I met Irwin Schiff several times during the 1990s. He spoke at our Citizens For Legal Reform meetings at Dallas, Texas. I interviewed him on my own radio talk show two or three times, and he advertised his books in my magazine (the AntiShyster). He was determined to make a difference and was a “character” of considerable proportions. We weren’t close friends, but I liked and respected him.
Irwin Schiff was born on February 23, A.D. 1928. During his life, he was the author of several books including The Federal Mafia, a radio talk show host and, most of all, a warrior who fought the IRS and the Internal Revenue Code. He was repeatedly charged both civilly and criminally for his anti-tax activities. He was imprisoned several times (three?) for income tax evasion or other crimes against the IRS. Prison didn’t deter him. Whenever he was released, he went right back to fighting the IRS and refusing to pay income taxes.
Most recently, Irwin was convicted on October 24, A.D. 2005, in the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, Nevada, on multiple counts of filing false tax returns for the years 1997 through 2002, aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns filed by other taxpayers, conspiring to defraud the United States, and (for his own income taxes for tax years 1979 through 1985) tax evasion, and sentenced for the last time, to prison. Everyone knew it was a death sentence.
Despite Schiff’s age (he turned 78 years old on the day of sentencing), on February 24, 2006, Schiff was sentenced to 151 months (almost 13 years) in prison and was ordered to pay over $4.2 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
Schiff was also sentenced to 12 additional months for contempt of court. That was Irwin. Defiant to the end. Determined to tell his truth and have the last word. Not even a Federal Judge could shut him up.
Irwin died last Friday (October 16th) at the age of 87.
According to his son, Peter Schiff (http://schiffgold.com/our-team/peter-schiff/), “my father was fortunate to have been born into the freest nation in the history of the world. But when he passed away on Oct. 16th, 2015 at the age of 87, a political prisoner of that same nation, legally blind and shackled to a hospital bed in a guarded room in intensive care, the free nation he was born into had itself died years earlier.”
I lot of people will probably think that dying blind, under guard and shackled as a prisoner is evidence of a colossal defeat and a failed life. I doubt that Irwin would agree. If Irwin had been released to go home to die with his family, his passing would be somewhat “sweet”. But it wouldn’t be particularly memorable. Irwin (and all of his tax protest arguments) would tend to be forgotten much sooner if he’d died under “pleasant” circumstances.
However, dying while legally blind but still under guard and shackled to a bed strikes me as evidence that Irwin fought this government to his dying breath. It’s certainly evidence that the government was still fighting him. His death, though sad, will attract more attention to his battle, to his character and to his books. The cruel circumstances of his death make his life, arguments and books all the more memorable. Despite being blind, elderly and weak, the government still thought Irwin was a sufficient threat to keep him shackled.
The chains that bound him even unto death are a profound testimony to Irwin’s unbroken spirit. The chains proved that government feared that, if Irwin wasn’t shackled, he’d surely “do something”. He’d run, he’d talk, he’d file another lawsuit–he’d “do something” because he was not yet beaten. He had not surrendered. Left unchained, Irwin would surely have struck one more blow against the IRS and government. The chains he died in were government’s tribute to Irwin’s unbroken spirit.
More, by dying in chains, Irwin died in battle. His death will be remembered and, in that memory, Irwin will once again have the “last word”. Having lived his life as a warrior, I think he’d be delighted to have died in battle.
Here’s a video of Irwin’s run for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for President in A.D. 1996. You can see the mischievous smile on his face and gleam in his eye. He was 68 years old and still vital, intelligent, articulate, funny–and most of all fearless. The video really shows us the essence of the man. I doubt that Irwin could ask for a more fitting memorial.
Feb. 23 1928 – Oct. 16 2015