If I were to approach someone and tell them that if they did not give me some money, that I would take them by force and lock them in my basement, I would be arrested for extortion. If they refused to pay and I followed through on my threat, I would be guilty of kidnapping. It is unjust for me, a private individual, to earn my money in such a way, even if I then turned around and gave that money to the poor. Which is why it is both immoral and illegal in every society.

But if the government approaches someone and tells them that if they do not give the government their money, that it would take them by force and lock them in jail, it is called taxation. If they refuse to pay and the government follows through on its threat, it is called arrest and imprisonment. This is considered by many to be a just and proper way for the government to make its money.

Why is something that is unjust for an individual to do to another just for one group to do to others, so long as that first group is larger, stronger, and called a government? If something is unjust and immoral for an individual, then it is unjust and immoral for a group, even if that group calls itself a government. A change in terminology does not justify unjust behavior. Theft is theft, no matter if you call it by its proper names of theft and extortion, or by the evasive term taxation. To tax is to steal. And that is what any government does whenever it taxes. A free and just society is based on the concept of free trade. Free trade is based on the premise that “if you do something good for me, I’ll do something good for you.” The opposite of free trade is extortion, or “unless you do something good for me, I’ll do something bad to you.” Any government or society based on free trade is just. Any government or society based on extortion is unjust.

Whenever the concept that taxation is theft is brought up, the response is always that the government has to make money somehow. Which is true. But so do I. Yet this is clearly not enough for me to engage in extortion. So why is it a legitimate reason for the government to do so? Anything immoral for an individual is immoral for a group, whether they call themselves a gang or a government. Anything illegal for a private individual or group should be illegal for the government. It is no better than anyone else simply because it is called a government. It does not know more, is not wiser, it is not more intelligent. And even if they did have these attributes, that would still not give government the right to steal – which is the right to take away another’s rights to their life, liberty, and property – a right nobody ever has, least of all in a free, civilized society.

12 thoughts on “Taxation

  1. Why does your doctor get to bill you for his services? Because that’s what you agreed to. Why does the landlord get to bill you each month for rent? Because that’s what you agreed to. Why does the government get to bill you for its services? Because that’s what you agreed to.

    Do you call your doctor a thief? Do you call your landlord a thief? Do you call your plumber a thief? Or your carpenter? Then why do you think it is okay to call your government a thief?


    1. I can choose whether or not I go to the doctor. I can choose where to rent or whether or not to rent or buy. I did agree to those things. With the government you do not get a choice. I cannot choose whether or not to buy. I did not agree to all the things the government does.

      The government makes you pay for services whether you use them or not. Would you think it fair for a lawn mowing service to arrange to make you pay for lawn mowing services, though you live in a city apartment? Now, don’t be greedy and say that since you don’t have a lawn, and since the apartment building you’re renting in doesn’t have a lawn, that you shouldn’t have to pay for lawn mowing services. What you pay helps mow other people’s lawns. It’s a social good to have well-kept lawns. It keeps property values up.

      There’s also a difference in that the doctor or the landlord have a voluntary agreement with you where if you do something good for them (pay them), they will do something good for you (provide a good or service). But with the government, the agreement isn’t voluntary. You have to pay, or else. It’s more of a mafia agreement. Unless you do something good for me (pay up), I’ll do something bad to you (I’d hate for your nice stuff to end up in my possession; I’d hate it if you were to find yourself kidnapped and locked away; I’d hate it if something bad happened to you). Of course, the money you pay is “protection money,” so you are getting something for it. But how much of what the government is offering would you actually even want to pay to get? And if you wanted to pay for it, why does the government have to force you to pay for it?


      1. The agreement is the Constitution. If you have ever referred to yourself as a “citizen” of the United States of America, then you have implicitly confirmed that agreement, because without that agreement there would be no U.S.A. to be a citizen of.

        The nature of the agreement is spelled out in the Preamble: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

        If you disagree with any spending bill, take it up with your Representative or Senator. But stop making bogus claims that you are being forced to do something that you haven’t previously agreed to do.

        It is unseemly and spits in the face of the rest of us with whom you have agreed to work with in the manner spelled out in the agreement.


      2. Nope. That does not give anyone the right to take anything at all away from me. It’s not a matter of disagreeing with this or that way my stolen money is spent. I object to it being stolen.

        You cannot sign any contract which allows you to murder, rape, rob, or enslave another person. Because those are crimes. You cannot take money by force from me if it’s you, or if you have a gang. Those are crimes. Why is it, just because you call your particular gang the government that you can therefore steal?

        Saying that I have “agreed to work with” you through the government makes literally as much sense as arguing that a slave who is the descendant of a slave “agreed to work with” you, the slave owner, because after all there is a legitimate bill of sale. It’s still immoral to hold the person as a slave. And it’s still immoral to threaten to murder me unless I give you my money because you have the arrogance to insist you know better how to spend it.

        If government cannot run on the amount of money it can get through voluntary means, it shouldn’t do it. Money gained through immoral means cannot be morally spent.


      3. The only laws and crimes the rest of us know about are those that have been passed by our legislature, and enforced by our police and our courts. As Jefferson said, “to secure these rights, governments are instituted”. Your rhetorical claims to this right or that right don’t amount to a hill of beans unless the rest of us agree with you that we should respect and protect that right for each other.

        And what do you mean by “immoral”? What is your basis for that claim? More rhetoric?


      4. Consider the scenario I presented, which you haven’t addressed. Why is it illegitimate for me to threaten to kidnap and kill people in order to get money to do things for them, but it’s not illegitimate for a large group of people to do so?

        Let me ask you a few questions:

        It is immoral to threaten people to get your way?

        Is it immoral to take money using force or the threat of force?

        I am saying that anything a single person cannot do, a large group of people cannot do. Morality doesn’t change based on how large your group is.

        Have you seen The Handmaid’s Tale? I would like you to consider my discussion of it. Is government-endorsed rape legitimate just because it’s for the good of society?


      5. Okay. Then let’s take the scenario you posted. We all agree that it would be wrong for you, or a gang, to extort money from someone by threatening them with kidnapping or violence. Now, why did we all agree to outlaw extortion? Because none of us would want to be the victims of extortion. Simple, right?

        But then you attempt to equate taxes with extortion. Did we agree to make taxes illegal? No!

        Did we specifically agree to raise money for public services through taxation? Yes!

        Therefore, taxes are NOT extortion.

        There is a basic principle underlying all rights. All “practical” rights arise by agreement. We agree to respect and protect certain rights for each other. Take the right to property. Nobody wants to have their stuff stolen. So, we agreed to establish a right to property, and we protect that right with a rule against stealing. Rights and rules come in pairs.

        To respect a person’s right to property means we don’t steal from each other. To protect each other’s right to property, we call the police if we see someone stealing our neighbor’s car.

        So, to summarize the scenario question, we have agreed that stealing is wrong, and we have agreed that taxes are the way we will share the cost of services provided by government. Let me know if this doesn’t fully answer your question.

        Next question: “It is immoral to threaten people to get your way?”

        Well, that depends entirely upon the context. If a madman with a gun is shooting people in a church, then I should be able to shoot him to stop his damage. But, again, this is because we have previously agreed that it is okay to use violence to stop someone from inflicting violence on others. And we have also agreed to respect and protect a right to life for each other.

        Next question: “Is it immoral to take money using force or the threat of force?”

        Yes, that would always be immoral. However, if a judge has ruled that the person owes that money to someone, then the judge can order him to pay. If he refuses to pay what he owes, then the judge can order him to jail. If he refuses to go to jail, then the police can physically pick him up and put him in jail. And if he pulls out a gun threatening to shoot the police, then they can fire back to protect their right to life.

        Next question: “I am saying that anything a single person cannot do, a large group of people cannot do. Morality doesn’t change based on how large your group is.”

        I agree with that. But the government is not “a large group of people”. It is specifically the people that we have agreed to enact and enforce our laws. We have agreed to give certain rights to government and to retain certain rights to ourselves.

        Next question: “Is government-endorsed rape legitimate just because it’s for the good of society?”

        I haven’t seen “The Handmaiden’s Tale”. And I’d prefer, if you don’t mind, to keep this discussion in one place. Otherwise we’ll end up repeating ourselves in two separate posts. But, I think I can answer your question in a general sense:

        Morality seeks the best good and least harm for everyone. This is the ultimate criteria for comparing any two rules or two courses of action, because it is the only criteria that could possibly satisfy everyone.

        So, I do not see how a rule that gives anyone the right to commit rape could be considered “for the good of society”, because it clearly harms the woman.


      6. So, what you’re arguing is that we simply have to collectively agree that something is okay to do and it’s okay to do. The problem is, that’s not remotely how morality works. Now, a given culture may decide that some group or other are not human enough to apply morals to them, but morals are universal.

        Murder, for example, as properly defined as the purposeful killing of a fellow human being, is considered immoral enough to have a 3rd party avenger put in place to go after murderers. But is all killing of a fellow human being murder? No. Self-defense is not murder. Neither is human sacrifice in those places where those being sacrificed were either not considered truly human, or the proper rituals were performed to remove the person from being a fellow human being. We have the death penalty in the U.S. because “we” agree that the rituals performed are sufficient to dehumanize the person in question to legitimately kill them. Of course, there are those who disagree that the ritual performs any such act.

        All morals work that way. All of them. You cannot murder, rob, or rape a fellow human being. You have to dehumanize first.

        If you steal from someone, you are taking what they own away from them using force or the threat of force. You can only do this to someone if you do not consider them a full human being.

        If you tax someone, you are taking something from them using force or the threat of force. Two things with the same definition are the same thing. There are those like you who think that we are performing the right rituals to dehumanize those who pay taxes. I don’t.

        I certainly don’t mind keeping the discussion in the same place. I actually prefer it. Thanks.


      7. There are two courts of morality. One is conscience. The other is social law. And they sometimes come into conflict. A “conscientious objector”, for example, believes that God requires him to be nonviolent in ALL situations, such that he cannot even raise his hand against someone killing his own family. The military accommodates his conscience by giving him a non-combat role during time of war.

        Others have not been so lucky. They have had to stand up to the power of the majority, as when blacks were given the right to attend previously all-white schools, and when women were given the right to vote, or two gay men were given the right to sleep together in the same bed.

        But your point is well taken. The majority does not always know what is right. But this also reinforces my point about the difference between a rhetorical claim and a practical right. Women could claim the right to vote all they wanted, but did not gain the practical right until enough men were convinced to agree with them.

        So, how do we go about making a convincing moral case for a right which did not previously exist. For example, how do we come to agree that instead of a law that says we must return a slave to its owner, we have a law that makes slavery itself illegal?

        This is a matter of moral judgment. And moral judgments are ultimately guided by the underlying goal of morality itself: to achieve the best good and least harm for everyone. And you will eventually discover that this is precisely how one argues for or against your Libertarian principles. Because principles are a form of rules. And moral judgment is how we compare two rules or two courses of action to see which is best.

        But if you think you have a better way to derive moral judgments, please explain. So far, it’s been a bit confusing when you say “morals are universal” in one breath and in another say “We have the death penalty in the U.S. because “we” agree that the rituals performed are sufficient to dehumanize the person in question to legitimately kill them.”

        There is no “dehumanizing” going on in the legal system. Those are humans in our prisons. And those were humans that were hung for murder.

        There are pickpockets who will steal your wallet in the big city, and they do not “dehumanize” you, in fact, they take advantage of your human weaknesses. And the pickpocket certainly uses no force or threat of force to rob you. So I fail to see a coherent theory arising here.


      8. All morality is necessarily social. A private morality makes no sense.

        Now, I understand why you are confused about my completely consistent model of morality, as most people do not understand what “universal” means, and how it can result in different outcomes.

        Morality is universal insofar as it is an internal prohibition against committing such acts against anyone you consider to be a fellow human being. Unfortunately, practically everyone on earth does not consider every other person to be a fellow human being. It even varies. A man will consider his wife a fellow human being unless he catches her cheating, at which point she becomes “a cheater,” and “a cheater” does not have the full features of a fellow human being. When you are robbed by someone, that person does not consider you a fellow human being. You are a mark, a victim. Which is why it’s easy for many to kill you if you don’t cooperate.

        And yes, there is dehumanizing going on in the legal system. It’s a ritual designed to dehumanize people. Otherwise we could not lock them away in cages or kill them when they are incapable of any kind of self-defense. You cannot kill a fellow human being. Ever. When you decide someone can die, you decided they aren’t like you.


      9. Human beings are not morally perfect. Therefore, being morally imperfect does not disqualify one from being a human being. A wife who cheats is still a human being, satisfying her wants and needs. Both the pickpocket and the victim are human beings, each earning their living in his own way.

        Black slaves, on the other hand, were not treated as human beings. It was against the law to teach them to read in some states. White people did not want to sit beside them or eat with them or use the same toilet or the same water fountain or the same schools. This was true racial prejudice.

        Greek slaves were treated as human beings. Often they would teach the arts and literature to the Roman master’s children. There was no racial prejudice here, just one country conquering another country, and rather than killing every man, woman, and child to prevent revenge, they made them their slaves.

        Except in the case of racial slavery, people were still treated as human beings, even when nations went to war with each other. Killing human beings was just a part of war. But it is probably true that the American Indians, blacks, and Asian workers in early America were treated as less than a human race.

        Being human is not a basis for morality. Humans are capable of evil as well as good. So we need some other criteria to say what is good and evil.

        For example, we call something “good” if it meets a real need that we have as an individual, as a society, or as a species. And something is wrong or bad if it unnecessarily harms another human being.


      10. You’re not understanding anything I’ve written. I never said humans had to be morally perfect. And it seems to me that your own egalitarian thinking is preventing you from understanding how the overwhelming majority of real human beings think. It’s a good thing that you’re an egalitarian thinker to this degree, but it does prevent you from understanding a word I’m saying on this issue.


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