The following article is not a general proof of the Objectivist principle that the initiation of physical force is destructive to human life; but it will show that taxation is equivalent to robbery and, when carried out for wealth redistribution, is actually more harmful to more people than the robberies committed by criminals in First-World countries. (A general proof of the destructiveness of initiated force does exist, and I may go through it at some point in the future.)
The Hypothetical Showing the Connection
If I have earned, say, $1,000 this week through my own labor, and another man comes up to me, points a gun at me, and tells me to give him the money, so he can pay his rent, is this robbery? Is it legal for him to do it? What if he tells me it’s for his friend’s rent? Is that robbery/legal? What if he gets 9 of his friends and they all tell me I need to give him my money? Is that robbery/legal? What if the 10 men write up a document that says I have to give him my money, and they include me in a vote to affirm or reject the “law” that says I should give him my money? They all vote “yes” on the “law” and I vote ”no.” “Now,” they tell me, “we as a society of 11 have drafted a law that says that you have an obligation to give us the money. We have taken a vote and you have been outvoted. As a part of our society, you now owe us this money. If you don’t give it to us, we will imprison you at gunpoint. If you don’t like what we are doing, you can leave our territory.” Is THIS robbery? Yes, the same forcible imposition of the wills of others upon me has been made. Is it legal? Yes, actually; it is now “legal,” because a law has been voted on and passed. It is legal robbery. So, the question is: How many people does it take before this practice ceases to be robbery? A hundred? A thousand? Ten million?
Let’s change the hypothetical a little. Let’s say that I have grown up on my parents’ farm. I take over the farm and carry on with my life. Let’s say that, this time, the ten men come to me and tell me “We’re going to take a vote on whether to build a bridge across that river a mile behind your property.” I say, “But I don’t need or want a bridge there. I never cross that river. I do all my business on this side of it.”
“Well,” they say, “we are all going to collectively decide whether to build that bridge.” They all vote to build the bridge, and I vote not to. “It’s settled,” they say, “we’ll build the bridge. We’ll all be free to use it, and all eleven of us will share the cost.”
“But I have no business over there; I won’t use it and I don’t want to pay for it.” I say. “If I wanted a bridge there, I would either build it myself, or pay someone else to build it, and I would own it. If I eventually decide to use your bridge, I’ll pay you for access at that time.”
“You’re going to pay your share,” they say, “or we’re going to imprison you at gunpoint. By living among us, you have implicitly signed a Social Contract that says that you will help pay for anything we decide to do. You have been outvoted, so we, collectively, have decided to build the bridge. If you don’t like this arrangement, you can move far away.”
“But all I have been doing is living here. I didn’t ask to be a part of your collective ‘we’ and I signed no ‘Social Contract.’ My mere existence is not ‘consent’ to anything. Why should I have to move out of my home if I don’t want to have money extorted from me to pay for things I don’t want you to do?”
“Well if you don’t like it, that’s too bad,” they say, “the ten of us have more guns than you do. So you’re going to do what we say and pay us, or we’re going to put our guns to use.”
Hopefully, this section should be stating what is obvious by now. That you don’t have a gun being waved in your face on tax day does not make paying taxes voluntary; the guns will appear eventually if you fail to pay. The number of people who helped to point the gun at someone is not a part of the definition of robbery. The number of people having the gun pointed at them is not part of the definition of robbery. Any number of people can be robbed by any number of people. Thus, there is no numerical basis for saying the above scenarios are robbery, while taxation imposed by majority vote/representatives in a country is not. Nor is there any relevance if the taxes are imposed on everyone, including the voting majority; robbers can use their own money for a cause, yet still be guilty of robbing others to pay for that cause. Nor is the amount of money the victim(s) or perpetrator(s) have part of the definition of robbery. The robbery of a wealthy victim is still robbery. Nor does it matter that, in modern societies, those who carry out the robbery are part of an organization with the function of protecting the citizenry from other force initiators (robbers, murderers, foreign invaders, etc.) It does not follow that, because the government protects us, it has the right to rob us, any more than it follows that, because it protects us, it has the right to carry out contract killings for the mob.
