelation 13:16-18). . ." (Terry Cook, The Mark of the New World Order, 1996, p. 376)
Bob Fraley, The Last Days in America, 1984:
"The interpretation of the Universal Product Code marks is most revealing in that the three numbers '666' are the key working numbers for every designed Universal Product Code. Every group of Universal Product Code marks has in it three unidentified numbers. All three of these numbers are 6, making the use of the numbers '666' the key to using this identifying marking system. . .
There is no deviation. Every Universal Product Code has three unidentified marks whose number equivalent '6' encoding it with the code number '666'. " (Bob Fraley, The Last Days in America, 1984, p. 225, 228)
Here's how to "discover" the "hidden 666 in the UPC barcode".

The "hidden" 666 in the Barcode
Notice the three "guard bars" (colored RED) at the beginning, middle and end. Now, notice the same bar pattern ("bar-space-bar" or "101") for the number 6 (colored BLUE).
By "looking" at the above barcode, the number "666" clearly, appears to be there. . .
But is it?
Is the number 666 TRUTHFULLY "hidden" in the UPC barcode?
Technically, no it is not.
Here's the "technical" truth. . .
The number 6 and the three guard bars are NOT the same. They do "appear" to be identical, but they are different.

B M 6
123 12345 1234567
101 01010 1010000
Notice. The beginning and ending guard bars are "bar-space-bar" or "101" (the B in the above table). The middle guard bar is "space-bar-space-bar-space" or "01010" (the M in the above table). The number six is "1010000" (the 6 in the above table). Remember, technically a barcode number consists of sevenunits. The beginning and ending guard bars are only three units, and middle guard bar is only five units.
So, technically, from a computer's perspective the number "666" is NOT in the UPC barcode.
But. . .
Look again. . . All three guard bars contain the pattern "bar-space-bar" or "101". There is only ONE number, in TWENTY numbers (remember right and left numbers have different patterns) that contains the "101" pattern and that number is the right code SIX. Not the number one, or two, or three, etc. — but ONLY the right code SIX. I do seem to remember something about a mark on the RIGHT hand (Rev. 13:16).
Technically, from a computer's perspective the number "666" is NOT in the UPC barcode. . . but from a human's perspective — YES, the "appearance" of 666 is there!
What does the inventor of the UPC barcode say about the number "666" in the UPC barcode?
The inventor of the UPC barcode is George J. Laurer. In 1971, while Mr. Laurer was an employee with IBM, he was assigned the task "to design the best code and symbol suitable for the grocery industry". In 1973, Mr. Laurer's UPC barcode entered the world, and the rest is history.
On Mr. Laurer's web site, he has a "Questions" page, where he answers various questions about the UPC barcode. On the "Questions" page, Mr. Laurer answers the "666" question, as follows:
Question #8 - Rumor has it that the lines (left, middle, and right) that protrude below the U.P.C. code are the numbers 6,6,6... and that this is the international money code. I typed a code with all sixes and this seems to be true. At least they all resemble sixes. What's up with that?Answer- Yes, they do RESEMBLE the code for a six. An even parity 6 is:
1 module wide black bar 1 module wide white space 1 module wide black bar 4 module wide white space
There is nothing sinister about this nor does it have anything to do with the Bible's "mark of the beast" (The New Testament, The Revelation, Chapter 13, paragraph 18). It is simply a coincidence like the fact that my first, middle, and last name all have 6 letters. There is no connection with an international money code either. (From website)
Even, Mr. Laurer, the inventor of the UPC barcode admits, "Yes, they do RESEMBLE the code for a six."
In fact, as we've documented — SIX is the ONLY number they could RESEMBLE.
You would certainly think because of the "antichrist connections" to "666" they would have picked another number besides '6' to pattern the three 'guard bars' after? Why not 1 or 3, or 5, etc. — any number but '666'. Surely they knew Christians would, sooner or later, "discover" the clear "appearance" of 666 in the UPC bar code.
Maybe they had no choice?
Is the barcode the mark of the beast?
In the 1993 British movie, Naked, directed by Mike Leigh and starring David Thewlis, the following conversation takes place:
"What is the mark? Well the mark Brian, is the barcode. The ubitiqous barcode that you'll find on every bog roll, and every packet of johnny's and every poxie-pot pie. And every [expletive-removed] barcode is divided into two parts by three markers and those three markers are always represented by the number six. Six-six-six. Now what does it say? No one shall be able to buy or sell without that mark. And now what they're planning to do in order to eradicate all credit card fraud and in order to precipitate a totally cashless society.What they're planning to do; what they've already tested on the American troops; they're going to subcutaneously laser tattoo that mark onto your right hand or onto your forehead." (Naked, British movie, 1993, directed by Mike Leigh and starring David Thewlis)
There's no question Mary Stewart Relfe, author of When Your Money Fails, The "666" System" is Here, and The New Money System 666, believes the barcode is the Mark of the Beast.

