no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Who Are the Real Free-Riders?

December 28th, 2008

One common argument for taxes is that people should pay for the things that they use. So, when the libertarian or the anarchist says “Taxation is theft!” (it really is!), someone will invariably reply, “If you don’t pay your taxes, what you’re really doing is stealing from people who provide those goods and services” or that by not paying for those goods and services, you are intentionally seeking a free-ride and therefore stealing from the other taxpayers.

What this argument neglects, however, is that there is a substantial proportion of the population (perhaps 50% or more) who don’t really pay taxes to begin with. Maybe they dont’ make enough money and get credits, maybe they are employed by the government and don’t really pay taxes, maybe they are welfare recipients, etc. When I say “Taxation is Theft!“, I don’t want to pay, people are quick to say that I’m the free-rider. I submit, respectfully, that I am no such thing, rather quite the contrary.

A piss-poor application of the Labor theory of value (i.e., it was produced and therefore must be paid for), the argument that non-payment of taxes amounts to theft is laughable as a moral imperative, since it magically ceases to apply to those people who don’t, won’t, or can’t produce value. This is just one paradox of the statist moral code: Only those productive members of society can be “free-riders” worthy of contempt and would be charged as criminals, yet it is perfectly acceptable for a man to pay no taxes if he produces nothing of any value.

Stated differently: It is perfectly acceptable to be a free-rider, unless you are a productive member of society.

Nobody ever chastises the poor, the welfare recipient, the government employees, etc., for not “paying their fair share”, despite the fact that these people don’t pay any share at all. Nobody ever says, “These people who produce nothing of value, yet consume the product of my labor, against my will, are the real thieves.” Instead, those of us who produce things of value, those of us who make the welfare state possible, those of us, upon whose backs society is carried, they call us thieves!

Do not accept that unearned guilt.



  • DixieFlatline says on: December 28, 2008 at 2:06 pm


    Yup. Class consciousness, Hans-Hermann Hoppe style.

  • Zach S says on: December 28, 2008 at 6:39 pm


    One of my favorite blogs Dave. It’s hard to argue perfect logic.

  • Mike Gogulski says on: December 28, 2008 at 11:04 pm


    I can has capitation? Imagine teh solidarity…

  • Brad says on: December 29, 2008 at 1:53 pm


    What about the other 20% or more who sort of pay taxes but don’t really pay taxes. Like high school kids or college kids. They pay some taxes up front but always get a refund check back because they don’t make enough money to be taxed. Those were the good old days.

  • David Z says on: December 29, 2008 at 1:58 pm


    LOL @ the good old days. That group of people are, net non-taxpayers. Although they don’t get a refund of Social Security, their cumulative benefit from social programs far exceeds the money they put in.

  • Johnny Walker Purple says on: January 25, 2009 at 9:55 pm


    That’s only true if you count income tax alone. That 50% figure (which I don’t believe is even accurate for income tax) does not take into account payroll tax, state taxes, gas tax, sales tax, and taxes on services like utilities and rent.

    So you are just plain wrong to say that most people pay NO taxes.

    Also, the free rider argument doesn’t have to rely on the labor theory of value. You aren’t a free rider because something was produced and must be paid for. You are a free rider because something was consumed and must be paid for. You have and continue to consume the benefits of defense, police, water infrastructure, roads, public education (even if you didn’t go you receive the benefits of having an educated populace), and so on and so forth.

    You don’t seem to ever think about the inevitable reply. You seem to assume that your answers are so bulletproof there could never be any criticisms. Even if I’m wrong these are criticisms that should have been taken into consideration when writing this rebuttal.

  • David Z says on: January 25, 2009 at 10:55 pm


    30%+ for income tax
    all corporate taxes which are passed on to individuals in the form of lower wages and/or more expensive products, excise taxes (e.g., gasoline) sin taxes (e.g., alcohol) sales taxes, state & local taxes, state & local income taxes, if any. Property taxes. Use taxes.

    Add that all up – it’s well in excess of 50% — IF you actually pay taxes.

    “So you are just plain wrong to say that most people pay NO taxes.”

    Allow me to clarify: most people pay no federal income taxes.

    FORTY PERCENT of people pay no explicit federal income taxes. I also don’t count anyone as a taxpayer if their income comes from taxes, which includes any federal, state, or local government employee, since any “taxes” they pay are simply an accounting fiction. That’s at least another 10% .

    “You are a free rider because something was consumed and must be paid for.”

    Give me a break. I make free riding possible. What about the people who aren’t paying for it?

    “You don’t seem to ever think about the inevitable reply. ”

    I *always* think of the inevitable reply, which is why I heavily backlink all my posts. Since I have written at length about many of the potential replies, I feel no need to waste 1,000 words reiterating an argument or a position to which I’ve already done justice.

    If you have a specific question, reply, rebuttal, that you’d like to make, please leave a comment to that effect, or send me some mail.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics