I’ve dipped in and out of blockchain research for the past few years, and there are certain things i’ve come to understand about the complexion of projects that are well suited for the technology. One broad thesis that I’ve developed is that blockchain technology is uniquely capable of organizing bottom up user behaviors, especially in areas where there is no profit or political incentive for a company or government to organize said people from the top down. As I have watched protests erupt across our country, and as I have seen bottom up action fight a top down administration, I kept thinking to myself…there must be more impactful forms of leverage than simply visualizing our collective discontent via large scale assembly and marching. So here’s an idea on how the bottom up swell of discontent Americans can exert economic force and leverage on Donald Trump and Co.
Quick Primer on Blockchain for newbies
Blockchain technology enables strangers to trust each other in economic and social agreements. It is the technology that powers Bitcoin, Etherium, and hundreds of other crptocurrencies, but this same technology can power lots of other apps, especially those that deal with the transfer of money between people who don’t know each other. To simplify for non-blockchain folks, the important take away is this: if a blockchain based app (similar to a website or mobile app just w different technology powering it) defines a set of rules…especially around how money is going to be earned and distributed within the app…you can trust that when you put your money in…those rules will be followed by you and everyone else on the app…no matter what the makers of the app decide in the future, or even if the makers of the app are around in the future. Blockchain protocols are like detailed promises of how a community or network of people/companies and their money will behave in a given app or system. These promises, by design, will always be fullfilled, without the need of a company or government or law enforcement agency to make sure of it.
Ok, so here’s the idea:
1) The annual federal budget is around $4 Trillion a year
2) The government collects about $3.6 Trillion in federal taxes (so roughly speaking, our federal taxes pay for most of what the federal government operates on)
3) If a significant portion of US citizens chose to protest with their wallets and not their bodies, in substantial numbers, we could have a material adverse effect on Donald Trump’s operations.
4) Turns out this a thing. It’s called Tax Resistance, and there are hundreds of cases in our country’s history (and around the world) where people banded together and didn’t pay taxes when opposing a war or some other perceived injustice by a ruling government.
5) There is, obviously, deep personal risk to not paying your taxes. You can rack up steep fines, and worst case maybe even go to jail. My premise, is that as an individual, this risk is extreme, but as one of say 20 Million people, who collectively agree to behave this way, the risk is diminished…basically…strength and leverage in numbers. But how could you ensure that you were one of 20 Million before withholding funds? And how could you, collectively, ensure that your withheld funds were heard and responded to with action?
6) I think you could build a blockchain based application to organize mass federal tax resistance. The basic design would be a smart contract built on Etherium (or maybe you’d build your own blockchain from the ground up, i don’t know) that would receive all participants’ owed federal taxes, and that would only release these taxes to the IRS if a set of predefined conditions was satisfied by Donald Trump and the Federal Government. These conditions would be promises of the system that everyone agrees to on the way in. The logic of the contract would enable people to pay into it for the months leading up to Tax Day, and it would be conditional such that it would only become active and withhold on tax day if 1) the conditions had not been met, and 2) the minimum number of people specified at the onset (i.e. 20 million) had come together and funded the contract in time. So if only 100 people did it, on Tax Day, the contract would simply pass through your funds to the IRS automatically. BUT…if the contract had hit 20 Million people, which is the predefined number representing scale and safety for this form of protest, the contract would hold the funds until Administration acted to say 1) lift the muslim bad, 2) oust Bannon from office, 3) whatever else the protocol defines as fundamentally important and constitutional. (NOTE: If i’ve made any technical mistakes in this design or my simplification of blockchain technology, please feel free to correct me. thank you.)
7) The effect would be a big fat pile of money…say $200 Billion or 5% of annual feferal budget…sitting in a smart contract, staring Donald Trump in the face. He would know what he needed to do to release it. And he couldn’t lean on any individual actor in the system, or any top down authority governing these funds (because there isn’t one)..and the money would just be sitting there until he chose to behave. I believe this type of economic leverage would be a language this president understands…sure…he might go nuts and try to arrest all 20 Million people…but I think if a bottom up org represented that type of capital leverage…interesting things would happen.
8) For fun, maybe you’d call the project “Resistcoin”
9) Note to the IRS: I pay my taxes and I am not building this app.
Here’s Wikipedia’s list of historical tax resistance occurrences dating back to the 1st century A.D. through very modern and recent times.
Before 1500 A.D.
Jewish Zealots, 1st century A.D.
See also: Render unto Caesar…
In the 1st century AD, Jewish Zealots in Judaea resisted the poll tax instituted by the Roman Empire. Jesus was accused of promoting tax resistance prior to his torture and execution (“We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” — Luke 23:2).After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, Jews, particularly those exiled to Egypt, refused to pay the still-extant “temple tax” to Rome (which it was using to maintain pagan temples); Rome responded by destroying Jewish temples.
In 578 AD residents of Limoges, encouraged by the local clergy, rioted, destroying tax-collecting paraphernalia and threatening the assessor. The government responded harshly, with punishments including torture and crucifixion, though Queen Fredegund later was said to have repented and rescinded the tax.
Peace and Truce of God
Lady Godiva′s Ride
In the legend of Lady Godiva′s ride, Godiva continuously pleaded with Leofric to reduce taxes on the people of Coventry. Leofric, doubting the strength of her commitment to the cause, said that he would do so if Godiva were to ride naked on a horse through the town. She called his bluff, rode in the buff, and that was enough.
Main article: Alamanikon
When Alexios III Angelos tried to tax residents of Constantinople in order to come up with money to pay protection money to Henry VI, the people of Constantinople refused to pay, and Alexios was reduced to trying to collect the sum by stripping the ornaments from old tombs.
A war tax instituted by the Florentine seigniory in 1288 and increased in 1289 led to mass tax resistance that forced the government to abandon the tax.
Clericis laicos, 1296
In 1296, Pope Boniface VIII issued the clericis laicos, which prohibited secular governments from taxing churches without the permission of the Pope, and prohibited church officials from paying such taxes. Archbishop Robert Winchelsey used this as the basis for his refusal to pay taxes to Edward I of England, and urged the clergy under his direction to do likewise.
Norman anti-tax riots, 1348–51
In Normandy in June 1348, tax resisters attacked the tax collectors of King Philip VI, “pillaging and burning their houses.” In August 1351, citizens of Rouen rioted, “destroying ‘the counters, boxes, and other objects necessary to make and operate’ collection of” a new tax instituted by John II. In 1355, Geoffroy of Harcourt urged residents of Rouen to refuse to pay the hearth tax and allied with Charles the Bad against John II′s taxes.
Wat Tyler′s rebellion, 1381
In 1381, the Peasant’s Revolt occurred in England, when Wat Tyler led an uprising over a new poll tax. Tyler marched an army of tens of thousands of peasants from Kent to Canterbury, then to London, beheaded the archbishop, and exacted radical concessions from King Richard II. During the negotiations, Tyler was killed by officers of the King and was publicly beheaded, and Richard II retracted all of the concessions that he had previously made.
French aides uprisings, 1381
In Rouen workers in the textile trade gathered in the Old Market, chose one of their own to represent the king, and had this mock king sign acts abolishing the aides. In Paris the collectors′ threat to seize a greengrocer′s still on the Right Bank roused local residents to assemble, shout “Down with taxes!” and chase off the tax collectors…. The rebellion then spread to Caen and other towns in Normandy and to towns in Picardy, where opposition was especially virulent in Amiens. It moved through Orleans and on to Sens, finally reaching Lyons….
The Bundschuh movement was in part a tax resistance movement that encouraged its followers to stop paying tithes to the Catholic Church and taxes. In France, a tithe-payer strike spread from 1529 to 1560 among both Catholics and Protestants.
Revolt of the Comuneros, 1520
Residents of Salamanca in 1520 refused to pay any taxes because of their belief that Charles I was sending the tax money to the Netherlands. They were joined by other towns, which eventually formed the Revolt of the Comuneros.
German Peasants′ War, 1524–25
The German Peasants’ War of 1524–25 was in part a tax resistance campaign. The rebels vowed to set their own tithes, and:
The small tithes, whether ecclesiastical or lay, we will not pay at all, for the Lord God created cattle for the free use of man. We will not, therefore, pay farther an unseemly tithe which is of man′s invention…. Henceforth no one shall have to pay death taxes, whether small or large.
Revolt of Ghent, 1539
For war, killing, and bloodshed (where it is demanded especially for that) we give nothing, but not out of wickedness or arbitrariness, but out of the fear of God (1 Timothy 5) that we may not be partakers in strange sins.
[When] the government requires of us what is contrary to our faith and conscience — as swearing oaths and paying hangman’s dues or taxes for war — then we do not obey its command.
Gabelle revolts, 1542, 1548
Residents of La Rochelle rebelled against the gabelle, or salt tax, in 1542. “[A]rmed rebels thwarted the tax-collecting efforts of two successive visitations of royal commissioners sent out to enforce the [gabelle] edicts.” A second revolt centered in Guyenne in 1548 was more organized, widespread, and violent; and was violently suppressed. Also in August 1548, there were violent revolts against the gabelle in Bordeaux in which tax collectors were killed and their homes burnt. The French central government sent in thousands of troops who terrorized the occupants, imposed martial law, and enforced humiliating terms; however “Amazingly, in the long run, the rebellion did achieve its aim. Unnerved by the riots, Henri II decided not to enforce the salt tax.”
Tariff resistance in Holland, 1543–49
Tax strikes in France, 1579–80
In Romans-sur-Isère and other parts of Dauphiné, anti-tax leagues formed, which grew into a powerful rebellion that was crushed in the wake of the ambush and murder of many of the rebel leaders by vigilantes during the Carnival of 1580.
The Revolt Against the Tribute, Philippines, 1589
In 1589, the provinces of Cagayán, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur rebelled against unjust Spanish colonial taxes and abusive tax collectors in what became known as the “Revolt Against the Tribute,” the “Dingrás Revolt,” or the “Ilocos Norte Revolt.”
Main article: Croquant rebellions
Peasant rebels in southwestern France called “croquants” included “refusal to pay tithes, tailles, and rents… and resistance to tax collectors and their agents.” A second rebellion in Vivarais at the same time also centered on refusal to pay the taille.
Sales tax resistance in France, 1597
A number of towns in France, notably Poitiers, resisted the imposition of a new sales tax by Henry IV in 1597. The King at first stubbornly enforced the tax by force, but eventually decided the expense and fuss was not worth the income and rescinded the tax.
The Jelali revolts were typically inspired by taxes or the action of tax collectors, and included tax resistance strategies, including “The Great Flight” — a sort of mass emigration by peasants from their land to avoid taxes.
Bolotnikov rebellion, 1606
In the city of Brussels, then part of the Duchy of Brabant in the Habsburg Netherlands, there was a tax strike in 1619. When the States of Brabant (composed of representatives of the clergy, the nobility, and the four cities Leuven, Brussels, Antwerp and ‘s-Hertogenbosch) met to renew the standard sales tax on the “four species of consumption” (beer, wine, bread and meat), the guilds of the city of Brussels instructed their representatives not to vote the taxes through until their grievances had been addressed. As the constitutional principle was that taxes had to be passed by “full consent”, this meant the taxes could not legally be collected. After two months of constitutional impasse and fruitless negotiations (May–June) the government ordered the taxes to be collected notwithstanding. The guilds made this impossible, and their defiance of the government led to a military occupation of the city in September 1619. The central authorities then revised the civic constitution to limit the power of the guilds to filibuster the States of Brabant. The deans of six of the guilds, and their legal counsel, were served with sentences of lifelong banishment from the Low Countries.
English Civil War
In 1627, John Hampden was imprisoned for his opposition to the loan Charles I authorised without parliamentary sanction, and he also refused to pay ship money to the Royal Navy. The attempts to imprison resisters like Hampden led to the English Civil War.
From the summer of 1646 through 1648, the city of London refused to pay taxes to the New Model Army which was occupying the city.
17th-century tax rebellions in France
In 1615, the residents of one commune refused to pay the wine tithe and threatened to throw the collector into the Rhône.
In Poitiers, France, in 1624 and again on multiple occasions in 1663, mobs attacked Inns where French tax farmers were staying, threatening to torch the building and kill those inside.
The success of anti-tax rebellions in Saintonge and Angoumois led to other rebellions in France, including some in which excise officers were lynched. The most notorious incident was the massacre of tax officers responsible for collecting the gabelle at Agen in June 1635.
A second “Croquants′ Revolt” in 1636–37 (with some outbreaks as early as 1628) concerned the taxes being raised to support France′s entry into the Thirty Years’ War and included the lynching of tax officials, a tax strike, and a major battle at which over 2,000 people were killed. The major rebellion was defeated, but outbreaks of mass tax resistance continued as late as 1658.
From 1638 to 1645, the residents of Pardiac refused to pay their taxes, rose up to free the officials who had been imprisoned for failure to remit the tax money, repulsed government troops sent to enforce the tax laws, and massacred a tax official and his bodyguard.
In 1639–43, the revolt of the va-nu-pieds in Normandy included a tax strike and attacks on the homes of tax farmers. In 1643 there were attacks on tax collectors in multiple regions of France. The Fronde of 1646–53 was also marked by anti-tax riots.
The revolt of the papier timbré in 1675 was centered on a new stamp tax, and included destruction of tax offices and attacks on tax- and tithe-collectors.
In 1682, a village curate led a tax revolt in which the villagers stoned the monks and the tithe agent who had come to collect a grain tithe.
Algonquian resistance, 1637
Italian tax revolts, 1647
Swiss peasant war of 1653
A devaluation of Bernese money caused a tax revolt and the Swiss peasant war of 1653 that spread from the Entlebuch valley in the Canton of Lucerne to the Emmental valley in the Canton of Bern and then to the cantons of Solothurn and Basel and also to the Aargau.
Resistance to Cromwell’s Taxes-by-Decree, 1654
In 1654, an English merchant named George Cony refused to pay customs duties that had been established by Oliver Cromwell‘s government without its having bothered to go through Parliament, and thereby called into question the legal underpinnings of the whole regime.
Quaker Tithe and War Tax Resistance, 1659–
George Fox′s Quaker movement included resistance to tithes and other mandatory fees destined for the establishment church. Soon, the movement also incorporated resistance to militia taxes and fees, and to “trophy money” (taxes for equipping soldiers). These were early examples of war tax resistance in the Quaker movement.
Revolt of the papier timbré, 1675
Main article: Revolt of the papier timbré
Scottish presbyterian dissent, 1678–88
In the 17th century, as the reformation government in Scotland reintroduced a state episcopal church and brutally cracked down on dissident presbyterian groups, members of those groups resisted the taxes that were being raised to pay for this repression, and advocated mass tax resistance. (When the Scottish Presbyterians gained the upper-hand and became the establishment church of Scotland, the tables were turned, and members of dissident churches began to resist taxes paid for its support.)
Resistance in New England, 1687
Main article: 1689 Boston revolt
On 22 August 1687, John Wise met with some of the other “principal inhabitants” of Ipswich in New England, and decided that a new tax that had been imposed by governor Edmund Andros, without consulting the colony’s General Assembly, was illegitimate and “that it was not the town’s duty any way to assist that ill method of raising money.” A town meeting the next day that Andros had called for in order to select tax commissioners instead issued a declaration against the tax. A number of those at the town meeting were then arrested, hauled to a jail in another town, and then put on trial before a jury hand-picked by the prosecution and a judge who referred to the defendants as “criminals” over the course of the trial.
Fines and court costs followed, and, at first, the Andros tyranny was triumphant. But Wise and company had the last laugh. On 18 April 1689, in the wake of the Glorious Revolution in the home country, a “Declaration of the Gentlemen, Merchants, and Inhabitants of Boston” was issued, which proclaimed the assault on the rights of dissenting English colonists to be part of the same plot of “the great Scarlet Whore” to crush Englishmen under the thumb of the papists (that is, James II of England) again.
Then followed a revolution. Andros and Judge Dudley, who had tried the case against Wise and the rest, were overthrown and imprisoned.
Camisard revolt, 1700–03
New Jersey resistance to a Catholic assessor, 1715
In 1715, 36 New Jersey residents pledged to refuse to pay taxes “Because wee have been Illegally Assessed by an Asseser who being a Known & open profest Roman Catholick which is Utterly Repugnant to the Laws of Great Brittain & Contrary to ye Rights & Liberties of his Royall Majties faithfull Subjects.” Some of the signers of the pledge were indicted for their refusal.
18th-century uprisings in Japan
Successful peasant uprisings in the Fukuyama fief in 1717 (and again in 1752 and 1770), in the Tsuyama fief in 1726–27, and in Iwaki Daira in 1739, focused on the oppressiveness of taxes and tax collection. Other tax revolts in Aizu in 1749, in Shinano Ueda in 1761–63, in Tenma Sodo in 1764–65, in Koyasan in 1776, in Kozuke & Musashi in 1781, and in Hokkaido in 1790, were only partially successful but also led to severe reprisals.
Malt tax riots in Scotland, 1725
Main article: Malt tax riots
A duty on malt had been imposed in England to pay for a war against France. At the union with Scotland in 1707, most taxes were made uniform, but under the Treaty of Union Scotland was given a temporary exemption from the malt tax, until the end of the war. After the war, in 1725, the House of Commons applied a new malt tax which applied throughout Great Britain, but charged at only half the rate in Scotland. Scots were unused to this tax, which increased the price of beer. Enraged citizens in Glasgow drove out the military and destroyed the home of their representative in parliament, who had voted for the tax. In Edinburgh, brewers went on strike, illegally. Andrew Millar, then a book trade apprentice, helped overthrow attempts by Edinburgh magistrates to control dissemination of opinion during the unrest. The pamphlet Millar refers to in the letter to Robert Wodrow dated 10 August 1725, and his actions detailed in the letter dated 15 July, emphasized contemporary doubts and challenges to the strike’s “illegality”. Much later, in 1806, there were malt tax riots in Llannon, Wales, in which a mob attacked 26 excise tax collectors who were searching for malt.
Excise tax riots in England, 1733
In Gloucester and Hereford counties, England, rioters dressed in women’s clothing and blackface destroyed tollbooths, a variety of resistance that would reemerge a century later in the Rebecca Riots. A royal proclamation complained of the rebels that they “have made publick and open Declaration, that they would proceed to pull down ſeveral other Turnpikes; and that if any of the Commiſſioners ſhould attempt to ſet up the Turnpikes again, they would pull down their Houſes, and would cut down the Turnpikes as often as they ſhould be ſet up.”
A similar outbreak took place in Bristol in 1749, in which self-styled Jack-a-Lents, “many naked with their faces blacked … destroyed the gates at Bedminster, Ashton, Don John’s Cross, Dundry, Backwell, Nailsea, Redcliffe, Totterdown, Teasford and Bath Roads, Hanham, Kingswood, Stoke’s Croft, &c., &c.”
Porteous riots, 1736
Main article: Porteous Riots
Rioters, sympathetic to condemned smugglers who were resisting excise taxes, managed to free one, but in an attempt to free another several were killed by the Edinburgh city guard, commanded by John Porteous. Porteous was convicted of these killings, but pardoned by Queen Caroline, whereupon a lynch mob seized Porteous and hanged him.
Tithe resistance in France, 1736
Peasants in disguise attacked and reclaimed the grain from the granary of a tithe collector in France in 1736. Authorities could find no witnesses willing to testify against any of the attackers.
North Carolina Counties Resist, 1746
In 1746, the North Carolina colonial governor tried to rejigger the composition of the colonial Assembly, taking seats away from some counties. Those counties responded by withdrawing from the Assembly and refusing to surrender any taxes to the colonial government. Other counties, not wanting to bear the whole cost of government themselves, then responded by withholding their own taxes. This state of affairs lasted eight years.
