Categories
Libertarian Opinion

Should We Just Cave to Government Demands?

292125651_f0b1c74332_o

Jay4Liberty, an online acquaintance, said the other day that he happily forked over his tax payments knowing it would keep him out of jail and couldn’t give a damn about the consequences. Upon questioning, he confirmed that he did not care one iota about the death and destruction reigned down on innocents courtesy of his financial support for the little dictators that do business as The Government.

No Regrets about Paying Taxes is an Extreme Position

I found Jay’s cavalier attitude offensive to the maximum. Whether to submit to taxation or not is a difficult question and I don’t fault people who are too scared to try it. But even if you cave to the state’s implicit threats, why would you take such a devil-may-care attitude? What would you claim no regrets? Why would anyone be content with their decision to give in to a beast that regularly sows disorder, theft and murder worldwide? I can’t conceive of it and politely sparred with Jay – until he deleted his Twitter account, ending the discussion.

Making Myself Clearer

I was subsequently excoriated by another online acquaintance and led to believe by another that I hadn’t made myself sufficiently clear on this topic, so I will now attempt to do so.

Taxes are Tough

Let me state, first off, that the decision to comply or not with the IRS is, to put it lightly, heart-wrackingly difficult. If you comply, you are a part of the greatest evil ever known. If you resist, you, and possibly your family, may soon be in the sights of the greatest evil ever known. So I don’t have a lot of moral opprobrium for unwilling taxpayers.

Key Word: MAY

And yet, the key word here is “may”. Not complying with taxes does not carry immediate consequences. They may never get you. And herein lies the key: we must resist the robbery until such time as the gun is indeed pointed at our heads. This is the moral choice and this has the added key strategic benefit of revealing to bystanders “the gun in the room”.

A 1040 is Not an Entirely Credible Threat

I say that resisting till the bad guys pull out the gun is the moral choice because a piece of paper with a threat (1040) is not entirely credible. This regime has only achieved their current level of power because we voluntarily send in forms and payments when they ask. If the IRS had to come out and actually put the guns to our heads, the system would collapse. They simply could not afford to do it. We must speed this collapse. The difference I am positing is the one between voluntarily presenting your hands for arrest and walking yourself to and from the police car, and going limp, leaving the police with no choice but to exert the full amount of effort required to subdue and control a resister.

What about Employees?

For self-employed people, resistance is easy. You just don’t contact the IRS or send them any money. But for those with employees or who are employees, evasion is more difficult. How do you get your employer not to withhold? One option is to claim so many deductions that it eliminates your tax burden. I did this in college, but it is highly risky for an adult since it may involve perjury. The short and sweet answer of course is to cease working as an employee. Yes I recognize that this can require significant lifestyle changes. Freedom is not free.

Conclusion

My objection to Jay4Liberty was more about his attitude than about his act of complying with the government’s demands. I do NOT consider anarchists who pay their taxes to be anarchists-in-name-only. I understand their predicament at the same time that I urge them to increment their level of resistance little-by-little as their comfort level dictates. If you can’t commit to all-out resistance, at least raise their costs of enslaving you. I also urge anarchists to cease being employees in favor of self-employment (eased evasion) and self-sufficiency (an avoidance strategy).

Photo credit: wonderlane. Photo license.

By George Donnelly

I'm building a tribe of radical libertarians to voluntarize the world by 2064. Join me.

13 replies on “Should We Just Cave to Government Demands?”

If a thief puts a gun to your head and demands your money, would you first ask “what are you going to do with it?” Would you hesitate to comply if you knew he was (a) a Robin Hood-type that would give some of it to the poor or (b) a gang member likely to buy more guns to assault other gangs or innocent passersby, or would you worry more about the threat to your life represented by that gun? I submit that most people, like Jay4Liberty, will focus on the latter and thus won’t give a damn about the presumed purpose to which the funds wil be put. And even if the thief says he’s like Robin Hood, you have no control over what he really ends up doing with it.

