Question two is thus:
How shall we rob them to protect their private property?
I know it’s a a bit cliche, but that doesn’t make it untrue:
Taxation is theft.
Most of us reject this assertion as merely the screed of crazy anarchists. It’s just them barking. Everyone knows that we must have taxes…even the most hardened libertarians, and certainly conservatives, have zero problem with taxation in principle. Heck, we are reminded that even Jesus didn’t outright condemn Caesar’s tax (however, he did not pay it out of his labor, but out of a fish…who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?). If God doesn’t have a problem with taxation, then surely it must be reasonable, and more than that, entirely moral.
Well, I’m not convinced that God ever actually affirms taxation anymore than he ever actually affirms slavery, or war, or a host of other various state institutions in the Old and/or New Testaments, but that’s a different discussion.
At any rate, here is why taxation is theft…and it is the thing which is most downplayed by defenders and apologists:
When it coms to paying your taxes, you have no choice.
This alone is proof of theft. If someone claims a right to your property whether you want to give it to them or not, then this person is a thief, period. Give it any euphemistic title you want; couch it within the auspices of as many grand and ancient institutions as you like; puff it up with non sequiturs like “representation” and “constitutional rights” and “free elections” until the cows come home, it doesn’t change the fact that taking your property regardless of your will is theft.
Unfortunately, Volunteerism/Anarchism is simply a non-starter when it comes to the vast majority of political options. The fetishization of natural (metaphysical) human insufficiency has become, over millennia, a casual acceptance of some mystical yet axiomatic existential need of the masses to be enslaved and controlled by other, much smaller numbers of human beings. This means that government is axiomatic, even a-priori, to human existence; and this, of course, means taxation. In other words, the reason taxation is given a moral pass where other flavors of theft are not is because taxation is inexorably connected to the perceived basic existential need of man to be governed. That is, without the ruling class, humanity must necessarily go extinct, because the nature of man is such that he is fundamentally incapable of governing himself as an individual.
The very insufficient nature of man to execute and promote his own existence means that he must be governed—that is, coerced, fundamentally, by a governing Authority. How it is that man, being insufficient to his own existence, can decide which other existentially insufficient men shall rule over him…well, all such rulers are always in some sense “divinely” appointed, hence the completely mystical roots of all governments. At any rate, as far as the metaphysics go then, we must have some version of the State, and therefore we must have some version of taxation, because there must be some way for the state to acquire the funds with which to execute its duties, and therefore we are told that taxation simply cannot be theft because without the state to rule over men, men wouldn’t, or couldn’t, exist in the first place. However, the claim that the government is needed so that man can exist in the first place is really to claim the that the government must be man for man. Or rather more precisely put, the state doesn’t affirm man, it seeks to possess him and thus it nullifies him. Man must inevitably function as a direct and absolute extension of the state…and this ends up making the government-citizen relationship merely that of slave-master.
From these metaphysical roots of government we can see that though one may claim theft is immoral, the argument against this will take some form of: morality only exists in the first place because the government makes human life possible. The government cannot be acting against that which is, in short, a direct function of itself. In other words, your very life is a direct function of the state…without the state, you cannot exist. Ergo, the state is you, for you. Taxation cannot be theft because the state cannot steal from itself.
Sound crazy? It should, because it is…nevertheless these ideas are at the root of government, and therefore taxation. You are merely an extension of the state. The government utterly owns you, because your existence at root is in actuality its existence; and again, the government cannot steal from what it already owns. Alakazaam, poof! as my friend John Immel says, taxation is moral.
Now, you’d think that with all of the copious amounts of evidence of the object failure of governments—the wars, famines, exploitations, holocausts, slavery, mass murder, pervasive corruption—it would be a bit easier to convince people that this “logic” to which they have been subjected for thousands and thousands of years is a lie, but alas, it is near impossible. People are committed almost immovably to the idea that government is inexorability and inalienably tied to their own life in sum and substance. It is a hill they will die on…and millions, if not billions, have.