Mary Stewart Relfe, When Your Money Fails…The "666" System" is Here, 1981

"And he causeth all . . . to receive a mark . . . "
In Greek this word mark is charagma, which literally denotes a stamp, an impress, and is translated mark. Notice that John did not say that he causeth all to receive a number in the right hand or forehead. This astute prophet could have certainly delineated between a series of numbers, and an unexplained stamp or mark. . .The same Electronic Eye which scans the UPC marks [barcodes] will in the near future scan the marks that will be required to be inserted on the body. . .
While some specifics remain vague, of this we are certain: All commerce will be conducted in the near future with a number, a name, or an identifying mark in the hand or forehead. It is my sincere deduction that the 'mark of the beast' will not be the insertion of numbers per se on the body, but of vertical lines which will represent encoded messages and digits. "(Mary Stewart Relfe, When Your Money Fails The "666" System" is Here, 1981, pp. 56,57,58)
Mary Stewart Relfe, The New Money System 666, 1982

"The Prophet John identified this Cashless System of Commerce 1900 years ago as one in which business would be transacted with a 'Mark' and a Number; the Mark will obviously be a Bar Code; the Number will be '666;' the combination of the two, about which you will read in this book, will be an integral part of the '666 System'. . .RECEIVING OF ONE'S OWN VOLITION THE MARK (BRAND) IN THE RIGHT HAND OR FOREHEAD; which I believe will be a Bar Code facsimile incorporating a concealed use of '666,' unintelligible to the eye,. . ." Mary Stewart Relfe, The New Money System 666, 1982, pp. xii, 206)
A bizarre coincident? concerning the barcode is the Greek word charagma translated 'mark' in Revelation. Here's how Robert Van Kampen, in The Signdescribes this coincident:
"It is interesting to note that the Greek word translated 'mark' is charagma which comes from the Greek word charax, which means 'a palisade, like a picket fence.' When one realizes that this specific word was used back in the first century, and we see today the use of the computer-related bar code, we find the possibilities becoming more than a reality in our day and age." (Robert Van Kampen, The Sign, 1992, p. 231)
Here's the explanation: The Greek "root" word for charagma (translated "mark") is charax. One of the meanings of charax is "a palisade" which is like a "picket fence, or vertical lines". The "idea" is, the reason John used the Greek word charagma, rather than stigma, etc., is because he was describing a 'mark' with vertical lines — a "bar code".
But is all this true?
Well, sort of. . .
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, defines the word charagma as:

5480 charagmakhar'-ag-mahfrom the same as 5482 (charax) a scratch or etching, i.e. stamp (as a badge of servitude), or sculpturedfigure (statue): — graven, mark.
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, defines the "root" word charax as:
5482 charaxkhar'-az from charasso (to sharpen to a point; akin to 1125 through the idea of scratching); a stake, i.e. (by impl.) a palisadeor rampant (military mound for circumvallation in a siege):—trench.
Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language (a must have for any serious Bible student!) defines palisade as:
PALISADE, A fence or fortification consisting of a row of stakes or posts sharpened and set firmly in the ground. In fortification, the posts are set two or three inches apart, parallel to the parapet in the covered way, to prevent a surprize.
Does all this "prove" John is describing a "barcode"?
No. Of course not. It's a long and rocky road to travel from "charagma" to a "barcode".
Is the barcode the mark of the beast?
Probably not.
A bar code would make a poor candidate for the mark of the beast for the following reasons:
  1. The mark is described specifically in Rev. 14:11 as "the mark of his name". Even the wildest imagination would have a very hard time turning a "barcode" into "the mark of his name".
  2. In the world of "high-level" security and identification, a barcode is not reliable enough. The reason for the "self-check" digit on the barcode is the probability of the scanner misreading the barcode. The next time you go through the grocery line count how many "beeps" or misreads the cashier gets.
  3. Because the human skin stretches, it would be virtually impossible to get the precision needed for a "reliable" barcode. The skin continually stretches with age, weight, wetness, sun exposure, etc.
  4. There is much more reliable and easier to implement technology than barcodes, such as biometric IDs or even biochips.
  5. A barcode does not match the Bible's description of the Mark of the Beast. See What is 666: The Mark of the Beast? for more info.
Porter Lee Corporation has invented a barcode system for the identifying and recording evidence for law enforcement officers. The title of the system is interesting — BEAST — Bar coded Evidence Analysis Statistics and Tracking.
A fascinating development took place recently. On March 2, 1999, patent 5,878,155 was issued to Houston inventor Thomas W. Heeter described as a "Method for verifying human identity during electronic sale transactions".
Heeter's patent "abstract" reads:"A method is presented for facilitating sales transactions by electronic media. A bar code or a design is tattooed on an individual. Before the sales transaction can be consummated, the tattoo is scanned with a scanner. Characteristics about the scanned tattoo are compared to characteristics about other tattoos stored on a computer database in order to verify the identity of the buyer. Once verified, the seller may be authorized to debit the buyer's electronic bank account in order to consummate the transaction. The seller's electronic bank account may be similarly updated."
Heeter's invention is aimed toward the booming world of Internet E-commerce. In the very near future, many products will be purchased E-commerce via the Internet. WorldNet Daily writes, ". . . Internet e-commerce figures spiraling upward, and the European market expected to surpass the U.S. online community in a couple of years, potential sales online have been projected to reach nearly $1 trillion by 2003." (WorldNet Daily, September 30, 1999)
Is the barcode paving the road to 666: the Mark of the Beast?
Yes. The barcode undoubtedly is paving the road for 666: the Mark of the Beast.
The barcode did something very important to help bring in 666: The mark of the Beast. . .
The barcode opened the door (in fact, it not only opened it, it kicked the door down) to the "digital world". Everything is now a number. Everything gets a barcode. As someone truly said, "If it exists, bar code it". I remember when barcodes first started appearing. I began telling people back then, the barcode was preparing the world for 666: the Mark of the Beast. Was I ever laughed at. . . even by the Christians. I can still remember their laughing and ridicule, "You mean to tell me, everything is getting one of those "marks". You mean, I'll go even to the local "7-Eleven" and they'll have laser scanners and they'll scan these "marks". No way. It would be too obvious what was happening. Everybody would know the mark of the beast is coming".
But isn't it amazing 25 years later. . . and nobody gives the "mysterious" barcodes even a "second thought".
Satan very carefully and subtlety (see Genesis 3:1 and 2 Cor. 11:3) indoctrinated us to our wonderful, convenient, new "digital world".

And the road to 666 is just ahead. . .

Friday, 3 May 2013

Henry Thoreau and 'Civil Disobedience'

Henry Thoreau and 'Civil Disobedience'
by Wendy McElroy
Thoreau Reader:  Home - Civil Disobedience Intro - Civil Disobedience Text:  Part 1

Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, California. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century (Ivan R. Dee / Independent Institute, 2002).

HENRY DAVID THOREAU was an introspective man, who wandered the woods surrounding the small village of Concord, Massachusetts, recording the daily growth of plants and the migration of birds in his ever-present journal. How, then, did he profoundly influence such political giants as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.? The answer lies in a brief essay that has been variously titled but which is most often referred to simply as "Civil Disobedience". Americans know Thoreau primarily as the author of Walden, but it is "Civil Disobedience" that established his reputation in the wider political world. It is one of the most influential political tracts ever written by an American.
[2]     "Civil Disobedience" is an analysis of the individual’s relationship to the state that focuses on why men obey governmental law even when they believe it to be unjust. But "Civil Disobedience" is not an essay of abstract theory. It is Thoreau’s extremely personal response to being imprisoned for breaking the law. Because he detested slavery and because tax revenues contributed to the support of it, Thoreau decided to become a tax rebel. There were no income taxes and Thoreau did not own enough land to worry about property taxes; but there was the hated poll tax – a capital tax levied equally on all adults within a community.[3]     Thoreau declined to pay the tax and so, in July 1846, he was arrested and jailed. He was supposed to remain in jail until a fine was paid which he also declined to pay. Without his knowledge or consent, however, relatives settled the “debt” and a disgruntled Thoreau was released after only one night. The incarceration may have been brief but it has had enduring effects through "Civil Disobedience." To understand why the essay has exerted such powerful force over time, it is necessary to examine both Thoreau the man and the circumstances of his arrest.

