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 Michael Huemer - Is Taxation Theft?

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PostSubject: Michael Huemer - Is Taxation Theft?    Michael Huemer - Is Taxation Theft?  Icon_minitimeSun Jan 17, 2021 4:43 pm

“Taxation is theft” is a popular slogan among libertarians. It captures the sentiment that we should hold the state to the same moral standards as non‐​state actors.

Michael Huemer - Is Taxation Theft?  Is%20Taxation%20Theft%3F

Imagine that I have founded a charity organization that helps the poor. 1 But not enough people are voluntarily contributing to my charity, so many of the poor remain hungry. I decide to solve the problem by approaching well‐​off people on the street, pointing a gun at them, and demanding their money. I funnel the money into my charity, and the poor are fed and clothed at last.

Why Taxation Might Be a Form of Theft

What would the American founders think of our taxation system today, given America’s origins? Daniel Mitchell answers this and other questions as we talk about the different kinds of tax schemes and the different incentives they offer taxpayers.

In this scenario, I would be called a thief. Why? The answer seems to be: because I am taking other people’s property without their consent. The italicized phrase just seems to be what “theft” means. “Taking without consent” includes taking by means of a threat of force issued against other people, as in this example. This fact is not altered by what I do with the money after taking it. You wouldn’t say, “Oh, you gave the money to the poor? In that case, taking people’s property without consent wasn’t theft after all.” No; you might claim that it was a socially beneficial theft, but it was still a theft.

Now compare the case of taxation. When the government “taxes” citizens, what this means is that the government demands money from each citizen, under a threat of force: if you do not pay, armed agents hired by the government will take you away and lock you in a cage. This looks like about as clear a case as any of taking people’s property without consent. So the government is a thief. This conclusion is not changed by the fact that the government uses the money for a good cause (if it does so). That might make taxation a socially beneficial kind of theft, but it is still theft.

Three Counter‐Arguments

Most people are reluctant to call taxation theft. How might one avoid saying this? Following are three arguments one might try, together with the most obvious responses.

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