French and Indian War, 1755
In the mid-18th century, American Quaker John Woolman led many Quakers to question and refuse the payment of taxes to pay for the French and Indian War. In 1755, Woolman addressed the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting with his concern, saying in part:
Some of our members, who are officers in civil government, are, in one case or other, called upon in their respective stations to assist in things relative to the wars; but being in doubt whether to act or crave to be excused from their office, if they see their brethren united in the payment of a tax to carry on the said wars, may think their case not much different, and so might quench the tender movings of the Holy Spirit in their minds. Thus, by small degrees, we might approach so near to fighting that the distinction would be little else than the name of a peaceable people.
A group of several like-minded Quakers, including John Woolman, John Churchman, and Anthony Benezet then sent a letter to other meetings, which read in part:
[B]eing painfully apprehensive that the large sum granted by the late Act of Assembly for the king’s use is principally intended for purposes inconsistent with our peaceable testimony, we therefore think that as we cannot be concerned in wars and fightings, so neither ought we to contribute thereto by paying the tax directed by the said Act, though suffering be the consequence of our refusal, which we hope to be enabled to bear with patience.
The “Regulator” movement, 1767–71
Main article: War of the Regulation
The Regulator movement against the corrupt colonial administration of North Carolina from around 1767 to 1771 presaged the American Revolution. It began with organized groups of rural North Carolinans refusing to pay inflated taxes to corrupt authorities, and eventually built to an armed rebellion (which was crushed).
A revolt in Palermo, 1773
Most Sicilians refused to pay new taxes imposed in 1770, and ripped down notices announcing the new levies. By 1773 the resistance led to a full-fledged revolt and ushered in a period when Palermo was under the de facto rule of the maestranze (guilds).
See also: No taxation without representation
Boston Tea Party, 16 December 1773.
British colonists in America used various methods of tax resistance to resist the British in the years leading up to the American Revolution, including the Boston Tea Party action, the Gaspée Affair, “spinning bees” in which revolutionary-minded women would make untaxed domestic cloth (prefiguring Gandhi‘s homespun cloth campaign), and a boycott of other taxed goods.
After the revolution was underway, taxes instituted by the American patriot side were also widely resisted. One 1781 tax in Connecticut, for example, was designed to raise £288,233 but raised only £40,000 due to unwillingness to pay. Some Quaker meetings recommended that their members not pay taxes to the revolutionary governments, and other Quakers refused to use Continental currency which the revolutionary governments were using for seigniorage.
John Payne, an Englishman who was opposed to the war to suppress the colonial rebellion, went so far as to board up the windows of his home and put his coach out of commission to avoid the taxes on those items, and he rode miles out of his way to avoid toll gates.
African American protests against taxation without representation, 1780
Main article: Paul Cuffe
In 1780, African American Paul Cuffe and his brother resisted the state tax of Massachusetts. Cuffe wrote to the state legislature: “While we are not allowed the privilege of free men of the state having no vote or influence in the election with those that tax us. Yet many of our color, as is well known, have cheerfully entered the field of battle in the defense of the common cause.” In 1783 free, taxpaying African Americans in Massachusetts were given full citizenship rights, including the right to vote.
Revolt of the Comuneros, 1781
New Hampshire secessionists, 1781
For a while, during the early days of the United States, Vermont was an independent republic of sorts, though with aspirations for statehood. Some regions of neighboring New Hampshire felt more loyal to the Vermont Republic than to the confederation of United States, and expressed this by refusing to pay taxes to the latter.
York tax riot, 1786
In York, Pennsylvania, in 1786, Jacob Bixler’s cow was distrained after he refused to pay a tax. Sympathizers with Bixler disrupted the subsequent auction and rescued the cow.
Tax resistance during the French Revolution
During the French Revolution and its aftermath, customs houses were burned by mobs, tax rolls were destroyed, and excise collectors were made to renounce their jobs and then were run out of town (or in some cases killed). Popular tax resistance was directed both against the toppling monarchy and against the governments that would try to replace it.
The Whiskey Rebellion, 1791–94
Main article: Whiskey Rebellion
There was an earlier rebellion, in 1783, against a Pennsylvania state excise tax on whiskey. In Washington County, protesters seized a fleeing tax collector, forced him to destroy his arms and paperwork, shaved his head, and paraded him through the areas he was sent to tax.
White Lotus Rebellion, 1793
Pazvantoğlu rebellion, 1794
Fries′s Rebellion, 1799–1800
Main article: Fries’s Rebellion
Resistance in Mexico, 1780–1807
There was widespread resistance to the pulque tax and other taxes in Zempoala and Otumba, beginning in 1780.
A mass tax strike in Benares, 1810–11
When the occupation British Raj attempted to impose a house tax in Bengal, 200,000 residents of Benares shut their shops, left their homes, assembled en masse in the countryside, and petitioned the occupation government to lift the tax. This massing occurred in December 1810–January 1811. The Raj at first made a show of force, but eventually rescinded the tax.
Radical Reformers, 1819
The “Radical Reformers” were advicates if democratic reforms in England — things like universal male suffrage and secret ballots. In the wake of a military massacre of reform demonstrators in Manchester in August, 1819, reformers vowed to refuse to buy and consume products on which the government applied an excise tax, like tea, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages.
See also: Radicalism (historical)
When residents of St. George parish refused to pay their church tithes, William Lumley, governor of Bermuda, put several in military jail. Lumley’s acts were later ruled illegal (Basham v. Lumley, 1829), the court ruling that although the governor of the Bermuda colony had also been granted ecclesiastical authority by the crown, he was not authorized to use his civil authority to imprison people who refused his ecclesiastical orders; at most he could excommunicate them.
Tumenggung Mohammad revolt, 1825
Tax resistance against Charles X of France, 1829
When Charles X of France attempted to bypass the legislature and enact its own taxes in 1829, French liberals in the Breton Association organized tax resistance and created a fund to defray the costs of any tax resisters who were prosecuted. Six Parisian newspapers who printed the Association’s manifesto were prosecuted by the crown. Fifteen regional organizations, including Refus de l’impôt, Aide-toi, le ciel t’aidera, and Association parisienne, were formed specifically to engage in tax resistance.
Tax resistance in Georgian England
In the 1820s and 1830s, activists like William Benbow and Thomas Jonathan Wooler and groups such as the National Union of the Working Classes and National Political Union advocated and practiced tax resistance.
The Tithe War, 1830–38
Main article: Tithe War
From 1830 to 1838, Irish Catholics conducted a mass tax strike against the mandatory tithes payable to the Anglican official state Church of Ireland. The Tithe War, as it came to be called, had both a nonviolent, passive-resistance wing, led by James Warren Doyle, and a violent one, in which bands of paramilitary secret societies enforced the strike and attacked tax collectors and collaborators. The campaign was eventually successful in eliminating the tithe system, although the government essentially converted what had been tithes on the tenants into rent due through the landlords.
Resistance in Syria, 1831–54
Syrians resisted being taxed both by Egypt and later by Turkey, and refused to pay these occupation governments.
Tax resistance for the Reform Act of 1832
Tax resistance was an important tool in the arsenal of the Birmingham Political Union and its allies who forced the crown and the House of Lords to capitulate over the Reform Act of 1832. In the spring of 1832, residents of Carmarthen, Wales, met and vowed to stop paying taxes if the Reform Act were not passed, and some stopped paying taxes in the wake of the collapse of Lord Grey‘s government.
In 1833, thousands of residents of the island of Tinos stopped paying their taxes in an organized campaign. The government reacted fiercely, imprisoning many leaders of the movement and forcing the local bishop to flee.
U.K. resistance to “Assessed Taxes,” 1833–51
There was sporadic resistance to assessed taxes (particularly the window tax) in the United Kingdom. Resisters felt the tax was overly-regressive. Resisters formed tax resistance associations and disrupted auctions of goods seized from resisters by the tax authorities.
Edinburgh Annuity/Clerico-Police Tax, 1833–61
An Annuity Tax to raise money for the establishment clergy in Edinburgh, Scotland began to be resisted by nonconformists around 1833, in particular by William Tait, publisher of Tait’s Magazine who went to jail for his stand. Celebrated imprisonments like this, and occasional attempts (often unsuccessful) by the authorities to seize and auction property of the resisters, characterized the campaign. The government attempted to appease the resisters by “abolishing” the Annuity tax, but they did so by paying the clergy from funds raised by a different tax, leading the resisters to dub it the “Clerico-Police Tax” and to continue to resist it.
Tax resistance in Bulgaria, 1835–37
Peasants in the western border region of Bulgaria refused to pay taxes in hopes of autonomy and assistance from the newly autonomous Serbia.
Robert Purvis, 1838, 1853
African-American activist Robert Purvis refused to pay his Pennsylvania state taxes in protest against the state’s denial of equal voting rights to black citizens around 1838, and then refused to pay the part of his property tax that went towards education in 1853 when his children were refused admission to the whites-only classrooms.
Rebecca Riots, 1839–43
Main article: Rebecca Riots
The Rebecca Riots were a protest against the high tolls which had to be paid on the local turnpike roads in Wales, and included destruction of tollhouses and harassment of toll collectors.
Corn Law protests, 1842
In February, 1842 “a meeting of ladies” in Manchester opposed to the Corn Laws signed a tax resistance pledge, in which they “resolve[d] that we will form ourselves into a provisional committee, to carry out a plan of passive resistance… That by passive resistance we understand that we will allow our furniture to be seized for the payment of assessed taxes without offering any resistance to the collecting officers, at the same time urging the people not to purchase the articles so seized. And further, we mean abstinence from the several taxed luxuries used in our homes. We adopt the above pledge for three months, and further pledge ourselves during that time to use our utmost exertions to preserve perfect peace among the people.”
Poor Law protests, 1843
Opposition to the New Poor Law led to refusal to pay the taxes for its support. The campaign featured demonstrations of thousands of people, passive resistance, and noncooperation with government auction of distrained goods. In County Waterford the campaign was particularly strong, and openly threatened violence against tax collectors, leading the poor rate collector there to abandon plans to distrain and auction property in lieu of voluntarily paid taxes.
Maryland bond protests, 1843
Some residents of Maryland, as their state government went into default over canal bonds in the wake of the Panic of 1837, refused to pay taxes the proceeds of which were destined for bond-holders. In some areas, tax collectors resigned and the government was unable to find others willing to take their places. Tax resistance was promoted in part by the Locofocos, a Democratic party splinter group.
“White Quakers,” 1843
The White Quakers, an Irish Quaker splinter group named for their characteristic undyed clothing, undertook tax resistance in 1843 to protest government harassment of their sect.
Wine tax in Portugal, 1845
When tax farmers attempted to collect a new tax on wine in the Felgueiras district in the wine country on the Douro, the citizens gathered in Penacova (pt) (also known as São Martinho de Penacova), armed themselves, and forced the tax collectors and the soldiers protecting them to flee. The next day, military reinforcements attacked the rebels, killing ten.
Mexican-American War, 1846
Main article: Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)
Perhaps the most famous American example of a tax resister, Henry David Thoreau, was briefly jailed in 1846 for refusing to pay taxes in protest against the Fugitive Slave Act and the Mexican–American War. In his essay on civil disobedience, he wrote:
I meet this American government, or its representative, the State government, directly, and face to face, once a year, no more, in the person of its tax-gatherer; this is the only mode in which a man situated as I am necessarily meets it; and it then says distinctly, Recognize me; and the simplest, the most effectual, and, in the present posture of affairs, the indispensablest mode of treating with it on this head, of expressing your little satisfaction with and love for it, is to deny it then….
…If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.
Sicilian revolution of independence of 1848
Karl Marx prosecuted for promoting tax resistance, 1848
During the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, the royal and military aristocracy prohibited the first popularly elected parliament from assembling, and that parliament responded by declaring the government out-of-business:
So long as the National Assembly is not at liberty to continue its sessions in Berlin, the Brandenburg cabinet has no right to dispose of government revenues and to collect taxes.
Karl Marx, via his newspaper, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, published this decree, adding: “From today, therefore, taxes are abolished! It is high treason to pay taxes. Refusal to pay taxes is the primary duty of the citizen!” Marx was later prosecuted for promoting tax resistance, but was acquitted after arguing that it was not illegal to promote tax resistance against an illegal government.
Residents of St. Mary’s parish in Jamaica launched a successful revolt against imperious tax collectors in 1848.
The Great Confederated Anti-Dray and Land Tax League of South Australia, 1850
The Great Confederated Anti-Dray and Land Tax League of South Australia formed in the Spring of 1850 to resist taxes associated with a recently enacted Road Act. The League felt the taxes were excessive; oppressive to poor farmers while exempting rich merchants, mine owners, and bankers; had been imposed by a non-representative government body; and operated largely for the benefit of land-holders who were also members of the board that was imposing the tax and designing the road system.
Resistance to the Foreign Miners Tax of 1850 in California
The “Foreign Miners Tax” of 1850 required all California miners who were not American citizens to pay $20 per month. The tax was not so much a revenue raising instrument as a way of allowing citizens to monopolize mining and take over sites being worked by Chinese and Mexican miners. The tax resistance by foreign miners was successful. The tax was repealed by the end of 1850, though a smaller ($4/month) tax was reapplied to Chinese miners in 1852, and some particularly unscrupulous tax collectors continued to extort the tax from foreign miners even when it was no longer legal to do so. One person who was forced off of his mining claim by the Foreign Miners Tax was Joaquin Murieta, whose story became a Robin Hood-like myth in California.
Prussian democrats, 1850,1864
In 1850 Lothar Bucher, leader of the radical democratic party in the Prussian national assembly, and others of similar views, were convicted for encouraging citizens to stop paying taxes to the autocratic government.
Similarly, in 1864 the delegate Johann Jacoby served six months behind bars for a speech calling for tax refusal, delivered in the presence of the King, an early manifestation of opposition to the rule of Otto von Bismarck.
Grape-growers′s strike in Bulgaria, 1851
In response to a tax increase on grapes and vinyards, Bulgaria′s grape pickers went on strike.
Mass resistance in Qingpu, 1853
Residents of the “Gold Coast” refused to pay a poll tax demanded by their British colonial occupiers in 1854, prompting a brutal crackdown by the British military.
License Tax resistance in Australia, 1854
Miners in Australia met at a “monster meeting” in Castlemaine to launch an organized refusal to pay a mining license tax.
Resistance to the bedel, 1855–60
A majority of Syrian Christians refused to pay a military commutation tax, the bedel, which was mandatory for non-Muslims who were draft-exempt.
Chinese immigrants in Australia, 1859
Anti-Chinese sentiment in Australia led the government to try to reduce Chinese immigration through a tax on immigrants. The Chinese immigrants responded with a powerful, large-scale, well-organized tax resistance campaign that used a variety of tactics including consumer and labor strikes, petitions, mass-demonstrations, threats against collaborators with the tax system and potential strikebreakers, and prison-stuffing. They eventually convinced the government to rescind the hated tax.
Shantung resistance, 1860
In Shantung, tax resisters killed tax collectors and set up parallel government structures.
Bhat resistance in India, 1861
In 1861, travelling bards of the Bhat caste, complaining that they had been traditionally exempt from taxation, reacted to being subjected to an income tax in an extreme demonstration that accompanied their refusal to pay:
[T]hey cut themselves with knives, cursed the Assessors, bespattering them with their blood, and declared they would rather die than surrender their birthright. When several were apprehended, their wives began to hack their persons, and so severely that several have since died.
Ferenc Deák and Hungarian tax resistance, 1859–67
Following military defeat by the Hungarian revolution of 1848 and the subsequent war of independence led by Lajos Kossuth, Hungarians adopted a strategy of passive resistance, including boycotting of Austrian goods and refusing Austrian taxes, while the dissolved Diet (parliament) and various agricultural, trade and educational associations continued to meet informally. The symbol of this strategy was Ferenc Deák, following his refusal to take public office under the Austrians and apparent semi-retirement in the 1850s. After Emperor Franz-Joseph issued his October Diploma in 1860, granting increased autonomy to various parts of the Austrian empire, the Hungarian county councils and Diet were reconvoked. However, the conflict with Austria continued—including renewed tax resistance—with Deák playing a more active role until the Diet’s demands were conceded in 1867.
Don Cossack resistance, 1864–1882
Resistance to the Czar’s taxes in Abkhazia, 1866
Georgia dockworkers, 1867
Georgia dockworkers responded to a tax specifically targeted to them by refusing to pay, even when locked out by the government.
New Zealand poll tax, 1868
In 1868 residents of New Zealand were subjected to a poll tax. Some decided to resist and to form mutual insurance pacts for their defense.
After a disputed election for governor in reconstruction Louisiana, the losing candidate, John McEnery, formed a shadow government and declared himself the truly elected governor. As part of this, he issued declarations saying that those people collecting taxes for the actually seated government were acting illegally and illegitimately and that citizens of Louisiana should resist these taxes.
McEnery’s shadow government, representing a white-supremacist Democratic party opposed to the Republican black and carpetbagger government, maintained its parallel governance until mid-1873, and then folded under pressure from the United States federal government.
Rubí, Catalonia, 1873
Citizens of Rubí, Catalonia refused to pay a war tax in 1873, shortly before the military commander of Catalonia was forced to flee in the face of a mutiny.
Launceston, Tasmania, 1874
The Western Railway was a financial failure, and soon after it went into operation the government had to take it over from its bankrupt owners. Landholders in the railway district felt that the government take-over had changed the relationship between taxpayers and the railway, and that they were “morally exonerated from the principle of local taxation which they had endorsed when the district was polled in 1865. Since that period an entirely new principle had been adopted in the case of the Main Line Railway, and when they hesitated to pay their special rate, they acted on the conviction that it was the Government, and not they, who had broken faith.” The landholders launched a tax resistance campaign, forcing the government to capitulate and rescind the tax.
White miners in Griqualand West, 1874
In 1874, a group of white, small-scale diamond miners at the “New Rush” in Kimberly, South Africa (then in a British colony called Griqualand West), launched a tax strike to protest the British colonial government’s lack of response to their grievances.
Mexican-American Tax Resistance in Texas, 1877
South Carolina, 1877
Similarly to what happened in Louisiana, white supremacists in South Carolina who disapproved of the reconstruction government practiced tax resistance and discouraged people from loaning money to the government by vowing to repudiate any such debts should they regain power.
Calls to resist in Denmark, 1877 & 1885
In 1877 and again in 1885, the Left party in Denmark urged people to refuse to pay taxes levied by the Rightist government.
Tram tax resistance in Rio, 1880
When the government of Rio increased the tramway tax and have this increase apply to every passenger, Jose Lopes da Silva Trovao and other protest organizers called on people to refuse to pay the tax.
Tax resistance launches the First Boer War, 1880
The First Boer War broke out when the British occupation government seized a wagon from Piet Bezuidenhoudt who had refused to pay a tax. When the government attempted to auction off the wagon to raise the tax money, supporters of Bezuidenhoudt seized it, and met government representatives who came after them with armed force.
Paisley abbey manse tax resistance, 1880
Paisley instituted a tax to raise funds to repair the manse (minister’s house) of Paisley Abbey. People who were not members of that church (the official Church of Scotland) did not feel they should have to pay for this, and in December 1880 they organized a tax resistance campaign. Some 200 people refused to pay the tax. The authorities took legal action against a few, but then quickly dropped the charges.
Irish settlers in Canada, 1879–81
Two hundred Irish settlers in Gatineau refused to pay a county tax. According to one account:
When a deputy sheriff went to make seizures, the residents threatened to string him to the nearest tree. Finally, they compelled him to eat the writs he had, and then gave him a limited time to get out of the township.
The Irish Land League calls for a rent strike, 1881
English hop growers, 1882
The Anglican church legally exacted “extraordinary tithes” from hop growers, who began resisting the tax and risking distraint in the hopes of prompting a change of the law.