Thoreau the man
[4]     Henry David Thoreau was born into a modest New England family. With a childhood surrounded by rivers, woods, and meadows, he became an avid student of nature. His friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, offered the following psychological portrait:
He was bred to no profession; he never married; he lived alone; he never went to church; he never voted; he refused to pay a tax to the State; he ate no flesh; he drank no wine; he never knew the use of tobacco; and though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor gun. He chose, wisely no doubt for himself, to be the bachelor of thought and Nature.... No truer American existed than Thoreau.
[5]     If it is possible for one word to summarize a man, then that word would be the advice he offered in Walden: “Simplify, simplify.” Thoreau was a self-consciously simple man who organized his life around basic truths. He listened to the inner voice of his conscience, a voice all men possess but few men follow. As he explained in Walden,
To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.
[6]     Thoreau’s attempt to apply principles to his daily life is what led to his imprisonment and to "Civil Disobedience." Oddly enough, his contemporaries did not see him as a theorist or as a radical, viewing him instead as a naturalist. They either dismissed or ignored his political essays, including "Civil Disobedience." The only two books published in his lifetime, Walden (1845) and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849); both dealt with nature, in which he loved to wander.[7]     He did not have to wander far to find intellectual stimulation as well. During the early 19th century, New England was the center of an intellectual movement called Transcendentalism. In 1834, while Thoreau was a student at Harvard, the leading Transcendentalist moved into a substantial house at the outskirts of Concord, thus converting the village into the heart of this influential movement. That man was Ralph Waldo Emerson.
[8]     There has never been rigorous agreement on the definition of Transcendentalism, partly because Emerson refused to be systematic; but there are broad areas of agreement among Transcendentalists. As a philosophy, it emphasizes idealism rather than materialism; that is, it views the world as an expression of spirit and every individual as an expression of a common humanity. To be human is to be born with moral imperatives that are not learned from experience but which are discovered through introspection. Therefore, everyone must be free to act according to his conscience in order to find the truth buried within.
[9]     Although Emerson’s focus on the individual must have appealed to Thoreau, there was an inherent tension between Thoreau’s practical, earthy ways and the abstract quality of Transcendentalism. Thoreau wanted to incorporate principles into daily life; he wanted to taste and feel principles in the air around him. He wrote in Walden,
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it.
[10]     Despite their differences, Thoreau was deeply influenced by Emerson, whom he met in 1837 through a mutual friend. Four years later, Thoreau moved into the Emerson home and assumed responsibility for many of the practical details of Emerson’s life.[11]     Transcendentalism became Thoreau’s intellectual training ground. His first appearance in print was a poem entitled “Sympathy” published in the first issue of The Dial, a Transcendentalist paper. As Transcendentalists migrated to Concord, one by one, Thoreau was exposed to all facets of the movement and took his place in its inner circle. At Emerson’s suggestion, he kept a daily journal, from which most of Walden was eventually culled.
[12]     But Thoreau still longed for a life both concrete and spiritual. He wanted to translate his thoughts into action. While Transcendentalists praised nature, Thoreau walked through it. Especially in his later years, Emerson seemed distant from Thoreau’s lusty approach to life, which he described as “the doctrine of activity.” Given this difference of approach, it is no wonder that Emerson did not embrace the ideas within "Civil Disobedience." Nor did he approve of Thoreau’s refusal to pay taxes.

Imprisoned for a night
[13]     "Civil Disobedience" was Thoreau’s response to his 1846 imprisonment for refusing to pay a poll tax that violated his conscience. He exclaimed in "Civil Disobedience,"
Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.
[14]     Imprisonment was Thoreau’s first direct experience with state power and, in typical fashion, he analyzed it:
The State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.
[15]     Prior to his arrest, Thoreau had lived a quiet, solitary life at Walden, an isolated pond in the woods about a mile and a half from Concord. He now returned to Walden to mull over two questions: (1) Why do some men obey laws without asking if the laws are just or unjust; and, (2) why do others obey laws they think are wrong?[16]     In attempting to answer these questions, Thoreau’s view of the state did not alter. It was that view, after all, which led him to prison in the first place. Judging by the rather dry, journalistic account of being in jail, his emotional reaction did not seem to alter significantly; he was not embittered by the experience. The main criticism he expressed was aimed at those who presumed to pay his fine, an act that the jailer said “made him mad as the devil.”
[17]     Toward the men who were his jailers, Thoreau seems to have felt more disdain than anger, stating,
They plainly did not know how to treat me, but behaved like persons who are under-bred. In every threat and in every compliment there was a blunder; for they thought that my chief desire was to stand the other side of that stone wall.... I saw that the State was half-witted, that it was timid as a lone woman with her silver spoons, and that it did not know its friends from its foes, and I lost all my remaining respect for it, and pitied it.
[18]     It was the reaction of the townspeople of Concord, his neighbors, that distressed Thoreau and made him dissect the experience so as to understand their behavior. He ended his short, matter-of-fact account of his night in prison with a commentary on the townsfolk, which expressed how his eyes had been opened:
I saw to what extent the people among whom I lived could be trusted as good neighbors and friends; that their friendship was for summer weather only; that they did not greatly propose to do right; that they were a distinct race from me by their prejudices and superstitions.
[19]     There is no cynicism in Thoreau’s description of his neighbors, whom he admits he may be judging “harshly,” since “many of them are not aware that they have such an institution as the jail in their village.” Instead he was unsettled by the realization that there was a wall between him and the townsfolk, a wall to which Gandhi referred in an account of his second imprisonment in South Africa. Gandhi wrote,
Placed in a similar position for refusing his poll tax, the American citizen Thoreau expressed similar thought in 1849. Seeing the wall of the cell in which he was confined, made of solid stone 2 or 3 feet thick, and the door of wood and iron a foot thick, he said to himself, “If there were a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, there was still a more difficult one to climb or break through before they could get to be as free as I was.”
[20]     Thoreau may have also brooded over the reaction of Emerson, who criticized the imprisonment as pointless. According to some accounts, Emerson visited Thoreau in jail and asked, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?” Emerson was “out there” because he believed it was shortsighted to protest an isolated evil; society required an entire rebirth of spirituality.[21]     Emerson missed the point of Thoreau’s protest, which was not intended to reform society but was simply an act of conscience. If we do not distinguish right from wrong, Thoreau argued that we will eventually lose the capacity to make the distinction and become, instead, morally numb.
[22]    Near the end of his life, Thoreau was asked, “Have you made your peace with God?” He replied, “I did not know we had ever quarrelled.” For Thoreau, that would have been the real cost of paying his poll tax; it would have meant quarreling with his own conscience, which was too close to quarreling with God.
[23]   Civil Disobedience ends on a happy note. After Thoreau’s release and unpleasant experience with his   neighbors, the children of Concord had brightened his mood by urging him to join a huckleberry hunt. Huckleberrying was one of Thoreau’s valued pastimes and his skill at locating fruit-laden bushes made him a favorite with children. And, should a child stumble, spilling berries, he would kneel by the weeping child and explain that if children did not stumble, then berries would never scatter and grow into new bushes.