While it is OK to try to “raise [the] costs of enslaving you,” avoidance actions have to be weighed against the anxiety they may produce. You may be able to sleep better at night and be more productive if you simply submit to the demands (and work towards undermining the ability of the thieves to hit you again).

Joe, thanks for commenting. I must admit, I find it craven to provide unlimited cooperation to evil just so you can avoid a little anxiety. Freedom is not free.

As you can see above, I distinguish between caving immediately when they send you a threat (avoidable) and caving when they have the gun to your temple (unavoidable).

What value is there in increasing your productivity in their system? It just leads to them skimming more off the top.

How does one work towards undermining their ability to hit you again while one is working for them? I’d love to hear more on this.

It may be scary, but resisting taxes until the point where you _really_ have no choice, is something everyone can do now and it will have a large impact on their ability to enforce their threats. In fact, any kind of feet-dragging on a large scale will be a step forward.

Freedom is not free. Fighting for yourself is scary at a time when we’re supposed to all be living for others, but it’s at the core of libertarian principles and our fight for a better future.

I understand the shock that may come with a fellow liberty lover making such cavalier statements about paying taxes. I would probably have the same response if a friend who understands that the government = force, took such an attitude.

My problem with this post, is the seemingly contradiction in what libertarians “should” do with regards to paying taxes, or giving in to government at all.

“If you comply, you are a part of the greatest evil ever known. If you resist, you, and possibly your family, may soon be in the sights of the greatest evil ever known. So I don’t have a lot of moral opprobrium for unwilling taxpayers.”

You cannot be directly part of any evil, if being part of that evil requires involuntary compliance. If someone threatens you (with direct violence or not) in order to extract money from you, then they use that money to purchase a weapon that eventually kills someone, you are not part of that murder in anyway whatsoever. Your degree of resistance does not determine your complicity when threats are involved.

Now, you say you “don’t have a lot of moral opprobrium for unwilling taxpayers.” Yet, a few paragraphs down you create a moral rule. “we must resist the robbery until such time as the gun is indeed pointed at our heads.” Why is it only moral to comply at the point of a gun, vs. immoral if you comply before the gun comes out?

If I’ve misinterpreted your comments, please correct me.

I would probably have the same response if a friend who understands that the government = force, took such an attitude.

So you didn’t converse with Jay4Liberty on Twitter from time to time? I’m still confused as to why I’m the only one who reacted to his outrageous comments with condemnation.

Let me see if I understand you correctly. Are you saying that in the end the IRS will always get you so complying immediately is the only course of action open? Are you saying that all threats can morally be met with complete submission?

If someone threatens you (with direct violence or not) in order to extract money from you, then they use that money to purchase a weapon that eventually kills someone, you are not part of that murder in anyway whatsoever.

What if it’s an empty threat? What if you know they don’t initiate violence against all the people they threaten? What if you know that for each person who fails to immediately comply, their ability to make _credible_ threats is diminished?

Taking this proposed principle to the extreme, if someone (say a known skilled thief) sends out a threat to a million people to burglarize your home if you don’t send him $10 by the end of the month, do you comply? Or do you arm yourself, hire home security and mentally yell, “Do your worst!”

IOW, I think this boils down to how credible the threat is and how able you are to defend yourself from it. The threat of tax enforcement is not entirely credible because they don’t get everybody. They don’t get a lot of people. And the ability to defend yourself from it grow proportionally with how many people cease complete submission.

If you’re going to say that all government threats are credible, then I think you’re straying into a cult-like belief in the omnipotence of the state. It’s just regular people, probably less intelligent, dedicated and motivated than liberty-lovers are.

Your degree of resistance does not determine your complicity when threats are involved.

Can you provide some substantiation for this claim? What is your chain of reasoning?

Why is it only moral to comply at the point of a gun, vs. immoral if you comply before the gun comes out?

You yourself agree that complying at the barrel of a gun is not immoral. Does not that same axiom imply that complying without the gun coming out IS immoral?