The Tswana in Bechuanaland, 1882
Montshiwa, a chief of the Rolong tribe, led a tax rebellion against the Boers in Bechuanaland in 1882. After some early successes, the rebellion was suppressed, and large hunks of territory were divided up as spoils by the victorious Boers.
Resistance to Repaying Fraudulent Railroad Bonds, 1870–1913
Crooked politicians and swindlers in Missouri concocted a scheme in which the government issued bonds to pay for a railroad that never got built. Residents of the swindled areas subsequently refused to levy taxes on themselves to raise funds to pay off the bonds. The bond holders filed suit and obtained court orders that county judges institute such taxes, but the judges then went to jail for contempt rather than comply.
In 1878, residents of Steuben County, New York, also refused to pay taxes to pay off crooked railroad bonds, and disrupted auctions at which the goods of resisters were being sold to pay resisted taxes.
There was a similarly motivated tax revolt in Kentucky in 1906 in which a group of resisters raided the tax collector and reclaimed seized property.
Cincinnati Liquor Tax revolt, 1884
3,200 (out of 3,500) saloon owners refused to pay a liquor tax in Cincinnati in 1884. The tax was eventually held to be unconstitutional.
Residents of Samoa refused to pay taxes to the German colonial occupation government in 1887.
The Welsh tithe war, 1887–88
A rebellion against mandatory tithes for the establishment church, similar to that which had raged in Ireland earlier, broke out in Wales in 1887, and featured the disruption of tax auctions by huge crowds of resisters.
“Constable Leahy Tax” resistance, 1888
On 9 September 1887, police fired on rent strikers in Mitchelstown (Ireland), killing three, in what became known as the Mitchelstown Massacre. The authorities sided with the police, and awarded a £1,000 judgement to a constable who was wounded in the course of the massacre, ordering that the money would be raised by an additional tax on the Irish—one that would come to be called the “Constable Leahy Tax.” The tax was widely refused, and parliamentarian Thomas Condon was prosecuted on criminal conspiracy charges for publicly advocating tax resistance.
Dothan riot, 1889
Dothan, Alabama tried to tax all vehicles traveling through the town in 1889, in reaction to the decision by the Farmers’ Alliance to avoid municipal taxation by building a warehouse outside of the town limits. Farmers attempted to evade the tax, but were violently opposed by law enforcement, which killed two resisters.
“Half-Breeds” in Dakota, 1889
“Half-Breeds” in the Dakota territory of the United States seized already-collected taxes from a sheriff and announced that they would fight to the last man (there were roughly 4,000) against further attempts to tax them.
Chatham Islands, 1891
“Vicars’ Rate” rebellions in Halifax and Coventry, 1875–92
Opponents of a mandatory tithe for the establishment church in Halifax and later in Coventry, England, formed “Anti-Vicars’ Rate Associations” and launched campaigns of tax refusal in 1875 and 1892 respectively.
Guerrero, Mexico, in 1892
When people in Guerrero refused to pay federal taxes in 1892, the government sent in troops, who were routed by the tax resisters who captured a General as a hostage.
Montreal merchants, 1893
Merchants in Montreal, claiming that a new tax on merchants was unjustly much higher for them than for merchants in other areas, decided to refuse to pay the tax in 1893.
Fasci Siciliani, 1893
The Fasci Siciliani movement reached its peak in 1893 in a series of large anti-tax demonstrations that included the destruction of tax offices and the burning of tax records.
See also: Lercara Friddi massacre
Cuban War Tax, 1897
Cuban cigar workers in Florida refused to pay a Cuban war tax that was being withheld from their paychecks in 1897.
Industrialist threatens to “shrug”, 1897
Industrialist James F. Hathaway of Somerville, Massachusetts refused to pay a municipal tax on his corporation stock and would periodically threaten to pack up and leave town if the city insisted on pressing for payment, in a game of bluff that sometimes led to the city waiving the tax, but other times led to Hathaway’s jailing.
The Hut Tax War, 1898
Main article: Hut Tax War of 1898
In 1896, the British government decreed that the inland “protectorate” adjacent to its Sierra Leone colony should be taxed. The tax would be imposed on dwellings, at an annual rate that in some cases exceeded the value of the dwelling itself, and came to be known as the “Hut Tax.”
Natives of the protectorate were unused to regular taxation of any sort, and interpreted the tax as meaning that the British were assuming ownership of all of the dwellings in the area and charging rent. They were furious at this wholesale appropriation of property, and refused to pay, then adopted armed rebellion when the colonial forces responded with violent reprisals.
Tax resistance in the Philippines, 1898
Māori tax resistance, 1894–1933
Crow reservation, 1897–9
Tancament de Caixes, 1899–1900
Traders and industrialists in Barcelona, led by mayor Bartomeu Robert i Yarzábal, began a tax strike on 20 October 1899 that came to be known as the “Tancament de Caixes” (shutting the cashboxes). This was a protest to taxes the Spanish government was introducing to pay for the costs of its defeats in the Spanish–American War, and also against tax rates that discriminated against Barcelona in favor of Madrid.
German East Africa, 1900
Poll tax resistance in Alabama, 1901
200 employees of the Dimmick Pipe Company in Birmingham, Alabama, walked off the job in 1901 when they learned a poll tax would be deducted from their pay.
Foreigners in Japan Resist a Property Tax, 1902
Starting in Yokohama, and spreading to Kobe and elsewhere, hundreds of British and other foreign residents of Japan resisted a new “House Tax” in the hopes of forcing the legality of the tax into arbitration — passively submitting to distraint rather than paying a tax they felt to be illegal. They were backed (in the demand for arbitration, if not in the tax resistance) by the British, French, and German governments. This became one of the first cases decided by an international tribunal, with one Japanese judge, one French judge, and a Norwegian judge who turned out to be the tie-breaker, ruling in favor of the Europeans and against Japan.
Cutting off Police Pay-offs in New York City, 1902
The New York City District Attorney, its Police Commissioner, agents from the Society for the Prevention of Crime, and the president of the New York County Liquor Dealers’ Association in 1902 announced a joint campaign to defend liquor dealers who stopped paying police protection money. This mostly represents a government policy change in how it was going to be taxing saloonkeepers, but because the change involved rescinding an extralegal tax extorted under-the-table by city employees, it was hard for the government to accomplish in ordinary ways. So it had to nurture a tax resistance movement and encourage solidarity among its members by offering some protection of its own (including judges who reduced fines against people arrested by the police in extortion attempts to near-nothing).
British nonconformists, 1903–24
In 1903, tens of thousands of British nonconformists began resisting the part of their taxes that paid for sectarian schools. Over 170 would eventually be jailed for their tax refusal.
See also: Education Act 1902 § Opposition
Americans in the Isle of Pines, 1903
The United States took Cuba from Spain in the Spanish–American War, including the Isle of Pines. When Cuba became independent soon after, Americans on the Isle of Pines hoped that they would continue to live under American rule, and they decided to resist paying taxes to Cuba in the hopes of bringing the issue to a head.
In several Korean provinces in 1903, taxpayers rose up, reclaimed their taxes from the government treasury, and imprisoned their governors.
Hut Tax resistance in Swaziland, 1903–07
Income tax resistance in Tasmania, 1904
At open-air “monster” meetings in Tasmania in early 1904, people vowed to resist an income tax that had been instituted by the recently ousted government but unexpectedly not rescinded by the new one.
Sugar manufacturers in the Dominican Republic, 1905
American-owned businesses running the sugar industry in the Dominican Republic refused to pay a new tax instituted by that country’s government in 1905, shortly before the United States formally appropriated the country’s economy.
Opposition to Creek taxes in Oklahoma Territory, 1899–1905
White Americans living in Muscogee (Creek) territory before Oklahoma became a state in 1907 resisted paying taxes to the Creek Nation government, hoping the United States federal government would back them up if push came to shove.
The Russian Revolution, 1905–06
During the Russian Revolution of 1905 a coalition of anti-government groups in Petrograd issued a manifesto calling for mass tax resistance and other economic non-cooperation against Russia’s czarist government. It read, in part, “There is only one way out: to overthrow the government, to deprive it of its last strength. It is necessary to cut the government off from the last source of its existence: financial revenue.”
In 1906, when the Czar dissolved the First Duma, its members fled to Finland where they issued the Vyborg Manifesto which called upon the people of Russia to refuse to pay their taxes until representative government was restored.
Zulus in Natal, 1906
A group of Zulus announced that they would refuse to pay the poll tax to the British colonial government in Natal. An inspector from the Natal Mounted Police killed one Zulu tax protester, and was in turn slain along with another of his party.
Doukhobors in Canada, 1906
Doukhobor exiles in Canada refused to pay school taxes on their lands, saying that, as they always refused to have their children educated, lest they learn evil things, they would not pay money for school purposes. They removed their property from the district so as to evade seizure.
Undertakers strike in Valladolid
When the municipal authorities of Valladolid imposed taxes on hearses, the undertakers of that town organised a passive resistance strike, refusing to send out either hearses or coffins. As a result, the dead had to be conveyed to the cemeteries on stretchers, carried by porters.
Winemakers tax strike in France, 1907
A winegrowers’ committee in Argelliers organized a tax strike in 1907 that included the mass resignations of municipal councils, and was met by military force by the central government.
Greek community in Lewiston, Maine, 1907
Greek immigrants in Lewiston, Maine, organized a tax strike against a new poll tax.
Silver Lake Assembly, 1908
Forty members of a Silver Lake Assembly property association launched a tax strike against what they believed to be an illegally assessed tax the town of Castile, New York was trying to subject them to, in 1908.
Japanese laborers in California, 1909
Japanese-American residents of Oxnard, rebelled against being unfairly subject to both the city and county tax (one was supposed to clear the other). The county tried to pull a fast one, and swooped in on the workers while they were in the beet fields where they were temporarily working and which were outside the city limits. They declared the workers to be thereby subject to the county poll tax as well. Some of the Japanese workers left the area; others refused to pay the tax and were subjected to property seizures.
Shortly before the fall of president Zelaya’s government to rebels backed by the United States, his government imprisoned resisters to a tax he was using to try to raise funds to prop up his regime.
Italian immigrants in Pennsylvania, 1909
When Pennsylvania passed a law banning Italian immigrants from owning firearms, a number of Italians in Lanesboro began resisting their taxes in response.
The Women’s Tax Resistance League, 1909–1918
Main article: Women’s Tax Resistance League
The British women’s suffrage movement, in particular the Women’s Tax Resistance League, used tax resistance in their struggle, and explicitly saw themselves in a tradition of tax resistance that included John Hampden. According to one source, “tax resistance proved to be the longest-lived form of militancy, and the most difficult to prosecute.”
Tax resistance among the American women’s suffrage movement was less organized, but also practiced. Julia and Abby Smith, Annie Shaw, Lucy Stone, Virginia Minor, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were among those who practiced and advocated tax resistance as a protest against “taxation without representation.”
Tax resistance also played a role in the women’s suffrage movements of Bermuda, France, Germany, and South Africa.
Unrest in China, 1907–16
The salt tax and other taxes, and conflict with organized smuggler associations, led to conflict in China, which included, in 1910, an assault on tax collectors and on the salt tax monopoly office, and the “Two Kitchen Knives Rebellion” led by He Long in 1916 in which the Salt Tax Bureau at Ba Maoqui was torched and the bureau’s director was killed.
In 1910, also, merchants in Beijing began withholding their payments of stamp tax to pressure the monarchy to adopt republican reforms.
Poll tax resistance in Grafton, Illinois, 1910
A Socialist Party activist in Grafton, Illinois, was jailed six months for his refusal to pay the city’s poll tax in 1910. Party head Ralph Korngold used the case as a rallying cry for local radicals.
In Canillas De Aceituno, Spain, residents rioted at the sale of a tax resister’s goods and took up arms against government forces.
Road tax resistance in Kansas, 1911
A number of towns in Kansas organized tax resistance leagues in 1911 to combat a tax variously characterized as a road tax or a poll tax that they believed had been illegally railroaded through the legislature.
In 1911, the Legislative Council passed an ordinance imposing a one shilling per month tax on farmers for each native laborer they hired, payable to the Labour Bureau, which coordinated the exploitation of African labor for colonial farmers and miners. The farmers decided to resist the tax. Hundreds were convicted and fined, and some were jailed after refusing to pay the fines. The farmers were successful in convincing the government to rescind the tax.
Residents of the island of Inishmurray considered themselves a tiny, independent monarchy, and would combat efforts by mainland authorities to tax them by refusing to let the officials disembark.
Poll tax in Delaware, 1912
Socialist and labor groups in Wilmington joined forces and began resisting a new Delaware poll tax in 1912.
Baby Carriage Tax disregarded in Brest, 1913
A tax on handcarts in Brest, France, was interpreted to apply also to baby carriages, which led to universal refusal to pay what was seen as a ridiculous tax.
Indians in South Africa, 1913
The South African government imposed a tax on Indian immigrants, and, in one of Mahatma Gandhi‘s early forays into satyagraha he helped to organize a strike, an illegal march, and a tax refusal campaign in protest.
The “Turra Coo”, 1913
Main article: Turra Coo
In late 1913, the government seized a cow from a Scottish resister of the taxes associated with the National Insurance Act. The government had difficulty selling the cow, as locals were sympathetic with the tax resistance. Eventually they brought in an outside auctioneer, but the auction was disrupted by protesters and the cow escaped. Today there is a statue of a cow in Turriff, Scotland commemorating the event.
Master Plumbers in Joplin, Missouri, 1914
Ten master plumbers in Joplin, Missouri, signed a resolution vowing to refuse to pay a new $50 annual tax on their profession in 1914.
Dog tax resistance, Yonkers, New York, 1917
Robert H. Miller stopped paying his dog license fee in 1917, complaining that “I consider said tax a unjust burden for owners who have dogs for their home and families’ defence, not for luxuries, as the cost of living to raise five children is expensive enough without feeding a dog if he was not necessary in the wild section of this town, as we have no benefit from all the taxation with which we are burdened, no open streets, no police, no sewers, and many more necessities that I could mention.”
World War I in the United States, 1917–18
In the United States, although the decision of whether or not to purchase war bonds to support World War I was ostensibly voluntary, those who chose not to buy them were subject to strong pressure including mob violence. For example, John Schrag was beaten, arrested, and prosecuted and he and his property were smeared with yellow paint by a mob for having refused to buy war bonds. One witness said:
[T]hey tried to get him to buy liberty bonds during the war, and he wouldn’t buy none…. They brought him in and he never said a word, and the questions or anything they’d ask him, he never, never complained or never put up no resistance whatsoever. … I never saw so much yellin’ and a cursing and slapped him. And buffeted him and beat him and kicked him. He never offered any resistance whatsoever. One of the fellows went and got a, a hardware store and got a gallon of yellow paint. And pulled the lid off and poured it over his face. He had a long beard, kind of a short heavyset man, had a nice beard, and that run down all over his eyes, his face, and his beard, and his clothes. Of course that was yellow…. He never offered no resistance whatsoever and they, one man went to the hardware store again and he got a rope and put it around, got there, and put around his neck and marched him down to the, close to the city jail, a little calaboose there. Had a tree there and they was going to hang him to this tree.
…I don’t know how many people walked right up to him and spit in his face and he never said a word. And he just looked up all the time we was doing that. Possibly praying, I don’t know. But there’s some kind of a glow come over his face and he just looked like Christ. … (inaudible). Enemies smite you on one cheek, turn the other and brother he did it. He just kept doing it. They’d slug him on the one side of the face and he’d turn his cheeks on the other. He exemplified the life of Christ more than any man I ever saw in my life.
Herman Bausch was imprisoned for 28 months by the state of Montana for seditious statements he allegedly made while being held captive by a violent mob who were enraged at him for his unwillingness to buy liberty bonds.
See also: Darwin Rebellion
In Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia) in early 1919, citizens organized an income tax strike, and a boycott of the local (taxed) alcohol monopolist, John Gilruth, who was also the Administrator (governor). The resistance continued until Gilruth fled Darwin. Harold George Nelson, who was imprisoned for his tax resistance during this action, later became the Northern Territory’s first parliamentary representative.
Soft drinks tax, United States, 1919
When World War I ended, people stopped paying a tax on soft drinks that had been instituted as a war funding measure, although the tax had not yet been rescinded. The Bureau of Internal Revenue threatened tax evaders with fines and imprisonment.
Northern Territory and Papua, 1919–21
Tax resistance was a tactic used both by anti-capitalist labor groups and groups agitating for democratic representation in the Northern Territory and Papua in the years around 1920. Miners in Western Australia also took up tax resistance in 1921.
Welsh miners, 1919
Miners in Wales went on strike rather than pay the income tax which was newly being applied to incomes below £200.
Russian Civil War, 1917–1923
Tax resistance was used by Russian peasants who were being taxed by multiple parties in the Civil War.
European pacifists (1920s)
After World War I, some European pacifists associated with the movement that would coalesce around War Resisters International, like Beatrice and Kees Boeke, adopted war tax resistance as one of their forms of resistance.
Weimar Germany (1919–33) tax resistance
Tax resistance campaigns sporadically broke out in Germany between the world wars, including a tax strike in Württemberg, Stuttgart, Cologne, Essen and other areas in 1920, an income tax strike by Prussian farmers in 1922, and the tax strikes of the Rural People’s Movement (Landvolkbewegung) in Schleswig-Holstein from 1928.
Burma during the 1920s
Burmese Buddhist monks organized tax resistance and other forms of civil disobedience against British colonial rule during the 1920s.
Dutch West Indies, 1921
Residents resisted an income tax from which Dutch settlers were exempt, then successfully disrupted an auction at which a resister’s goods were being sold for back taxes.
Protesting a “bachelor tax” 1921
The state of Montana applied a $3 tax on all bachelors in the state. One of them, William Atzinger, refused to pay on sex discrimination grounds. The following year the state supreme court ruled the “bachelor tax” and another poll tax applicable only to men to be unconstitutional.
Sinn Féin in 1921
Arkansas road tax rebellion, 1921
Craighead County residents forced the commissioners of a road improvement district to resign at gunpoint before they could spend tax money on a corrupt roads project.
Guntur tax refusal, 1921
In an early manifestation of satyagraha, Indians from the Guntur district organized a noncooperation campaign and tax strike against British rule in 1921 that led to the government collecting less than 25% of the expected taxes.
The Poplar Rates Rebellion, 1921
Main article: Poplar Rates Rebellion
In 1921 the government of Poplar, a division of London, in protest against an unequal sharing of tax revenue between rich and poor boroughs, stopped collecting and passing on a variety of tax called “precepts” to the regional authorities. Thirty members of the Poplar Borough Council were imprisoned amid large protests.
Bondelswarts Rebellion, 1922
Main article: Bondelswarts affair
The British colonial administrators of South-West Africa imposed a tax on the Bondels as a way of making them more dependent on taking low-wage jobs for other colonists. The Bondels refused to pay and the British responded with aerial bombardments.
Income tax evasion in France, 1922
Syndicalist groups in France promoted income tax evasion and defended evaders whose goods were in danger of government seizure.
The Ruhrkampf and Bavaria, 1923
When France and Belgium invaded the Ruhr to enforce German reparations payments in 1923, the German government responded by encouraging and supporting a mass nonviolent resistance campaign against the occupation, which included tax resistance.
Right-wing politician Gustav Ritter von Kahr, shortly after he was declared dictator of Bavaria in 1923, ordered Bavarians to stop paying taxes to the federal Reich government.
French Stokers, 1923
French stokers (ship workers) who were upset that the government was including in their income, for tax purposes, incidental benefits like the food they were served on board, refused payment and went on strike when their company went along with government attempts to garnishee their wages. The strike was ended when the company agreed to pay the stokers’ income taxes itself.
