I’ve always laughed off the “taxation is theft” mantra as silly (because it is), but lately it has been popping up more and more on the social media feeds of people I know are intelligent, caring, quality people. So I felt I had to say something. No surprise there, right?
OK, so, from the best I can understand it, this is a centuries old concept that can be boiled down to “I didn’t agree to give you my money, so you taking it makes it theft.” It is often equated to robbery like in Murray Rothbard’s 1982 book The Ethics of Liberty
“Just as no one is morally required to answer a robber truthfully when he asks if there are any valuables in one’s house, so no one can be morally required to answer truthfully similar questions asked by the state, e.g., when filling out income tax returns.”Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty
But, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, there’s a rather glaring hole in that logic. The robber is going to take that money and use it for himself. Your taxes will go toward the “greater good”.
Yes, I hate that phrase too. But it’s the most appropriate one in this case. Your taxes go to schools, roads, public safety, etc. etc. etc. You know this. You know this. And yet this “taxation is theft” thing persists.
The reality is, tax evasion is theft. Because then you’re driving on the streets, your kids go to the schools, you’re protected by the police (an argument for another time), your business ships its products on the highways, you can flush the toilet in your home/business without paying for it. That, sir, is theft.
As a tax evader, you’re saying you benefit from all your country provides for you and/or your business, and has provided in the past, but you don’t think you need to pay for it. You’re special, apparently, and the rules don’t apply to you. And, interestingly enough, being a leech on society makes you some kind of hero in your mind… somehow. I can’t really follow that logic.
Oh, but I provide services and goods to society, so I’m not a drain, I’m a positive influence! Ha! Wrong. You, like the robber in Mr. Rothbard’s poorly conceived scenario above, are doing it for yourself. Just you. You aren’t providing goods to society, you’re selling stuff so you can make money and get what you want. That’s a big difference. Motivations matter.
Yes, your goods and services may benefit the public, but that isn’t why you’re doing it. Heck, that robber and others like him means police have a job, they indirectly sell security systems, they mean you’re going to go out and spend some money to replace your stolen TV. So, by your logic, they’re stimulating the economy.
But we all know that’s moronic, so I’m not going to dignify it with any more lines.
Legal taxation by a representative government that takes care of its citizens is not theft. Now, if you want to argue that our government is not representative or it spends more time taking care of itself that its citizens? Well then we can have a logical, adult conversation. But blanket statements like “taxation is theft” will get the door closed in your face.
So, to wrap things up with my standard rallying cry, if you believe “taxation is theft”, then demand better of the government that is spending your money. Opting out is not an option, that just hurts everyone around you. It’s lazy, foolish, and it won’t make anything better for anyone but (maybe) you. Demand better of your government, of your tax dollars, and of yourself.