[24]     He ended his chronicle of prison,
[I] joined a huckleberry party, who were impatient to put themselves under my conduct; and in half an hour ... was in the midst of a huckleberry field, on one of our highest hills, two miles off, and then the State was nowhere to be seen.
[25]     Thus, Thoreau shed the experience of prison, but he could not shed the insight he had gained into his neighbors nor the questions that accompanied his new perspective. The text of "Civil Disobedience" constitutes the answer he discovered by listening to the “quiet voice within.”[26]     Although many Quaker writers had argued from conscience for civil disobedience against war and slavery, Henry David Thoreau’s "Civil Disobedience" essay is not tied to a particular religion or to a specific issue. It is a secular call for the inviolability of conscience on all issues, and this aspect may account for some of the essay’s enduring legacy. The personal quality of "Civil Disobedience" also contributes to its impact, as the essay exudes sincerity more commonly found in diaries and correspondence than in political tracts.
[27]     The opening sentence of "Civil Disobedience" sets the tone by paraphrasing the motto ofThe United States Magazine and Democratic Review – “That government is best which governs least.” Then Thoreau carries this logic one step further:
Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, – “That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient....
[28]     After what appears to be a call for anarchism, Thoreau pulls back and dissociates himself from “no-government men.” Speaking in practical terms and “as a citizen,” he states, “I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government.”[29]     Whatever his position on government, one point is clear: Thoreau denies the right of any government to automatic and unthinking obedience. Obedience should be earned and it should be withheld from an unjust government. To drive this point home, "Civil Disobedience" dwells on how the Founding Fathers rebelled against an unjust government, which raises the question of when rebellion is justified.
[30]     To answer, Thoreau compares government to a machine and the problems of government to “friction.” Friction is normal to a machine so that its mere presence cannot justify revolution. But open rebellion does become justified in two cases: first, when the friction comes to have its own machine, that is, when the injustice is no longer occasional but a major characteristic; and, second, when the machine demands that people cooperate with injustice. Thoreau declared that, if the government
requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.
Conscience vs. the collective[31]     This is the key to Thoreau’s political philosophy. The individual is the final judge of right and wrong. More than this, since only individuals act, only individuals can act unjustly. When the government knocks on the door, it is an individual in the form of a postman or tax collector whose hand hits the wood. Before Thoreau’s imprisonment, when a confused taxman had wondered aloud about how to handle his refusal to pay, Thoreau had advised, “Resign.” If a man chose to be an agent of injustice, then Thoreau insisted on confronting him with the fact that he was making a choice. As Thoreau explained,
[It] is, after all, with men and not with parchment that I quarrel, – and he has voluntarily chosen to be an agent of the government.
[32]     But if government is “the voice of the people,” as it is often called, shouldn’t that voice be heeded? Thoreau admits that government may express the will of the majority but it may also express nothing more than the will of elite politicians. Even a good form of government is “liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.” Moreover, even if a government did express the voice of the people, this fact would not compel the obedience of individuals who disagree with what is being said. The majority may be powerful but it is not necessarily right. What, then, is the proper relationship between the individual and the government?[33]     Perhaps the best description of Thoreau’s ideal relationship occurs in his description of “a really free and enlightened State” that recognizes “the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived.” It is a state that “can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor,” allowing those who did not embrace it to live “aloof.”

War and slavery
[34]     According to Thoreau, the government of his day did not come close to this ideal for two basic reasons: slavery and the Mexican-American war. It is important to remember that, although Thoreau’s imprisonment was a protest against slavery, "Civil Disobedience" was written after the outbreak of the Mexican-American war and protests both slavery and war. In fact, the opening paragraph of the essay mentions the war while saying nothing of slavery.
[35]     "Civil Disobedience" portrays the Mexican-American war as an evil comparable to slavery. The 1840s expressed a spirit of expansion called “Manifest Destiny” – the idea that it was the destiny of Americans to expand across the continent, civilizing the wilderness and the natives as they went. Part of the expansion was an annexation of Texas, which sparked a war with Mexico, which also claimed the area. The annexation was doubly offensive to Thoreau because it permitted slavery in the new territory.
[36]     Moreover, the domestic consequences of the conflict deeply disturbed him. Taxes soared; the country assumed a military air. Thoreau was horrified to learn that some of his neighbors actively supported the war. He was perplexed by those who did not support the war but who financed it through the taxes they paid. After all, he considered the war to be “the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool.” Without cooperation from the people, “a few individuals” would not succeed in wielding that tool.

Blind obedience to the state
[37]     In fact, the cooperation of the tool itself – the standing army – is required. Thoreau wonders about the psychology of men who would fight a war and, perhaps, kill others out of obedience. He concludes that soldiers, by virtue of their absolute obedience to the state, become somewhat less than human. He writes, “Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the Navy-Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts – a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity.” This is how “the mass of men” employed by the state render service to it, “not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies.” In doing so, the men relinquish the free exercise of their moral sense and, so “put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones.”
[38]     Thoreau asks, How does it become a man to behave toward the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. But his “well-meaning” neighbors – even those who were opposed to slavery and the Mexican-American war – did associate with and obey the American government. Thoreau ascribes their behavior to ignorance and concludes, “They would do better if they knew how.”
The problem remains, however, why do people like Emerson – who cannot be called ignorant – render any obedience to laws with which they disagree?
[39]     One reason is obvious: the people who believe they need a government are willing to accept an imperfect one. Such people, Thoreau explains, accept government as a “necessary evil.” Other people support government out of self-interest; Thoreau specifically mentions merchants and farmers in Massachusetts who profit from the war and from slavery.
[40]     Still others obey because they fear the consequences of disobedience. This is the neighbor who says, “If I deny the authority of the State when it presents its tax-bill, it will soon take and waste all my property, and so harass me and my children without end.” Thoreau knows that his neighbor is correct in his assessment of what may happen. “When I converse with the freest of my neighbors,” he writes,
I perceive that ... they dread the consequences to their property and families of disobedience.... This is hard. This makes it impossible for a man to live honestly, and at the same time comfortably, in outward respects.
[41]     By his own lights, Thoreau was fortunate in this respect. He had neither property to be seized nor children to go hungry. Accordingly, he did not criticize men who reluctantly obeyed an unjust law out of fear for their families.
Thoreau’s criticism is aimed at the form of obedience that springs from a genuine respect for the authority of the state. This obedience says, “The law is the law and should be respected regardless of content.” Through such attitudes, otherwise good men become agents of injustice.[42]     Thoreau dissects the notion that “the law is the law and should be respected.” For one thing, not all laws are equal. Some laws exist for no other reason than to protect the government – for example, laws against tax evasion or contempt of court. Such laws often have more severe penalties than those that protect individuals against violence.
[43]     Moreover, the proscribed penalties for denying government’s authority are often so vague and sweeping as to invite arbitrary sentences from the court. Lawyers and the courts are part of the state’s defensive machinery.
[44]     Thoreau concludes,
The lawyer’s truth is not Truth, but consistency or a consistent expediency…. He well deserves to be called ... the Defender of the Constitution.... Still thinking of the sanction which the Constitution gives to slavery, he says, “Because it was part of the original compact, – let it stand.” [He] is unable to take a fact out of its merely political relations....
[45]     Such courts offer no protection to Thoreau, who refuses to respect their authority. But he takes his refusal one step further. He not only rejects unjust laws but also the men who enact them. He withdraws his support from politicians who “rarely make any moral distinctions [and] are as likely to serve the Devil, without intending it, as God.”[46]     Thoreau’s use of the word “intending” is significant. Even well-intentioned politicians stand so completely within the institution of government that they never distinctly and nakedly behold it. Whatever they intend, they serve the government’s ends.
[47]    Thoreau’s disdain for politicians may seem a logical extension of his disrespect for “the law” but many reformers disrespected the law without holding lawmakers personally responsible. The viewpoint of such people overlooked the role of “choice,” Thoreau argues. Every politician who enacts a law chooses to do so; every agent who enforces a law chooses to do so. If officials create or enforce a law with which they disagree, then they have surrendered their conscience to the state and should be held personally responsible for that decision.
[48]     Holding politicians personally responsible is not the last step in Thoreau’s withdrawal of support. He denies the authority of government itself. Again, rejecting politicians may logically seem to imply the rejection of government; but, again, many reformers rejected politicians without rejecting politics.
Thoreau holds such reformers personally responsible as well.
[49]    Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform.

The problem with reformers
[50]     Thoreau specifically addresses fellow abolitionists who called for the immediate cessation of slavery. Instead of petitioning the government to dissolve the Union with slaveholders, Thoreau believed those reformers should dissolve “the union between themselves and the State – and refuse to pay their quota into its treasury.” Petitions only strengthened the authority of the government by recognizing its authority and honoring the will of the majority. “[Any] man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already,” he observes.
The reformers who petition government for permission “love better to talk” about justice than to act on it. Thus, Thoreau concludes, “Reform keeps many scores of newspapers in its service, but not one man.” To men who prefer a safe strategy, voting becomes a substitute for action and politics becomes a sort of game, like checkers or backgammon, only with a slight moral tinge.
To Thoreau, anyone willing to leave moral decisions to the will of the majority is not really concerned that right should prevail. When resisting the poll tax, he did not consult the majority; he acted. If he had allowed the majority to decide whether or not he should pay, by his own standards he would have shown no regard for what is right.
[51]     Moreover, Thoreau considers voting to be a poor vehicle for reform because voting follows real change; it does not precede or cause it. “When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery,” he writes, “it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote.” As for the other means that the state provides for changes to itself, they are extraordinarily slow. Thoreau notes, “They take too much time, and a man’s life will be gone.”

