The other night while watching the election circus, I was pinging back and forth with a NeoCon friend. The subject of income taxation (confiscation) came up. The conversation, in part, proceeded thusly:
me: Why does the State have more of a right to my money than i do?
interlocutor: Sigh…”the state.” [Ed: What would he prefer to call it???] It’s something we all choose to pay, in order to fund the services provided by that state. if you don’t like it, you can always move somewhere else.
me: How is it that we choose?There is no choice.
You realize, of course, that the Boston Tea Party was thrown over a tax that is comparatively infentesimal compared to what we’re dealing with now.
interlocutor: Listen – there is a choice. We choose to live in a representative democracy, we choose to provide services, we choose to have a federal government – these are choices that have been made over time. The case for the federal government goes back to the federalist papers, and those papers cover arguments for taxation as well. I’m not going to get in to all of that. If you don’t like it, you can leave -that’ why there’s a choice. You’r enot compelled to stay – you’re just asked to pay a tax if you do stay.
Where to begin with this? For starters, I’m not sure who chooses to live under our particular form of government, or who “chooses” to assent all over again to the income tax, something a far previous generation did. My interlocutor’s notions remind me of Edmund Burke’s claim that an earlier generation can forfeit rights on behalf of future generations.
But let’s get to the nitty gritty of this “pay taxes or leave” business. The idea that I have a choice in such a matter is truly absurd. And the invitation to leave is obviously grotesque, but since it isn’t so to everyone, maybe it will help if I explain why.
To many, especially to Americanists, it would seem fair that someone who doesn’t like this or that aspect of the government’s tyranny would pack up and leave. The absurdity of this becomes apparent when looked at through the prism of private property rights, which are the handmaiden of natural rights. A man’s property is that which he has obtained, by one way or another, through the fruit of his labor. He has “mixed” his bodily exertions with the objects around him, to borrow a word from John Locke. This property would include not only a man’s house and land but also his money, which he takes as payment in lieu of the actual products that he produces through his labor.
Alas, the government has arrogated to itself the right to take, by force if necessary, portions of each man’s income, and it also levies taxes based on the value of his property. By what right? If the State can take the fruit of a man’s labor, what principle is left to prevent it from violating his other rights, such as the right not to be forced into servitude (which in the USA has usually taken the form of military conscription) or the right not to be searched without probable cause?
Now, let’s say that I’m left with the choice either to pay up or leave. There really is no choice here in any real sense of that word. Leave aside what would seem to be the natural right of man to stay where he is without risk of assault by his government. If a man were to decide to leave the country, he would be left to sell his property so that he could move elsewhere.
So he is duly compensated for his property, right? Well, not necessarily. There is an idea which Austrian economists have discussed called the subjectivity of value. In other words, on paper, your property might be worth $350,000. But this does not account for any sentimental value which you yourself attach to it. Imagine that you live in the house that your great-grandfather built. Would a mere monetary payment replace everything you’re about to give up? Certainly not.
In the end, then, one is left with the choice of giving up his property through taxation or giving up his property by becoming a refugee and possibly losing irreplaceable treasures.
Maybe, in addition to being a jackass, I’m also an imbecile, but really, I can’t see where the justice is in this.
“America, love it or leave it,” the flag-wavers like to say. It would seem far better to stay here and make this land a better place in which to live. That’s what the hosts of the Boston Tea Party did. It’s what Thomas Paine did. And it’s what I plan to do.