Someone might object that dictionaries typically define “robbery” as “taking something from someone by unlawful force or threat of violence,” while taxes are “lawful.” But, as I hope the reader saw in the hypothetical, to say that something is lawful simply means that some individuals, who take themselves to be a governmental body (i.e. empowered to use force beyond immediate self-defense), have written down a directive on a piece of paper and intend to enforce it. That something is “lawful” says nothing about the moral propriety of it. (Would anyone today say that, because anti-Jewish laws were passed by a duly elected Adolf Hitler, they were thereby morally justified?) Therefore, “unlawful” should be stricken from the definition of “robbery” as a nonessential. (1)
But robbery must still be distinguished from recompense and fines imposed as retaliation for coercion initiated by individuals/groups, (i.e. the punishment of those who have already robbed or otherwise victimized others by coercion.) Hence, the proper definition of robbery is: “taking something from someone by initiatory force or threat of violence.”
Taxation does fall under this proper definition of robbery.
Redistributive Taxation vs. Fines for Wrongdoing
Some people will try to justify redistributive taxation of the wealthy by invoking the idea that the wealthy got that way by graft, fraud, government favors, or otherwise doing things that violate the rights of others. In some cases, especially in today’s mixed economy, this may be true. However, the mere fact that someone is wealthy does not show that this is how he became wealthy. The government should not be in the business of granting special favors to anyone, and fines, recompense and/or jail time imposed by the courts are the appropriate means of dealing with extortion or fraud, when it can be proven in a specific case.
Taxation, on the other hand, is the forcible taking of money that was, by the government’s own determination, obtained by legal means. No force or fraud has been shown to be involved; no one’s rights have been shown to have been violated. So, in taking redistributive taxes, the government is stealing money from those who earned it and giving it to those who did not.
A Few Fallacious Arguments for Government Robbery (Taxation) Refuted
Argument 1: “But isn’t government taxation for its basic, legitimate functions (police, military, courts) just the government collecting what citizens owe it for protecting them? How is this any different from the government enforcing private contracts?”
Refutation 1: In living under a government, I am delegating my personal right to retaliation and recompense against those who injure or rob me. This delegation is necessary in order to ensure objectivity in the implementation of such retaliation and recompense. But I have not been given any choice but to submit to this delegation. Since I have not voluntarily entered this arrangement, I cannot properly owe anyone (by force of law) for any element of it that I have not voluntarily chosen to take part in. I cannot legally owe anyone for what they have done without my consent, whether implicit or explicit. (Though, if I have violated someone else’s rights, then I have implicitly chosen to be subject to their retaliation, through government.) This is unlike private contracts, in which both parties voluntarily agree beforehand to be bound by them.
Argument 2: “All known governments rob citizens for funding. Therefore robbery is necessary for the existence of government.”
Refutation 2: This is a form of argumentum ad populum. That the vast majority (or all) of the people one knows of have chosen to do something, does not make it necessary, or good, or optimally practical. That none of the governments in the world prior to 1776 had been constitutional democratic republics did not warrant a pronouncement that such government is impossible or impractical. (See the last section of this essay for more on the practicality of a tax-free society.)
Argument 3: “Without coercive redistribution from the rich to the poor, the poor would riot and/or commit more crime and make life worse for the rich. Therefore it is in the self-interest of the rich to let the government rob them for this purpose.”
Refutation 3: This argument takes egalitarian opinions of the poor as an unchallengeable, metaphysically-given absolute. It is a confusion between the metaphysical and the man-made. Human philosophical beliefs are open to evaluation and change. That any number of those who are poor believe in coercive redistribution does not make them justified in that belief. It doesn’t make them any more justified than a single robber who believes he should be able to bash your head in if you don’t give him your money. The laws of the society should be set up and enforced against those who would threaten violence, absent government redistribution. Any egalitarians–poor, middle class, or rich–should be convinced that redistribution is wrong, and that societal justice means getting what we have earned in a free market. This is the path to the most productive and peaceful society. (Should abolitionists in the US have said “Abolishing slavery will cause problems. It’s in the interests of a peaceful society to maintain the status quo, so let’s not fight for abolition”?)
Argument 4: “Without government robbery to build roads and infrastructure, there would be no roads and infrastructure, or at least, very poor infrastructure and roads without rules.”
Refutation 4: Infrastructure (utilities, roads, etc.) can be built and operated through private/nongovernmental means. Private contracts can govern the operation of such services. The rules of private roads would be contractually enforced as conditions of their use by customers, because no responsible person wants to drive on unsafe roads. No one wants to put himself at the mercy of the whims of a private company for access to the road in front of his house, thus long-term contracts would likely be standard at move-in to specify conditions of access to, and pricing of, the road.
The Destructive Consequences of Government Robbery, Briefly
Most people can easily identify the destructive consequences of robbery by individuals or by gangs. They see the harm it does to the victims, physically and psychologically. They see that if such robbery became pervasive in their society, it would create a fearful climate, antithetical to enjoyable living. They can see that it would paralyze people with uncertainty and sap their ability (and motivation) to plan, to save, to become wealthy and successful by honest means. (What use is it to invest in a factory if it can easily be raided at any moment by a gang of thugs?)
What most people seem unable to identify are the destructive consequences of government robbing the successful and productive to give to the unsuccessful or unproductive. People either don’t identify these as destructive consequences, because they are considered “normal,” and “an inevitable part of life in society” today, or they file them under “caused by unfettered capitalism.” Most people unthinkingly accept that government robbery is necessary–that our society would be worse off if the government didn’t rob people on behalf of the poor, the elderly, the sick, scientific researchers, schools, infrastructure construction, etc.
But the destructive consequences of government robbery are all around us; they are not inevitable, and they are not the result of unfettered capitalism. Government bailouts of businesses maintain inefficient business practices, and incentivize risky, irresponsible and corrupt behavior by corporate officers. In the same way, government welfare incentivizes wasteful and irresponsible behavior by the poor at the expense of taxpayers. The virtual government monopoly on roads has created a stagnant and chronically underfunded system. Long commutes through roads and freeways clogged with traffic have become accepted as an inevitable part of life by tens of millions of people in the US alone. Almost no one today sees the efficiency, dynamism and radical improvement possible to a system of private roads, highways and mass transportation. (2)
How Would Government Be Financed Without Taxes?
In order to be funded without taxation, the state and federal governments of the US would have to be substantially smaller in size and lower in budget. Such a government would be restricted to its proper functions: police, military and courts.
Ways to fund a proper government without taxation could include fees for government enforcement of contracts, voluntary donations, fines for lawbreakers, small fees for “losers” in civil trials, and lotteries. (I recommend this article for more on this issue: How Would Government be Funded in a Free Society? along with Ayn Rand’s discussion of voluntary government funding in The Virtue of Selfishness.)
[Edited: 11-8-12 to add first argument for taxation.]
(1) Dictionaries reflect common usage that may be confused and/or improper. Thus, they should not be taken uncritically as authoritative, especially in regard to philosophically relevant concepts. For more on the issues of essentials, objective concepts and definitions, see Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd Ed. by Ayn Rand.
(2) I make a certain distinction between the level of harm caused by compulsory taxation for government in its proper functions and compulsory taxation for improper government programs, such as welfare/bailout functions. The former is still wrong, but is destructive in a minor way. The latter is far and away more destructive to the well-being of people in the society that practices it.
Recommended books: Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand
Capitalist Solutions: A Philosophy of American Moral Dilemmas by Andrew Bernstein
Wealth is Created by Action Based on Rational Thought
An Objectivist Refutation of Anarcho-Capitalism (Market Anarchy)
QuickPoint 1: Thinking is Individual
Why Healthcare in the US is So Expensive, and What Can Be Done About It
I really enjoyed the dialogue early in the article. It truly brings out the point of the irrationality of taxation on so many levels.
Yeah, the first, (not-so-foreign) hypothetical was written some time ago for an argument with someone. I considered it so persuasive (to anyone who had any ability to think critically) that I made it the core of its own essay. I wrote the second hypothetical to make the point even clearer. The rest of the essay was just explicitly stating the obvious and countering the rationalizations with which some people would attempt to wriggle out of the conclusion.
sometimes over-intellectualizing actually REMOVES logic. Your stance and explanation fails about the time you got to this:
“But all I have been doing is living here. I didn’t ask to be a part of your collective”
By residing in the United States or any other place that has taxation, you are, whether you like it or not, subject to the laws of the land.
Laws are and should be respected as they are designed for the BETTERMENT of the collective. Your idea is disrespecting that very foundation of why law is GOOD.
If you don’t like a law, that’s why there is such thing as Lobbying.
That is the fairness part of our system.
Voting from the people is what makes this system fair.
In a dictatorship, this is not possible.
I can only say to you, the same that is said to us Liberals frequently. If you don’t like the system here, you are free to leave to go to another place of your liking. Good luck though finding any place that doesn’t have taxes.
Oh and one last thing…the Govt does NOT take taxes at gunpoint.
Terrorism is against the law.
Well of course I am; those who think it’s their right to rob others are the majority and have control of the weaponry of the state. I have no choice but to go along with the robbers, since it would be impractical to attempt to fight them by force. But that fact doesn’t make what they are doing “not robbery.”
‘Oh, but we’re robbing you for your own good!’ I reject any notion of “collective well-being” apart from the well-beings of the individuals that make up the “collective.” And initiated government coercion is bad for the individuals in a society, and thus bad for the society.
Right, like the “fairness” of the votes in the hypothetical. 🙄 Voting away the rights of others is not “fairness.” At best, it’s a result of intellectual sloppiness, confusion, or conformity. At worst, it’s an expression of power-lust–an assertion of “might makes right,” through superior numbers. If I am in the minority, then the effect is the same as if I were in a dictatorship with open borders. What happens if the democratic majority decides to close the borders to emigration of certain people like me? Hey, it was the will of the majority, so it must be alright, right?
You could have at least shown evidence of having read most of the article….From the first part of the second section: “That you don’t have a gun being waved in your face on tax day does not make paying taxes voluntary; the guns will appear eventually if you fail to pay.” What do you think will happen if you fail to pay taxes and fail to cooperate with your punishment? What happens is not usually called “terrorism” if the government does it.
What do you suppose is the foundation of the sort of movement that makes real change in a country? How did the abolitionists of slavery end it? Did they accept things as they were at the time, or move out of the country? No, they did exactly what I am doing here: They made moral arguments until the culture was ready to abolish slavery. Well I am one of those making moral arguments until the culture is ready to abolish taxes.
That’s part of the point: I might decide to leave, but I would have nowhere to go where this injustice is not committed. But, I ask you this in all sincerity: Why does the sheer fact that other people live near me give them the moral right to coerce me? What is your moral theory that provides the basis for people to partially enslave one another? What even gives them the right to force me to move off my property on threat of imprisonment? And if they can do this to me, then why would it be wrong to form a closed dictatorship and keep me where I am?
ok, first about this:
” I reject any notion of “collective well-being” apart from the well-beings of the individuals that make up the “collective.”
Then you are saying that the draft shouldn’t ever be, regardless if it protects us from invading armies.
You know as well as I do that law is GOOD. It is the foundation of civility.
You can try to wriggle out by using those few exceptions you keep bringing up, but as a whole, law is there to help humanity have quality life.
There is always a pro and a con to everything in life and law is one of those things. There are literally hundreds of ridiculous laws still on the books, but the core laws make a lot of sense.
Dissecting every bad law and then trying to conclude that law is bad is an “emo” way of thinking.
You might want to print this out because it is coming from a half left Liberal (me):
“Why does the sheer fact that other people live near me give them the moral right to coerce me?
Wherever you live, WHENever you live, as long as it is on this Earth, there will ALWAYS be authority.
Law is authority, Your boss at work is authority, Teachers are authority to our children. Landlords are authority. This is a fundamental fact that every adult must embrace if they are to have total peace in their minds.
Yes, we Liberals are rebellious but we do know that there is no such thing as having NO authority. Not even in a utopian world.
It most certainly is at gun point. If you do not pay someone will eventually show up with a warrant and a gun on their hip to take you to jail where you will be forced to pay those fees plus money to secure your freedom in the way of bond. When anyone reads the federalist papers they can get a good understanding of what it means to an American. People use the phrase un-american loosely to describe ideas they do not like. I do not think its a stretch to say that taxation they way it is used today is un-american. The men of 1776 over threw the most powerful country on the planet over much less and burdensome taxation than we see today.
here is the thing, you can also reject the idea of country, i mean it is that 10 men who sit together and draw this dotted line saying this is our territory/state/country, we don’t give a shit if u own it, you can just as well draw your own country an implement tax on them, but at the end of the day, the ones with more guns win. You see, the reason terrorists are terrorists is not that they are wrong, illegal action (cuz they can also draft their own law, and say what they r doing is legal) but a law only have any meaning when you have the power to enforce it. To sum it up, it is might makes right. If you are more powerful than the entire military, u can make ur own law, kill whoever you want and it will still be legal (cuz u can just label the action as leisure killing) :). Like if superman actually exist and decide go rouge and robs banks, i dont see him going to jail, or punish, because his law would supersede the current law
“Laws are and should be respected as they are designed for the BETTERMENT of the collective”
-You mean like Hitler’s racial hygiene laws, America’s past racial segregation laws, The Fugitive Slave Act and such?
