SUNNI: Hi Pete, and thanks for taking the time to talk with me. How are you?
PETE: I'm great, Sunni, and it's my pleasure to speak with you.
SUNNI: I'll be honest here and say that I really don't know much about what you do. I first heard of you through Free-Market.Net, where I was responsible for covering your Lost Horizons web site. How about giving me some background on how you came to be a libertarian, your interests, and such?
PETE: Well, as I believe everyone is, I was born half-libertarian -- fully appreciative of the importance of my own liberty. I made it the rest of the way with lots of help. I have always been an avid reader, and early on began getting lots of nourishment for the moral roots of a libertarian perspective from the fiction I consumed in great quantity. This started with the celebration of individualism and the corresponding distaste for groupthink served up in hearty helpings by people like Heinlein, Asimov, Van Vogt, Orwell, and Huxley. Nobody makes a hero of the hive, but these writers make the hive the villain, and I wallowed in this stuff.
In school, I was attracted to the study of philosophy, and so was able to flesh out that visceral moral structure with the substantive arguments of Hume, Locke, Smith, and other classical liberal thinkers. In my twenties, Hazlitt, Bastiat, and Spencer helped add a practical dimension to my thinking, establishing that universal liberty is the most socially beneficial system of human interaction. Over the course of the subsequent years, I also have had the pleasure of enjoying the contributions of Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and others in the libertarian canon.
As for my interests, I'm afraid I have very few, at the moment, outside of my work and my family. If today we enjoyed the liberty to which we are all entitled, I would be painting, back-packing, and traveling. I'd still be writing, too -- but with a great deal less urgency. As it is, we not only don't have that liberty, but we are seeing the rapid erosion of the practical means necessary for achieving it. So, I'm kind of in the same boat John Adams was when he said, "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy."
SUNNI: Do you support yourself through your tax activism -- at Lost Horizons and your book sales -- or do you have a day job, too?
PETE: Activism only feeds my soul, so far. I work days as an executive with one of America's largest real-estate development and property management firms.
SUNNI: How did you come up with the name for your site?
The name Lost Horizons is a conceit meant to reflect the degree to which the range of the American spirit has been diminished over the last hundred years. We once found our horizons at the very limits of our vision, and ever-retreating before us. Today, we're hemmed in by so many bureaucratic, parasitic, cultural and intellectual obstacles that we're becoming spiritually round-shouldered, like we're living in a closet, or a prison. I hope to dispel a few of those obstacles.
That's the high-falutin' answer. It's true enough, as far as it goes, but there are several different ways that the same general idea could have been rendered in a company name. The specific reason for Lost Horizons was that the company was organized back in 1990 to handle a game created by my brother Reyn and me, titled 'The Game of Lose'. 'Lose' was a study in welfare-state economics. Each player would move about the board conducting the routine business of buying and selling property and earning a living, while at the same time being constantly presented with opportunities to burden his opponents with regulations, tax burdens, and other hindrances. Inevitably these extraneous costs would bankrupt the weakest player, who would remain on the board, but as a welfare recipient whose expenses were distributed among the remaining players. The next would fall more quickly, of course, and so on. The object was to be the last player to lose. So, of all the choices available for a company name, 'Lost Horizons' stood out. Although my efforts at consciousness-raising are now more directly educational, and 'Lose' is long off the market, the name continues to work just fine.
SUNNI: That's too bad; it sounds like a very educational game. I'm on your email distribution list, so I've been seeing your announcements of success in dealing with the IRS. Are those coming from people reading and following the advice in your book, Cracking the Code?
PETE: Indeed. Readers of Cracking the Code: The Fascinating Truth About Taxation In America who have acted on what they have learned about the law have proven again and again -- in most cases by securing complete refunds of every penny withheld from them in income taxes, Social Security contributions and all -- that the common understanding of the legitimate scope of the income tax is just a well-cultivated myth; and that the reality is vastly more favorable to the individual, hard-working American -- most of whose earnings are simply outside of the government's reach. Still, I want to point out that it is misleading to use the word "advice" in connection with the book. I don't advise anyone on a specific course of action. I simply reveal what the law says -- especially in the critical fine print, which has been diligently kept out of view by the beneficiaries of ignorance for decades now. The closest I come to advice in the book is to encourage readers to be carefully and diligently honest in fulfilling their legal obligations, even when doing so is a dramatic change from what they have done before, thanks to their new knowledge of the law.
SUNNI: Thanks for the correction; you indeed do not provide detailed instructions on filing. There are lots of income tax resistance books out there. What sets yours apart from others?
PETE: Mine's actually right ...