If I were to begin writing about taxation I’m not certain where I’d start. Taxation is theft? Legal plunder? Representation? Let’s start with breaking down the practical reality of taxation before we weigh moral concerns.
Let’s skip the dry academics and go straight to the Beatles’ song.
It covers the various ways that the government taxes you. I’ll break down the simplest ways as I consider it. Taxation is about the government, an agency of men, devised by men, operate certain functions for and of the nation-state, the city-state, using coercion to derive otherwise free citizens of capital, money, to provide revenue for the functions of the nation-state, the city-state, from here on referred to as the State. To a healthy extent taxation is a good thing, as it is a peaceful means of funding a wholly necessary evil. We can emphasize the evil of government anytime, but at healthy times we emphasize the necessity so we have an effective contrast to bad public policy. Bad public policy is likely more common that good public policy and even when there are indisputable functions of the State, to what end is always disputable.
Simply put the sorts of taxation are as such:
- income tax is where they tax you for earning, getting, taking, winning, receiving
- sales tax is where they tax you for spending, buying, parting with
- property tax is where they tax you just for owning, having, holding, possessing, essentially living
One way or another they find a way to part you with the money you have earned. That to a large extent your separation from your earnings is unwilling is why it’s properly called legal plunder but that is best left to be explored further at a later point.
Income tax and property tax are certainly legal plunder because they are the very methods of taxation that occur through coercion, that is a threat of imprisonment or violence, force. Taxation is not theft. Taxation is, at best, a price willfully paid for living in a society with other people. The inherent contradiction is simple. You have no choice but to pay taxes, so there is no free will involved, but you freely choose to live in a place that demands you pay taxes. I enjoy that sort of paradox but I don’t like the means through which we pay taxes.
Sales tax, on the other hand, is a consumption tax, and one of many possible ones inflicted. We choose to pay a consumption tax by choosing to purchase goods and services. If we don’t purchase a particular good or service then in that manner we choose not to pay a specific consumption tax. Let’s not be too stupid, as we know that many of us need an automobile. To drive that automobile we need to purchase gasoline and in many states gasoline has a specific tax. Owning a car generally means a property tax of some sort, an owner’s fee or a license renewal fee. These fees are certainly taxes. The sheer amount of taxes an American citizen can be hit with on a given day, year, or even product varies by geography, community, and levels of government that he or she is compelled to submit to.
I will not be comprehensive.
Another easy and essentially dichotomous classification for taxation, the easiest in fact, is that most taxation occurs upon the transfer of property, goods and services; the property tax, ironically, is solely for possession.
This opens the series on taxation. I’m not quite sure how I far I intend to seek and I’m certainly no economist. That said, I am a political philosopher and therefore you should listen to me, read all my stuff, and buy my things from my Amazon Wish List.
Ultimately Apologies Demanded is imagined to be a sort of book and that was an intention from years back. In that vein taxation is a necessary topic. Taxes are a tool and the burden of taxation needs to be addressed as well and how revenue is used is part of the debate of the roll of government.
The Taxation series examines, in no particular order,
- estate tax, also known as the death tax, which is another tax on the transfer of property
- the super lame meme “Taxation is Theft”, which is super lame, and apparently predates viral images
- No Taxation Without Representation
- Legal Plunder, the concept codified and clarified by Frederic Bastiat.
- the invasive nature of the April 15 tax code
- the virtues and horrors of the consumption tax
- the Scientologists’ war on the Internal Revenue Service
You have something to look forward to reading. This will probably take a year or so.
I’m going to use some of these resources in the future:
- an overview, definition and examination of theft as a concept itself
- the aimless and nearly useless account of “taxation is theft” as a meme by Know Your Meme
- when I googled the phrase “Taxation is theft” searching for the most relevant article, the search engine presented this near-paranoid screed by highly regarded judicial personality Andrew Napolitano. I like Judge Napolitano but I don’t buy into this notion that compulsion by force equals theft however
- Bastiat convinced me ten years ago of the concepts of lawful plunder and legal plunder.
Some light reading on the matter: