Is Taxation Theft?

FYI: Is Taxation Theft? is being debated over at Alas, a Blog.

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I said I was done there, and

I said I was done there, and I'm sticking to my guns, but I could swear Myca was trying to bait me with that post.

Any flexibility in those guns?

You could comments at The Alas Debate Annex. This is the less-heavily-moderated mirror forum for debating issues arising on Alas, a Blog.

Come on -- let's see how floppy that gun of yours is. :-)

It's not really about the

It's not really about the moderation&emdash;as obnoxious as it can be at times&emdash;it's more about wanting to waste less time, or at least waste it in more enjoyable ways.

Come on -- let's see how floppy that gun of yours is.

Them's fightin' words.

That said, I will say that I think it's cute that leftists talk about coercion when the relative alternative is finding a new job, but then go on to say that taxes are voluntary.

If Mohammed won't go to the mountain....

Fine, don’t go over there.

Here’s my argument: I want to maximize my autonomy. Does taxation impair my ability to do so? That is unclear to me.

Many things intrude upon my autonomy, siphoning off resources that I might prefer to use for other purposes. For example, if I fail to surrender whatever resources are required to pay my taxes, I may be incarcerated and my assets may be seized. For another example, if I fail to surrender whatever resources are required to secure food, water, shelter, health, physical security, etc., I die.

I want to structure society to minimize the resources I must surrender for these purposes. It is not clear to me that minimizing taxes – without regard to these other concerns – achieves that end.

Conceptually, some taxes may reduce the amount of resources required to secure food, water, shelter, health, physical security, etc.

Conceptually, other taxes (say, to finance education) may promote growth in a manner that more than offsets their costs, thereby having the net effect of reducing the amount of taxes I must pay in the long run.

In brief, I don’t see the analytical benefits of distinguishing between the cost I must bear to secure food, water, shelter, health, physical security, etc., and the costs I must bear for taxes. I can regard them both as a form of theft, or I can regard neither. But I see little use in stigmatizing one while ignoring the other.

In brief, I don’t see the

In brief, I don’t see the analytical benefits of distinguishing between the cost I must bear to secure food, water, shelter, health, physical security, etc., and the costs I must bear for taxes. I can regard them both as a form of theft, or I can regard neither. But I see little use in stigmatizing one while ignoring the other.

I can regard an apple as a pear, or as a sailboat. It neither makes it a pear nor a sailboat.

There is no committee anywhere that banded together and decided you needed to either buy food, water, shelter, etc. or you will suffer. That happened naturally. What was not natural was the formation of a committee somewhere that decided you needed to pay taxes or suffer. That was an entirely man-made creation. The debate is whether or not that creation is legitimate. Despite the old joke about "death and taxes," death is inevitable. Taxes really aren't.

Revenge of the status-conscious

There is no committee anywhere that banded together and decided you needed to either buy food, water, shelter, etc. or you will suffer. That happened naturally.

Yeah – and...? What’s the goal here?

My need for food, water, shelter, etc., is less acute than my need for air. Why didn’t you list that? Because we (typically) don’t sacrifice anything for air. And that’s the point: We don’t object to needs; WE OBJECT TO SACRIFICING FOR THEM. It is the amount of the sacrifice, not the amount of the need, which matters.

So, how much do people sacrifice for, say, water? Some people spend a large portion of their day walking to streams, filing jugs, balancing those jugs on their heads, and walking home. I, on the other hand, turn on a tap – and then pay whatever fee my government imposes on me. To say that the person who schleps water all day has greater autonomy than I do because she is free from the oppressive burden of government-imposed fees strikes me as absurd.

Some people will romanticize the water-schlepper’s fate as being “natural.” Yippie; so is malaria. I’m not striving to maximize “natural”; I trying to maximize my (expected level of) autonomy.

Here’s the irony: Communism/socialism is often decried as the philosophy of envy, of status-consciousness. It’s all just a rationalization for bringing everyone down to some equal level – even if the net result is to make everyone worse off. Yet I often sense precisely this same dynamic in libertarian discussions: The goal seems to be to ensure that no one exercises control over anyone else – even if the net result is that everyone lives a more impoverished life. Status consciousness uber alles.

That is not the goal I set out here. I’ve been explicit: I want to maximize my autonomy.

Grumpy about taxation? Then demonstrate that the expected level of autonomy for people born into taxing societies is less than the expected level of autonomy for people living outside of such societies. Alternatively, face the fact that you value certain things -- nature, status, whatever -- more than you value autonomy.