Conservatives, libertarians, and other advocates of limited government have consistently argued that we should never allow Washington to have a broad-based consumption tax unless the 16th Amendment is first replaced by new language that makes it clear — even to John Roberts and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — that an income tax never again would be allowed to plague the nation.
But since there’s no chance of that happening, at least we can take solace in the fact that politicians have been unable to impose big new sources of revenue. It’s especially good news that the United States has resisted the value-added tax (VAT), which is tempting because of its revenue-generating capacity.

Europe’s VAT DisasterHostility to the VAT is justified by the European experience. Back in the mid 1960s, the burden of government spending in Europe was only slightly above the American level. But as VATs were implemented, the welfare state expanded, and now government consumes a much higher share of economic output on the other side of the Atlantic.
I suppose someone could argue that there was no relation between the adoption of VATs and the expansion of the welfare state, but that would be a monumental challenge for the simple reason that there’s a limit to how much revenue can be generated by an income tax. As honest leftists will admit (at least off the record), the Laffer Curve is real. Politicians can increase tax rates on the “rich,” but that doesn’t mean more revenue, both because of overall economic weakness and because successful people will take steps to reduce their taxable income.