Pennsylvania women win the vote, and the tax; Refuse the Second, 1923–27
When women won the right to vote in the United States, this sometimes also exposed them to taxes they had hitherto been exempt from. Some chose to resist these taxes. In Pennsylvania, a school tax became the target of a massive, statewide, grassroots resistance campaign. For example:
- In 1923, 89 women in Pottstown said that they were not interested in voting or in paying taxes, and refused to pay a school tax they had recently become vulnerable to.
- The same year, 800 women in Haverford refused to pay the tax, as did 250 in Media.
- Some 1,700 women in Charleroi refused to pay the tax and, in 1924, were ordered to be arrested.
- That year in Clifton Heights, exasperated tax collectors exonerated 700 women tax delinquents rather than try to pursue them for the taxes.
- In 1926, 200 women in Freeland were reported as tax delinquents.
- In 1927, 300 women in Darby followed suit, and ultimately 2,000 delinquent tax notices were sent there.
Red Spear Society, 1923–38
Indian workers in Fiji, 1924
Indians in Kenya, 1924
British citizens of Indian ancestry were in Kenya in such numbers in 1924 that they were beginning to exercise democratic political power. This worried the white ruling class. Britain issued a “white paper” in which it said that paternalistic care for the unenfranchised African natives, rather than the democratic demands of the citizenry would be the priority of the government. Or, in less-euphemistic terms: the white ruling class would rule how it wanted without having to take into account the desires of the Indian voting bloc. Indians responded to this with an organized tax resistance campaign, which led to some of them being imprisoned. Whether from the effect of these imprisonments or from concessions made through back-channel negotiations, the protest ended in a few months. It provided rhetorical ammunition to the Indian independence movement, which used this as an example to show that Britain never intended to offer Indians under its rule equal civil rights.
A coalition of 1,500 leading industrialists of Argentina refused to pay into a state-run pension fund following a general strike and labor lockout organized to fight the law that established the fund.
London bookmakers strike, 1926
Cristero War, Mexico, 1926
Farmers in Queensland, Australia, 1927
The government of Queensland, struggling with debt, enacted a stealth tax in the form of a registration fee charged to farmers who had wells and water pumps on their farms. The farmers, organized in “Local Producers’s Associations,” declared a tax strike, which forced the government to back down about a month later.
American Samoa, 1927
Around the time of the Shanghai massacre of 1927, businesses were conducting a strike against municipal taxes there. Western importers, backed by their governments, also refused to unload their products that were subject to a new customs duty.
Residents of Samoa refused to pay taxes to the New Zealand occupation government in 1928.
Uri “bobbed hair tax”
The canton of Uri in Switzerland instituted a tax on women’s bobbed hair in 1928, and by the following year the government was reporting widespread resistance (and ridicule) of the law.
Igbo Women’s War, 1929
The Igbo Women’s War began as a dispute over taxes and a resistance against a census that was being conducted in preparation for taxes. Further tax revolts in 1938 and 1956 grew out of the same movement.
Indian independence campaign
Main articles: Champaran and Kheda Satyagraha and Salt Satyagraha
Mahatma Gandhi‘s independence campaign in India used a variety of tax resistance strategies, including attacking the British taxed monopolies on salt and textiles by advocating the illegal production of salt outside of the monopoly system and the home-based spinning of cloth. In 1930 this tax resistance culminated in Gandhi’s famous 240-mile (390 km) Salt March to Dandi to harvest sea salt in contravention of British law. Other tax resistance campaigns persisted after this period, including resistance to the Damodar Canal tax in 1937–9.
The Great Depression, United States
In the United States, the term “tax revolt” is sometimes used to refer to a series of anti-tax state initiative campaigns. The first significant wave of these campaigns was during the 1930s. The Great Depression introduced unprecedented tax burdens to Americans. While real-estate values plummeted and unemployment skyrocketed, the cost of government remained high. As a result, taxes as a percentage of the national income nearly doubled from 11.6 percent in 1929 to 21.1 in 1932. Most of the increase took place at the local level and especially squeezed the resources of real estate taxpayers. Local tax delinquency rose steadily to a still standing record of 26.3% in 1933.
Many Americans reacted to these conditions by forming taxpayers’ leagues to call for lower taxes and cuts in government spending. By some estimates, there were three thousand of them by 1933. Taxpayers’ leagues endorsed such measures as laws to limit and rollback taxes, lowered penalties on tax delinquents, and cuts in government spending. Partly as a result of their efforts, sixteen states and numerous localities adopted property tax limitations while three states instituted homestead exemptions.
While taxpayers’ leagues usually favored traditional legal and political strategies, a few were more direct. Probably the best known of these was the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers in Chicago. From 1930 to 1933, it led one of the largest tax strikes in American history. At its height, it had 30,000 paid members, a budget of $600,000, and a weekly radio show.
By 1933, the taxpayers’ leagues had entered a period of decline. Several factors undermined the conditions that had nurtured revolt. For example, economic conditions gradually improved, the federal government extended aid to homeowners, and local governments reduced reliance on real estate taxes. To some extent, the tax revolt also fell victim to an effective counterattack by municipal reformers, government officials, and the holders of municipal debt such as bondholders and bankers who formed so-called “Pay Your Taxes” campaigns throughout the country. These campaigns used a combination of door-to-door solicitation, threats of coercion, and inducements, such as installment payment plans, to collect back taxes.
An alternative theory describing the decline of the taxpayers’ leagues is that laws limiting existing taxes and new tax revenues from the manufacture and sale of alcohol due to the repeal of prohibition eliminated the need for the taxpayers’ leagues.
Cedar County Cow War of 1931
Women’s suffragists in Bermuda, 1931–34
Tyrol, Austria 1931
Peasants’ federations in eastern Tyrol resolved to stop paying taxes in October 1931 to protest bloated government, agricultural policy, profiteering, and a large tax burden.
Real Estate Taxpayers, 1931–33, 1977
Main article: Association of Real Estate Taxpayers
During the Great Depression in the early 1930s, Americans throughout the United States formed thousands of taxpayers’ leagues to protest high property taxes. In some cases, these groups illegally withheld taxes through tax strikes and other forms of resistance. The largest tax strike was in Chicago and led by the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers. At its height, the Association had more than thirty-thousand dues-paying members.
A second, similar but smaller property tax payer’s revolt hit Chicago in 1977.
Puerto Rico sales tax, 1932
300 businesses in Ponce, Puerto Rico declared that they would refuse to continue to pay the sales tax after the United States governor of the island refused to repeal the tax.
Meo uprising, 1932
Elmira Taxpayers’ League
Over a thousand taxpayers in Elmira, New York signed a pledge to refuse to pay local taxes until the municipal budget had been reduced, and tax rates as well.
New York City automobile owners, 1933
The automobile club of New York organized an auto tax strike in 1933 to protest a doubled license fee for City residents.
Mennonite women in Pennsylvania, 1933
Claiming that the Bible did not sanction the taxation of women, some women in Warwick township, Pennsylvania, refused to pay a poll tax in 1933.
Irish “Blue Shirts,” 1935
Main article: Blueshirts
To protest Irish intransigence in the Anglo-Irish Trade War, the quasi-fascist “Blue Shirts” declared a tax strike. One striker was killed during a protest designed to disrupt an auction of cattle seized from a tax striker.
French “Peasant Front,” 1935
The “Peasant Front,” organized by Henri Dorgères, launched a tax strike in 1935. In some regions as many as 90% of the residents refused to pay their taxes, but the campaign had limited national impact.
Sales tax resistance in Montreal, 1935
Sales tax resistance in Arkansas, 1935
98% of merchants in Stuttgart and 59 of 60 merchants in DeWitt signed a pledge to refuse to collect or pay a new Arkansas sales tax in 1935.
Sales tax resistance in Alabama, 1936
Gadsen, Alabama merchants met and unanimously voted to refuse to collect or remit the state sales tax. Montgomery, Alabama pharmacists also resisted the tax.
Anti-communist Catholic veterans, 1938
149 members of a Catholic war veterans fraternity began paying their property taxes into an escrow account rather than to the government, saying they would not turn over the funds until the local government dismissed Communist Party member Si Gerson who was an advisor to the Manhattan borough president.
Coal Township, 1939
Taxpayers in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, threatened a tax strike to protest the fact that the large coal companies in the region had been neglecting to pay their taxes, causing the township to fall behind on schoolteacher salaries and other expenses. This forced some concessions from the coal companies.
World War II
During World War II, the Christian anarchist and pacifist Ammon Hennacy refused to register for the American draft and announced that he would not pay his income taxes. He also tried to reduce his tax liability by adopting a life of simple living. He wrote:
I [learned] the principle of voluntary poverty and non payment of taxes… from Tolstoy and the [Catholic Worker]. When I was working a man asked me “Why does a fellow like you, with an education, and who has been all over the country, end up in this out-of-the-way place working for very little on a farm?” I explained that all people who had good jobs in factories, etc. had a withholding tax for war taken from their pay, and that people who worked on farms had no tax taken from their pay. I told him that I refused to pay taxes. He was a returned soldier and said that he did not like war either, but what could a fellow do about it? I replied that we each did what we really wanted to.
In 1936, in what one author called “the first truly grass-root rebellion/uprising by Palestinians,” 150 Palestinians called for a general strike and tax strike to protest the British occupation.
Between 1939 and 1948, there was widespread resistance by Jews in Palestine against the income tax imposed by the British occupation, which included bomb attacks against tax offices, and many Jews instead voluntarily paid taxes to Jewish organizations. A few years after Israel gained its independence, its government became the target of widespread tax evasion and resistance, including a major tax strike in 1954.
Jews in Vichy France, 1944
Jews refused to pay taxes to the Union Generale des Israelites de France, which had been established by the Vichy France (Nazi-collaborationist) government.This Union was ostensibly meant to act as an umbrella organization that would organize social services for Jews by coordinating existing Jewish groups, but it was really a phase in the Nazi-organized obsession with bureaucratically solving the “Jewish Problem” in Europe via elimination. As in other parts of Nazi-controlled Europe, Jews in France had to make hard decisions about how much to resist such organizations outright and how much to try to participate in them as potential tools of resistance or amelioration.
Jews refused to pay taxes to the Union Generale des Israelites de France, which had been established by the Vichy France (Nazi-collaborationist) government.
All French Jews were required to be members of the Union, which presumed to control all Jewish property. The Nazis might, for example, “fine” the whole of the Jews of France, and the Union in its representative capacity would borrow money to pay off the fine by pledging Jewish property as collateral, or, apparently, by taxing the membership base.
Moslem League in India, 1946
The birth of the modern war tax resistance movement, 1948
Main article: Peacemakers
In 1948, a Chicago conference on “More Disciplined and Revolutionary Pacifist Activity” attracted more than 300 people, and resulted in the formation of the group Peacemakers and its “Tax Refusal Committee.” This is considered to be the birth of the modern organized war tax resistance movement in the United States.
Several Quaker conscientious objectors from the United States left the country and founded a settlement in Monteverde, Costa Rica, in order to no longer be forced to pay taxes for the United States military (Costa Rica had abolished its own military a few years earlier).
A general strike in Oaxaca in 1952 was directed against the government’s new tax plan. Rioters in Tlacolula stoned to death mayor Diodoro Maldonado.
Pittston Township Wage Tax, 1952–53
Hundreds of residents of Pittston Township, Pennsylvania refused to pay a new wage tax in 1952. The government responded by arresting 15 of them, and the resisters switched tactics to vastly underpay the tax as a way of resisting without risking immediate criminal sanctions.
South China, 1952
Four hundred farmers were arrested for tax refusal in southern China in 1952. The farmers claimed that the taxes would leave them hopelessly impoverished.
Social Security tax protests, 1951–53
In 1952, Louisiana newspaper editor Mary Cain protested against social security taxes by refusing to pay, concealing her assets, and even sawing the lock off of her business’s front door when it was closed by the tax collector and mailing the lock to the Internal Revenue Service.
From 1951 to 1954, a group of “Texas Housewives” refused to pay social security taxes on the wages of their domestic help, and took their resistance all the way to the Supreme Court (where they lost their case).
In 1955, a right-wing, anti-tax, middle-class, populist movement led by Pierre Poujade began resisting taxes in France. The resisters used a variety of tactics, including strikes, harassment of tax collectors, disruption of government auctions, and running for office (several Poujadists were elected to the Chamber of Deputies).
No Taxation Without Representation in D.C., 1955–present
In 1955 District of Columbia resident Florence Jaffray Harriman announced that she would be refusing to pay federal income tax until the federal government enacted “home rule” (a locally elected government) for the District (something the District was not granted until 1973).
In 1990, the non-voting Congressional representative from the district, Walter Fauntroy, started a similar tax resistance campaign for D.C. statehood.
Former District of Columbia council member Carol Schwartz, upset at the lack of Congressional representation for people in the district, threatened to start resisting her federal income taxes over the issue in 2011 and called on other D.C. residents to join her.
J. Bracken Lee, 1956
Utah Governor J. Bracken Lee stopped paying federal income tax in 1956 to protest what he felt was unconstitutional federal spending. He hoped to become a test case, but the Supreme Court declined to hear his case.
The Amish gain exemption from social insurance programs in the United States, 1935–65
In 1965 the United States Congress allowed the Amish to be exempt from the Social Security tax, following a persistent resistance campaign from some Amish who regarded insurance programs as mistrustful of God and therefore against their religious teachings. See 26 U.S.C. § 3127 and 26 U.S.C. § 1402(g) (this exemption also covers Medicare taxes).
Tax resistance in Ethiopia, 1943–68
There were several outbreaks of armed resistance focused on tax complaints in Ethiopia. In some cases, farmers defaulted on their taxes and abandoned their land rather than pay, some fleeing into neighboring countries. In others, districts refused to elect or admit tax assessors, and used a mix of persuasion and coercion to prevent people from obeying the tax law.
Turks in Cyprus, 1958
St. Regis Reservation resistance, 1959
200 Indians on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in New York, led by Wallace “Mad Bear” Anderson, refused to pay state income taxes “and threatened to use summonses from the Tax Department ‘to light the fires in our longhouses.'”
Tithe resistance in Malaysia, early 1960s
In 1960, the Malaysian government converted the traditional Islamic zakāt (tithe) paid voluntarily by rice farmers into a mandatory tax payable through the government. Opposition to the new government-controlled tithe was, at least in some places, “unanimous and vehement,” and rice farmers developed a number of tactics to resist the tithes, successfully reducing the government’s take to a fraction of what the law allowed.
Tax resistance by the “Johnson cult,” 1964
In the “Johnson cult” protest in Papua New Guinea (in which locals ostensibly intended to raise money to purchase U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and install him as their political leader), the protesters raised money for their unusual plan by withholding the £2 poll tax from the government.
A court in the United Kingdom rejects war tax resistance, 1968
In 1968, in the UK case of Cheney v. Conn, an individual objected to paying a tax that, in part, would be used to procure nuclear arms in unlawful contravention, he contended, of the Geneva Conventions. His claim was dismissed by the court, the judge ruling that “What the [taxation] statute itself enacts cannot be unlawful, because what the statute says and provides is itself the law, and the highest form of law that is known to this country.” There remains in the United Kingdom a significant movement of people who wish to withhold the percentage of their taxes used for war and weapons, but instead contribute them into a ring fenced pool for peace-building or peacekeeping purposes. This may be either for religious or economic reasons. See the website Peace Pays or the Peace Tax campaign “Conscience,” which produces an alternative tax return form to document the withholding of the military percentage of your taxes (approximately 12% of the total tax bill in the UK).
Vietnam War, 1968–72
In early 1968, 458 writers and editors put full-page ads in the New York Post, New York Times Book Review and Ramparts, declaring their intention to refuse to pay a proposed 10% Vietnam War surtax. The signatories included James Baldwin, Robert Bly, Noam Chomsky, Robert Creeley, David Dellinger, Philip K. Dick, Robert Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Leslie Fiedler, Betty Friedan, Allen Ginsberg, Todd Gitlin, Paul Goodman, Paul Krassner, Staughton Lynd, Dwight Macdonald, Jackson Mac Low, Norman Mailer, Peter Matthiessen, Milton Mayer, Ed McClanahan, Carl Oglesby, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Thomas Pynchon, Adrienne Rich, Kirkpatrick Sale, Ed Sanders, Peter Dale Scott, Susan Sontag, Terry Southern, Benjamin Spock, Gloria Steinem, Norman Thomas, Hunter S. Thompson, Lew Welch, John Wieners, Kurt Vonnegut and Howard Zinn. An estimated 70 signed on later.
In 1970, five Harvard and nine M.I.T. faculty members, including Nobel laureates Salvador E. Luria and George Wald, announced that they would be resisting taxes in protest of the war.
In 1972, Jane Hart, wife of U.S. Senator Philip Hart, said that she would be resisting the federal income tax. By this time, every major I.R.S. center had a staff member assigned to be the “Viet Nam Protest Coordinator.”
Also in 1972, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania decided the case of United States v. Malinowski That case involved John Paul Malinowski, an instructor in theology at St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia and a member of the Philadelphia War Tax Resistance League protesting the use of tax money in the Vietnam War. The taxpayer had filed a false Form W-4, and admitted he knew that he was not legally entitled to claim the exemptions (that is, the allowances) he claimed on the W-4. Malinowski was convicted, and his motion for a new trial or acquittal was denied.
Main article: Agbekoya
The Agbękoya Parapo Revolt was a successful tax rebellion by the Yoruba of Nigeria.
Papua New Guinea, 1969
The Mataungan Organisation launched tax resistance in support of the indigenous government against a mixed indigenous/immigrant government in 1969.
Students Resist El Paso Sales Tax, 1969
Calling it a tax on the poor to pay for business district improvements, delegates at the National Student Association Congress in El Paso, Texas in 1969 purchased American flags from a local retailer and refused to pay the penny sales tax on each flag, in a symbolic, media-friendly act of resistance.
Resistance to the Larzac base, 1970
In 1970, when the French defense minister announced plans to expand a military base in Larzac, José Bové and other activists led a campaign to withhold 3% of their taxes (an amount they said was equivalent to the amount the government was spending on its base-expansion campaign) and redirect this money toward agricultural projects.
Opposition to school tax in Stormont County, Ontario, 1970
Several property owners in Stormont County, Ontario, refused to pay a portion of their property tax in 1970 in a tax strike sponsored by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture to protest the burden on rural property owners caused by basing the tax on property value rather than income.
Efforts to legalize conscientious objection to military taxation, 1972–
Main articles: Conscientious objection to military taxation, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, and Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act
In 1972 United States Congressman Ron Dellums introduced legislation that would legalize a form of conscientious objection to military taxation, allowing some taxpayers to designate their taxes for non-military spending only. Advocated by National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, this legislation is regularly reintroduced in the United States Congress and has a number of cosponsors. The legislatures of other countries are also considering similar legislation. Many war tax resisters support this, but others feel that such a law would not actually address the problem that leads them to resist taxation.
Refusing to pay an excise tax on air travel in the U.S., 1972
When a $1- to $2-per-ticket air travel tax was applied to five airports in the United States in 1972, thousands of travelers refused to pay the tax.
Norwalk Taxpayers League, 1972
The Norwalk Taxpayers League, led by Vincent DePanfilis, collected pledges from taxpayers that they would refuse to pay any more tax in the 1973–74 tax year than they had in 1972–73. This was a rare example of tax resistance during the American tax revolt movement of the 1970s.
Castine school tax resistance, 1975
In Castine, Maine, residents voted to illegally refuse, as a town, to pay a state school tax, in 1975.
Heinrich Böll refuses church tax, 1972
“A New Call to Peacemaking,” 1976–78
In 1976, 1977, and 1978, representatives from the United States’ “peace churches” (Mennonites, Brethren, and Quakers) met to develop what they called a “New Call to Peacemaking,” a joint statement in which they called on members of their congregations to refuse to pay taxes that go to pay for war.
