Tax is Theft

The whole institution of tax as it currently stands is an institution of theft. It is a process of coercive extraction/appropriation for a government of which no one has had a real say on how things are run or if they even want to be a member. Taxation is not the price we pay for being in society. By that argument, protection money is the price small business owners pay when they open up in a neighbourhood controlled by a gang. And the illusions of democracy and public services hardly serve to justify this system. All it does is make us happy slaves in a system where we have no control. In many ways it is similar to Brave New World. The people are kept down by a pointless election here and a supposedly beneficial public service there. The justification of taxation simply belies a Hobbesian belief that people are full of greed and avarice and we need a strong sovereign to control them through involuntary force and a tributary payment. However this view is absolute nonsense and based on no factual evidence. People are social creatures and when left to their own devices almost always self-organise and develop institutions that allow for collective development and social growth.

Lets first look at the arguments made to justify the system of taxation, as well as the wider idea of involuntary government. The main one is that democratic society is such an important concept for safeguarding freedom and liberty that one must pay a government for the privilege of living in this near-utopia. But the question is, what democracy? A majority of laws and regulations are made and implemented by faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats in corporate offices, government bodies and international agencies. Most countries, those in the West particularly, have a very limited choice in who they can elect. The US and the UK exemplify this system, with both major parties in these countries being very similar when it comes to major policy questions. Whether it be foreign policy, monetary policy or social policy, nearly every politician and party say vaguely the same thing. When a political figure does say something different, the mass media vilifies and ridicules them, and lobbying organisations actively support their more regime-friendly opponents. This was seen with Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012 and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaign. This whole concept of paying for civilised society with government provided security is part of the wider social contract theory of government, based around explicit consent for the powerful and implicit consent for the powerless. Hobbes and Locke assumed that these types of governance systems would develop through a social contract. However who determines this contract? Where does the real power lie? Both Hobbes and Locke effectively admitted the power would lie with landed aristocracy and corporate/colonial interests. Thus the benefit of taxation is to enrich themselves and develop more power at the expense of the wider society.

A similar argument can be seen when taxation is justified in relation to public services. Apparently these services, such as health, policing and education, are so good that individuals have no choice when it comes to payment and they must have government-granted monopolies. It doesn’t say much for their excellence if individuals are forced to fund them. In fact most of the modern government monopolies were developed on the back of voluntary institutions. The NHS simply replaced health cooperatives that were providing services to the poor. The modern welfare state was simply an expropriation of the ideas of mutual aid organisations and fraternal societies. Community policing organisations predate the modern state police. Further, the state systems that have replaced these voluntary institutions are in many ways worse. The NHS fails miserably in terms of actual care, with many abuses being documented, such as the Staffordshire hospital scandal. The welfare state has seen the redistribution of the incomes of lower middle class individuals to the poor, creating an underclass that can serve as a reserve pool of cheap labour for large corporations. Further, it has had a non-existent effect on the levels of inequality. In terms of policing, the modern police in the UK are dismal, focusing most of their efforts on victimless crimes such as traffic offenses and drugs. In the US, the only thing the police are truly efficient at are killing innocent civilians. If this is what justifies taxation, then it becomes rather arbitrary.

Taxation is theft and it needs to end. It violates the non-aggression principle and means that individuals are coerced into something they may not voluntary join. This does not mean that governance is impossible, but rather that people will pay for good governance if given the choice. To understand this, we need to understand humans as social creatures who genuinely care about others. Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments showed this to be the case in social and economic matters. We have fellow-feeling as well as an idea of outside observance that guide our behaviours away from immoral acts toward ones that benefit both ourselves and others. This is seen historically, where voluntary institutions have been developed to deal with a wide array of political and economic problems. These institutions are created spontaneously. The market, the commons and mutual aid organisations are all examples of spontaneous order. They show us that government funded via coercive taxation isn’t necessary and that individuals can organise collectively, generating institutions and funding mechanisms that are entirely voluntary and desired. As Spooner noted, the social contract is a myth, and the structures of government and taxation favour the powerful over the powerless. To justify this system is nothing short of monstrous, and unfortunately shows an academic belief in what is basically theft.

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3 thoughts on “Tax is Theft

  1. I roughly share your opinion that taxation is theft, but I would point out that most tax (at least in the UK) is not directly taken by the government. Instead, the individual taxpayer is expected to make the payment themselves (or have their employer or representative do it). If they fail to do what is expected of them then, normally after being presented with an increased fine and a court date, they will be physically captured (arrested) and trapped inside a building (prison) where they will seriously risk being physically and sexually assaulted.

    The vast majority of people will comply with the expectation of payment, so in most cases taxation can be simply viewed as the non-consensual extraction of a person’s property and therefore theft. However, this ignores the threats of violence without which the theft would not be possible. I would say that taxation is the threat of physical violence if people do not allow themselves to be the victims of theft.

    But this is probably just a technicality. I completely agree with you that taxation is unjustified. This post is a strong rebuttal of common pro-tax arguments.

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    • I agree with you. I use the term theft in a more fluid sense, thus including the concept of extortion which I believe is what your describing, whereby taxpayers are compelled coercively to give over money to the state. Obviously theft in the concrete sense isn’t necessarily the way taxation works, but instead is an enforced tributary system much the way you describe it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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