Let me again correct something you said on Twitter. I NEVER said that people who pay their taxes are evil. That is a gross exaggeration and you should retract it.

This weekend, I spent time with two individuals who discovered (the hard way) that the threat is VERY credible.

Find a strategy to not get ripped off, but don’t get kidnapped in the process.

George, A skilled thief versus the largest criminal gang in the world? If we lived in a truly market society one could just call up Atlas Security and mentally yell “bring it on”. Unfortunately we aren’t there yet, and some of us do take those threats very seriously. Take a look at what happened to Ed and Elaine Brown (http://blogs.kansascity.com/crime_scene/2009/07/tax-protesters-ed-and-elaine-brown-go-to-trial.html). To me that is not an empty threat; the Browns got the trigger pulled on them and it is well known that the Feds have no problem using violence to strip people of their lives and property. Regarding paying taxes when there is no direct threat, one might argue that there is a direct threat even if the “gun” is not present. You wouldn’t just pick up a sleeping rattle snake would you? There is plenty of evidence that shows that “they” will come after you (Irwin Schiff: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irwin_Schiff). Because of this, I have chosen to do what I can “legally” and then fork over any extra spending cash to activist type causes. Anyway… Interesting post. Much to think about here.

Goodie, the Browns got hit hard because they were so public and defiant. Don’t get me wrong, I have enormous respect for them. I’m just saying that one doesn’t have to be so public and defiant. Also, they were relatively big fry, having earned millions of dollars.

The Browns were probably offered a deal at one point that would have gotten them on a payment plan and out of jail. This is the point at which the gun is clearly out, they’ve got you in their sights and surrender is a reasonable option.

I’m not arguing that we should emulate the Browns, IOW.

But just because they got one high profile case does not mean that they are omniscient and unstoppable.

And if they were that powerful, wouldn’t the clarion call to resistance be that much more urgent?

You wouldn’t just pick up a sleeping rattle snake would you?

Given that there are people skilled in handling snakes – i.e., to collect the venom for creation of ant-venom – and they do a rather good job of it, I don’t think your snake metaphor works in your favor. ;)

It’s now or never. We can play it safe like previous generations, or we can dig deeper and do what has to be done in order for the next generation to have a chance at a normal life. And for many of us, that next generation is already here.

Thanks for commenting Goodie. :)

@George

I did not know Jay4Liberty.

Let me see if I understand you correctly. Are you saying that in the end the IRS will always get you so complying immediately is the only course of action open? Are you saying that all threats can morally be met with complete submission?

What if it’s an empty threat? What if you know they don’t initiate violence against all the people they threaten? What if you know that for each person who fails to immediately comply, their ability to make _credible_ threats is diminished?

I’m not saying that complying is the only course of action. If you feel threatened, complying does not make you immoral or evil as you’ve done no aggression. Even if the threat is ultimately empty (you do not have foreknowledge). Its not up to the victim to test the threat in order to decide on compliance. If you’re walking down the street and someone pops out and threatens to take your wallet, you don’t need test their resolve to make sure you’re not going to be a participant in their future or existing evil. Sure, you can defend yourself, but it doesn’t make you immoral to comply.

IOW, I think this boils down to how credible the threat is and how able you are to defend yourself from it. The threat of tax enforcement is not entirely credible because they don’t get everybody. They don’t get a lot of people. And the ability to defend yourself from it grow proportionally with how many people cease complete submission.

The credibility of the threat cannot be known entirely. You can look at past evidence (e.g. the government does kidnap and kill people) or you can rely on your intuition. Sometimes they do leave people alone, but this is rare. Even if you could do a simple cost/benefit analysis in threatening situations, if you feel threatened, you’re not immoral for complying. You’re just trying to reduce harm.

If you’re going to say that all government threats are credible, then I think you’re straying into a cult-like belief in the omnipotence of the state. It’s just regular people, probably less intelligent, dedicated and motivated than liberty-lovers are.

What matters is that you feel threatened. Not if the threats are going to actually come to fruition. Hence the guy who robs the convenience store with only his hands in his pocket, or the kidnappers who actually have no intention of killing the person they kidnapped. How many muggers or car-thieves are actually going to pull the trigger? Why is it up to the victim to test these threats before deciding?

Can you provide some substantiation for this claim? What is your chain of reasoning?

What I mean is, when there is a threat, there is no longer any involvement, as the threat denies voluntary interaction. There cannot be any partnership because you’re being forced to comply against your will.

You yourself agree that complying at the barrel of a gun is not immoral. Does not that same axiom imply that complying without the gun coming out IS immoral?

I don’t understand, can you clarify? I’m saying that complying at all in response to a threat is not immoral. No matter what stage the threat is in.

Let me again correct something you said on Twitter. I NEVER said that people who pay their taxes are evil. That is a gross exaggeration and you should retract it.

I was responding to: “If you comply, you are a part of the greatest evil ever known.” I understand that sentence to mean that the victim is an active participant in the evil the threatener is going to commit. Logically this follows that people who pay their taxes are evil. Perhaps I interpreted that statement too strictly, in which I apologize if my use was taken out of context.

How many muggers or car-thieves are actually going to pull the trigger? Why is it up to the victim to test these threats before deciding?

A proper analogy would be a mugger that sends you a notice to pay him via the mail.

Who else would it be up to other than the victim?

What I mean is, when there is a threat, there is no longer any involvement, as the threat denies voluntary interaction. There cannot be any partnership because you’re being forced to comply against your will.

So you’re saying that once any threat is made, people are no longer responsible for the results of just caving? What happened to the right and duty of self-defense?

“If you comply, you are a part of the greatest evil ever known.” I understand that sentence to mean that the victim is an active participant in the evil the threatener is going to commit

If you persist in a situation where you feel constantly threatened to cough up 35-50%+ of your production but take no action to cease your involvement then yes you are a part of the greatest evil ever.

It does not follow that the person is automatically “evil”, which would be a gross oversimplification of a complex matter.

If you know that a mugger lurks in a certain alley and always gets you when you pass down that alley, and that the money he gets from you funds aggression against others, then you are part of the mugger’s evil now. You don’t have to go down that alley. Resistance is not only possible, it is a moral imperative.

The system would collapse tomorrow if everyone stopped going down that alley and dutifully handing over their lives to the mugger.

You keep harping on “complying does not make you immoral” but I never said that. I have to say I find it curious that so many people are so touchy on this matter.

A suggestion.

While we might or might not agree on the substance of the proposition under discussion here, it is my observation that the sort of language being employed in making the point turns a lot of people off. It’s scary to be called “part of the greatest evil ever”, some might be insulted, many will just walk on by, ignoring the message itself because of the medium by which it was delivered.

If this sort of proposition can be turned into a more positive-sounding message, subtracting out the scary and avoiding language that might be read as implying a personal attack of some sort, it might find much broader acceptance.

Mike, this is not for general, liberty newbie, public education.

It’s for libertarian radicalization / internal discussion. Almost everything I write (lately at least) is for other libertarians or people on the cusp of libertarianism. They can handle the directness – or at least they need to be able to handle it IMHO.

I’m surprised the above is not self-evident. And do we really need to candy-coat for a libertarian audience? Gee, if that’s true I’m more alone than I thought.

It’s scary to be called “part of the greatest evil ever”

Why did you renounce if it wasn’t due to something roughly similar to repugnance or fear of being part of the greatest evil ever?

People who give the sanction of the victim and submit before the gun comes out *should* be scared IMHO! Sure scares me. What impact (or lack thereof) will I have had on my fellow man during my lifetime if I don’t resist the evil and work towards the good?

Can we talk about loving our fellow man and a positive message before we have banished the evil from our own (in)actions? Or would that be hypocritical?

See: http://morelibertynow.com/opinion/truth-counterproductive

When I write for liberty newbies you can bet it won’t be as raw.

Thanks for commenting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *