Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Is taxation theft? Read and marvel as Keith Burgess Jackson offers a philisophical deconstruction of that question

As the philosopher Onora O'Neill has shown in "Which Are the Offers You Can't Refuse?" [1991], coercion is an acquired -- and in some cases a highly developed -- skill. The coercer must know, among other things, the value structure of the coercee. Most people value their lives more than their cash or credit cards, which is why robbers feel confident in the success of "Your money or your life." If you are suicidal, however, my imposed choice may not have its desired effect, in which case I have bungled the attempt. Another thing coercers need is credibility. If your threat to kill me is incredible, because, for example, you are brandishing an obviously nonfunctional gun, you will not succeed in appropriating my wallet.

Governmental taxing authorities are coercers, and their threats - as anyone who has been audited knows - are credible. They say, in effect, "Your money or your liberty." Most people value their liberty more than their property, so they grudgingly comply. It does begin to appear as though taxation is theft (or, more precisely, robbery, which is a special case of theft).

But perhaps we have gone too fast. We said that taxation is the taking of someone's property without right or permission. The word "right" is notoriously ambiguous.

.....In this context, the question is whether taxation violates people's rights. If it does, then it is a straightforward case of theft. If it doesn't, then it isn't.

We have reached the issue that divides libertarians (classical liberals) and socialists or modern liberals.

I don't think that the answer to this question can be an absolute "yes" and I don't think the author argues that, though he may come close. However this article certainly offers some interesting discussion points on the matter as well as debunking a common socialist argument favoring taxes for redistributive purposes. Read it all.


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