Taxation is NOT Generosity

It is unethical to use taxation to be generous, as happens when we are taxed to help others –- which means we are not actually being generous.

Why is it acceptable for a large group of people (like a government) to do something it would be illegal for an individual to do? I cannot force people to give me money so I can give it to other people whom I prefer to have the money, under threat of taking them by force and locking them up in my basement. But a government can do just that –- it just replaces the basement with prison.

How easy it is to be generous with other peoples’ money! And what is worse, when government is generous with your money, you do not feel obliged to help others –- why give when it is taken from you? So now people are acting less generous and charitable than they would otherwise (more heavily taxed Europe is less individually generous than are Americans). And money that could have been used to either lower prices of goods (making them cheaper for the poor to buy), hire more people (including the people “helped” by the government), or buy things that would have resulted in other businesses having to make more product, resulting in a need for more hiring, is taken away, filtered through people who are overpaid do an hour of work for eight hours at work, so that the poor get a very minuscule portion of the money anyway.

The latter problem could be solved with a simple negative income tax or basic income guarantee that neither rewards people for not working nor punishes people for getting even a minimum wage job replacing all forms of welfare. If we’re going to have welfare, it ought to be the least disruptive and least penalizing for doing well. The larger problem of being generous with other people’s money requires a change in overall philosophy in the country at large, and in Washington in particular. While that is more difficult, it can be done with a strong bully pulpit. Only when someone important publicly and consistently talks about moral government (one which doesn’t initiate force to get things done) will it get realized in the world.

6 thoughts on “Taxation is NOT Generosity

  1. It’s not about being generous. It’s about insuring against the well-known risks of a free market economy. Some people will receive disproportionate gains while others will suffer disproportionate losses for the same labor. That’s just the way free markets work. And we want the marketplace, to be as free as possible, because that’s how we enjoy the benefits of abundant production and minimal prices.

    But there are risks. People in the auto industry lost jobs when factories closed here and moved to Mexico. People in the coal industry lost jobs as society found cleaner and cheaper ways to produce power. People in textiles lost jobs to cheap overseas labor. And older people lost jobs to growing automation. Some get sick and are unable to afford rising healthcare costs. And the aging population is the most subject to alzheimers. And so on…

    It is our collective responsibility to assure that everyone who is willing to work and especially those who have worked hard all their lives, is provided some minimal assistance to cover these problems that may affect any one of us.

    So, this is not about generosity, it is about responsibility. If anyone wants to be generous, then they can do that with any extra they have left over, after we have met our minimal social responsibility to each other.


    1. I do not recognize a collective responsibility to anything. I have a responsibility to my family and to my employer or to anyone with whom I have made a contractual agreement about something. Beyond that, I have no responsibility to anyone.

      To suggest there is means you think it’s right for you to force me to support others. That your right to my life is more important than my right to my life. Or someone else’s right to my life is more important than my right to my life. They don’t.

      It is not responsible to steal from Peter to pay Paul. That’s rewarding irresponsibility at best. We have no “social responsibility” to each other in any way, shape, or form beyond not initiating force against each other. Also, some basic politeness. I find taxes a violation of both of those things.


      1. Here’s the difference between a rhetorical and a practical right. You assert this: “We have no “social responsibility” to each other in any way, shape, or form beyond not initiating force against each other.”

        That is a “rhetorical” statement which “claims” a right. But that requires that the rest of us agree with you before it can be considered a “practical” right.

        You claim that you have an absolute right to keep whatever you’ve earned until you, and you alone, decide to give it up for any other purpose.

        The rest of us claim that you must pay your fair share of taxes just like the rest of us. We claim that we have the right to expect you to pay your share if we must pay our share.

        We all agree with you as to a right to life, property, and liberty (but your freedom to swing your fist must stop at the other guy’s nose).

        But we do not agree to grant you an exemption from paying for public schools, roads and bridges, social security insurance, the national defense, and the courts and police required to enforce the laws that protect all of these rights for you and us.

        If we gotta pay, then you gotta pay. It is only right. Thus it is our right to require you to pay what you rightfully owe for public services. Cause we don’t like freeloaders.


      2. The difference is this: I am not saying that only I shouldn’t pay taxes. I’m opposed to you paying taxes. I don’t think anyone should take your money or property by threatening to kidnap and murder you. It’s not a matter of anyone getting an exemption from paying for certain things. It’s that nothing should be paid for by robbing people. I think that if you getting something by stealing it from me, you’re the freeloader. You are free riding on the system by forcing others pay for things you want.

        If you say you have a right to life, liberty, and property, you cannot be logically consistent in insisting then that unless I give up my property you will take away my liberty and even life. Do you not see the contradiction? To have the rights to life, liberty, and property, we each have to give up our life, liberty, and property?

        No other provider of goods or services threatens to kidnap and murder you unless you pay for their goods or services except government (and the mafia). Has it occurred to you that perhaps governments could get income in a non-coercive way?

        You want roads and bridges? I have no objection to a user fee attached to gas prices –so long as it is only used for roads and bridges (and not, as gas taxes are, used for everything else under the sun). Put SS back in the hands of the workers, rather than in the hands of the Ponzi-scheme-creating government. How much could be paid for through lotteries and voluntary donations? Certainly if the government were doing only those things which only government could do (which isn’t much), we wouldn’t need much money to run the government.


      3. But the rest of us have agreed that paying our taxes is an effective and efficient way to assure that public needs and services are addressed. We cannot count upon private interests to address public needs unless their is some chance of profit in it. For example, private schools are quite good for anyone who can afford it, but it cannot and will not provide for those who cannot pay.

        None of us, except the ideological Libertarians, view taxation as “robbery”. And, frankly, I find that view to be morally offensive.

        And I would prefer free and open public roads and highways, paid for by a general tax, than to have toll booths forcing us to stop and start again all over the place.

        And if you put social security into the hands of workers, there would be no social security at all. And that was the case before it was created and why it was needed.


      4. Two men and a woman are stranded on an island. They decide to create a democracy. One of the men proposes that the woman be sexually available to either of the men at any time either of the men wants. They vote. It’s two in favor and one against–with the woman being against. The “we” of that society agreed in an overwhelming majority on this proposal. I would argue it’s still rape. You are arguing that, because the “we” of that society voted in favor of it, that it’s not. I find that position to be morally offensive.

        Regarding the roads, you purposefully ignored what I said about funding them.

        Regarding social security, countries that have placed their retirement systems in the hands of the workers, those workers have had higher rates of return and more retirement when they retired than Americans have with social security. Social security was not at all created for the reason you suggested. It was vote-buying, pure and simple.


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