Patterico reports that the IRS has been developing a data-mining method to catch tax cheats, including snooping on eBay transactions, emails, and credit-card transactions. (On a side note, tax professor Edward Zelinksky ought to seriously consider what “safeguards” he finds appropriate for the IRS when monitoring literally every single electronic transaction that citizens of an allegedly free country engage in. Last I checked, the “safeguard” was the Fourth Amendment, and, prior to the 1960s, it required the government to get a warrant before snooping on Americans.)
We have video evidence of employees of wireless phone companies giving out “free” (i.e. paid for by taxpayers) wireless phones to people who say that they are going to sell the phones to get drugs and luxury goods.
In theory, advanced data mining could track down those people, but we have seen the refusal of the government to crack down on those who abuse its benefits. (For those who want a link, just google Shaunna O’Connell and Massachusetts, and figure out how insanely hard it is for elected officials to get some accountability.) So the IRS can snoop on the emails and online purchases of a teenager who mows lawns over the summer and harass him about not filing taxes on his lawn-moving and snow-shoveling income, while leaving the welfare cheats, drug dealers, and illegal immigrants alone.
Yes, illegal immigrants: those people who are paid under the table or via false Social Security numbers. Let’s all take a bet on how likely it is that the IRS will use its amazing powers to ferret them out.
As a final thought, the correct, constitutionally appropriate means of fighting crime is to have a crime, or probable cause that a crime was committed, and then find the perpetrator. You have a suspiciously dead body; you do an autopsy and figure out if it was some form of homicide, then figure how whodunnit. What we have here is the government monitoring every citizen for evidence of a crime, then slapping the appropriate criminal sanctions against those it finds guilty. This is backwards: free countries do not start with a person to look for evidence of a crime, but start with a crime and look for a perpetrator.