So, yes, because we simply must have the state, we must have taxation, so we believe.
Now, many times people are not without conceding to some extent that taxation is not particularly pleasant, nor convenient, and that taxes are too high and could and should be lower. They might even concede that the proclivity of taxation to rapidly become overbearing, inefficient, and outright wasteful might make it in some sense evil. However, they would prefer to call it a “necessary evil”.
Yeah, about that.
The difference,between too much tax and just the right about amount of tax…the difference between the morality of taxation and the immortality of taxation…the difference between the “necessary evil” of taxation and the actually evil evil of taxation is simply the irrational and meaningless question of “how much?” But this is not how morality works, of course. Morality is not a sliding scale. Something is either evil or it is not. Something is either up or down, left or right, this or that, yes or no…to make opposites a function of some sliding scale means that at the point along the continuum where they meet they become “both” and “neither”. In other words, where good and evil meet they contradict each other, which actually nullifies the entire scale. So, no, taxation, like anything else labeled as such, is not a “necessary evil”. It is either evil or it is good.
If it’s good, then so must any government commandeering of any or all your private property, because what you own, you own. You do not own some of your property and not own the rest of it…this is a contradiction. So if the state can claim a right to own any and all of what you earned, this of course means that there is no such thing as private property at all. The government owns everything, and thus the government owns you. If you do not own the product of your own labor then that which you use to do that labor, your body and your mind, is likewise by logical extension not your own. Again, the metaphysics of government mean that you don’t really exist. Which is why you have no property, not even yourself. The government owns everything; and it is thus the only thing that owns anything. Ironically this means that the government doesn’t actually tax anyone since there is no one else as far as it is concerned, and therefore there is no private property, but that’s by the by.
If taxation is evil then the state is not legitimate and thus, for all efficacious and practical purposes, it does not exist. The purpose of the state is to own everything and therefore to become everyone and everything. Which means that there can be no real distinction between that which the state is and that which it is not, in which case it cannot be defined, and therefore cannot be said to be anything at all.
Either way, taxation is an utterly irrational, impossible, futile ideal and institution. It can neither promote nor affirm the individual and can achieve no outcome except that of chaos and destruction. Taxation is a square circle…try as we might, no such thing can really be produced. The codification and institution of “legalized theft” is a meaningless endeavor which can never achieve anything except the obliteration of anyone or anything which attempts to implement it.
Taxation is a blank check the ruling class writes to itself. Taking a cursory look back at the history of mankind, does that seem like a recipe for success?
Still, there are many, many true believers out there, left, right, and center of the political continuum. Taxation can work, they insist,…we just need to find the right amount. If we can just answer the question of how much theft is “good” theft and how much is bad, then we could have an effective and moral tax system. How much theft is not really theft, and how much is actually theft…answering that is the key. The fact that such a stupid and illogical question can have no answer because it’s not a real question seems to be beside the pint.
Yes, this IS literally the question with which they wrestle, though they may not, or may not be able, to put it in so many words.
Let me ask: At what point do we decide that one owns his property but also does not own it?
This is a question that cannot be answered, because it is absurd. It is either your property or it is not, period. To put taxation on a sliding moral scale is nonsensical, because it is to claim that there is some point where your property can be considered also not your property., and thus subject to government commandeering, To put taxation in the category of “necessary evil”, is to claim that at some point taxation becomes theft where it wasn’t before. But how do you divide that baby, so to speak? At what point can your private property that you earned become to some degree or percentage that which you did not in fact earn…and further, who gets to decide?
That’s funny, because if you could decide for yourself how much it should reasonably and morally cost for you to be controlled then you wouldn’t need to be controlled and thus there would be no need for government in the first place; and therefore you wouldn’t need taxing and thus the question is entirely moot.
Allow me to beat the dead horse of “necessary evil” a bit longer. As one who despises logical fallacy and therefore despises contradiction (I submit that all logical fallacies are simply contradictions at root) I feel I must exhaustively emphasize the logical failure of this aphorism.
