I used to work in a restaurant as a waiter when I was a kid. I remember one day a family had come into the restaurant and was feeding their kids from the buffet line, but had not paid for the buffet. I overheard one of the waitstaff discussing this with the general manager, and I’ll never forget the manager’s response. She said, “If they need the food that badly, let them eat it.”
In my mind, the first thing I would have done was confront the family, demanded payment, and probably threaten police action if they refused. Would I have been right to do so? Legally perhaps, but stepping back from the situation, think of the chaos that would have caused the children. Dad and mom getting arrested, massive legal bills, possible job loss from whatever crumby job they were working at, etc.. etc.. nothing good for those kids would come of it. While the GM certainly wasn’t in the business of running a charity (she was a whip cracker), she was not a heartless witch either.
Is it possible for a person to be truly charitable if they are forced to be charitable? In the case of the restaurant family, they didn’t threaten anyone with violence and the manager certainly could have stopped them from dining on the food they took, but in that instance, the manager chose to be “truly” charitable.
Consider if the police came and told the manager that she must feed the family or go to jail! Wouldn’t that rob the manager of her opportunity to be charitable? Isn’t that what taxation is all about? Robbing good people of their opportunity to be truly good? I think taxation smashes real altruism. It is easy to be “altruistic” with the sweat and labor of others, it is quite another to be altruistic with your own sweat and labor.
The initiation or threat of force here is the key concept behind the destruction of real charity that I want to highlight. If a person is threatened into giving up their own sweat and labor, then there can be no real charity. There can be no true altruistic acts of kindness if the “giving” is under threat of force. Further, consider that in order to have true charitable giving, property rights must exist. Charitable giving and altruism are impossible if one doesn’t have the right to own the product of one’s labor in the first place. Slaves can not charitably give the product of their labor to their master, since their master already owns the product of their labor.
Switching gears, allow me to get back to the title of the article. Loving others as you love yourself. Would you do harm to yourself if you didn’t freely give the product of your labor to community projects? If you were on trial for tax evasion, and the jury consisted of you, what punishment would you give yourself? Would you fine yourself $100,000 and lock yourself in a cage for five years? What if it was your mother who was on trial and you were in the jury box? Would you visit harm upon your own mother for her failure to be “charitable?”
Loving your neighbor as yourself means respecting your neighbors property and not wishing harm to befall him should he chose to spend it as he sees fit rather than how you think he should spend it. Loving your neighbor as yourself means refusing to support a system of violent theft that is used to fund wars, bailouts, cronyism, no-bid contracts, coercively imposed currency, business subsidies, and useless jobs that provide nothing to improve the condition of humanity.
If you are a grandparent, would you send one of your grandchildren to prison over refusing to pay into social security? Do you think it is morally just that the State should take from your grandchildren to fund your retirement? If you support “social security”, what kind of security are you providing your grandchildren in return for the product of their labor?
Would you visit harm upon your neighbor if you thought he might be keeping more of his own money for himself than the State says he should keep? Would you report him for tax evasion? If so, is it because you feel a twinge of jealousy; that he should not get to keep the product of his own labor if you can’t? Think of what that restaurant manager would do. Is it right to visit harm upon another’s family for the heinous crime of keeping their own property? What if it was one of your family members whom you suspected of tax evasion?
Loving your neighbor as yourself precludes a system of violent taxation. One can not truly love their neighbor as they love themselves if they would visit harm upon them in anyway what-so-ever, and one can not truly love one’s self if one would do harm to one’s self in anyway what-so-ever.