“Voting from the people is what makes this system fair” Please tell me one taxation law on the federal books which was voted on directly by the people, as opposed to Congress. Then you may wish to explain how voting is fair when the targets of taxation (the wealthiest) are by definition, and always will be, a minority who thus cannot ever win a vote against the theft of their property by your moral majority.
“sometimes over-intellectualizing actually REMOVES logic”
I concede this one, Kim, you’ve proven it.
Liberalkim: free to leave? No, we are absolutely not free to leave, and by stating as much you show your ignorance and discredit your entire position. Leaving the US will not change anything; the IRS will seize your foreign bank account if you fail to file and remit yearly payments.
To “liberalkim” – 9-9-12; 10:46,
Yes, the draft shouldn’t ever be, and it won’t be needed to protect us from invading armies. If our country is under threat, there will be no shortage of volunteers who will join the military and fight for their freedom out of self-interest. If there weren’t, it would be because it is a country not worth saving. I also would not want anyone who had been forced into the army in my platoon, for my own safety.
What makes you think I’m against all law, especially when I mentioned proper, voluntary ways to fund government in the last section? (!) There are two types of laws: laws that protect people from coercion, such as laws against murder, rape, theft, and fraud, and laws that initiate coercion, like drug bans, FDA regulations, FTC regulations, minimum-wage laws and tax laws. I wholeheartedly support the first kind of law and reject the second kind.
On “authorities”: There are 3 types of authority: those that you voluntarily submit yourself to, including bosses and military commanders, there are governments that have authority to retaliate against force initiators, and governments that have (alleged) authority to initiate force against citizens. The first two are perfectly consistent with the free society I want. The third is immoral and destructive to human well-being.
This is my last response to you in this discussion, liberalkim. If you want to know more about what I am advocating, I recommend reading Ayn Rand’s novels and nonfiction, and/or the links from this blog.
“The Law” by Frederic Bastiat, writings from just about any of our founders on the destructive nature of governments as well as their intent and their cautions wouldn’t be a bad place to start for her as well. I do like Ayn Rand 🙂
Enjoyed the article, Apollo. Great job. :^) If only more people would understand this stuff we’d be in far better shape as a nation; not just monetarily but rights and freedom wise as well.
LiberalKim: “I can only say to you, the same that is said to us Liberals frequently. If you don’t like the system here, you are free to leave to go to another place of your liking.”
There are plenty of other countries out there that are already what you progressives want to shape this one into. The whole idea of being a conservative is to PRESERVE what we already have- not hope and change it into something else i.e. Obama and the rest of his self-admitted commie cohorts. There is no other place ‘LIKE’ this country and there is no other country I ‘LIKE’. So bon voyage, mon ami. ;^)
Your position seems to start from (at least) two untenable premises: (1) human beings are atomic units that have “their own labor”. (2) Any valid ‘contract’ is one that is entered into voluntarily.
(1) Even the most respectable ‘individualist’ thinkers (e.g., Heidegger, Sartre, Wittgenstein) realized that humans are, on a very fundamental level, social beings. ‘Your own labor’ is so tangled up in the labor of others that, in many cases, there is no real way to delineate what is ‘yours’. The labor of an individual scientist or engineer is dependent upon the work of scientists and engineers before him. To say where a previous generation of scientists’ labor ends and where his begins is to miss the point: that knowledge, work, etc., is, in essence, a collective process.
(2) There certainly are valid contracts that we are entered into on an involuntary basis. The most obvious one is being a finite human being that will one day face death. I did not ask to be a being that will die, but surely I am one, and surely I will die. Given that ‘involuntary contracts’ exist, it is now possible to argue that there are other involuntary contracts (just ones, too). One such just contract, at least on many plausible views of justice (e.g., John Rawl’s ‘justice as fairness’), is taxation.
