Who Provides Government Benefits?

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I read a movie review in which the writer mentioned government offering health care benefits. Where does government get the resources to pay out its checks? From people who pay taxes. For every government benefit paid out, there is an equal and opposite cost paid by taxpayers. If taxpayers pay in $100 as a cost, government employees extract $10 for themselves and pay out the other $90 as benefits, for example.* Different people pay in from those who receive.

The government sells these benefits under the guise of being social insurance programs or needed to produce social goods. It doesn’t want us to ask embarrassing questions, like what right the government has to decide who must pay these costs? And pay you must. Don’t forget. If you do not pay your assessments, you suffer consequences like fines and jail sentences.

The answer to this question is unsatisfactory. It runs something like this. We are one society by law. We live under a system of laws and a Constitution. The people have given the government the right to levy taxes.

This says that you are born into chains and slavery, as Rousseau almost acutely observed.** You inherit a position as taxpayer. Your status is no better than a tenth century German peon indebted to a lord. Rousseau attempted, in vain, to prove that you were nonetheless free as a citizen, which is the argument that you have gone through a transformation from being a human being with rights into a taxpayer/citizen who is part of a collective.

Voting and not fleeing the government’s jurisdiction are said to be signs that people have agreed to be taxed. Of course, over and above the fact that huge numbers of people do not vote, we have to ask: Voting for what? People often vote for people, but only infrequently are they asked to vote on taxes. These are not the same. Who has given the government the right to structure voting on people, as opposed to taxes? Who has removed the right not to belong to the collective itself? There are no good answers coming from government’s defenders on embarrassing questions like these. Instead we simply are told that we are one society under law because some dead people long ago wrote a Constitution that made it so for us the living. We are ruled by the living, however. As for not fleeing, the same kind of questions arise. What gives government the right to set up borders that define its jurisdiction over citizen/taxpayers?

Who provides government benefits? Taxpayers, that is tax-serfs. If you ask by what right the government can force people to be tax-serfs, the government has no reasonable answer.*** That’s because there is no reasonable answer.

*I made up these numbers as an example. The reality is surely far worse in terms of utility because there are huge deadweight costs that government imposes on economies, the costs of collecting taxes are very high, and much of the spending provides no benefit at all or causes further costs.

**Rousseau wrote “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Man is indeed born naturally free (by natural law), but he is in chains of government. The reality is that with the natural law superseded by legislative and constitutional law, man is born into chains.

***As one e-mailer observes “Who has the right to put a gun to your head and force you to do something?”

6:28 am on November 22, 2013