Taxation and Nationalization are Both Armed Robbery

L.A. Bank Robbery

Some love a vigorous exchange of ideas, while others dare not speak too much for fear of revealing the contradictions in their own thinking. I ran into an example of the latter the other day by way of a tax accountant, Joe Kristan, who advocates the creation of a special IRS unit to go after tax protesters (and related “schemes”) but thinks the nationalization of private property is an outrage.

Joe Kristan On Tax Protesters

My own views are more along the lines of George Washington. When early tax protesters arose against a whiskey tax in Washington’s presidency, he raised an army to put down the protest. While George opposed taxation without representation, he believed that once taxes are levied by a legitimate representative government, we are obliged to go along … #

Joe Kristan On Nationalization

The government of Argentina is attempting to seize private pension plans. They say they are doing this to “protect” workers from stock fluctuations, but it is transparently a desperate ploy to prop up the government pension system. … there is a movement to do the same thing in the U.S. It would be pushed with the same cynical goal of “protecting” us, and it would be an absolute disaster. #

The Contradiction

The contradiction is that while both boil down to human beings using governments to take property by force and without voluntary consent from other human beings, Mr Kristan applauds one and pans the other.

I find it especially interesting that in the case of taxes, he thinks people are “obliged” to do what the government tells them, but in the case of nationalization recognizes it as “cynical”, a “disaster” and a “desperate ploy”. Why are we “obliged” to government in one case but not the other? Is Argentina’s representative government any less legitimate than that of the USA?

“Somebody has to Pay the Government’s Bloated Bills”?

I challenged him on this contradiction, but he was non-responsive.

As a practical matter, somebody has to pay the government’s bloated bills, and when the tax protesters don’t the rest of us have to pay more. For that reason alone, I resent people who skip out on their taxes, whether via political influence, tax protester arguments or plain old tax evasion.

True, the tax law is a mess. It’s far too complex, it’s riddled with favors for the well-connected, and prospects for reform are dim. Even so, the implications of everybody deciding for themselves which laws to follow are as frightening now as they were during the Washington presidency. While someday things could get to the point where mass tax disobedience would be justified, that point is a lot closer to Zimbabwe than to the U.S. #

If a Debt is Incurred by Men with Funny Titles …

Mr Kristan’s answer, while non-responsive, provides a fascinating glimpse into the awkward lies that a person has to tell himself in order to balance some liberty-oriented beliefs (opposition to nationalization) with other very authoritarian beliefs (approval of the use of naked power to enforce obedience). Let’s examine his claims.

  • Somebody has to pay the government’s bloated bills.

    If a debt is incurred by men with funny titles in Washington, and I don’t consent to it, do I really have to pay it? Let the people who incur the bills pay them and/or seek voluntary funding from others or offer some service for a fee on the free market in order to raise funds. If I can’t be a spendthrift and use the non-sequitur “somebody has to pay my bloated bills” as a reason to foist my debts off on others, then why can the government do it?

  • When the tax protesters don’t [pay] the rest of us have to pay more.

    Many governments, including the US federal government, spend without consideration for income. They maintain perpetual budget deficits and in many cases even have a large debt. The federal debt is currently $10 trillion and growing. Where does the missing money come from? Borrowing; not higher taxes.

  • True, the tax law is a mess. It’s far too complex, it’s riddled with favors for the well-connected, and prospects for reform are dim.

    Agreed. But how can Mr Kristan believe this and at the same time say that the US government is legitimate or representative?

  • The implications of everybody deciding for themselves which laws to follow are as frightening now as they were during the Washington presidency.

    What’s frightening about some farmers resisting a blatantly unfair and discriminatory tax? Mahatma Gandhi decided for himself that the salt tax law in India should not be followed. How was that “frightening”? Maybe the British overlords were scared that their control over the people was at risk, but that’s fine. After all, “people should not be scared of their governments, governments should be scared of their people.”

  • While someday things could get to the point where mass tax disobedience would be justified, that point is a lot closer to Zimbabwe than to the U.S.

    What is it about Zimbabwe that justifies tax protesting? Would it be the government’s violations of human rights? Its hyper-inflationary policies? Zimbabwe has figured prominently in the news lately for both of those issues. Now that the US government tortures terrorism suspects and tempts inflation by injecting trillions of dollars of new money (out of thin air) into the economy (via its “Federal” “Reserve”), how much closer to Zimbabwe do we have to get before we meet Mr Kristan’s condition?

Legitimacy comes from Consent

Mr Kristan thinks we are obliged to accept the orders of a “legitimate representative government”. But what makes for a legitimate government? How do we tell the legitimate government from the illegitimate one? The most basic measure is consent of the governed; a concept recognized even by the US Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed (emphasis added)

Thus, if one does not wish to be subject to the tyranny of this US federal government, cease providing your consent (implicit or explicit, moral or financial). Don’t ask governments to do anything for you. Do it for yourself, or in voluntary cooperation with others, instead.

Photo credit: colin.brown. Photo license.

21 January 2009
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