A duty to resist?
[52]     Does this mean men have a duty to pitch their life against an unjust state?
"Civil Disobedience" speaks to the individual’s right to resist the state but Thoreau does not consider disobedience to be an overriding duty. He understands that men are involved in the business of living and he thinks this is proper even for a dogged reformer like himself. He writes, “I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad.” First and foremost, he clearly stated, people should live their lives.
[53]     This is a crucial distinction. If a man is fortunate enough to be in circumstances that resemble Thoreau’s huckleberry field, “where the state was nowhere to be seen,” then he has no duty to seek it out but should, instead, go about the business of living. Thoreau defied the state only when it knocked on his door and demanded his money in support of an institution he considered to be unjust – slavery. Thereafter, when the state ignored him, Thoreau ignored it, even though his neighbors were taxed around him.
[54]     Thus, although "Civil Disobedience" is sometimes entitled “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience,” the latter is somewhat misleading. Indeed, the word “duty” may have derived from the essay’s critique and rejection of a chapter from William Paley’s book Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy. That chapter is entitled “Duty of Submission to Civil Government.”
[55]     According to Thoreau’s interpretation of the 18th-century philosopher, Paley argues that all civil obligations derive from expediency. Since Thoreau attempts to show the opposite – that civil obedience is morally grounded – the title “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” may have played on Paley’s title.
Nevertheless, Civil Disobedience does not espouse a duty to seek out the state for confrontation, to protest a wrong done to your neighbor, or even to resist the state in matters that do not violate conscience, such as buying a postage stamp.
[56]     The only political duty of a man is to correct any injustice he directly causes and to deny his cooperation to other injustice. This is the conclusion at which Civil Disobedience arrives.
If I have unjustly wrested a plank from a drowning man, I must restore it to him though I drown myself....
... If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man’s shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too.
In short, Thoreau believed the state should never rank above the individual conscience or the business of living. But if the state demands a person’s first allegiance by asking him to violate his conscience and participate in an injustice, the person should disobey – not through violence but by removing his cooperation.
Thoreau’s legacy[57]     Thoreau’s political theories were not well known during his own time. They were usually presented as lectures to small audiences or as articles buried in small-circulation periodicals. Civil Disobedience, for example, was first rendered as a lecture at the Concord Meeting Hall. In 1849, it was published under the title “Resistance to Civil Government” in the first and only issue of Boston Aesthetic Papers.
[58]     After Thoreau’s death, his sister Sophia prepared his uncollected works for posthumous publication in multiple volumes by Ticknor and Fields. The political essays were held until last and, even then, they appeared to be added on to the volume entitled A Yankee in Canada with Anti-Slavery and Reform Papers (1866). It included “Civil Disobedience,” which had been retitled “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.”
[59]     Why were these essays published last? Possibly because they were not considered representative of Thoreau. Perhaps because many of them were written in response to specific events and, so, seemed dated. Or perhaps because their political slant was so unpopular that some reviewers of the volume wished they had died with the man.
[60]     In 1890, Henry Salt published a collection of Thoreau’s political essays, including “Civil Disobedience.” The book profoundly influenced a young lawyer in South Africa who was protesting that government’s treatment of immigrant workers from India. The lawyer was Mohandas K. Gandhi. Gandhi found in Thoreau the techniques he would use in the subsequent struggle for Indian independence. Years later, he thanked the American people for Thoreau, saying,
You have given me a teacher in Thoreau, who furnished me through his essay on the “Duty of Civil Disobedience” scientific confirmation of what I was doing in South Africa.
[61]     By embracing Thoreau’s message and by expanding the strategy of civil disobedience, Gandhi focused world attention on the shy Yankee philosopher who lived without real fame in his own nation, in his own time.
Thoreau’s death went relatively unnoticed. In November 1860, he caught a severe cold that slowly deepened into consumption from which he never recovered. On May 6, 1862, at the age of 44, Henry David Thoreau died.[62]     Months later, Emerson published a eulogy that concluded,
The country knows not yet, or in the least part, how great a son it has lost. His soul was made for the noblest society; he had in a short life exhausted the capabilities of this world; wherever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will find a home.
[63]     As always, Thoreau said it more simply: “For joy I could embrace the earth. I shall delight to be buried in it.”
Copyright © 2005, Future of Freedom Foundation, and reprinted here with permission

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