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.

Comments

14 Comments

RSS
  • Zach S says on: November 13, 2008 at 7:07 pm

     

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard of the “contract” arguement. I’ve heard the social good arguement before which could have some basis in a moral sense (but who’s to decide what is moral or not?).

    If you believe we should pay the government for the products and services they provide, then they should charge us once we willingly partake in their product and services, just like the private industry.

    I believe Brad G and I spoke about this and his idea would be for the government to run the most basic of needs: fire department, police department, military, etc.

    Everything else, throw to privatization. You’ll probably see much more lean and useful products and services being provided without the government waste and more money in people’s pockets to spend on them.

  • Black Bloke says on: November 13, 2008 at 9:11 pm

     

    I’m pretty sure that this guy committed suicide a while back.

  • David Z says on: November 13, 2008 at 9:21 pm

     

    some people say he was murdered. Interesting…

  • Cork says on: November 14, 2008 at 2:33 am

     

    Kangas’ articles are a joke. His entire website can be summarized as: everything left-liberals believe is a “fact,” and any belief to the contrary is a “myth.”

    If only the world was that simple.

    His articles are full of extremely dubious and selective statistics, as well (particularly his one claiming that welfare reduces poverty).

  • Cork says on: November 14, 2008 at 2:38 am

     

    A shame Kangas didn’t read No Treason, which already addressed all of his arguments for the so-called social contract.

    Great post.

  • Gilligan says on: November 14, 2008 at 6:38 am

     

    David,

    Excellent work!

  • Azrael says on: November 14, 2008 at 10:03 am

     

    Slam Dunk!

  • John says on: November 15, 2008 at 10:30 am

     

    This is a couple days old, but I felt I needed to respond to this:
    Zach S. wrote: “I believe Brad G and I spoke about this and his idea would be for the government to run the most basic of needs: fire department, police department, military, etc.”

    I can think of at least four things that are more basic than fire departments, police, and military: food, water, shelter, medicine.

    No one who isn’t a completely delusional State-worshipping socialist would argue that those four things should be provided by the State. It is both wrong and inefficient. So why is the free market better at providing those absolute basic necessities of life, but not even better at providing some secondary necessities for a peaceful society, like fire departments and criminal investigation/prosecution?

  • smally says on: November 16, 2008 at 11:00 pm

     

    The most comprehensive defense of taxaxtion I’ve read on the web is the series How Not to Complain About Taxes (parts One, Two, Three and Four by the philosopher Elizabeth Anderson. It’s been a while since I read it, but I thought you might be interested.

  • David Z says on: November 17, 2008 at 11:24 am

     

    I wanted to stop reading after she characterizes anyone who disagrees with her as a “bomb-throwing anarchist”.

    I’ll have more to say on this topic…

  • Justin says on: March 11, 2009 at 8:38 pm

     

    Kangas was hiding out in a bathroom near Richard Mellon Scaife's office for hours. Apparently, when his plot to murder the newspaper owner (a great freedom of speech advocate, no?) failed, he drank himself into a stupor in the bathroom stall. When the janitor came to clean the bathroom, he likely realized he wouldn't be able to try again the next day, whereupon he shot himself.

    I had occasion to read his smug, fallacy-ridden posts to Usenet for years. After his ignominious death, not only did his previous allies not accept reality, spinning wild tales of him being assassinated and framed, they lionized him and put up several shrines where they host mirrors of his website.

    That was a rather mild example of the depths to which those moonbats went to deny reality.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics