Without taxes, society would devolve into chaos. There would be mass civil unrest. Roads would fall into disrepair. The public would be illiterate. People would be starving in the streets. Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!
I reject these arguments; and you should too if you believe prosperity is rooted in freedom.
Let us look at the nature of taxes. Taxes evolve and revolve around violence. If you believe in forced taxation, you must at some level believe that the proper way to solve society’s problems is through the use of violent action. Refusal to pay taxes results in violence just as paying your taxes results in violence. Paying taxes results in violence against “the other guy,” typically the minority view holder of any given political agenda. Rarely does it result in justified violence against someone who has directly harmed you in some way.
All government action derives from the point of a gun. When someone advocates any form of taxation, they believe the best way to solve the problem at hand is by putting a gun to another citizen’s head in order to loot him of his labor.
Is it moral and just if I were to enter a rich mans home in the middle of the night, put a gun to his head; rob him of his labor by stealing his money; take a portion of that money for myself; then hand the rest to a starving mother?
If everyone did this, would we be living in a civil and just society? If everyone did this, would it eliminate impoverished mothers? How often would we need to do this in order to eliminate impoverished mothers? Once? Twice? A thousand times over unending?
Can violence solve poverty?
The State spends vast sums of money promoting the idea that taxes are a duty. That patriotic American’s must fork over their labor to the anointed ones as only they can solve society’s problems with your money. That the answers to society’s problems lie in ever more laws and ever more taxes. That taxes are legitimate and that they serve the greater good.
I reject those arguments.
The Legitimacy of Federal Taxes:
I will approach this from a fairly unique view that is not often heard yet I feel represents the strongest basis for the rejection of federal taxation.
The founding fathers established the federal government to manage 17 specific areas of American general welfare. Those areas can be boiled down to defense against invasion, coinage of gold and silver brought to it by the public, and ensuring free trade among the states. The states constituted the federal government as a contract (a treaty) between themselves to manage general inter-state affairs.
The US Constitution, in the opening line that lays out the powers of Congress, states:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
The Constitution then goes on to list the 17 specific areas of legislation that define what constitutes the general welfare and common defense.
The legal argument is simple. Since the federal government is using my tax dollars outside of the 17 specific areas defined under Article 1 Section 8, the taxes collected are being used for illegal purposes and thus the laws requiring me to pay said taxes are null and void.
I could also argue that the Constitution itself is not binding on me. I never signed a binding contract abdicating my rights to the federal government. The Constitution’s legitimacy stems from its desire to protect the natural rights of the citizenry; to protect my rights from infringement by others. When government steps outside of this, it has lost its legitimacy.
The moral argument is just as simple. Since I have harmed no one, the government has no right to enact a punishment against me or use violence against me. Indeed the Constitution itself says “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Taxes deprive me of my property without due process.
Just as it is amoral for me to loot someone of their labor, so too is it amoral for government to engage in such action. By allowing government to engage in such action, we are implicitly agreeing that government has more rights than we do. That government’s right to my labor exceeds my own rights to that same labor. That government has a right to enslave me for its own designs. That politicians may spend debt on my behalf and hold me accountable for that debt by putting a gun to my head.
Society Without Taxation:
The Giving USA Foundation recently released a report stating that charitable giving had topped 300 billion in the US for 2008. To put 300 billion in perspective, the annual budget for all local, state, and federal spending in America during the year 1800 was 11 million. Adjusted for today’s inflation, that comes to 137,541,357 in 2008 dollars. According to the National Priorities Project, 137 million is half of what the US government is currently spending in ONE DAY fighting the “war on terror.” To summarize, in the year 1800, the entire US government operated on a budget two thousand times less than what American’s give freely in charity today.
An interesting fact about the year 1800 should be noted. Wiki cites this historical fact about the rise of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency:
By 1800 Americans were ready for change. Under Washington and Adams the Federalists had established a strong government, but sometimes failed to honor the principle that the American government must be responsive to the will of the people; they had followed policies that alienated large groups of Americans. For example, in 1798, to pay for the national debt and an army and navy, Adams and Federalists had enacted a tax on houses, land and slaves, affecting every property owner in the country. Worse, after a single instance of tax revolt (a mob having freed two tax evaders from prison), Adams ordered the U.S. Army into action to collect the taxes. While the army could find no one to fight, Democratic-Republicans seized on this action as another example of Federalist tyranny.
Jefferson had steadily gathered behind him a great mass of small farmers, shopkeepers and other workers which asserted themselves as Democratic-Republicans in the election of 1800. Jefferson enjoyed extraordinary favor because of his appeal to American idealism. In his inaugural address, the first such speech in the new capital of Washington, DC, he promised “a wise and frugal government” to preserve order among the inhabitants but would “leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry, and improvement”.
Charles Adams expounds:
When President Adams replaced Washington, he too as a strong Federalist, introduced the first direct tax, and like the Whiskey tax, it set off another tax revolt, this time in Eastern Pennsylvania. When tax assessors showed up in the various counties, an armed uprising followed. Some of the rebels were put in jail, and an auctioneer named John Fries showed up with a mob and got the men released. Adams called out the militia, Fries was arrested and tried for treason. His conviction and subsequent sentence to be hanged, was overturned by a pardon given by President Adams, against the unanimous advise of his cabinet. Adams felt it was not treason, but just a riot. That unpopular tax, along with the whiskey tax, added to the popular contempt for the Federalist Party.
Remember, the country was founded on the premise that standing armies represented a clear and present danger to the freedom of the country equally as much as the threat of foreign invasion.
Would society devolve into chaos if instead of mandated taxation, government was operated as a non-for profit charity? That the public gives freely what it feels the government deserves? That government must be responsive to the people or the people will simply remove its funding? As the budget of our government in 1800 suggests, I think America could get along just fine with an all-charity government constrained by the premise of natural rights. Perhaps rather than political parties, local, state, and federal governments were organized in to various charitable organizations. If one got out of line, the people would cease funding it and instead direct their charity to the later.
This is not the only alternative, its simply one I am presenting. When looking at history, its clear a functioning government could be well run by nothing more than charity. That taxes at the point of a gun are not necessary. The nation prospered well under such freedom in our past, and its entirely reasonable to think that without the massive burden and regulation of government today, the ensuing prosperity would be well enough based on charity alone to fund the defense of our rights and liberty.
The private market can meet almost all the needs of society voluntarily. People don’t need to have a gun put to their head in order for a road to be built. If there is a market need, someone will fund and create the road (and the cost of tolls for that road will be less than what we pay for in taxes now, and the road will be up-kept in superior fashion to what we get for our tax dollars). Indeed, what socialists declare are “necessities” that require government welfare at gun point could all be managed in a voluntary private market with similar superior results. No force necessary.
The economics of this are beyond the scope of this article, but clear rational logic leads us to the conclusion that society’s problems can not be solved at the point of a gun. Guns are only good for defense of our liberties and rights; they don’t work to resolve systemic societal issues.
After reading this article, I hope you take the time to consider where you stand.
-For tyranny or freedom.