I’ve heard, as I’m sure you have, “necessary evil” a million times to excuse all manner of moral atrocity, from war to taxation to public school, to government itself, and I am positively apoplectic at how such a nonsensical assertion passes for reason so often with so many people. It is an indication of how far humanity has lost itself to the lie that up can also be down, one can be zero, the square can be the circle.
Look, you simply cannot practically or meaningfully apply contradiction. That which is contradictory to reality is impossible. You cannot have a “necessary evil” because all this is is the assertion that what is evil is simultaneously what is good.
This is a lie. If it’s good, then by definition it’s not evil, and vice versa. If it’s necessary to a good end, then it is a good thing, not an evil thing. It cannot be both. Period. You cannot have a square circle, an up which is down, a black which is white, a yes which is no, a trinity which is a singularity (a three which is one)…and you cannot have a good which is evil…and do you know what else you cannot have? Cooperative theft, which is what we are claiming when we say that taxation is simply the necessary action of a benevolent state working for the good of the individual. Once the state decides that it has a right to your property, then it becomes a thief, period. If the government possesses the authority to take your property against your will, which is precisely what taxation is, then it is not a benevolent state simply cooperating with the people to achieve a free society, it is a rapacious ruling class expanding its own power and wealth at the expense of the masses.
A contradiction is the fundamental assertion, in its most basic form, that what IS also and simultaneously IS NOT. Whenever I mention contradiction as something like saying that up cannot be down, or left cannot be right, I know that someone is thinking ‘left can be right or up can be down depending on the frame of reference, so, yes, in fact left can also be right and up can also be down. A left turn to me will look like a right turn for someone looking from the opposite frame of reference.’
This is not what I’m talking about; this is not contradiction. What a contradiction is is the assertion that something IS and also IS NOT simultaneously. That is, from all conceptual (abstract), and/or observational frames of reference, at all times. In other words, it is the idea that you can observe, from your singular conscious frame of reference, at all times, that X is also Y; A is also B. Of course, no such thing is possible…if I gave you a thousand years you could not possibly, in picture or word, imagine such a thing. It is utterly impossible for you to imagine that something both is and is not, simultaneously, from the singular frame of reference of your mind’s eye.
Do you know why this is…why no one, anywhere, of any intelligence, can do such a thing? It is because contradiction is the antithesis of consciousness. The ability to conceptualize, simultaneously, IS and IS NOT contradicts conceptualization…which is the root of consciousness. The ability to conceptualize perception into language demands that concepts are not mutually exclusive. Rather, conceptual consistency is that which must necessarily flow from conceptualization. Conceptual consistency is how ideas are formed and successfully communicated. Should concepts contradict, ideas are utterly impossible. Without conceptual consistency, there can be no ideas, and thus no meaning and thus no truth. Which makes consciousness—the being aware of you and that which is around you, and thus the distinction between what is you and what is your environment, and conceptually what is you and what is NOT you, and thus how to manifest yourself within that environment by naming and valuing You and NOT You, such as “you” as opposed to your “environment”—fundamentally irrelevant. If consciousness exists, and conceptualization is real, then contradiction must be purely ideological at best. It’s never a real thing, so to speak..
In short, if contradiction is real then your consciousness is nullified, in which case, you simply wouldn’t exist to notice that contradiction is real.
I know this is all quite long-winded, but it is important that we tease these things out so that we can understand why something like “necessary evil” is not merely a cute little saying but rather a philosophical rationale which leads to all kinds of moral and practical horrors like the ability of the state to take money from its citizens by what is, at root, fraud and violence, and to at least implicitly, but often explicitly, claim that it has some divine, transcendent authority to do so—and this is because the state is a contradiction, and only by appealing to the “divine” can the cognitive dissonance pass for “truth”, even if the divine Ideal is simply “the People”, or “We the people”.
Taxation is the state taking your property from you without your consent. That’s what it is; and taking your property without your consent is theft.