(1) The effort that you expend is your effort. You had to decide whether to lounge around or to expend the effort, you put in the time and did the work, you had to suffer whatever tension and discomfort it took to do the work. The effort that you expend is yours. The product of that work benefits from the work of others, when you chose to make it so, based on your understanding of their work. It takes one’s own effort to build upon the work of others.
In any team effort, each individual has to put in his own effort, or he’s not contributing to the work of the team. If your team leader assigns you work, and you personally decide to shirk it, does that work somehow get done by “the collective?” No.
(2) You are wildly diverging from the definition and context of the concept “contract.” A contract is defined as “an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified” or “an agreement enforceable by law.” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, 1996) The recognition of a metaphysically given fact (“I will die.”) is not an agreement. An agreement is between at least two conceptually conscious beings. The universe, as such, doesn’t enforce things by law. The universe just is the way it is, and things happen by causality.
If we analyze what it means to have a valid contract (i.e. a contract that should be legally binding), we see that both parties have to freely agree to be bound by the contract beforehand. If they didn’t, then any robber could point a gun at your head and tell you to agree to let him take your money in exchange for not shooting you, and this would be considered a valid contract. This situation would obliterate the function of “contract” as a concept. As far as I know, in the US, contracts are considered invalid if they are made under duress. This is quite proper. But judging what the basis of contracts is requires a moral framework that bans the initiation of physical force. If the moral framework of a government permits initiatory force, then contracts are irrelevant and considered meaningless. The Nazis had no use for the concept of “contract” in carrying out the “extermination” of Jews.
Interesting that you should mention John Rawls. I actually have an essay that refutes his theory of justice (and fairness): On Fairness and Justice. It is easier to understand the full basis of my argument if one has read Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology by Ayn Rand and Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics by Tara Smith.
Reblogged this on RightFromYaad and commented:
Can Jamaicans grasp this concept that higher taxes equate to more robbery of citizens by the government?
Reblogged this on Jesse Talks Back and commented:
This is great!!!
Hey Apollo, I hope it’s okay that I’m continuing our discussion over here on your blog, since I’m responding largely to this article.
My arguments are a combination of the first one you list (taxation for legitimate functions) and the fourth one (taxation for infrastructure). So let me present a counter hypothetical:
In a world without government, I am working hard and making money but there is no external protection from marauders who come to steal from me. Now I have to spend at least half my time protecting myself and only half my time working. I get together with ten of my close friends and decide that one of us will have to quit our job and act as full time protection for the others. Ten of us will work in our regular jobs, but will agree to make up one tenth of our individual incomes to pay for the eleventh friend to be full-time protection for the area we all work in. This is done, we all work, and we are all protected. This is an extremely basic form of government.
Then I have a child who grows up and starts to work on his own. Now the original eleven of us still have a contract and ten of us are paying for the eleventh person to protect the area in which we all work. My child was born into a protected area. We can’t withdraw the protection from just one person because that would harm all of us. Our choices are: 1) We let this twelfth person benefit from the protection that eleven of us are paying for. 2) We kick him out of the area that he was born in. 3) We force him to pay for a service that he has not agreed to.
What’s the correct choice?
In my perspective, it is #3: We don’t get to live in an established society without being born into certain types of contracts.
It sounds like you are an advocate of a simple flat income tax, which is certainly a lot more just than the system we have now in the US, where the top 10% of earners pay 70% of income taxes and overpay their share of income by 35%.
But while a flat income tax for only proper governmental services (police, courts and military) is the most just and least harmful form of taxation, it is still not the ideal system. It is still an initiation of physical force against citizens, which is unnecessary and a violation of property rights.
The fact that someone has a greater income does not automatically mean that he has cost the government more to protect, or benefited more from governmental protection. (At least in the US today, the police and criminal courts appear to spend most of their time dealing with perpetrators and victims on the lower end of the income distribution.) In a free market, the essential factor that makes the difference between a poor adult and a rich adult is the individual’s mental effort and choices, not special protection provided by the government.
Also, what if a person doesn’t approve of certain, existing government policies? If the system has democratic election of representatives, then that person does have his vote. But if he’s outvoted, then forced taxation means that he’s being forced to pay for things he doesn’t approve of. With a voluntary donation, he can earmark his funds for or against certain programs/departments.
