Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Taxation, Force, and Morality

Here’s some stupid horseshit I’ve been hearing a lot lately. This pops up a lot around tax time, or whenever we have an election coming up – this dumbfuck idea that taxes are “immoral.” You hear this shit a lot from the Libertarians and Arachno-capitalist types. The Logic goes like this:

A)      Initiating force against someone is always immoral.
B)      If you don’t pay your taxes, the government will use force to throw you in jail.
C)      Therefore, taxes are immoral.

This statement above is what is called a “sweeping generalization,” that is, it makes generalizations that disregard exceptions.  The first sign that this is a bullshit argument is that you can replace “taxes” with virtually anything and the statement reads the same. It is in most places in the world, a crime to not pay your taxes. Usually, when someone breaks the law there is some kind of punishment, be that jail time, fines, or whatever. Thus one could conceivably replace “taxes” with anything else that’s against the law and this statement still fits. You can even do it with shit that doesn’t even make sense and it still “sounds” true. Let’s replace “taxes” with “bananas.”

A)      Initiating force against someone is always immoral.
B)      If you don’t eat your bananas, the government will use force to throw you in jail.
C)      Therefore, bananas are immoral.

Holy crap, I never knew bananas were so evil. We must outlaw them and bomb Guatemala, Costa Rica, and any other place where they’re grown. Then we can all look back twenty years later after we’ve shredded the constitution over the “War on bananas” and wonder how it all went wrong.

Another problem with this horseshit statement is the “Affirming the consequent” fallacy. The problem here is that we are assuming that initiating force against someone is always immoral, however there are plenty of situations which this is not necessarily true. Most people accept that it is generally acceptable to use force in order to defend one’s self, but that’s not the only situation in which force can be justified. Force is also acceptable (in most cases) to prevent one from harming one’s self or others. It is also acceptable to a certain extent for a state to use force to uphold the rule of law. If there are no consequences associated with breaking a law, then the law itself is worthless. What the hell is the point of having the law if nothing happens when you break it?

If the citizenry has input into how the laws for a community are drafted and what they contain, how then is it immoral for the community to then use violence to enforce those laws? What, are you just going to politely ask child molesters and drug dealers and shit to stop what they’re doing? Do you think thieves and scam artists will just graciously agree to stop ripping people off, just because you asked them to? Bullshit – there have to be consequences for breaking the law. The principle is the same whether you break the speed limit or steal a car or massacre an entire family, or yes, even if you don’t pay your taxes. If there is no force behind an authority, then the authority itself becomes worthless.

Maybe that’s what these people are mad about. Maybe they’re pissed off because there are people out there who are legally able to compel them to do things like follow certain laws, and they’re acting all crybaby because some of those laws they don’t like – such as paying taxes. The only thing I can say to that is TOUGH SHIT. In this country you are represented when the laws are drafted. The law says you have to pay your taxes. You don’t like paying your taxes? Then vote to change the law. But don’t be giving me this “Taxes are thievery” BULLSHIT.

The problem with all of these Libertarian-arachno-captitalist theories about constructing a voluntary society is that they assume human beings will not take advantage of each other. People do not cooperate solely out of the goodness of their hearts. People only work together when it benefits themselves. Why do we have locks on our doors? Why do we have anti-virus programs, or keys for our cars, or security cameras or police officers? Because you will get ripped off. It’s not just the scumbag criminals either – it’s a part of human nature to bend if not break the rules when you think you can get away with it. What reason do we have to think basic human nature will change just because there isn't a police station nearby anymore?

The real world doesn’t work that way. This is all just bullshit people made up to get out of paying taxes. In real life, taxes are not thievery and force is not always immoral. What is immoral is taking advantage of a society’s protections without contributing back to the society in the form of taxes.

You don’t like paying taxes? Tough shit.


  1. The problem here, as I see it, is that you have the same typical misunderstanding of the Libertarian position, what confuses me is that you almost didn't make it. Let me explain.

    The Libertarian position is NOT a pacifist one. The factor being aggression, the initiation of force. You said:

    "The problem here is that we are assuming that INITIATING force against someone is always immoral, however there are plenty of situations which this is not necessarily true. Most people accept that it is generally acceptable to USE FORCE in order to DEFEND one’s self, but that’s not the only situation in which force can be justified."

    Hopefully this shows where you contradict yourself in your attempt to understand the principle. The INITIATION of force is immoral, i.e. to use force or violence when no one has
    used force or violence against you or your property.

    This is wholly different than using force to defend yourself or others from an aggressor, from a person initiating force or violence.


    This is why the Libertarian ideal of laws usually restricts laws to actions that injure someone, destroy their property, violating someones rights, etc. No one is saying that we should get rid of retribution for those who have initiated force or violence, or have violated the rights of others. Again the key here is the initiation, the aggression that is immoral. There are still consequences for breaking the law.

    The state is commonly used by one group of individuals to violate the rights of another, this is the historicity of the state. America has, in a sense, not been as subject to this as other states, but it is more and more every day.

    Patriot Act, Gay Marriage, Gun control, Abortion, Taxation, Voter ID laws, immigration, affirmative action, militarism, religion in schools, etc. etc. the list goes on.

    It's utterly disgusting to see one half of a society so vehemently lampoon and denigrate the other and then try to control them using the FORCE/COERCION of government.

    Is it not force when the government restricts gays from getting married by law?

    Is it not force when the government detains suspects without trial?

    Is it not force when the government breaks up unions?

    Why do you use "special pleading" for the instances where you agree with what government does? It's intellectually dishonest and shows the flawed assumptive nature behind the ideology that government is good if it does what I want it to do.

    The Non-Aggression principle (against the initiation of force) is a concept that creates an ideological consistency within the core ideals of Libertarianism, and your repeated intention to not understand it rather than refute it only makes it appear more sound.

  2. Well what I'm saying in this post, is that there are situations other than self defense in which the initiation of force is moral. One could probably make the argument that those examples you cite (outlawing gay marriage, breaking up unions, holding people without trials) can be considered "initiating force." In that sense however not paying your taxes when you are represented in how the tax law is drafted can also be considered initiating force, thus when the G-Men come to haul you away for tax evasion they aren't "stealing" from you. You, by not paying your taxes, are breaking the law, and thus you are the one who initiated the conflict.

    But regardless, I don't think taxation falls under the same category as banning gay marriage, or holding/executing people without trials. Those things unfairly remove intrinsic rights, while taxation deals with shared responsibility of creating a society. If you live in a country, then you have to contribute to the upkeep of said country's government in accordance with the laws set down by the citizens who live there. It's a bid difference between that, and say selectively removing the rights of a certain subset of citizens based on race, gender, or sexual orientation.

    So no, I don't think taxes are thievery, and I don't think it's wrong that tax evaders go to prison.

  3. "You, by not paying your taxes, are breaking the law, and thus you are the one who initiated the conflict."

    Government could easily pass a law saying that cherry popsicles are illegal, that wouldn't change the fact that eating a cherry popsicle, in no way, can be considered initiating force or conflict. The question is the morality of being able to take from someone what they deem it unnecessary to give.

    "In that sense however not paying your taxes when you are represented in how the tax law is drafted"

    I think you know that argument to be bullshit. If it had any credibility than you could not complain about subsidies to corporations, citizens united, marijuana prohibition, anti immigration laws, etc. since you were "represented". And yes I would say that taking someones money under the threat of force is violating their rights to their own property.

    I didn't think I'd change your mind or anything, Initially I just wanted to clarify the Libertarian position on what the initiation of force is and why self defense is justified.

  4. Well that's not much of an example. Obviously outlawing something harmless like that when there is no good reason would be extreme. But let's say there was a cartel putting crack into Cherry popsicles, and so the people, in their naive attempt to do something about it, outlaws said popsicles. Let's then say that an underground black market in "Red Ice" forms, with pushers selling them to little kids and such. Thus selling popsicles in this case when it's against the law can in fact be "initiating force." It's not the act in and of itself which is immoral, it's the consequences of the act.

    Didn't say you couldn't complain about the law, and I'm also not saying that "all laws are not immoral." But I am saying that spreading the cost of the upkeep of society through taxation is not immoral, nor is it theft. In fact, I would say you are morally obliged to contribute to the maintenance of your society, and anyone who doesn't is the one who's really "stealing." Why is it ok for one person to live in a society and not pay taxes but not another?

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  6. Extreme examples are the staple of the Anarcho-Capitalist movement. They use the example of "Well what if they outlawed [something perfectly harmless and acceptable to do or consume without any adverse consequences whatsoever for it's simple usage or consumption], you would be initiating force by doing or consuming it. See how ridiculous your reasoning is?"

    It doesn't demonstrate anything of the kind. It demonstrates simply their inability to see that it is not the drafting of laws that is ridiculous, but the drafting of frivolous laws that is ridiculous. If someone drafted a law banning popsicles, then that would be ridiculous, but it doesn't in any way, shape, or form, mean that having laws to collect revenue in the form of taxes is ridiculous or immoral, any more than it is ridiculous or immoral to have laws that ban piople from driving their cars over 100 miles an hour in an urban city environment.

    Follow this up with sweeping generalisations and you have the perfect framework for the AnCap position that law is not legitimate, taxes should be completely voluntary, and that regulations are bad, evil, etcetc, and the Free Market is god!

    If these people were reasonable, they would see how ridiculous their argument was.