Liberals, Conservatives, and Taxation

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As tax day comes and goes, we have an opportunity this year, more so than most years in the recent past, to explain to liberals the underlying immorality and impracticality of taxation.

If I had a dime for every liberal I encountered who told me that he or she did not mind paying taxes, only what they are spent on, I would probably be pushed into a higher tax bracket.

This year in specific, many liberals likely resent where their tax dollars are going. A microscopic fraction of the money will pay the salary of a president that most of them never voted for; who, as many of them see it, did not justifiably win his first and/or second election; who has waged a war most of them did not like; who is using his power to divert money from the Treasury from projects they like or with which they are somewhat comfortable to programs they resent or outright deplore. Many liberals have found filing their tax forms especially objectionable this year, due to the residual tensions from the last election.

Conservatives probably have far less objection to paying their taxes this year than they did under Clinton, because, whatever the details of policy involved, conservatives tend to approve Republican rule, on balance, as a worthwhile enterprise to fund through government expenditures. In defending the State, they frequently criticize liberals for being overly "anti-Bush," as if this is a bad thing, any more, than, say, being anti-Clinton was in the 1990s.

Indeed, this might be one year that conservatives mind paying taxes less than liberals do. After all, the money is going to the great causes of liberating and democratizing the world, enhancing the U.S. national-security state, and empowering the Republican Congress and president to spend ever more money to satisfy ever more constituents and to maintain a grip on this country, thus keeping the supposedly far more egregious Democrats at bay and out of power.

Well, liberals might want to think about the fact that taxation doesn’t go to what you want it to. That’s the very nature of taxation. If the tax money went to what you wanted it to, it wouldn’t need to be taken by force, since you obviously wanted to send it to where it was going anyway, and would have done so without the State’s coercive encouragement. If taxation is anything, it is the coercive confiscation of wealth with the understood purpose of directing that wealth toward places that the people who earned it would not, absent the coercive process, direct their money to voluntarily.

When liberals say that they don’t mind paying taxes, they only mind what the taxes are used for, they’re uttering a contradiction, or, perhaps, admitting to enjoying being robbed. And they’re revealing a profound misunderstanding about the nature of taxation.

Once we understand that taxation is, by its essence, the coercive expropriation of wealth and redirection of it into places people did not voluntarily put their money, it becomes a given that the system will be abused — or, more accurately, that the abusive system will be used — and that the money will naturally go from those who need it to those with political connections. With this understanding it is no surprise that someone like George W. Bush, who famously couldn’t keep his own businesses afloat, is now in charge of the largest budget ever accumulated in the history of the world. This is the type of man who succeeds in socialist systems. The moral inversion and perversion of taxation results in morally inverted and perverted uses of the money.

I do agree with the liberals that the money is spent in horrendous ways. It’s worse than most of them realize, though. Most of the money goes to killing people, locking innocent people up, regulating the economy into stagnation, propping up cartelized industry, spying on Americans, constructing demonic weapons of mass destruction, and hooking Americans onto government "entitlement" programs so as to make them dependent on and subservient to a system they would be better off without.

Indeed, the American people would most likely be better off being robbed of the same amount of wealth, without the benefit of any of the "services" the money funds. If the government stole half the wealth in this country and threw it in the ocean, we’d at least be spared the insult and injury of seeing our own wealth used against us to limit our personal and economic choices and compromise our personal safety.

Liberals should come to terms with the fundamental truths about taxation. Today’s income tax regime is mass theft on an astronomical scale. It’s theft whether you approve of many of its uses and your politically opposing neighbor down the street does not, or vice versa. All taxation is theft, but income taxation has some unique qualities of injustice to it: the spying, the elimination of the rule of law and the presumption of innocence in tax disputes and audits, the fact that the more you make the higher percentage of your income you must fork over to the police state.

Liberals should abandon once and for all their obsession with the Robin-Hood mythology of taxation as a process of stealing from the rich to give to the poor, and remember that Robin Hood was in fact an enemy of the State that took from the governing rich the money they had stolen, through taxation, from the poor who earned it.

For all the talk on the left about employers exploiting their workers by making a profit, there is precious little attention on the greatest, most clear-cut exploitation of labor in our country. A worker can usually find another job if the employer is all that bad; but it’s much harder to escape the coercive grip of the State’s taxation. The State extracts a large profit from all the workers in the country, and uses it to murder and imprison innocent people. The profits made by the corporate fat cats pale in comparison to the months of labor squeezed from workers every year to pay for the corporatist State. Clearly, the State is the principal engine of exploiting workers in modern civilization. To try to liberate the workers from exploitation by using the State is, at best, a futile program, and, at worst, a formula for totalitarian slavery of all workers.

One reason the left is less offended by taxation than they might be, even given aspects of their own philosophical beliefs, probably has to do with how much the right complains about taxation — at least when they’re out of power. When liberals think about cutting taxes, they think of Reagan. But the man who closed "loopholes," reduced deductions, and sent federal spending through the roof — the man who promised in a 1985 televised speech to bring justice to "those individuals and corporations who are not paying their fair share or, for that matter, any share" — was certainly no principled opponent of taxation. Like all Republican presidents, Reagan pretended to be a barrier between the American people and the taxing power of the State, even as he expanded that State and relied on the immoral practice of taxation for his career. Nor do today’s conservatives who cheer on the bombing of innocent people deserve to be associated with the wonderful cause of abolishing taxation, since, if for no other reason, they do not really want to see it abolished, for it would be much harder to maintain projects such as the Iraq war in a totally free market.

Which brings us back to the liberals doing their taxes and probably feeling angrier about it than usual. They will admit now more than ever that taxation is inefficient, and goes mostly to the wrong places. They still might not want to concede that taxation is theft and inherently immoral.

Well, liberals like to think about the society as a community, as somewhat of a collective. Many of them would say it’s socially immoral that so many Americans go without healthcare and that any of them at all don’t have homes. If we can convince them of the failures of coercive central planning, and explain why an enormous system of taxation simply guarantees that money will be wasted; that the unfortunate and middle class will have far fewer resources and the ruling elites, the warfare state, the prison system, and the bureaucracy will have more; that corporations in bed with the State will profit while the exploited masses continue to go without — if we can reach liberals on the economic inevitability that more taxation means less wealth for those in need and more wealth for the greedy — we might still not be able to convince liberals that taxation is theft. But, perhaps, we can convince them it is immoral.

Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research assistant at the Independent Institute. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.

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