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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Taxation is not Theft.

I'm writing this in response to those who look upon taxation as theft, or who want their taxes minimized by eliminating most government programs and services.  They want the smallest possible government, usually meaning that they want only police and national defense services. They don't want the government attempting to improve society or make it more fair.  Their attitude is that they have their wealth legitimately, and no one has the right to forcibly take it from them.

The people with wealth have it for a variety of reasons; it was not
given to them by god because they are virtuous.   The most common way is to have the luck of the right parents.  I'm not speaking of genetics here; I'm referring to wealth, knowledge & culture.  Most
wealthy people got a good start by having some inherited wealth, plus the knowledge and attitude to make good use of it.   A child of a blue-collar family typically enters adulthood with no money, and little knowledge about how to get it legally except by getting a job.

Then there are those who get their money illegally or immorally.  This may have happened several generations ago.  Originally, our ancestors came over here and drove the original inhabitants away, by force.  They then had a very productive land to farm, fish, hunt and mine in.  They thereby created a lot of wealth, the original source of which was robbery, extortion and murder.

Throughout the 20th century the Mafia accumulated a great deal of
wealth, using murder and brutality as tools.  A few of them went to
jail, but thousands of their descendants became legitimate business
people, using proceeds from their ancestor's crimes.

Then there are today's CEO's and banksters.  A lot has been written in recent years about today's corporate culture.  How many of those wealthy people deserve their millions?  Many have been stealing from the common people for centuries, using government as one of their tools.

Of course there are also many people, or their ancestors, who earned their wealth through hard work, good ideas and smart planning.  They are not in any way criminals.  But, they did not make their money in a vacuum.  They were within a society, and depended on the infrastructure, and customers, provided by that society.  For example, they needed roads, communication lines, advertising media, workers & customers, to name a few essentials.  Society as a whole is therefore partially responsible for their success, and is entitled to share in the profits.

In the light of the above, how can one take seriously the complaint
that taxation is theft?

Civilization is inherently unfair in the sense that there are always the few ruling the many, and having most of the wealth.   Man is a social being.  It is natural for him to have a government.  Fairness is a desirable goal.  It is fair for the government to reduce the inherent unfairness of civilization by helping the disadvantaged, and that requires taxing the advantaged.


  1. Interesting topic, however it seems that no matter how high we raise taxes on the rich class they always seem to find yet even a better tax break i.e the complex tax code. I think fairness is a desirable goal to many but lets be honest many of us want to be bigger better and richer than others its human nature.

  2. Both greed and fairness are parts of our complex human nature. The tax codes are written by our congress people, and they are widely believed to be servants of the very rich. Most of them are rather well-off themselves, but they desire more, and they have different ideas about fairness than you and I do.

  3. No, unless you want to hire a bunch of thugs to protect you and get a Sherman tank to go anywhere cross-country because there are no roads, and expect to see a comeback in quaint diseases like TB, cholera, leper because there is no sanitation and public health. Which is the way things have been heading in some countries in latin america in during the last 30 years, with the weakening of government by market fundamentalists.
    Taxation is theft when the government is run by thieves. That's why democracy, transparency and accountability are so important. The goal of good universal education is to empower citizens to think critically and defend their rights, not just to be more competitive as has been the obsession of governments lately.


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