Concretizing "Taxation Is Theft"

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Some time back, via Capitalism Magazine, I saw reference to an interesting Financial Times piece titled, "There's Nothing 'Immoral' About Avoiding Taxes, but the Beatings Will Continue." Within the piece, author Kevin Libin demonstrates that most people do not possess a conceptual grasp of property rights. Libin does so by noting the contradiction most people hold regarding taxation by means of the following thought experiment:

...If one person confronts you demanding your money under threat, that's plainly robbery. But what if it's three people? Okay: still robbery. Now, what if it's 10, and they first hold a vote to take your cash? Maybe they offer you a vote, too, but you're in the minority. What if it's 1,000 people and they give some of your money to a soup kitchen? Maybe they give a portion of the money back to you. And offer you a bowl of soup, too. Now, think of many more people instead sending you a bill for the money, with their threat for non-compliance still clearly implied.

It's not hard to see the point: Somewhere, when the number of people involved gets large enough -- and the leaders bear titles like MP or premier or judge -- the act of forcing individuals to cough up dough, framed as helping others, blurs from theft to legitimate taxation. Somehow it's even seen as virtuous that we should all pay our share...
This is both (1) a good way to demonstrate the contradiction inherent in wanting to own something and favoring taxation, and (2) an easy point at which to help others see the role of altruism in getting them to accept the contradiction. By extension, it might provide a good jumping-off point in helping elucidate the fact that altruism is exactly the opposite kind of morality on which to base advocacy for liberty.

-- CAV


Vigilis said...

Gus, regarding "There's Nothing 'Immoral' About Avoiding Taxes,..."

Did Kevin Libin even consider some formidable legal support for tax avoidance?
Just one example:

"Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as
possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the
treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one's taxes.
Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister
in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone
does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any
public duty to pay more than the law demands." - Judge Learned Hand
(1872-1961), Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals, in Gregory v. Helvering

In an era in which cartel thugs like "El Chapo" can be reknowned for
donations to assist some law-abiding indigents and the Clinton Foundation
may have rewarded some of its "charitable" donors more than Haiti's earthquake
squatters, any altruism contradiction is a bit too obscure for the average
taxpayer to consider much less recognize.

Gus Van Horn said...


Libin isn't concerned with the fact that the law (at least) doesn't require us to go out of our way to pay higher taxes. He is concerned with whether there should be taxes at all. Since his question is normative, it follows that we should discuss ethics. And, as far as ethics is concerned, what assorted low-lifes do with the money they come across is irrelevant, regardless of the motives they want us to ascribe to them.

Regarding the legal support for (partial) tax avoidance, that is actually one of the most insulting and despicable aspects of our tax code (withholding and "refunds" is another). Such arguments permit almost everyone to pretend to themselves they are getting some kind of deal when, in fact, they are still being robbed. Perhaps Libin might approve of this example: You get held up in an alley and are made to dump you wallet into a sack. Then, before you are released, your robber hands you back a twenty and a credit card or two, saying, "I really could use some more money, but feel free to keep this."