[NOTE: Due to an error in the automated publishing schedule, this planned fifth part of the series “Introduction to Libertarianism” did not get published.]
Franz Oppenheimer discussed the history of taxation in his book The State. Taxation evolved from tribute paid to a conquering people by those whom the conquerors vanquished. The tribute was typically paid in the form of crops, women, or natural resources. In return, the conquerors gave their former foes protection from brigands and other, rogue tribes. And, if the tribute was not paid, the conquerors employed the use of force and coercion to achieve payment.
Today, the American state functions in the same manner.
If an American fails to render his “share” of tribute to the American state, the state may fine or jail the tax resister and even holds the power to use lethal force to enforce bringing the resister to a “court” where he will, with almost 100% certainty, be found liable for the delinquent tax and the fine or prison term.
If a lone gunman appeared at your doorstep and demanded that you hand over a percentage of your weekly earnings, on his stated penalty that your failure to do so may get you shot, you would properly label his conduct as “armed robbery”.
Theft, whether committed by 1, 10, 250, 10,000, or 300,000,000 robbers remains theft.
Theft is wrong.
In the case of the American state, the lone gunman is not a single criminal. He is the (un)lawful representative of a mob, clamoring for a part of his ill-gained loot.
The mob rationalizes its illegal theft of property by saying they promise to do “good” things with the money they stole from the rightful owner. They will build roads, schools, and hospitals. They will pay teachers, soldiers, and firemen.
The taxpayer is expected to validate the state’s rationalization of its theft, despite the state’s insistence that such rationalization for the benefit of the privately motivated robber is “wrong”.
Even if the lone robber promises to give your stolen money to the poor, the state would insist that the robber be punished for his thievery.
As usual, the state exempts itself from its own definition of criminal conduct.
“Without taxes, there would be no public works or societal benefits!”
That is simply not true.
If hospitals, schools, and public roads are “good things”, people will be willing to contribute to the building of those things. Coercion by the state is only necessary because people fail to see the benefit of a public project, most often because the project is either unnecessary…or perceived as wasteful.
Under the current system, the political representatives of the people exchange confiscated wealth for votes. They simply calculate for a majority to support a public work, support it, and then go about confiscating wealth to achieve that work.
Imagine if a representative were stripped of all coercive power to tax.
A senator or congressman would be forced to appeal to the people that a public project was needed, and then, gain promises from individuals or financial institutions to fund the project.
Citizens who do not contribute to the work, would derive no benefit from it.
Consequently, if you wanted to use a public road, you would have to prove that you made a contribution to its construction and maintenance. No proof of contribution? You can’t use the road.
Government role is currently too broad.
A key point of libertarianism holds that the only legitimate functions of government are: 1) national defense, and, 2) protection of individual constitutional rights.
Prior to the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment that gave rise to the federal income tax, America was a prosperous nation. In 1900, Americans enjoyed world status with regard to standard of living and per capita wealth. Americans were educated, there were private hospitals (funded by local doctors), and there was public sanitation and roadways.
Upon the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, the only thing that grew…
…was the size of the federal government.
Today, there is no aspect of private life that is untouched by the federal state.
When the state is expected (by the mob) to influence every aspect of private life, the cost of maintaining that influence is magnified.
Myth: “Without taxation we would have no national defense.”
Libertarians assert that a national defense endowment fund would adequately finance a military needed solely for national defense.
How would a national defense endowment fund work?
The United States would sell its current assets in land, resources, and infrastructure to private buyers. The proceeds of these sales would establish the core of the national endowment fund. The federal government could then sell bonds to individuals based on borrowing from private institutions. Individuals would be encouraged to make voluntary contributions to the national defense fund.
Would it work?
Yes. But the military would be greatly restricted to a self-defense role only. There would be no use of the military for “nation building” or for imperialistic adventures and conquest.
The United States would be forced to live peacefully with other nations and the peace would rely on diplomacy, instead of military coercion.
Presidents would no longer be enthroned as “the most powerful warlords in history”.
Libertarian goals for the future.
Libertarians realize that taxation is a coercive and violent system. Coercion and violence are immoral acts. Immoral acts do not become moral acts simply because the majority approves of the immorality.
If democracy is a good thing, it would not be viewed necessary to spread it at the tip of a bayonet.
America would become a peaceful citizen of the world and a towering example to other nations of what can be accomplished when government respects the rights of its citizens and disdains the use of coercion and violence to achieve “good” goals.
Under such a system, Americans would jealously guard their nation from attack by predatory nations. There would be no need for a military draft, as citizens would understand the need for military service without threat of fines or imprisonment. Conscription, in times of national emergency, would be unnecessary.
Instead of coercive taxation, citizens would pay use fees to the owners of public roads in order to travel on them. The owners of public infrastructure would have an inviolable duty to maintain their infrastructure as a condition of being able to charge use fees to citizens. Those who trespass on privately owned roads without paying the owner his due use fee would find themselves subject to civil law as trespassers. The civil penalties paid by trespassers would benefit the owner of public infrastructure, and not the state.
In short, for nearly forty years, Libertarians have struggled to eliminate coercion and violence from American government.
It is long past time to eliminate the coercive, American taxation system.