United States, Proposition 13, 1978
A wave of tax revolts began in the late 1970s and were particularly popular in the West. In 1978, voters in California passed Proposition 13, sponsored by Howard Jarvis and passed overwhelmingly by voters in 1978, which drastically limited property tax levels in the state.
In subsequent years, the state initiative process, initially championed by Populists and progressives, has been increasingly used for such purposes by conservative and corporate political forces. In the United States, notable examples include a series of initiatives in Oregon (see Oregon tax revolt) and Washington (see Tim Eyman), the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) in Colorado, and Proposition 2½ in Massachusetts.
Sales Tax Boycott in Ottawa, 1981
In 1981, a tax resistance campaign in Ontario targeted the provincial sales tax and included both merchants and consumers as participants.
Palestine, doctors in 1981
Doctors in Gaza City refused to pay a 12% income tax to the Israeli occupation and were supported by a two-day general strike.
Archbishop Hunthausen resists, 1982
Citing a previous pastoral letter he wrote on the subject, Archbishop Hunthausen stated that certain laws may he peacefully disobeyed under serious conditions, and that there may be times “when disobedience may be an obligation of conscience.”
“I believe,” he said, “that the present issue is as serious as any the world has faced. The very existence of humanity is at stake.”
Churches resist the social security tax, 1984
The Quint City Baptist Temple in Iowa, the Indianapolis Baptist Temple, and several other churches refused to pay social security taxes on the wages of their employees, maintaining that it was unconstitutional to make them tax collectors for the government. The courts disagreed.
Irish Unionists, 1986
Beit Sahour, 1988–89
See also: Tax resistance in Beit Sahour
In 1988–89, during the First Intifada, the Palestinian resistance urged people to stop paying taxes to Israel. At the time, The people of Beit Sahour responded to this call with an unusually organized and citywide tax strike. As a result of the tax strike, Israeli military authorities placed the town under curfew for 45 days and seized goods belonging to citizens in raids.
Israel’s military forces had the authority, independent from the rest of the Israeli government, to create and enforce taxes in occupied areas. As a result, they would impose taxes on Palestinians as collective punishment measures to discourage the intifada, for instance “the glass tax (for broken windows), the stones tax (for damage done by stones), the missile tax (for Gulf War damage), and a general intifada tax, among others”.
Among those prominent in Beit Sahour’s tax resistance were Ghassan Andoni and Elias Rishmawi. Some tax resistance continued in Beit Sahour for some years after the end of the 1989 tax strike there
UK Poll Tax, 1989–93
Main article: Community Charge
In 1989-90, the government of Margaret Thatcher reformed local taxation in Britain by replacing Domestic Rates with a new tax known officially as the Community Charge, but more widely and disparagingly known as the “Poll Tax”. Whereas Rates had been, at least to some extent, a progressive tax, the Poll Tax was a flat tax irrespective of income. Many people considered the new tax to be unfair, and a major non-payment campaign saw up to 30% of the population of some council areas refusing to pay. Draconian enforcement measures caused civil unrest, and untimately led to the Poll Tax riots. The new tax became a major electoral liability for the Conservative Party, and was a significant factor in the ousting of Mrs Thatcher by her own party. Due to its unpopularity and the disastrous impact of non-payment on local authority finances, the tax was replaced by the Council Tax in 1993.
Native Americans in Canada, 1994
For 29 days in 1994, a group of Native Americans occupied one floor of the building housing the Revenue Canada Taxation Centre in downtown Toronto, in protest of Canada’s plans to tax Native Americans who had previously been exempted from taxation as a result of treaty provisions. Many continue to resist the tax.
Water tax strike, 1994–96, 2007
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, among others, promoted a non-payment campaign against the government water monopoly in 2007. An earlier “water war” in 1994–6 had led to a victory by the resisters in which the water charge was revoked.
Lech Walesa in 1995
Zapatistas municipios autónomos
When the Zapatista Army of National Liberation moved from organizing armed resistance to the Mexican government to establishing autonomous villages—Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities—free from central government control, one of the things they did was to stop paying taxes to the outside governments.
Fuel tax protests, 2000
In multiple areas of Europe, in 2000, people protested increases in motor vehicle fuel taxes by blockading ports, refineries, fuel depots, and highways.
Opposition parties in Zimbabwe urged citizens to refuse to pay taxes to protest government misuse of funds in 2000.
Same-sex marriage rights
UK council tax
In the United Kingdom, senior citizens in opposition to steep increases in council tax, claiming that increases of as much as 30% are not affordable to those living on a pension, refused to pay the tax in full or in part (some paying the previous year’s amount plus an inflationary rise). One of these, Sylvia Hardy of Exeter, was jailed for seven days.
People have also resisted the council tax on the grounds that the government was not properly discouraging travellers from setting up camp nearby, or had failed to properly clean up hazardous waste on their property.
In 2013, Christopher Coverdale began refusing to pay his council tax on the grounds that the council was investing some of the money in promoting terrorist acts and war crimes.
Bin Tax protests, 2001–2005
There was a long campaign of resistance to rubbish-hauling charges in Ireland.
Venezuelan opposition, 2003
“Flatulence Tax” resistance, 2003
New Zealand farmers protested a livestock tax that was ostensibly designed to discourage and ameliorate methane emissions by announcing they would refuse to pay and by sending packages of manure to government ministers.
Political parties in Nepal urged people to stop paying their taxes in 2006 as part of a push against the power of the monarchy.
The Chamber of Commerce in Tijuana voted to pay taxes into an escrow account rather than to the government to protest the government’s inability to provide adequate security.
Organized resistance to paying Mafia, 2006
Main article: Addiopizzo
In 2006, after the arrest of Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano, 100 shopkeepers in Palermo, Italy declared publicly that they would stop paying taxes to the Sicilian Mafia. They encouraged consumers to support the resisters by buycotting their stores.
Tehran Bazaar, 2008
Government attempts to extend a value-added tax to cover the Tehran Bazaar were frustrated by a strike that shut down the Bazaar until the government gave in.
Nankang, China, 2009
Protesters in Nankang “overturned police cars and blocked roads over plans to more strictly enforce payment of taxes.”
Delhi lawyers, 2009
Lawyers in Delhi, India went on strike in 2009 rather than pay a sales tax that the government was trying to extend to cover legal services.
Chascomús/Lezama secessionist struggle, 2009
Groups on both sides of the debate over the secession of Lezama from the city of Chascomús used tax resistance to try to pressure the government into siding with them.
Vecinos Autoconvocados in Paraná, Justo Daract, and Villa Nueva, Argentina, 2009-10
In February 2009, residents of Paraná, Argentina launched a property tax strike to protest large jumps in property assessment values. In March, residents of Justo Daract followed suit.
In 2010, residents of Villa Nueva announced a tax strike to protest against inadequate government services. Residents were also urged to refuse to pay taxes for roadwork that resisters alleged had already been paid for out of federal taxes.
PRD resistance in Indonesia, 2010
Members of the small Partai Rakyat Demokratik launched a tax strike against president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in early 2010. Hundreds of protesters pledged to refuse to pay a tax, and as part of their protest, burned their Nomer Peserta Wajib Pajak (taxpayer identification) paperwork. Party chairman Sunu Pajar said, “we refuse to pay taxes as a form of resistance.”
Luzerne County, 2010
A Pennsylvania county government beset with corruption hiked taxes by 10% and some residents said no. One recorded a protest song entitled “Take This Tax and Shove It” and launched a tax resistance campaign.
Nepalese doctors, 2010
Doctors in Nepal planned to engage in tax resistance and other acts of civil disobedience to protest the government in 2010.
San Juan, Argentina shopkeepers, 2010
Shopkeepers in San Juan, Argentina, upset at being undercut by untaxed street vendors, announced a tax strike in 2010.
Tax refusal protests China’s one-child policy
Yang Zhizhu and Chen Hong protested China’s one-child policy by refusing to pay a 200,000 yuan fine on their second child.
Coventry “Axe the Tax” protest, 2010
Hundreds of small businesses refused to pay a municipal tax in Coventry in 2010 and successfully had the tax (and the body that levied it) rescinded.
Tax protest and strike in Romania, 2010
In August 2010 a tax strike was declared after newly introduced regulations were found to force freelancers and unincorporated companies waste over 24 man-hours each month on filling tax declarations and depositing those declarations in person at three different offices, in addition to forcing freelancers pay an unemployment insurance they cannot take advantage of. The new rules apply whether the freelancers or the unincorporated companies had any income or not, and declarations have to be submitted even for amounts less than €10.
Barinas, Venezuela transit licensees
Licensed public transit drivers in Barinas, Venezuela who were getting undercut by unlicensed, unofficial ones launched a tax strike to protest a lack of government protection for their privilege.
Ondarroa municipal tax strike, 2003–11
The government responded to an organized municipal tax strike involving hundreds of households in Ondárroa in the Basque region of Spain by cutting the water supply to 120 homes and businesses there. The residents were supporters of a banned Basque nationalist political party and ended their strike (though without paying any of the previously resisted taxes) when they regained government representation under the banner of a new, legal party in 2011.
Ivory Coast, 2011
Alassane Ouattara apparently won the presidential election in Ivory Coast over incumbent Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo disagreed and refused to leave office. Ouattara then called on the citizens of Ivory Coast to discontinue paying taxes to the Gbagbo government, which eventually was defeated. When Ouattara took power, however, his government began pursuing those resisters for back taxes.
Guinea-Bassau Cashew Traders Strike, 2011
Tax resistance for Catalan Independence, 2011–
In July 2011, the Catalan nationalist group Òmnium Cultural, at its 50th anniversary meeting, called on citizens to redirect their taxes from the central government to a Catalan-run fund until such time as the government concedes more autonomy to the region.
In April, 2012, some Catalan separatists started paying their federal taxes into the Catalan treasury instead of submitting the money to the central Spanish government.
In October, 2012, the small town of Gallifa in Catalonia began tax resistance as a municipality by refusing to pay the income tax due on the salaries of the employees at the tax office.
By 2013, some 650 municipalities had begun turning their taxes over to the Catalan government rather than to the federal government. The tax resistance campaign is being organized by Catalunya Diu Prou (“Catalonia Says ‘Enough'”), which says that some freelancers and independent businesses, which are responsible for their own tax withholding, will follow suit.
Road Toll Resistance in Argentina, 2011
Argentine congresswoman Griselda Baldata noticed that nobody was maintaining the road on Route 36, but that the company in charge of maintenance was still collecting a toll. So she stopped paying and urged her constituents to do likewise.
Protests against European austerity measures, 2011–16
In the wake of the European sovereign debt crisis, some governments raised taxes and implemented harsh austerity measures to bring down the government budget deficits and satisfy international creditors. Some people and groups who opposed these measures adopted tax resistance as a protest tactic, for instance in Spain, Germany, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, and Ireland.
Before the victory of the Greek Syriza party in the 2015 elections, it had sponsored a “Have Not, Pay Not” tax resistance movement targeting the Enfia tax. The party’s opposition to this tax was one of the factors in its popularity, and many people stopped paying the tax when it became likely that Syriza would win the elections and do away with the tax entirely.
Resistance against the “household tax” in Ireland, 2012–15
A group (including Teachtaí Dála Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Richard Boyd Barrett, Mick Wallace, Thomas Pringle and Séamus Healy, European Parliamentarian Paul Murphy, and councillors Ruth Coppinger and Ted Tynan) promoted a campaign of resistance against the “stealth tax” of increased household and water rates. A campaign spokesperson explained: “This is not a charge to fund your local community, it is a tax to fund private speculators, bondholders and the bailout. Our incomes and services are being decimated to pay this private debt. Now people have a chance to register their opposition by not registering for this tax. By not registering, we can make this a referendum on the bailouts for the rich and the cuts for us.” By the deadline, only about half of the households in Ireland that were required to register and pay had done so. On 6 May 2013, the Revenue Commissioners reported that 1.2 m households (74%) have paid the property tax. In August 2013, the Revenue said 1.58 m households have paid the tax, and over €175 m has been collected. In 2014, Irish Water workers trying to install the water meters were met with blockades. In February 2015, Murphy and three others were arrested and then released without charges, reportedly part of an investigation into a November 2014 Jobstown protest that trapped Tánaiste Joan Burton in her car for over two hours.
Spanish Autonomists, 2012–14
Autonomists in Spain, under the banner “derecho de rebelión” (right of rebellion), launched a multifaceted tax resistance campaign designed to redirect taxes from the Spanish government (which they felt had overstepped Constitutional bounds and unlawfully usurped power) to locally organized autonomous projects.
A tax resistance movement began in Indonesia in protest of the government’s prioritizing of payments to bankers and other large bondholders during the economic downturn.
Crime syndicates / protogovernments rule the streets in many parts of Honduras, and these often extort more money from their subjects than does the internationally recognized Honduran government. Some people resist these taxes, known locally as “impuesto de guerra” or “war tax,” but the consequences of refusal can be, and frequently are, deadly. Eight bus company employees in Choloma, for instance, were gunned down in broad daylight, a block away from a police station and by attackers in police uniforms, in retaliation against drivers who did not pay the tax. In May, 2013 bus drivers there took collective action, going on strike to demand better security.
Salta, Argentina, 2013
Guillermo Durand Cornejo, president of an argentinian consumer rights organization called CODELCO, and a legislative representative, called on Salteños (citizens of Salta, Argentina) to refuse to pay a municipal tax, in the wake of property tax increases and new taxes in electricity and water bills.
“Until such time as the mayor gives a response to the people concerning the tax hike, I suggest that you do not pay this month’s municipal tax,” he said. “I call for civil disobedience.”
Cornejo said he views a thirty-day tax strike as a wake up call for the government, and suggested that strikers who restrict their strike to a single month will not be subject to government reprisals.
Egyptian activists are withholding bus and subway fares as a protest against their government’s continuing repression. “We are calling for civil disobedience — not to pay for the metro and buses…” one said. “They’re taking that money and bringing tools to repress us. They bring bird shot, and tear gas, poison gas even.”
Businesses in Madagascar refused to submit taxes to the government, depositing the money in an escrow account instead. The businesses, which represent a large percentage of the country’s tax base, were reacting to a crisis of stability and perceived legitimacy in the government. According to the chair of the Madagascar’s Enterprises Union, “We no longer know with what kind of authorities we should deal at this stage.”
Tax protesters in Canada
The tax protester phenomenon, which had long been part of the national tax scene in the United States, emerged as a difficulty for the Canadian government as well. By 2013, about 400 cases were pending in the Tax Court of Canada — “most using florid and arcane language and claiming bizarre laws that supersede or nullify Canada’s regulations and laws; it prompted the Tax Court to adopt a triage approach to cope with the deluge, grouping cases and directing them to specific judges.”
Bonnets rouges in Brittany, 2013–14
Main article: Bonnets Rouges
In late 2013, a nationalist movement in Brittany called the bonnets rouges began destroying highway portals that were designed to tax truck transportation in the region. They eventually destroyed hundreds of these portals — as well as the tax office in Morlaix — leading the French government to abandon the tax.
Pos me salto in Mexico, passe livre in Brazil, and Planka.nu in Sweden, 2013–14
Main articles: Movimento Passe Livre and Planka.nu
When the Mexico city government hiked transit fares by two-thirds, frustrated commuters started leaping the turnstiles, both alone and in organized groups, in a form of protest they call pos me salto (“well, then, I’ll jump”).
At around the same time, a similar movement called passe livre was engaged in similarly motivated actions in Brazil.
The similar Planka.nu movement in Sweden went a step further, initiating a mutual insurance plan: For a €12 monthly fee, the plan insures contributors against any tickets they are given for being caught without a ticket — compare this to €100 for a monthly transit pass, or €150 for a fare evasion citation. The plan is running at a profit, taking in about twice as much from subscribers as it has had to pay out in fine reimbursements.
Thousands of Cretans each paid only a single euro of their road taxes in a protest there. The action was organized by “People Stop Paying,” a group that protested against rising taxes at a time of increasing economic difficulties, and that the taxes were not actually going to crucially needed road improvements. That group also organized protests at government auctions of seized property.
Tunisian taxi drivers, 2014
Taxi drivers in Tunisia reacted to a new tax on motorists by posting signs in the windows of their cabs reading “I will not pay tax!” and daring the police to try to enforce the new taxes against them.
Businesses in Apatzingán, 2014
Some business leaders in Apatzingán, a city in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán, finding that the government was giving them no protection from the Knights Templar Cartel, decided to stop paying taxes.
During the Euromaidan in Ukraine in early 2014, a group of business owners in Lviv announced that they would stop paying value-added and income taxes to the Ukraine central government of Viktor Yanukovych (taxes that went to maintain the military and internal security forces).
“Protesta fiscale ad oltranza”, 2014
In northern Italy, a group of small businesses united under the banner “protesta fiscale ad oltranza” (tax protest to the bitter end) refuse paying taxes, claiming that the Constitution requires the government to leave them enough to live on and that they should not be forced to borrow money to pay the government.
For example, when bed and breakfast owner Alessandra Marazzi discovered that fully 84% of what she was bringing in was going to pay taxes and state-monopolized utility fees, she decided to stop paying taxes just so her business (and her family) could survive. Caterer Andrea Polese stopped paying and put a sign on her door reading “I am a tax resister.” Bar owner Mariano Pavanello posted a selfie with a sign saying “I decided to stop paying protection money to a state thief.”
Venetian independence movement, 2014–16
Main article: Venetian independence referendum, 2014
After the majority of Venetians who responded to a plebiscite voted to secede from Italy and restore the Venetian Republic, one of the first acts of the organizers of the plebiscite was to decree that the people of Venice were now free from obligations to pay taxes to the Italian state. Gianluca Busato, one of the drivers behind the initiative, went so far as to say that “The payment of taxes to foreign governments [e.g. Italy’s], as well as immoral, it’s illegal.” The separatists claimed that 3,407 businesses initially signed on to the tax strike, and as many as 93,000 others may be resisting less openly.
In 2016, the government struck back, arresting 20 people in 19 raids in Vicenza, Treviso, and Verona and charging them with inciting tax evasion.
Anti-corruption resistance in Austria, 2014
Some business owners in Austria, notably Wolfgang Reichl and Gerhard Höller, began paying their federal taxes into escrow accounts rather than turning them over to the government, largely in protest over the Hypo scandal. Höller launched a project called Der Steuerstreik (“the tax strike”) in an attempt to get more business owners to participate in tax resistance.
Wakulima market vendors, 2014
Hundreds of vendors at the Wakulima market in Nakuru, Kenya, refused to pay taxes to the county government in June, 2014 in a tax strike to protest the government’s failure to provide the market the sanitation and sewage services the taxes ostensibly pay for.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, 2014
In August, 2014, Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, a prominent political party in Pakistan, gave a speech in which he called for a “civil disobedience movement” in which “we will not pay taxes, electricity or gas bills,” to the central government, in hopes of forcing the resignation of Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Khan’s party was in charge of the government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and that government itself planned to withhold its federal taxes and utility payments. Asked what they would do if the government responded by cutting off utility service to the province, province Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani said that they would retaliate by cutting off the neighboring province of Punjab from the power generated by the Tarbela Dam, which is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Umbrella Movement, 2014–15
As Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement began to move away from the Occupy Central mode of street protests, it began to promote tax refusal and refusal to pay rent in government-run housing. Benny Tai Yiu-Ting, one of the movement’s organizers, wrote: “Blocking government may be even more powerful than blocking roads. Refusal to pay taxes, delaying rent payments by tenants in public housing estates and filibustering in the Legislative Council, along with other such acts of noncooperation, could make governing more inconvenient. No government can govern effectively if the majority of its people are unwilling to cooperate.”
Puerto Rico, 2015
Vitebsk, Belarus, 2015
Merchants at the Polatsk marketplace in Vitebsk, Belarus went on strike and refused to pay taxes in March, 2015 to protest government harassment of traders who had not purchased enough official paperwork.
Guragon, India, 2015
Ethiopian-Jewish Israelis, 2015
Police brutality, discrimination, and mistreatment towards Israel’s Ethopian Jewish minority led Shlomo Molla, one of the few Ethiopian-Israelis to have been in the Israeli parliament, to call for tax resistance, refusal to serve in the army, and other forms of civil disobedience.
Beni, D.R. Congo, 2015–16
Residents of Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo, launched a tax strike to protest the government’s failure to provide them with adequate security against atrocities committed by the Allied Democratic Forces insurgency. The tax resistance was preceded by a week-long general strike, and later spread to other parts of North Kivu.
Githurai market vendors, 2015
Prino condominiums, 2015
Fifty condominium owners in Prino, Italy, stopped paying the “IMU” municipal property tax to protest the city’s neglect of public spaces, including a filthy public square with a broken fountain that’s become a rubbish heap, poor upkeep of drainage that leads to flooding, and bad traffic management.
Patadar community, 2015
The Patidar community in Gujarat, in pursuit of government-protected minority status, coordinated bank runs and tax resistance in an “economic non-cooperation” movement.
See also: Patidar reservation agitation
The town of Crickhowell, in a protest against the use of tax havens by multinational companies, decided to try to use the same tax haven strategies on a small scale. They teamed up with a television show to try to “offshore” the town in the hopes of spurring the government into closing the loopholes that allow such tax avoidance.
Russian truckers, 2015–16
A new tax on heavy-weight truckers in Russia, and corruption in the way the tax would be administered, led to a trucking strike that unsettled the Putin regime.
Mexican areas, 2015–16
Residents of Uruapan started withholding municipal taxes in 2015, using the money to fund private Neighborhood Watch groups, in exasperation at the inability of law enforcement to protect them from criminals. Resisters also refused to pay certain utility rates. Businesses in Huatulco and Acapulco followed suit in 2016.
Business owners in Eastleigh, Nairobi stopped paying taxes to Nairobi County in protest against the government’s failure to provide basic services. Eastleigh North Ward representative Osman Adow Ibrahim, a member of the County Assembly, wrote: “As your representative, I fully support the decision you have made and have engaged a lawyer to get an injunction through the courts. The law and Constitution of Kenya allows for peaceful protest to get one’s rights. I hope we all stand together on this, so that we get the service we need.”
Indian taxpayers union, 2016
Anjali Damania and Alyque Padamsee started a taxpayers union and launched a tax strike to protest government corruption in India. They were emboldened by a ruling from Justice Arun Chaudhari of the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, in which he said
To eradicate the cancer of corruption — the “hydra-headed monster,” it is now a high time for the citizens to come together to tell their governments that they have had enough. That is the miasma of corruption. If the same continues, taxpayers may resort to refuse to pay taxes by “non-cooperation movement.”
Among their tactics was to print up “zero rupee” notes, resembling currency but containing anti-corruption messages, that people could hand to government officials who demand bribes.
Gay rights tax resistance in Italy
Jewlers in India, 2016
Jewlers in India staged an 18-day strike to protest a new excise tax on gold sales. The government agreed to suspend collection of the charge pending the report from a committee that was formed to look into the jewlers’ grievances. The jewlers are estimated to have lost some $4.5 billion in sales during the strike. This is the third time the government has suspended the tax in response to protests.
Terrorist Victims’ Families in France, 2016
Families of victims of the November 2015 Paris attacks said they would refuse to pay the taxes due from their dead family members, complaining that it was insulting to tax the victims to pay for, among other things, the salaries of the public defenders representing the terrorist suspects.
Trieste, 2016Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Hey people, happy Monday. I made a new video blog. It’s ~15 minutes long and outlines how i’m approaching the design of a new venture capital fund. It feels a little weird talking VC strategy here instead of company or market or future of the world thinking, but so it goes…Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I made a video blog thinking through my next career step a bit. It’s 13 minutes, if you want to take a little break from watching the world burn.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
Smiling is a choice. I know that sounds strange…i would have previously said a smile is something that happens when you are happy…a result or reaction…to something inbound…but this is not the case. A smile can come from within. You can choose to smile, as a state of mind and as an explicit action…and while it may seem forced at first…if you let it happen…that smile and state of mind can become genuine…simply by letting it.
One of many lessons learned after a month travel through India. I saw smiles in places that would make you cry. I saw joy in places that you would want to change, or “fix,” or improve…and I met so many people who were happy, despite the most challenging of situations, simply because they chose happiness as a life philosophy.
I left New York at the beginning of December relatively down. A body of work I had spent 3 years on had come to an end that I wasn’t proud of. Many of the things that constitute my really really good life seemed mundane and routine. Not only was I not choosing happiness, I was actively punishing myself for not succeeding with Wildcard. Sometimes I can deprive myself of joy because I feel like I don’t deserve to experience it when things aren’t where I want them to be…and wrapping up Wildcard, that was definitely where I was at…
As it turns out, joy is not about deserving it or not…it’s not a result that only materializes when it’s earned or something good happens…it is a frame of mind that you can choose to experience, regardless of context…it is an input to…not an output of…a life well lived.
As I approach this next chapter in life, and start to think about new endeavors, and work, and goals, and all of the things that get me out of bed each morning…knowing that joy is what I will bring to them…as opposed to what will come from them…makes this exploration so much more fun.
I’ll end with an anecdote without analysis, but worth contemplating:
Amongst the many forms of meditation that we touched in India, one of the most surprising and interesting was a Sufist laughing meditation. 15 strangers stood in a circle, and we were instructed to start laughing…at first this was a very uncomfortable ask…initial laughs took the form of “Ha, Ha, Ha..” almost Dr. Evilesque (with all the vilians sitting around that board table in Austin Powers)…minutes passed and the forced laughter begat real laughter…you’d look at other people laughing and you’d start to laugh harder, and that’d make them laugh harder, and fast forward 10 minutes and 15 complete strangers are rolling on the floor in insane, uncontrollable laughter…i laughed harder in that meditation than I have in years…and it all began with a very forced…Ha…Ha…Ha…with a choice…to begin laughing…Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
So…they’re fucking fun. I got my Spectacles 24 hours and 29 minutes ago…at the risk of losing my 1 year warranty by admitting that I bought them off a kid on craigslist as opposed to “from Snap inc. or an authorized retailer,” I will tell you that I contemplated the 10 hour line on 5th avenue for a $140 pair, and then opted for the incredibly honest and kind Ukranian kid from Sheepshead Bay who (although quite tardy) drove his c. 1980 white BMW into the city and delivered a pair for $200…he even taught me how to use them free of charge. Worth it.
After 24 hours with them, here are some thoughts:
1) This review I read in the New York Times did a pretty good job of capturing the functionality and experience of using the glasses. I won’t repeat all that, but the most salient thing I took away from Farhad’s review was that the images captured by Spectacles are more raw and honest then even iPhone Snaps, which in themselves are more raw than the type of video you would deliberately capture with an intention of posting to Facebook or Instagram. Farhad writes:
“The images I snapped with my Specs over Thanksgiving weekend are deeper, more real and more emotionally evocative than most other snapshots I usually shoot. I think this has to do with point of view. When you take a picture with a camera, you are usually cropping an ideal shot that bears little resemblance to what you actually saw. But Specs don’t idealize the present.”
There is not much stabilization in the video that’s captured, the point of view moves as organically and sometimes jerkily as one’s head might, and consuming the videos later on has a different sense of presence then any other film i’ve captured on my phone. Part of this presence comes form the “Snap viewer” for Spectacles content, which allows the iphone screen to “walk around” a circular image captured by the glasses while viewing any rectangle within it, as opposed to simply fitting the film to one prescribed screen size rectangle. It’s closer to a true field of view, and I really like it (note: the video of my day attached to this post, is a proxy for the feeling of viewing the content in Snapchat, but much more limited…you really have to watch the content in the app to get the full experience.
2) So I had that raw and honest expectation going in, and I love that dimension to the content. There is…however a major downside. Yes, you can capture more raw, honest moments…without interupting the experience by putting your phone between you and the world…BUT…when you are wearing Spectacles, now every raw and honest moment becomes an opportunity to capture and share. Partially because the glasses are tinted…there is this feeling like you are always looking through a viewfinder…and you start seeing the world in 10 second video opportunities…your most raw and honest moments become “is this a good snap?” and that’s now somewhat dilutive to real life. The experience of capturing is more present and non-disruptive…but the experience of living becomes more about capturing. Much in the same way that I’ve started to think in 140 characters…where Twitter has literally changed the format of the dialouge in my head…Spectacles started to make me see in Snaps…
3) The decision to make Spectacles sunglasses and not clear glass is not an obvious one, but I am sure quite deliberate. There are clear downsides, most notably that there are many contexts (including the whopper of nighttime) where it is inappropriate to where sunglasses. Sitting indoors at breakfast with friends (at least in NY…LA might be different) only ass holes would keep sunglasses on…going into a museum to view art…sunglasses not ideal…walking down the street at night…all of these opportunities for compelling content creation on Snapchat, the company forwent…but what they gained is likely more important: Spectacles actually look cool when you wear them…whereas Google glass was completely tone def to societal standards…Spectacles thread this perfect needle where they are attractive independent of the tech forward statement one is making…they are not “four eyes” technology…they are “beautiful people” technology…and therefore have an addressable market of all that aspire to be cool…very on brand…worth the lost addressable content when trying to persuade the normals to wear cameras on their faces. (Note: as a non-beautiful person…i considered removing the sunglass lenses alltogether, and just wearing empty frames so that I could use my spectacles all the time…i think they will come out with non-sunglass options if and when the world starts wearing Spectacles en mass)
4) I am super impressed that I don’t need to have my phone nearby to use Spectacles. The glasses have local storage and videos sync over bluetooth or wifi automatically when the phone and glasses are together. It’s fast, surprisingly low impact on my battery, and no content loss or blips…the UX of navigating, editing, and sharing my Spectacles moments inside the Snapchat app could use some refinement…but on the whole it’s very doable.
5) I think V2 Spectacles will definitely have an always on voice interface (I’m guessing there’s a battery constraint, but it’s not like Siri where the machine needs to make a network request to be functional…i think the always on mic listening for a single word can run locally, which should help w battery). Right now you tap a button on the left side of the glasses to begin recording. It’s non-obstrusive, but it’s still an action that interrupts the moment and ties up one of your hands. It’s not as bad as pulling out your phone, but I want to be able to say “Snap this” and have the glasses record without pressing any buttons.
6) Overall, I think Spectacles are a really promising and complete first generation device. My friend Amy (who’s starring in a bunch of these Snaps today) asked what I thought they could be for the company…I started by saying “do you remember the first generation iPod…it’s like that…they’re not ready to be in everyone’s lives yet…but if the company continues to invest in this thought…something really special could materialize.” I sort of backed off that statement after I said it…because I can’t really predict what Snapchat’s ipod to iphone leap might be (maybe contact lenses?), but I think I said it because i’m hopeful and excited and i’ve been waiting for a new piece of technology to truly inspire me in this world of derivatives on derivatives…and these toy glasses have done just that. Thank you Snapchat 🙂Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Just do something honest…it doesn’t even really matter what…just let it be you…authentic…if flawed…but also maybe great…reach deep…beyond what is working for others…beyond what is not working for you that you have somehow rationalized…be genuine…express yourself…neither in the face of, nor in the name of, economics, acceptance, or praise…what is something you can do that is simply true?…unquestionable…once released or completed…what can you look at without hesitation and say “yes…that is me…this is mine…and there is no ambiguity or regret about it.” That thing…or more precisely whatever you connected with to take that step, make that thing, be that thing…that thing is north…it is what gets covered up and obfuscated by keynote speeches, fireside chats, billion dollar deals, fancy invitations, top 10 lists, and manufactured heat…it is what you give up when your confidence is down…it is what you give up to pay your rent…it is what you give up to be understood immediately…to fit into something that sounds clean and attractive over cocktails…it is what gets drowned out by the hype machine, content marketing machine, megaround, marquis hire, ergonomically correct, cold pressed juice, gloss machine…it is the thing that let’s you make it…without faking it till you…nah…actually if you’re faking it…you’re never gonna make it…even if…somehow…you get so good at not being you…that you make some money and fool some people along the way…you will never make it…because you had something better in you…that was really you…that would allow you to live as yourself…without compromise…freely…and successfully…and you gave it all up to make a top 10 list…that somehow will sound and feel less good in a bio that reads “she was named to SA 100’s coolest people in tech” 6 years ago, and now is a product manager at Yahoo. What are you bleeding to express? Try to make money expressing it and the multiples will expand…economic, social, emotional…it is so rare to hit that sweetest of sweet spots where you can just wake up…be you…and let the world reward you for your honesty…but that is where it’s at…and if nobody sees you…for a very long time…that means nothing…as long as you see yourself in what you are doing…all those things that you admire from afar…some of them are for you…and some are not…and the fastest way to figure out which are which is to express yourself as honestly as possible in your work.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Snapchat is going public. As far as consumer technology IPOs are concerned, it’s a short list of scaled social applications that have been able to tap the public markets…but those that have, have been generation defining companies, achieving market caps in the tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars post-IPO. The list is short indeed. It goes: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin…that’s kind of it (tell me what i’m forgetting, if I have). You can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting a social app in the Appstore, but those that achieve true, sustaining scale…that capture an enduring relationship with their user base, and that have the potential to say reach billions of people…the air is quite thin. These companies are important because they represent attention…they are part media company, part publishing platform, part social network…they are where large amounts of consumers spend their time, and that time is obviously valuable…to advertisers…to companies…to anyone who wants share of wallet.
Here are some things to think about when considering a purchase of Snapchat stock:
1) Brand: There is a lot to like about Snapchat for a day 1 buyer post-IPO. It is undeniably where the post-FB generation is expressing themselves, communicating, and frankly identifying. The brand is epic…Snapchat can’t make a move that is uncool…and there’s something to be said for that. That was not true of FB, Twitter, or Linkedin…for a long time it was true of Apple (which although not a social application company, is a good example of the power of brand). From an investors standpoint…brand is valuable and difficult to quantify, but assume there’s some upside here relative to what institutional investors are modeling.
2) Growth and user engagement: I haven’t dug into the numbers, but i’m sure they are staggering. As consumer apps go, i’m sure Snapchat will shine on metrics…as far as day 1 investors are concerned, i’d assume that these metrics will be fully recognized and valued by the instiutional money that drives the public markets. Investor have had enough time to understand how to value social applications at this point (which was not the case in the early days of Facebook’s and Twitter’s public lives)…so I’d assume there isn’t a lot of upside in unique understanding of Snapchat metrics…net-net no upside…everyone is going to be looking at the right numbers and understanding them…
3) Except: is Snapchat a social application or a modern day cable company (i.e. a platform where people consume 3rd party content and media)? this is an existential question Twitter has very publicly grappled with in the public markets. Twitter was constantly trying to tell the story of the lurkers and logged out users…consuming media on the platform but not being social…explaining that active users were more than just people who tweeted or even logged in…but the market didn’t know how to evaluate them…and frankly still doesn’t. Snapchat has some elements of this as well…depending on whether you are looking at their chat and user stories features (most valuable), or their Snapchat Discover feature (where publishers like Buzzfeed and ESPN reach Snapchat users)…there are sort of two stories being told. One is “evaluate us on our social activity”, and another is “evaluate us as a pipe for 3rd party content”…and both can be valuable, but only the first can be $400B market cap valuable…even Time Warner Cable is only valued at $68B last i checked…of course there is a symbiosis that social apps and modern cable companies experience…best realized in the form of Facebook today…and there’s a reason that the two go hand in hand…but explaining this nuance to the public markets is difficult…and i view some risk and market acceptance and understanding of “what is snapchat?” should the story evolve, or certain metrics outshine others quarter to quarter…from a day 1 investors standpoint, I don’t think this is an immediate negative…because i think the promise of being the next Facebook is what will drive early speculation in the stock…but 12-24 months out I can see this story being complicated to communicate.
4) On being the next Facebook: This is really where the action will be early ideas. Can Snapchat amass the next 2 Billion people…younger people…not living their lives on Facebook yet or maybe ever…is Snapchat where they will spend a similar amount of time and energy? I see no reason why the answer can’t be yes…and i think that’s the bull case…but there are some existential threats to the bull case that are worth noting…one of the biggest, i believe, is that Snapchat has taken a relatively isolationist approach to building their application and company. They have not opened up to 3rd party development at all so nobody else is (legally) building businesses or apps on top of Snapchat). They have taken a very controlled approach to opening up to outside publishers and content creators. carefully curating who gets to show up in Snapchat discover, and what type of content they can and should create for Snapchat. And they have done nothing to spread their tentacles across the open web. There is no Snapchat like button. No share to Snapchat. No login to this site with your Snapchat account. No oay with Snapchat…Snapchat is not baked into anything else…and very little else is baked into Snapchat. The positive side of this approach is that they have incredible control and stewardship over the Snapchat experience and brand. The product experience is delightful and unadulterated…and that is reflected in the metrics above…the downside is that Snapchat is not infrastructural in nature…it’s not a platform yet…it’s not an ecosystem…and that means it’s easier to rip out and replace in the world as a whole, than say a Facebook was when it IPOd. Now, the network of loyal users…who have built their identities on Snapchat and creating new social graphs there…that is very sticky…but Snapchat has not diversified it’s touch points to the users or enterprise…it is still subject to the ephemeral whims of an increasingly fickle consumer base with increasingly available alternatives coming down the pipe in the form of “the next hot app, that is cooler than Snapchat.” What this means in practice, is that they can’t ever lose their brand voice, and they can’t ever drop the ball on product…and history would say most other consumer applications do one or both of those at points in their life. When Facebook IPOd i used to try to explain to wall st types that they are thinking about FB all wrong…facebook is a piece of societal and enterprise infrastructure, it’s a platform, and that position is why it’s valuable…it’s not just eyeballs…Twitter had the same narrative available to it, and ultimately squandered it (although i believe that it is still available, and the only interesting investor narrative available at this point actually), but Snapchat does not yet have this narrative. Now maybe it will develop it over time…but today…Snapchat kind of is all eyeballs…and that’s not a super secure place to be. for day 1 investors…if you are long term value investor…this is a negative and one that will not be appropriately reflecting in institutional analysis
5) On revenue and financial opportunity: I haven’t dug in deep here. From afar, it seems that Snapchat is taking a pretty bespoke approach to monetization…and it also seems they are heavily inspired and influenced by the cable television model…I think this will evolve as they need to reach a different scale of revenue…so I wouldn’t really look at today’s business model as the one that will get them to a Facebook sized market cap…Facebook itself didn’t come out of the gate with their killer business model at IPO…the App install add didn’t come for 3 or 4 quarters after IPO, but it was obviously the unit and model that changed the trajectory Facebook’s story on Wall St…and Snapchat doesn’t really have an analagous opportunity visible today. There is no self serve, near-infinitely scalable way for Snapchat to make $ that is visible today…Google has this. Facebook has this…and if Snapchat wants to break into that stratosphere from a shear market cap standpoint…it’s going to need to find something similar…the good news: i think it can. the bad news: hard to see Wall st giving credit for that until it materializes…
6) Overall: I think I’m a buyer in Snapchat at any market cap under $40B…if for no other reason, than that there is no other contender to become the next Facebook…but I do not believe they will get there by being isolationist forever…and I see a fair amount of risk as they are pressed to give up some control in exchange for scale, diversification of touch points, monetization, and infrastructural position.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )
Alarm goes off…what day is it? is it Sunday…mmm…no it’s Tuesday…get your ass out of bed…we are not going to snooze our way through this transition…it’s just not gonna happen. brushes teeth…showers…i don’t feel like meditating today…no we’re going to meditate today, 20 minutes, before coffee…like we do everyday…because you know we feel so much better and think so much more clearly when we meditate…yea, you’re right…sits on cushions…starts timer…closes eyes…darkness…familiar darkness…what do i hear? cars passing, refrigerator humming…what do i see? white light shining through my eye lids…small specs in a matted dark space that has some volume to it…what do i smell? nothing…mmm…maybe some maple syrup…no idea why…what do i taste? leftover toothpaste…maybe something sour…what do i feel? an itch on my neck…the feeling of the skin on my outer left foot pressed against our hard wood floors…ok…i am present…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5…i wonder what kenny is doing right now…i miss kenny…4, 3, 2, 1….1, 2, ah, the matte like space looks a little different…3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8… i really enjoyed my tea with Dearing…yes…he is an unusual guy…i think he’s good though…were my ideas good? are my ideas good? yes…they”re good…some are not correct, but always original…i’m so bored of unoriginal thinking…there are so many funds right now…so many derivative companies…it’s so noisy…are my ideas still valuable? yes? you just need to change your approach…a lot has happened in the market since you thought this way…ok, what’s a new appr…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…1, 2, 3, 4…remember Lois Ratner…she drove me to school every day growing up…that was so nice of her…5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…10, 9, 8, 7, 6…did she judge me as a child? maybe…i was the whacky one…her kids were much more together every morning…5, 4, 3, 2, 1…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10..10, 9, 8…shoulders drop…man…i was holding something that i just let go of…that feels good…7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…do i want a job? maybe…but there are so few funds i’d be excited to join…and who knows if they are looking for new partners…probably not…i want to raise a fund..pick my partners…but there are so many fucking funds…does the world need another fund? yes…it just has to be different…that’s doable…i wish it didn’t have to be a seed fund. I’d rather have $300M than $30M…2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7….chill out…take your time…let the world unfold a bit…you’re going to India…stay loose…it’s not time yet…8, 9, 10…10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…maybe it’s time to start having coffees…maybe it’s time to let the world know you are ready to hustle…but your vision isn’t baked…and so much of what’s getting backed is completely boring…we need to get our arms around everything interesting…but the world is different…too many companies, raising too many rounds, from too many funds to build the mental map of the market…we need new tools…we need a new framework and process for keeping tabs…we need softwa…2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…1, 2, 3, 4 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…the dark matted space is a different shape…there is a light center in the midst of the darkness…is it someone i have known in the past…is it energy…focus on it…go deeper…it’s gone…2, 3, 4, 5, 6…it’s back…it’s peace…and lightness…and CHIMES…20 minutes…hold onto this lightness…opens eyes…stretches…fills tea pot…walks to front door to pick up the paper…sit’s down to begin day…the world is interesting…and in flux…and i am meant to do something…eyes open..embrace others…feel no shame…smile…let’s write something…Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Burn out is a real thing…in startups…it comes from carrying the angst and fear and frustration and hopes and wants of ~20 people for 3+ years. It comes from wanting so bad to fulfill your promise to your team and your investors and your cofounders and your family and your loved ones…it comes from breaking up with early employees who are also burnt out and ready to move on…it comes from a morning metrics reports that slowly turn from exciting to troublesome as 80% of your new users leave you over 30 days…it comes from a concerned phone call from your mom that your product isn’t evolving fast enough…or from a father in law who just can’t seem to get the search result he wants in your app…these little papercuts to your entrepreneurial soul that one by one harden you into the type of person who can execute while being cut…you build up this armor that allows you to walk through your days…but it doesn’t mean the cuts don’t draw blood…they are just internal…and as you bleed inside…to an ultimate outcome (whether that be success or failure)…at some point…you don’t have to execute anymore…and all of the sudden you are left with a body that is full of cuts that need to heal…each cut remains open until you go back to the point in time where it was first drawn…see that you were hurt…and somehow rationally and logically agree with your soul that you are no longer in that place…and that stops the bleeding.
Burnout is when you kept pushing your body and your mind to move forward…into a series of successive cuts…for so long…that you are too damaged to appreciate the pleasure and joy of moving forward at all…it’s like you’ve trained yourself to expect pain from forward movement…and therefore it’s not so much that you fear moving forward…as it is that you revert back to not feeling as you step…and that’s a pretty inertial place to be. Burn out is numbness.
I’ve been burnt out a number of times in my career. I was burnt out after Untitled Partners, I was burnt out after Hyperpublic, and I am slowly unburning out after Wildcard…the shitty part of being burnt out is that it’s hard to get excited…that numbnesss is real…but the good news is that it’s not permanent. Everyday it’s easier to attain glimmers of interest, moments where your heart races as you lock in on new thinking…
It’s not the most sustainable approach to life…to go through these cycles of 2-3 years burning out, 3-6 months unburning out, 2-3 years burning out, etc…you’d like to maintain yourself in a way where you don’t hit burn out…but i’m not sure that’s possible as CEO of a tech startup…at least not for me…having done that 3 times, over 5 products, and 8 years…and having invested in literally hundreds of my peers doing the same…i think if your signing up to start something…your signing up to burn out…and that’s just part of the deal.
Sometimes when burnt out, it can feel like the excitement to move forward may never return…but time and time again it does…so if your feeling burnt out…just know that it’s normal…and that good things are around the corner 🙂Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
3:11 PM on a Monday afternoon…I’m sitting in a cafe in an ergonomically shitty wooden chair…the kind of chair you can’t sit in too many days in a row without really screwing up your back…I’m surrounded by actors and dancers and students and kids with babysitters and I’ve exhausted every feed of information I can access from my phone. I am up to date on every tweet, medium post, Snapchat story, Facebook update, email, text, etc…there is nothing left for me to passively take in and learn…today at least, the world isn’t just going to beem down the exact inspiration I need without me doing some meaningful work to make that happen…I’ve finished my green tea, it’s too early to go to the gym, I don’t have any goal today other than “buy haloween candy” and “write”…so here I am I guess…writing. I actually wrote this morning on the nuances of Facebook Live…wasn’t super interesting…not much interesting came back in response…but I’m on this thing of writing everyday…which is great and has helped me organize my thoughts in general…combine that with a daily regimen of meditation and some fairly long runs and I’ve managed to carve out some really meaningful time to think. When you don’t have a job your job is to think…and I am doing a good job of not having a job…im trying to undo all the context that guides decision making and get to the essence of who I am today…not who I was last time I did this and not who I am in the context of my context..and that process requires energy and dedication and a willingness to question everything and explore the comfortable and less comfortable corners of one’s mind without regard for impending pain or pleasure…
Nothing radical is happening in this process so far…historically I have been known to make massive shifts. 180 degree turns into the future…and I am conceptually quite open to doing that again…but in practice the band of futures that are, at least presently, in sight quite resemble the presents that litter my past. Maybe that is a sign that I’ve made progress through the years…that I’ve known myself better and better…gotten closer and closer to aligning my context and myself…or maybe that means I’m just too early in the examination to see the wider bands…the ones that look different or even unrecognizable.
On my computer at home I have an 11 tab spreadsheet with the most methodical “next steps” you’ve ever seen in your life. I tend to hyperorganize in periods of change…and this moment is no different. It’s entitled “project revive” and it’s (I think) a deeply thoughtful approach to my next 20 years as a venture capitalist / investor…and I’m just sitting on it…waiting…to make sure that my gut is in fact MY gut, and not the gut of my context, which has secretly digested my gut but not yet freed it you know how.
I’m being a little cute, but you get the real point. I think I know what my next steps are, but I’m trying very hard to sit in this cafe, and just be, and think, and let some of the stuff that’s packed down deep come to the surface and either wash away or take hold and demand further attention.
It’s a strange place to be if you are as dedicated to career as I have been and am …trying not to work is much much harder than trying to work hard…I am the type of person who chose to be a venture capitalist and a CEO at the same time…more than once…and now I’m trying to drink green tea mid afternoon…and just write…it’s far from my natural disposition but I’m gonna keep this pace for the next few weeks at least…and see where I come out. if you keep reading this blog…thanks for tolerating the mix of insight and mental vomit that the process emits…I appreciate your company on this journey, as always…
P.s. Sorry for typos, wrote this on my phoneRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
He looked me dead in the eye and told me that his recently launched app with 1200 installs would have millions of users and be raising $30M on $125M pre within the year, and that he expected to exit in 18 months for hundreds of millions of dollars. He was raising $2M on $32 pre, after having drip raised $12M at successively higher valuations from “high net worth” individuals, and every piece of “value” that he could articulate was “happening next month” or “in late stage discussions with senior executives representing a potential xx.”
I have never understood the person who can look you dead in the eye and lie in a business setting. I know they exist. There are cons and frauds everywhere who maybe tell the same lie so often they begin to believe it, or I don’t know what, but for every overt con or fraud, there are 10 founders out there overrepresenting themselves or their opportunity, intentionally, albeit in less extreme form. On some level the market rewards misrepresentation and deception…which is a total bummer.
I read this tweet recently referencing Chamath from Social Capital…which read “Before @chamath invests in a co., he asks himself, “Is the CEO a psychopath?” If so it’s a buy.” I was so taken back by it, because 1) I think Social Capital is a very interesting fund and have enjoyed reading and listening to their thinking over the past few years (especially because so much of what they preach is about leveling the world’s playing field for the underrepresented and disadvantaged), and 2) because only a psychopath could make a statement like this…and I didn’t think Chamath was psychopath (i hope he’s not, and that this quote was taken our of context, or perhaps just not fully thought through or articulated). But how many psychopath’s walk amongst us? I believe it’s the same impaired empathy and remorse characteristic of a pyschopath that enables a founder to look another human in the eye and defraud or intentionally mislead them for gain. What Chamath identifies, I fear correctly, is that this is a behavior and characteristic that can lead to tremendous success and gain. Just as my friend in the first paragraph had amassed $10M doing this, many have gone on to amass hundreds of millions, if not billions the same way. Some of these psychopaths eventually are exposed…and they end up going to jail or paying steep fines (Madoff, tons of hedge fund magnates, Worldcom, etc. etc.), but many are not, and eventually become legitimized in their success…and their lack of empathy and remorse may not manifest in the form of deception or even breaking the law…but their ability to make decisions for their own and their shareholders gain, without consideration for their customers, employees, partners, or anyone else who is in the way of success is a trait that I fear the ruthless in startupland have come to revere and select for.
I have zero interest in working with the guy in the first paragraph (even if by some grace of god they do go on to make tremendous amounts of money) and I have zero interest in funding any other psychopath for that matter. We have a responsibility as investors to return capital to our LPs, but we have a greater responsibility to our species not to enable those who lack empathy and who will win at ANY cost. This is a moral case for demanding character and ethics in the founders that you back. But as data becomes more abundant, and as it becomes harder for pyschopaths to hide behind shiny magazine cover veneers, there is increasingly a business case as well. I doubt the board members who invested in Theranos and RadiumOne are very happy with their outcomes…and more and more I see public figures and leaders having to reckon with the immoral decisions they make along the way. Going forward, investing in psychopaths will be an expensive strategy (note: i am aware that VC is hits driven business, power law, blah blah blah…but i’ve seen billionaires live like they’ve won for seven or eight decades only to end their life in disgrace with nothing…funding psychopath’s is shortsighted).
I cannot be anything but genuine and honest…it makes me a shitty salesmen…and it always has…but i’d rather be a shitty salesmen than a fraud or a psychopath…and I will only ever back those who I believe have the capacity for empathy and remorse…no matter how much of a “killer” they might be.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 9 so far )
Today i spent the morning volunteering in a low income neighborhood in the Bronx. I have some time on my hands these days, and I figured there is absolutely no excuse not to use some of it for good. I wouldn’t call the place where we volunteered a shelter because nobody sleeps there, I don’t think, but it was a facility that offered meals and haircuts and showers and clothes to folks who obviously appreciated all those services. I went with my friend Pierre and we were both assigned to unpack and fold donated clothing alongside two regulars at the facility, Norma and Anne. They were both in their 50s or 60s, lived close by and were members of the community we were serving.
I felt a sense of connection with both Norma and Anne, and a number of the guests who stopped into our room to “shop” for new outfits. I have donated clothes many many times, but never really seen what happens to them on the other end. Our process for distribution was too rip open dozens of giant garbage bags that crowded the floor space in the room, discard any and all clothing that wasn’t in good enough shape for you or I to wear. “If it’s not good enough for us, it’s not good enough for them” Norma proclaimed. Once QA’d, wed fold and sort by size, and do our best to separate things out onto the gender appropriate shelving within categories like “long sleeve womens” and “girls jackets.” The system thinker in me initially agonized over the inefficiencies in our process…but this was Norma’s process…she ran the show…and not only was there not really room for suggestions…it wasn’t really about maxing out on efficiency.
Yes, we wanted to do our best to find the right clothes for the right people, but the conversation, and the connection, and the expression of both support, gratitude, and community were as, if not more, central to the guest experience. There was something about the relationship between this facility and it’s guests that felt very grounding and consistent and regular…in people’s lives who i’m sure face many destabalizing forces. Even though technically we were volunteering or giving, it was without a doubt a privilege to be invited and welcomed into this community…and for that I am grateful.
I know I just dropped in for a day, and it’s difficult not to sound cliche’d when you are a privileged white male reflecting on your morning of travel uptown to volunteer, but I am consistently amazed and inspired by all which is consistent across seemingly very different slices of humanity. All I hear all day long is politicians slicing us into separate groups and demographics and buckets…and i’m tired of it…we are so much more the same than we are different…today was a welcome reminder of that for me.
this is where we went if you are interested in learning more: http://www.potsbronx.org/Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
I have often feared that I am only capable of creating great work in periods of deep angst. I do not want to believe this…in fact I refuse to believe it…but the empirical evidence is hard to ignore…and I know that I am not alone in using angst as an accelerant to achievement.
Angst is an unwillingness to accept where you are in the present. It doesn’t have to be perfectly specific or defined. you can experience angst around your finances, your romantic situation, your geography, your social status, or anything else that is core to your experience but not acceptable to you.
Angst can be an incredibly potent accelerant to work…i think this happens when you are able to sell yourself the promise that a specific effort or body of work, if done well, will change that which you are unwilling to accept in the present. For example, if I had deep angst around my finances, and believed that building a valuable startup could alleviate my lack of money, I could use that angst to find a level of motivation and even superhuman effort and thought that otherwise might not be available to me in building my startup.
Starting out in startupland I think I carried the angst that many young founders do, which was a built up unwillingness to accept the reality of people discounting me and my thinking. I had so many “crazy ideas” that were uninteresting to the Goldman Sachs crowd coming out of college…and I was so tired of not being seen for my creativity…that I simply refused to let those people less creative than me discount my thinking and contribution any longer. That…along with i’m sure plenty of other insecurities and dissatisfactions…created this pure unwillingness to accept the present in my life and propelled me into a period of what I view to be some of my best work and thought. Failing in my first startup…only fueled me deeper…and going into Hyperpublic and the beginning of Lerer Ventures…i was anything but stable…i was an angst filled…fuck you world…hungry mother fucker that simply would not take no for an answer…and not allow anyone or anything to get in my way of changing the present.
That worked…in the sense that I created a great body of work in that period of my life…and it didn’t work in the sense that I was living like a psychopath, completely imbalanced and in a state that was totally unsustainable on any long term horizion…
When I sold Hyperpublic and when Lerer Ventures became successful…I think I lost most of that youthful angst…For the first time I had money of my own, some level of success and respect even amongst the goldman sachs crowd that had previously discounted me…and for the first time in my professional career I didn’t completely reject where I was in life. Of course I maintained goals, and set new ones, and wanted to move forward…as I still do…but there wasn’t thas same rage-filled rocketfuel attached to my work that angst had once provided.
In it’s place, intuitively, I slotted in intention. For the purposes of this essay, I’ll say that intention is an unwillingness to accept the present state of the world (as opposed to your world). Intention is more purposeful…deeper…and considered than angst. One can still be willing to accept their own present while holding intention for what they want of the future…After Hyperpublic, I knew that I should be looking for more considered purpose than just the frenetic struggle to break free from the present.
What I learned, however, is that intention…at least in the form that I developed it…is a very different and for me less potent accelerant than angst…it’s a slower drip…not quite the headspinning, blinders on, kill a baby chic if you have to drug…and that has both it’s benefits and it’s drawbacks when compared with angst. Intention applied to work allows space for relationships, family, and the many facets of life that an angst filled psycho (i.e. me in my early-mid 20s) might backburner in the heat of the fight…it allows for measured progress in a direction of purpose…while maintaining some level of humanity…and that IS sustainable over long periods of time (i.e. life)…
what intention does not do…at least not yet for me…is consume to the point of a neverending dialogue with one’s work. Intention is not an “every waking moment” motivant…or at least it hasn’t been for me. You can turn it off when you need to…and the upside is that that’s healthy…and the downside is that some of the waking moments that get cut out are the deepest and and most brilliant ones…the game changers…the “no normal person would have taken this idea this far down the rabbit hole…and therein lies the opportunity…type moments.”
I very much miss the angst driven rabbit holes of my early professoinal life…BUT…BUT…I refuse to give into my fear that angst is required to create a great body of work…I believe that intention CAN be as powerful…i just don’t believe I’ve found the right way to harness it…my first startup where i tried to combine angst and business sucked (untitled partners)…then I learned how they worked together and things got pretty good (hyperpublic and lerer ventures)…my first startup where I gave up angst and tried to combine intention and business (wildcard) didn’t suck…but it was not my greatest work either. I think I’ll be able to take what I learned and I think things will get pretty good in this new intention based setup…it’s just gonna take more than one try to nail it…but I believe that when I do, another great body of work will follow.
I’ll invest in an angst driven founder all day long…I’ve been one…and I know what can come from that recipe…AND i’ll invest in an intention driven founder all day long…angst or intention…they are both forms of unwillingness…one an unwillingness to accept where you are…the other an unwillingness to accept where the world is…it’s whatever is inbetween…a lack of unwillingness…that I think spells disaster…one form is selfish…the other selfless…i think the first is easier to see…easier to harness…and easier to burn out…while the second requires a level of empathy and internalization of the external that takes time to develop and master. I will pursue it.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Sometimes at the beginning of a yoga class, the teacher will ask you to set an intention for the class. An intention is a word or goal or reason why you showed up today…and it’s usually something that you want to connect more deeply to. It could be a person who needs some good vibes, or an element you need to be more present in your own life…really anything you want to put energy toward.
Often times when I go to yoga, it’s because I feel out of whack. It’s not necessarily about stress, but when life spins me up, i’ve found yoga a way to hit reset. I first discovered it when I was an Analyst in investment banking right out of college. My days and nights were blurring together, I was dreaming in excel spreadsheets, and I found this studio on my walk from the subway to the office that I decided to stop into one day. While my job owned me 23 hours a day, yoga became an hour that was free of any context other than my mind and my body working together, with complete inward focus.
These days I go to yoga about once a week…sometimes less, but always when I am feeling like I need to reconnect. Last night, I set two intentions for my class: Balance and Kindness.
Balance is something I am always seeking. After an 8 hour hike up the Algonquin and Iriqous high peaks of the Adirondacks, my body was hurting and in need of adjustment and rebalancing…but also during this period of professional evolution…I sought to level my head and find mental balance as well.
Kindness, on the other hand, is not something I think about on a daily basis. It’s a value that I admire, and one that I aspire to…but one that…for me…can sometimes fall by the wayside in the name of efficiency, shrewd decision making, and rational execution. Of course, I’m rarely mean…but true kindness is something that I’d like to be higher up in my emotional stack.