“But, Argo”, you might protest. “I don’t mind the government taxing me. I am happy to do my part and pay my taxes…since I willingly pay, it cannot be theft, right?”
If you don’t mind, then you are right, it is not theft…but it’s also not taxation. It’s cooperation. Cooperation and government are by definition mutually exclusive. People who cooperate are not governed. Cooperation is exclusive of force, and therefore exclusive of authority, and therefore exclusive of government, and therefore exclusive of taxation. To attempt to square the circle by claiming that taxation is not theft because you don’t mind, or even enjoy, paying your taxes doesn’t really work. Because it’s not up to you anyway. That is, your statement that you don’t mind being taxed is a complete non-sequitur. The state doesn’t care whether you mind or not…that’s the point. Because to the state, what is the difference? Whether you care or not, what you want or not, what you think or don’t think about taxation is completely irrelevant. They are going to take your property. The thief doesn’t spend any amount of time giving a shit whether or not you care if they take your stuff, and neither, ultimately, does the state. The ruling class may sedate you with the bromide of “representative government’ or “free elections” or “constitutional rights”, but this isn’t because they care what you think, it’s all about making it easier for themselves. Sorry if that sounds so awfully cynical…it’s not actually cynicism, it’s realism. Because it doesn’t matter how kind or noble or altruistic or benevolent any given politician might be, the fundamental nature of the state is utterly antagonistic to individual life, liberty, and property. It is entirely metaphysical. No politician thus has any choice in the matter…that is, ultimately they shall treat you like a slave to be exploited…a means to their own end. The government can only, by its very root nature, work in service its own limitless self-expansion and insatiable appetite for power at the expense of everything and everyone else, period. No master, no matter how benevolent and kind, can truly cooperate with his slaves, because that is simply not the nature of the institution.
On that note, let’s talk about “free elections” for a moment, as often you will hear people say something like, “we can always change the system (including taxation) by voting for different people.”
To say that in a benevolent governmental system you “freely elect” the your leaders is, again, the smuggling of contradiction into the argument. You cannot freely elect one who is to be in authority over you, in the same way a slave cannot freely elect his master…and even if he could, he’d still be a slave. The idea that having a different master makes you less of a slave is laughably ridiculous.
This relates to taxation this way…that is, the minarchist argument is something like: if we only have to pay X amount of tax if we elect authority A, then taxation is fine. We will pay only a small amount, covering just the basic government functions.
LOL…as if you get to decide what your authority’s functions are. As if the slave dictates terms to his master. Moreover, this is like stating that if a thief only takes your lawn mower but not your car then he is not really a thief. I submit that the thief who realizes he can take your lawnmower without any repercussions will soon realize that he can also take your car…and where will you draw the line? By what logic? You own both of them, but to say that to take the lawn mower against your will is fine but not the car is is to split the idea of “ownership”. You own the car, but the lawnmower you only sort of own….you own it but you don’t. X is also Y. IS is also IS NOT. Nonsense.
The truth is that you either own both or you own neither. If the thief can take one by some “rationale” that he has concocted in his little criminal mind then he can also take the other, and he will.
If you say you don’t mind if the thief takes the lawn mower and/or the car, and you strike some kind of accord with him, well then, he’s not actually a thief. He’s not taking anything by force…you are volunteering to give it to him…you are cooperating. He is no longer presuming some ineffable, inexplicable, mystical, divine “right” to take your mower whether you like it or not. He doesn’t pretend to be in some kind ot authority . This is voluntary value exchange, not some kind of fantastical admixture of theft and cooperation.
We play these games with taxation. We say we don’t mind, but if we don’t mind then its not taxation. There need to be no tax laws. It’s just good old fashioned cooepration. The very fact that there are tax laws and that if you don’t pay your taxes you get punished should be all the evidence you need to see that there is nothing moral nor rational about taxation. It’s theft. Period. Full stop. Cliche or not.
The benevolent government steals from us in order to protect, promote, perpetuate, and preserve our right to private property.
How’s that been working out for us?