no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Taxation Really Is Theft!

November 13th, 2008

I Googled “taxation is theft” the other day, and came across a FAQ page proclaiming to debunk the “myth” that taxation is theft, in which Steve Kangas makes some unoriginal arguments, I’m surprised that it’s at the top of Google’s results.

I try to avoid arguing or otherwise interacting with people who openly and notoriously want to see me shot (or, at the very least, see nothing at all wrong with me being shot) simply for disagreeing with them. The only reason I bother responding to this nonsense, is because Kangas’ page appears as the #1 result to that query.

Taxes are part of an agreement that voters make with government, a contract in which citizens agree to exchange their money for the government’s goods and services. To consume these goods and services without paying for them is itself theft, and is rightly punished as breach of contract. Some may object that they have not agreed to the contract, but if so, then they must not consume the government’s goods and services.

(This is going to take a while. You might want to get yourself a drink, and sit down in a comfortable chair.)

If I donate my old clothes and furniture to the Salvation Army, or to the local Soup Kitchen, I have no right to hunt down the homeless and destitute recipients of my former belongings, and throttle them in exchange for payment. Likewise, if the government decides to give me something, for which I didn’t even ask, no man or group of men has any right to demand that I pay for such a thing.

Due to the States unique monopoly of land and law, in many circumstances, we simply don’t have the option to refrain from consuming the government’s good and services. The very act of refusing to consume many of these things is viewed as a crime in its own right. If I attempt to “not consume” the police services, for instance, by refusing to permit an officer to arrest me, I am the criminal. If I retrofit my car to run on vegetable oil, I run afoul of any number of laws. If I attempt to “not consume” the dollar bills, I’m still forced to reckon taxes in them. If I refuse to do this, I’ve broken many laws. There is no possible way for me to “not consume” the war on drugs which murders and imprisons my neighbors, or the war on terror which murders and imprisons foreigners.

Nonetheless, in support of his thesis, Kangas provides a long list of items provided by TEH GOVERNMENT, for your benefit, some of which I’ve chosen to post here for the sole purpose of ridiculing:

  • Printing the very dollar bills with which people trade.
  • Public roads.
  • Rural electrification.
  • Government subsidized telephone wiring.
  • Satellite communications.
  • Police protection.
  • Military protection
  • A criminal justice system.
  • Fire protection.
  • Paramedic protection.
  • An educated workforce.
  • An immunized workforce.
  • Protection against plagues by the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Student loans.
  • Prevention of depressions by Keynesian policies at the Fed (successful for six decades now).
  • Dollars protected from inflation by the Fed.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Where should I begin?

Dollar bills were established through force and fraud. National defense is a myth Roads have been and continue to be financed privately. Fire protection, police protection, paramedic protection, education, health and human services have all in the past, been provided without government. There is little to no reason to assume that they couldn’t be similarly provisioned, today. There is a strong argument to be made against Student Loans, which have had the exact opposite effect on the price of higher education; instead of making it more affordable, they’ve put it out of the reach of many without their assistance. The Keynesian policies he lauds failed abysmally in the Post-war era, in the 1970s, in the 1980s, and in case you’ve been living under a fucking rock for the last decade, the current collapse is due primarily to government meddling in the financial markets. FEMA’s ineptitude would be comical if it weren’t so tragic.

“Dollars protected from inflation by the Fed”. The Federal Reserve creates inflation! Inflating the money supply is the Fed’s raison d’ĂȘtre.

But Kangas continues:

Many conservatives and libertarians make the following populist argument:

“If you don’t pay your taxes, men with guns will come to your house, arrest you, and seize your property.”

…[T]he implication that the government is aggressing against you is false, and not a little demagogic.

Taxes are part of a social contract, an agreement between voters and government to exchange money for the government’s goods and services. Even libertarians agree that breach of contract legitimates a police response. So the real question is not whether a crime should be met with “men with guns,” but whether or not the social contract is valid, especially to those who don’t agree with it or devote their allegiance to it.

If you want to hide behind the “Social Contract Fallacy”, I’d be more than happy to have that discussion again. The fact of the matter is that the Social Contract is Not Voluntary, and it’s Not a Contract.