I’ve reflected quite a bit on the last year and half of Wildcard…it was a period with some ups, but a lot of downs…it was highly stressful and as I look back on some of my conversations with friends, teammates, and others…i find myself wishing that I had better maintained my kindness through it all. It’s easier to see it when you step away, and easy to lose it when your thrown back into the next melee…but nonetheless, it’s a value I thought worthy of my intention last night.
P.S. I’ve been infrequent in my blogposts lately…but i’ve recommitted to writing regularly…so even though I feel that in today’s low attention world, people don’t really take the time to read long form blogposts…it’s how I like to organize my thinking…so I’m gonna keep doing it.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The problem: Printing tickets, articles, documents that require a signature, and whatever else you find on your phone is hard to do. Increasingly we are a mobile first or mobile only society…1099 workers, digital nomads, consultants…tons of people aren’t going to an office everyday that has a printer set up…and nobody outside of maybe AOL’s remaining dial up customers is going to Staples and buying a desktop printer for the home these days…
BUT…sometimes, despite how digital our consumption has become…we need to print shit…and if you’re like me (and i’m a bit ashamed of this)…sometimes we would just prefer to read something when it’s printed…
SO…we still need to print…increasingly we don’t have access to a printer in those times of need…
Solution: Queue…Queue is a printer that follows you wherever you go. Easily print any document or article you find the web directly from your phone, wherever you are. No more going to staples or kinkos…signing in to those shady ass computers…emailing yourself docs and paying $.50 a page plus the half hour it takes dealing with all that crap while trying to shield your eyes from fluorescent overhead lighting.
Product: Queue is actually technically an application that sits on top of Pryntcoin. Pryntcoin is a blockchain enabled protocol for sharing excess printing resource with mobile users wishing to print in their local geography. It is governed by a cryptocurrency who’s protocol defines the economic incentives and rules of engagement for anyone with a printer to earn coin in exchange for printing documents of passers by. It is also the currency by which, you, as a user, can print anything from your phone, to nearby printer without the hassle of kinkos or fedex.
How it works in practice:
Users of Queue (everyday consumers) can add documents or URLs to the print queue via a dedicate Queue mobile app, or via their share sheet in IOS and Android. Much like you can see your printing queue on your desktop machine, the app let’s you visualize your upcoming print jobs and importantly let’s you determine when you want to print them. You can print at any time, regardless of where you are relative to an active Prynter on the network, but the Queue app will also push notify you when you are in the vicinity of a Pryntcoin printer, at which point for a small fee paid in Pryntcoin, you can send your job to a nearby computer and pick it up on the go. You can specify how far you are willing to walk to get your printouts, or…if you are rich…you can specify an incentive, also paid in Pryntcoin, for the printer or a 3rd party person/service to bring that printout to you wherever you are. You can keep sitting on the steps of Union Sq, watching all the skateboarders and thinking of your next great idea, and someone will come and drop said printouts in your lap. Importantly, every Queue printout will have a cover page with Queue branding and a unique QR code which can be scanned at the time of dropoff/pickup as a form of signature written to the blockchain to govern the release of Pryntcoin associated with this printout.
Prynters in the Pryntcoin network:
Anyone with a printer…be it a bodega on the corner, an accountant working out of her home on the second floor of a brownstone in the east village, or a checked out employee working at a law office with tons of printers…can join the Pryntcoin print network in order to earn Pryntcoin in exchange for printing documents. Much like miners dedicate computing resource to earn Bitcoin, printers in the network dedicate excess printing resource in order to earn Pryntcoin. The protocol that governs the Pryntcoin network handles geofencing and indicates to the network who is within the proximity of a Queue user in need, that is eligible for the Pryntjob, and the first printer in the network who claims the job, prints said users documents.
Collateral: importantly…the network must ensure that Queue users and prynters are able to conduct this exchange of value even when they don’t know or trust each other. It is easy to protect a Queue user, simply by saying “funds in a smart contract on the blockchain are not released until the Queue user sends a signature to the chain that they have received the printout. But how do we protect the Prynter from wasting their time and ink and paper if a Queue user requests a job and then flakes before picking it up? Simple…all Queue users must hold and post a small amount of Pryntcoin to the blockchain when requesting jobs…This way, if they send a job that is accepted, but not picked up…the Prynter has the ability to collect collateral held in a contract on the chain. I think dispute resolution would be baked into the protocol such that users of the Queue app agree to use one of the emergent decentralized dispute resolution services to determine dispute outcomes. Regardless, collateral is not released without resolution…and that illiquidity is in and of itself enough friction to prevent frivolous flaky behavior.
In Summary: the Queue app and service becomes more valuable as more Prynters (printing nodes) join the network. Geographic density truly creates the user experience of a mobile user never beeing more than a few blocks from an available low cost printer. Between collateral that incentives users to hold pryntcoin, an economic incentive for idle printers to contribute work to the system, and an underlying coin that can be earned and spent within the context of a real world application…while importantly enabling the transfer of value of a fungable and underutilized asset (printing resource)…Pryntcoin and it’s killer application, Queue, represent a viable crytpocurrency that can cross the chasm from theortically intriguing to actually useful…Should the Prynycoin blockchain successfully bootstrap and achieve reasonable liquidity…the coin could come to be exchanged for many types of real world work beyond printing…most immediately available would be another semi-fungable unit of value in the form of “courier work”…nodes in the system operating to earn pryntcoin in the form of document delivery associated with the Queue application, could soon come to operate as crypto-incented couriers for a variety of last mile physical delivery jobs…the protocol for ensuring document handoff via QR code, baked into the blockchain governance can transcend the print use case…and with printing and delivery under it’s belt as the first to real world use cases for the exchange of value governed by Pryntcoin, pryntcoin will join the ranks of Bitcoin and Etherium as an enduring and long lasting cryptocurrency that enables decentralized applications that seek to enable the masses to exchange assets and labor freely without a central authority taking a cut or determining who can and can’t participate.
Note: if you are cryptographically inclined, and a little bit crazy, and choose to build Pryntcoin and hopefully also the Queue application, please write into the protocol that 10% of all issued Pryntcoins will be allocated to Pryntcoin’s creater: jordan cooper.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
For the past 3-4 months I’ve spent a substantial amount of effort trying to understand the world of cryptocurrency. The most well known cryptocurrency is, of course, Bitcoin, and the underlying technology that powers Bitcoin is known as blockchain. I’m sure for 90% of readers, this is not new information…nor is it probably news that there are newer cryptocurrencies that are being built that leverage blockchain technology, but that have different properties than Bitcoin. You’ve probably even heard of Etherium, and maybe you know that Etherium has acheived a $1B market cap on the promise of making the Blockchain accessable to programmers who wish to build decentralized applications on top of the blockchain without the hassle of bootsrapping a secure blockchain from the ground up. You might know that Bitcoin can be mined in an exchange of computing power for currency…and maybe not know that all cryptocurrencies are not mined, and that mining is just one form of distribution when a new coin or currency is birthed into the world. Mining is a job that creates value for the network, and coin is the reward for those willing to do it. that work let’s those not wishing to work, enjoy the value of the network (in Bitcoin’s case, money transfer), and holder’s of Bitcoin pay for that work, effectively through the acceptance of inflation on their holdings as new coin is issued to miners as they work. Maybe, you have heard of Steem, which created it’s own blockchain and crptocurency that rewards behavior and participation within a Reddit like media application (which is sometimes refferred to as a protocol vs application, although it feels more like an application than a protocol to me). You probably have not heard of Monero, Dash, Maidsafecoin, Lisk, NEM, Emercoin…or any of the other 20 coins that have a marketcaps north of $20M. And you definitely haven’t heard of the next 20 coins that are currently being designed, white papered, tested, and that will ostensibly be issued over the next 12-18 months. I use the terms “coin” and “cryptocurrency” interchangably here…coin is just shorter and simpler to write. There is something happening in this world…and through fits and starts…and mistakes…and hundreds of millions lost and hundreds of millions gained…I do believe we are getting closer to the potential of cryptocurrencies…and i use the plural because it’s not gonna be one to rule them all…i don’t think…but rather many with distinct uses and applications that will likely be transferrable with each other and traditional FIAT currencies to varying degrees of liquidity determined by the protocols that govern them. The state of this ecosystem is still such that white papers and complex, overengineered economic and technical systems must be digested in order to desire participation, but that complexity is slowly being abstracted away into more approachable and visible real world value…and it will continue to do so until coins begin to sneak into mainstream life and the systems that both govern and enable it.
Since Bitcoin captured the attention of the world a few years ago, with skyrocketing appreciation…most folks have scratched there head to bridge the gap from the theoretical promise of the coin, to the actual real world applications it might achieve. With Bitcoin, like most coins on this list, you kind of have trouble answering basic questions like “why is this better than US $?” “Why should I hold it?” “Why should I accept it?”, etc…for a while, when you really boiled it down…you got to ideological arguments around decentralization (which simply means a redistribution of power and control away from centralized intermediaries and incumbents, to “the people” effectively…or the users of a given service or currency). There’s this notion of trust…and the most paranoid of us, who champion decentralization…are circumspect of authorities whom the vast majority of mainstream population choose to trust in exchange for ease of experience. Banking with Bank of America is easy…but ya gotta trust bank of america…paying with US $ is easy, but ya gotta trust the US Government…paying with Bitcoin is a pain in the fucking ass…but you don’t have to trust anyone…and that feels good for a small minority of decentrally minded folks…
I believe that for a coin, or protocol or decentralized application to succeed against it’s centralized and well established counterpart, the mere ideology of decentralization is not enough to overcome the incumbent. Recently, however, I believe we are starting to see glimpses of coins and contemplated applications atop those coins, that don’t simply replace a centralized system with a decentralized alternative, but rather that contemplate a new societal or consumer oriented system that has no centralized counterpart, because it is something that could only exist from the bottom up, but that has not yet materialized, because there was no good way to transfer value between bottom up nodes around a public or shared service until a blockchain based coin enabled that transfer in the absence of trust, but reflective of the incentive structure necessary to harness bottom up work or value contribution around a mainstream life need.
I realize this is quite abstract, but the marriage of value transfer and distributed but well coordinated work or asset contribution by human beings, or in many instances machines owned and paid for by human beings, represents an efficiency in system design on par with the emergence, say, of parallel computing. We will simply be able to do and sustain systems and services via cryptocurrencies that were not possible on existing financial and societal rails.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I am not a political animal, never have been…but this weekend I had a brief chat with a friend who is voting for Hillary Clinton. He said, “I’m doing it, but if you read the report on her private server, it’s really bad…” My response was that I have become a bit jaded i guess, and at this point it is clear to me that 95% of people who reach Hillary’s level of influence, or even a few rungs down on the ladder, have bent the rules one or many times along their path to the top. It’s a bummer to say…but this is not just a political phenomenon. In business as well…most of the billionaires you know or have heard of…at some point along the way…they broke a law, made a questionable call, stabbed someone in the back, or worse…For better or for worse a very reasonable path to amass influence and wealth in modern society is to break the rules…Many of your entrepreneurial heroes, many of your VC crushes…way more people in our own ecosystem than you might at first consider, have done wrong on their path to the top.
Historically, I have reveled in the fall of unethical titans. Maybe it’s a chip on my shoulder…I don’t know…but as the world is filled with more and more information…and as it becomes easier to see a person’s every move, I have come to accept that almost everyone…even “good” people…do “bad” sometimes. We are in this moment of unprecedented visibility into the lives and actions of any individual…be it a police officer, civilian, public official, or CEO…and I think it’s becoming clear that there is a lot more bad behavior in ANY individual’s life, than we were previously willing to admit or wanted to acknowledge.
In a world of top down media and information, it used to be easier to dilute ourselves into believing that the objects of our public affection were ethically perfect and behaviorally consistent…but in today’s world where everything is recorded and everything is findable, it has become very clear that most are not…
Now we could be depressed that our society seemingly rewards questionable ethics and behavioral compromise with power and influence..or…we could redefine our expectations and accept that ethical compromise is the norm amongst those at the top as well as the bottom, and therefore judge it less harshly. I’d like to think that increased transparency in today’s information age will lead to cleaner behavior amongst our leaders, but I fear we are, albeit understandably, moving more in the direction of lowering the bar…Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
I’ve been an American Express card member for over 10 years…over that time I’ve accumulated quite a few rewards points…and this past weekend I decided to spend some for the first time that I can recall. Jetblue has this new Mint service which is their business class seat where you can lie down flat and fully recline. I “bought” two seats with my squirreled away rewards points for Liv and I to take the redeye home from SF last night. I figured we’d save on an extra night in a hotel and still get some sleep if we sprung for the seats that would let us lay down.
As the plane boarded, a guy in his fifties who was probably 6′ 5”, 250 pounds started to antagonize us as we sat in those fancy seats. He said we were too young to sit there, and that we were ugly people…and disgusting people for paying for these seats. I tried to explain that we used miles (not that it was any of his business), but he was visibly angry…and somewhat threatening.
I had the choice to stand up to him and start a fight on an airplane (which was the last thing I wanted to do), or to just quietly ignore him as he continued to be abusive toward us…and I chose the latter. At first i thought he’s probably just drunk, or crazy…but then I realized we were flyinh from SF…where young rich people are obviously taking their tole on the rest of the city and it’s culture, and maybe he really was just fed up with that dynamic.
This guy was upset. He is not alone these days. He was totally wrong…but i couldn’t help but wonder if he was also a little right.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Becoming technical in a new field requires work. To cross a threshold from “visitor” to “valued contributor” when learning a new discipline like software engineering you have to commit and you have to really want it. When I started working in venture capital 10 years ago, I stuck to consumer facing businesses and business model innovations, because frankly I didn’t have the background to understand technical innovation. At first I was totally cool with that, and I did really well approaching the markets I could immediately understand…you sort of didn’t need to know what was going on underneath the hood in order to evaluate consumer applications, media, marketplaces, etc… at some point if a deal got interesting enough, you’d call a CTO in the portfolio to check the “technical diligence box,” and then keep rolling on a thesis that really had nothing to do with technology itself.
Over time, however, something unexpected happened…I started to fall in love with the systems and principles that underlaid many of the businesses I was thinking about. I sort of fell ass-backwards into what has become a deep passion of mine, and I started to spend time with a different type of thinker than I did at the start…I started asking the “how” questions more and more, and so began my post-graduate education in software engineering, technical thinking, and system design. I was fortunate to have very patient teachers…Doug and Eric especially, but also hundreds of technical founders along the way, who helped to evolve my mindset into what I guess I’d call “full stack thinking,”…where the viability and merit of a decision is influenced by everything from the infrastructural dynamics and technical approach at hand, up through the consumer behavior and ecosystem dynamics in given market. There is a conversation and dialogue between the technical and non-technical dimensions of any opportunity that informs a much more nuanced perspective than is available when looking at a market opportunity through either of these mindsets independently.
As I begin to evaluate new directions to build in with Doug, Eric, some of the areas in which I am most interested, I find myself bumping up against a lack of technical proficiency. It’s not a feeling I’ve had in a while, but frankly a lot of the work being done in IT specifically (the domain we know well) hasn’t really inspired me…it may just be where i’ve looked so far, but the broader market feels super saturated right now, with tons of companies chasing very similar…often, but not always…incremental opportunities. Granted, we did not achieve our goal of building a native internet at Wildcard, and even further granted, we did end up pivoting into a clearly incremental application of our early work (aka from the Native Browser to the Wildcard News app), but nobody will accuse our initial ambition and mission of being incremental or uninspired. We bit of something big and unknown, and came up short, but at least it felt meaningful at the time.
As I look for similarly or more inspiring frontiers to tackle now, I have become somewhat enamored by the increasing permeability of the “membrane” that has long separated information systems from biological systems. More and more our physiological system is being represented and understood digitally, and similarly the principles behind our manipulation and design of digital systems are being applied within the medium of organic matter and specifically DNA. In this arena I don’t yet have an adequate understanding on the bio side to think in the way I have grown to think about opportunity. I crushed AP Bio in high school, and occasionally attended my introductory bio classes in college, but it’s been a while, and there is another layer of understanding that I need to achieve to get further into the world of genetics, bioengineering, etc…Neither Doug nor Eric has any background here, but our deep data engineering DNA (no pun intended) is obviously applicable to this problem space. I think for a while I forgot how serious a commitment it is to become technical in a new field, but I remember all the work it takes, and I’m kind of interested to committing again here. I can’t say that my learning will inform this next business opportunity, or if it will be a much longer road applied at a later date, but I am ready to be a student at the edge of biology and information technology regardless, so I figure worth hanging a shingle…To that end, if you come from a bio background (or even an IT background i guess) and are interested in collaborating at this intersection, come hang with us at our office in soho…we’re excited to learn what you’ve been thinking about and happy to participate and contribute toward flushing out this landscape together. I’m firstname.lastname@example.org.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
When I was freshman in college my Grandma Norni died. I was extremely close to her. I remember hearing the news, I remember attending her funeral…and most of all I remember the feeling of wanting to cry, but for some reason not being able to. It was a very unsatisfying feeling to know that type of pain, while lacking the ability to access the release of crying…
Fast forward 3 years…normal day at college…I return home to my apartment to find my roommate Tim watching a film with his girlfriend in the living room. I wasn’t gonna tune in in the middle of it, so I just grabbed some food, opened my computer, and started to do my own thing. At some point, I glanced up at the screen, and happened to catch a 60 second scene of a woman in a hospital, deciding whether to take her husband off life support, and something insane happened…i felt this deep sensation come over me and I cried harder than I have ever cried in my life…heaving…couldn’t catch my breath for like 5 minutes….and the whole time Tim and his girlfriend just stared at me like “what the fuck is going on with this dude?”…inbetween gasps i’d belt out “i’m fine, i’m fine”…but it was very bizarre. I wasn’t sad at all…it was totally physical…and I was almost watching myself have this insane reaction to a film and characters that I had no invesment or context around…Something about that scene had tapped or unlocked this very deep pain I had buried somewhere in my brain when my grandma died. It was total catharsis…it stopped…and I just looked at them and was like “sorry…i know that must have been weird…i’m totally fine.” I tried to explain it to them that that release was from her death 3 years ago, but i couldn’t really explain.
Last week I sat down for coffee with one of my board members who has known me for 10 years…he told me he was sorry I had to go through the experience of killing the Wildcard app and letting most of our team go. He’s not the only one…a number of other folks who care about me, have also asked “how are you, how are you doing?” and my honest answer is “i’m really fine.” There’s something not totally right about putting 2.5 years of energy into a product and vision and team, wiping it clean, and then waking up the next day ready to roll…but in some sense that is very much where I am…it’s only when I really think about it, do I realize that I have this weird capacity to stuff painful moments deep down into places that won’t be discovered until 3 years from now when I stumble across some film or song that unlocks them. I feel like I haven’t really gotten to say goodbye to Wildcard, and that I probably won’t get to before diving into the next direction…
Fast forward to today. We have $3M in the bank, our burn is now less than $50K a month, and my mind has already moved on to self-driving cars, and healthcare, neural networks, diagnostics, climate change…and a bunch of new areas that really excite me…i’m reading ferociously, which is how i learn best…i’m starting to feel very creative again…i feel unconstrained…and open…and my mind just doesn’t seem interested in examining the loss…i wish i could tap into my heart and really say goodbye to the Wildcard chapter before letting my brain take me forward so quickly…but I guess I have this tendency, which i’m guessing many founders have, to move through pain quickly…and whether I like it or not, the pain of Wildcard’s end seems to be in the rear view mirror for now.
So yea…I guess this post was about trying to articulate how I’m experiencing loss…trying to find catharsis…trying to answer that question “how are you doing?”…even if the answer is “i’m experiencing loss, by not really experiencing it…”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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