I am for fees for government services, where practical, appropriate and necessary. I think this would include Ayn Rand’s example of long-term contract enforcement, but for now, I’ll leave other specifics of voluntary revenue collection by a laissez-faire capitalist government to future legal scholars.
So, insofar as fees are impractical, (i.e. hinder justice) the proper choice would be your option #1. Here’s Yaron Brook on proper government financing and the “free rider problem”.
[Edited 3-10-13: Second-to-last sentence reworded for slight clarification.]
It sounds like you are an advocate of a simple flat income tax
Actually, no, I just find it the easiest example to use, rather than bog down in details. I will say that I think letting people earn whatever the market can bear causes industries to develop business plans around planned obsolescence, an idea I find fairly horrifying.
I am for fees for government services, where practical, appropriate and necessary. I think this would include Ayn Rand’s example of long-term contract enforcement,
The problem with that is how it does not acknowledge the value of having a system “on call” as it were. The existence of a criminal justice system creates a chilling effect on criminal behavior significantly more useful than any retaliatory assistance of punishing a criminal after they’ve committed a crime. For instance, I want people to always obey their contracts, rather than just when they think I can afford to buy a judge. Sadly, the current U.S. copyright laws are set up so that it is essentially fee-based, because it’s not specifically law-based (the actual written law is incredibly vague and open to interpretation), but dependent upon the findings of individual judges. Thus, intellectual property owners that can’t afford to pay for a law suit essentially have no property, while companies with massive legal departments can take intellectual property with impunity.
The video was helpful. I agree with Yaron Brook that a few free-riders is not actually a problem. They can be ignored. The problem comes if it creates a societal game of chicken–two people driving directly at each other, risking themselves and threating the other, to see who will dodge first–around the existence of fundamental societal protections. It rewards high-stakes gambling, right up to the point where everyone both sides lose horribly. If neither side is willing to dodge for the very reason that neither side wants to collide, eventually they’re going to hit head on and allow the collapse of their society.
By the way, another rather horrifying idea, for you as well as for me, I believe, is shown in this article on A World Without Work.
Also, you wrote:
Most people can easily identify the destructive consequences of robbery by individuals or by gangs. They see the harm it does to the victims, physically and psychologically. They see that if such robbery became pervasive in their society, it would create a fearful climate, antithetical to enjoyable living. They can see that it would paralyze people with uncertainty and sap their ability (and motivation) to plan, to save, to become wealthy and successful by honest means.
This is all very true, but the psychological harm actually comes not directly from the loss of wealth but from the uncertainty of that loss. This is why terrorism is generally considered a war crime while war itself is accepted. It’s not about the death toll, it’s about the uncertainty of that death. When one can never be sure of ones rights and responsibilities, when people can randomly come up and threaten or hurt you, that can cause great psychological damage and people become paralyzed and uncertain. When there are set regulations, pretty much regardless of how draconian those regulations are, people can and do adapt to them and carry on. A well-run mafia claiming “protection money” from a community does not cause the same type of harm that random muggings do, even if the same amount of money is actually effected. A well-run government claiming taxes, and providing value in return, does not create this type of harm.
(And yes, alas, I do know that I specified “a well-run” government. A really incompetent government is likely a lot more harmful than a competent mafia.)
Reblogged this on wernerschwartz.
Great post. It changed the way I looked at taxes.
But then I read this post:
And it changed my mind again.
I realized that us as a humans are in debt with society. We have the opportunities that society can give us.
An entrepreneur in Africa has less opportunities to be successful because his society is less developed, is poorer.
The opportunities come from where the middle class is, from how much the middle class can spend.
Taxes is a way to keep society better for everyone and have more opportunities.
We have to pay taxes because what we have now is thanks to all the people who has lived before us. We are in debt with them otherwise we will still be living in the trees like monkeys.
Taxes for companies is a way to give back money to middle class and therefore new opportunities for new people. Otherwise will not have money and we will have to start all over again.
Democracy is not that bad at the end, because it guarantees what most people want, and therefore society can keep developing.
The issue is thinking that we don’t need other human beings to survive.
I wish my English was better to explain myself better, but I think you can get my point.
Pingback: Obiektywistyczne odrzucenie anarchokapitalizmu - Obiektywizm.pl