For the time being, however, let’s content ourselves to discuss taxes, independent of the Social Contract. Kangas has the following to say, to those of us who reject the idea of the social contract:

Liberals have two lines of argument… (Ed. NB, he says “two lines of argument” but presents only one) The first is that if they reject it, they should not consume the government’s goods and services. How they can avoid this when the very dollar bills that the economy runs on are printed by the government is a good question.

Yes, that is a good question, since the State has essentially outlawed any alternative monetary system. But this fallacy skirts the real issue. The economy does not run on dollar bills. No economy runs on dollar bills. Economies run on the production of valuable goods and services.

Try to imagine participating in the economy without using public roads, publicly funded communication infrastructure, publicly educated employees, publicly funded electricity, water, gas, and other utilities, publicly funded information, technology, research and development — it’s absolutely impossible.

Look, if you want to tax gasoline to pay for the roads, you’re not going to get a hell of a lot of arguments from me. That’s the least of my concerns. But, how about instead of resorting to the tired “Who will build the bridges?” argument, you try to imagine a world without state-sponsored mass murder. Without a million market distortions and subsidies that keep people artificially poor.

[T]axes do not go exclusively to public goods and services. They also go for welfare payments to the poor who are allegedly doing nothing and getting a free ride from the system. That, they claim, is theft.

But this argument fails too. Welfare is a form of social insurance. In the private sector we freely accept the validity of life and property insurance. Obviously, the same validity goes for social insurance like unemployment and welfare.

Arguably, in the private sector, the decision to purchase insurance products is a voluntary one. Therein lies a not inconsequential difference. In the private sector, we “freely accept the validity” of goods and services to the extent that they are not financed by the continual threat of violence if we refuse to consume them.

Kangas continues, summarizing the “two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner” arugment and attempts to debunk it,

How big does this gang have to be before it becomes okay for them to vote to forcibly take your property away without your consent? When, exactly, does the immorality of theft become the alleged morality of taxation?

This argument is based on a faulty premise of ownership. Suppose the gang of ten men had helped you buy the car, pitching in with a loan that covered 29 percent of the sticker price (which is about the percentage of the GDP devoted in the United States to taxes). And suppose they simply wanted return payment. By not returning the favor, it is you who become the thief.

This is really going out on a limb, here. Speaking of “faulty premise of ownership,” where did that 29% come from, in the first place? Oh, right, it came from the taxpayers, didn’t it.

Yes, yes it did.

Why anyone needs a government to “loan” them their own money is beyond me. Paying taxes doesn’t help people buy things, it impoverishes people.

[T]he point is that the government is nonetheless producing [these goods and services]… It doesn’t matter that any given individual thinks some government programs are wasteful and inefficient — so are many private bureaucracies, but their goods still demand payment.

Let’s compare this to its “private sector equivalent”, as the author urges us in conclusion, and see if the fallacy really does “become evident.” The fallacy here is evident, probably much to Kangas’ chagrin: the creation and/or provision of goods and services is not, of itself, sufficient justification for remuneration.

In the private sector, if goods and services are wasteful, they will not be consumed. In the private sector, if goods and services are not wanted and/or not needed, they will not be paid for. The government is the only organization which is permitted to demand payment, essentially from everyone, for everything they produce, no matter the actual demand for such items.

More importantly, I don’t give a damn how “wasteful and inefficient” or how productive and efficient the government is. What I care about is the violence, a point that’s entirely lost on apologists like Kangas, who falls back on the myth of voter sovereignty:

If tax opponents argue that a person doesn’t have to patronize a company he disagrees with, then liberals can argue that a person doesn’t have to vote for a public official he disagrees with.

OK. Again, in the private sector, if I don’t patronize a company, they don’t come and take my money. If I don’t want to buy Coca-cola, I simply don’t buy it. I don’t consume it. With government, on the other hand, I am forced (one way or another) to consume goods and services which I would not buy under any other circumstance. Even if I voted for these public officials, which I don’t (shove that Social Contract where the sun doesn’t shine!), my dissent would either be ignored, or would be interpreted as acceptance of the fictional “contract.”

Let’s give up this silly idea of “the social contract” and the absurd notion that “taxation is payment for goods and services” that you don’t even want to purchase. It doesn’t really matter what you do, government is going to keep on doing whatever it wants, whenever it wants. So,believe whatever lies you want, if it helps you sleep at night. But don’t tell me that I have to believe it, too.

Kangas’ argument, and others like his, ultimately boils down to the fact that taxation is a ransom for permission to live.

no third solution

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