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Benefitting From Taxation Does Not Make it O.K.

State-lovers will often say that taxation is justifiable because of the benefits we receive, but their fallacy-ridden argument is wrong.

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By Andrew Lepore | USA

Pretty much all libertarians are familiar with the fact that taxation is theft, as well as the moral arguments surrounding that fact. After all, the definition of theft from The American encyclopedia of law states “(theft is) the generic term for all crimes in which a person intentionally and fraudulently takes personal property of another without permission or consent and with the intent to convert it to the taker’s use”. This objective fact is clear, and proponents of taxation don’t dare to question the legal definition of theft, but they do have some tricks up their sleeves to try to finagle justification for their beloved government subsidized programs.

The first of their ideas being the idea that every person in society, by simply existing, has signed a magical, non-existent social contract legally binding them to obey all measures of the state to every possible extent. With a basic knowledge of what a contract is, this concept is easily debunked. Once it becomes apparent that the statists have no principled legal argument to justify taxation, they will most likely resort to claiming involuntary taxation is a justified transaction due to the fact that the taxpayer will “benefit” from tax-subsidized programs. In other words, they’re saying that it is completely morally justified to take your money at gunpoint with the threat of jail time because you may in some way benefit. This justification is laughable for many reasons.

The popular opinion about taxation is much closer to a fairy tale than objective truth. It’s that everybody pays in their fair share and everybody receives their fair share (relative to income in many cases). The popular opinion is that we are better off with taxation than without it. The fact that the state has not given you a choice in the matter renders the question of if we really do benefit irrelevant. This justification so often used by statists is not only morally absurd but flies in the face of economic reality. What classifies a legal transaction is a consensual agreement between a buyer and a seller to exchange goods or services, both parties will only rationally enter into such an agreement if they perceive themselves to be better off after making the trade than before it. The basic economic principle of cost-benefit analysis shows us that rational people will only act if the benefit of that action outweighs the cost of that action.

In other words, the only reason a rational person would make a purchase is if the benefit they receive from the purchase is of more value than the cost of the purchase. For example, you have 5$ and an empty stomach. You go to McDonald’s. to buy a burger with your 5$. The only reason you would make that purchase is that you have determined that having a full stomach is of more value to you than that 5$ at that time. This may seem like common sense, but obviously not to everyone. This simple economic thought experiment debunks the morality of involuntarily taking from taxpayers. But more-so it proves that taxation is, in fact, a scam. If taxation wasn’t a scam, if society really does benefit more than they lose from taxation, there would be no need for it to be compulsory. If the benefit of government programs really outweigh the cost which taxpayers pay in, not only would it not need to be compulsory, people would want to pay into the system as it would benefit them more than not paying in.

To use a crude reductio ad absurdum in order to demonstrate the irrationality of this idea when looked at logically, consider this. You run a local business and you’re doing pretty well for yourself. One day you are doing your normal business when Jimmy and the greaser gang show up. Jimmy makes you an offer, “every Saturday I’m going to come and collect 50% of your weekly profits, but in exchange, we’re gonna offer you protection from those pesky oriental gang bangers down the street.” After thinking about it, you know you can hire professional security who will actually be adherent and liable for a fraction of the cost which Jimmy put forth, so you immediately reject his deal. Jimmy laughs. “This isn’t optional. You live in my territory, don’t you? You must adhere to my social contract. Have my money every week your we’re gonna break your kneecaps and throw you to rot in a cage”. Now by statist logic, this extortion is completely justified as you receive a benefit from it.

To them It doesn’t matter that the value of the benefit you received was far less than the value of the money that was extorted; all that matters is you get some form of abstract, immaterial benefit out of somebody violently extorting you. Statists would tell you that you should be grateful for the greaser gang for providing you with protection, they would say if you don’t like it why don’t you move to some other gangs territory.

When it gets down to it, that is all that government is: a gang.

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  1. […] government uses a form of coercion in the same way that the man coerced you. Andrew Lepore writes a fantastic article which really delves into why just because you or somebody else benefits from taxation doesn’t […]

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