Author- Right Pragmatist
By now, we have all heard the famous phrase, used as a mantra for anarcho-capitalists and free-market libertarians, falsely attributed to Mike Tyson: “Taxation is theft.” The blunt and impeding lisp aside, this is a cornerstone of the laissez-faire movement and one of the foundations of economic liberty. But we already know that, it’s clearly established (for some of us), and not the premise of this article. The real discussion here has to do with conditionality.
Recently, I was listening to Ben Shapiro of the Daily Wire, a staunch establishment conservative, speak on his daily (save the Sabbath) podcast, and a letter came into him essentially asking, “Hey Ben, do you believe that taxation is theft?” His answer was, in paraphrase, “Yes, I believe taxation is theft, unless you are provided with a service of equal value to what was taken from you.” It’s one of those statements you might feel are right, in a reactionary standpoint – I mean, you’ve got some common ground, taxation is (mostly) theft. But I’m a little skeptical of any statement that is formulated as, “X is Y, but…” Let’s take a deeper look.
From an American perspective, all citizens are equal under the law and God (or whatever you perceive as the higher control). This is an important point when discussing anything to do with taxation, and here’s why. Let’s postulate that someone has a very serious illness, and they need extensive treatment; we’ll pretend capital-based insurance does not exist and your only option is the government. Off the bat, the government taxes you based on the cost of your treatment, and not a cent more – you can actually argue on the surface that because anyone who is sick gets treatment, and is taxed accordingly based on the individual cost of that treatment, that everyone is equally treated. Not so.
There is no standard for what is “the cost of your treatment.” Quality of care is highly subjective, as there is a lot more to factor in than just the production and deployment of medicine. Bedside care, hospice, hospital utilities, labour, these are all ingredients to your overall treatment. Because these cannot be properly balanced or standardized for every sick human being, not one sick human being is treated equally under such a system. The corollary to this is that the healthy citizens buy insurance in order to subsidize future possible treatments. But if this is through the government, then every citizen needs to buy insurance, as everyone needs to be equal. You can’t have it both ways (“O, Canada…”).
The direction the argument always seems to head is, “Okay, let’s tax everyone equally, but only on something that everyone uses.” This is of course the infamous Road Argument, as I’ve grown to recognize it. “If everyone uses roads, isn’t it fair to tax all citizens to fund them?” There’s a slight problem here: until there is written evidence that every solitary citizen uses a road, the argument is actually, “If everyone, except a small minority, uses roads, isn’t it fair to tax all citizens to fund them?”
This is where my inner Rand usually comes out. Taxing any group of people, no matter how small, for a service they do not use, in order to subsidize that service, is tyranny of the majority. Voting away the liberty of any group or person is a violation of individual rights, and those are the rights we ought to all stand for. Given that fact, taxation is theft in all its forms, and further a violation of individual rights. The more the mixed economy allows communism and capitalism to intermingle, the closer we are to our economic and social demise. Maybe that was Ben’s point all along.