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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tax Protestors Abusing Language: Latin Edition

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Tax protestors love to abuse the language. For example, they love to claim nobody is liable to pay income tax because they tax code doesn't use the word "liable" or "taxpayer" exactly the way they think it should (that is, in a way that would exclude them).

An amusing example of this is how tax protestors, whom I suspect are usually not fluent in Latin, abuse the term "sui juris" (or, as the Romans would have written it, SUI IURIS). "Sui" is the genitive reflexive pronoun -- that is, "of his (her, its, their) own". "Juris" means "laws". So, literally, "(of) his (her, its, their) own laws".

Tax protestors think that this means the legal concept of "sui juris" means that if one is legally "sui juris", one is only subject to one's own laws. Whoa! Not so fast. "Sui Juris" is something much simpler: it means, in Latin, precisely what is meant by the Greek (and English, from the Greek) word "autonomous" (autos - self, nomos - law).

It merely means, in other words, that a person has independent standing in the law -- that is, that the person is legally an adult and need not get a parent's or guardian's permission to sue (and can, equivalently, be sued directly and not through a guardian). It doesn't mean one is independent of the law and can do what one wishes without concern to what the law says.

So, yes, most tax protestors are in fact "sui juris" (although most of them would surely benefit from being declared incompetent and having a guardian appointed to them). They, and not their parents, can be sued for their non-payment of taxes. As usual, the tax protestors are ranting and foaming in the mouth -- and proving exactly the opposite of what they think they're proving.

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