On the Other Hand...

by Jim Davies

Levers of Power


The statement "Taxation is Theft" is, to me, so self-evidently true and profound that I wear it on my car as a bumpersticker, to call wider attention to its truth and profundity. And while it's very gratifying to have strangers come up sometimes and rave about it, asking how they can get such a sticker for themselves, sadly I'm more often impressed at the lengths to which some power-junkies will go, to avoid acknowledging that what it says is true truth.

Its implications are, of course, humongous. Tax is the fuel, without which our highly regulated society could not function - as such. It would become a free one, instead; and, sadly, there seems to be a terrible number of people who are either frightened of freedom or actively opposed to it.

"Pacifist" Left

There is a group - "War Tax Resisters", I think - that opposes those taxes used to wage war, and this group comes closer to admitting the fact that tax is theft, than any other I've found outside the mainstream freedom movement. They take the very admirable and courageous position that they will not allow their money to be used to kill human beings in warfare.

They actively encourage people to refuse to let the Feds have such money by not paying part of their income taxes, placing that sum instead in a fund dedicated to less homicidal purposes. I encountered them while the mass hysteria for the Iraq War was building, and had to admire their courage.

So I sent them congratulations and asked for literature; but then my admiration found its limit, for much of it called for the diversion of tax monies, from warfare to various familiar Socialist objectives - but not for the return of that money to its rightful owners, the ones who earned it.

So while their dedication to peace did seem to be genuine, to a point, they were not consistent; they apparently DID approve of violence (that is, the forcible confiscation of property that we call tax) so long as it's their own hands on the levers of the power it buys. Their pacifism was half-baked.

"Religious" Right

A similar inconsistency can be found on the other side of the conventional political divide. I sat at table recently with a Christian, and sought to engage him in friendly discussion on the proposition that tax is theft, by drawing his attention to the Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Steal."

Well, what I heard next suggested he was a bigot. Please don't misunderstand: I defend the right of everyone to hold and preach whatever beliefs they like, however absurd; including the Flat Earth Society and including David Koresh. But that doesn't mean I'll not discriminate for myself, nor that I will not call nonsense by its name when I think I come across it.

So, this gentleman engaged his brain (almost visibly!) into "defend taxes" mode and started to pour out a stream of reasons why I was wrong. Before I could interrupt and plead that we focus carefully on one at a time, I did hear the old chestnut about "render[ing] unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's", and only regret that we didn't get round to that one, for I do not have anything that's Caesar's and have never met anybody who does.

Rather, I did rein him in a bit and start to focus on his first response: that "taxation is perfectly moral because it's the expressed will of the people, by voluntary majority vote." His words, I promise. I was so surprised to hear him say that, that I invited him to reconsider and repeat it, and he did.

So I began to name a few things that majorities have done, like vigorously approving the throwing of Christians to lions in Roman arenas and the clear, current approval of abortion on demand, and asked whether his moral relativism concurred with those activities. I then had to witness another characteristic of the closed, bigoted mind: he abruptly changed the subject!

He could, without loss of face, easily have backed off and admitted that that particular argument was ill-considered but would I listen to some of his others (of course I would have) but no, having begun to come off second best, he could not bear to continue the discussion. Apparently, he had no principled wish to abolish the Levers of Power - just to grab and use them, like so many others; to use our own money to thrust his agenda down our throats.

Pro-Freedom Christians

Not all religious people are as unprincipled as that; in fact, I can think of one who is a leader in the freedom movement, while at the same time being a very earnest Roman Catholic. He passionately promotes both his own religion AND a belief in individual sovereignty, and far from seeing any conflict between the two, he preaches that "every Christian should also be a Libertarian!"

One of the ways he likes to approach his fellow-believers is to ask them to imagine a mugging. Two thugs demand money from a passer-by, at knife point. We all agree that's morally reprehensible, a breaking of Commandment #8.

Then, he says, imagine a whole gang of thugs, menacing a homeowner twenty to one and driving off with his most valuable possessions. Also repugnant, right? - and all believers in the above Commandment must of course answer, Yes.

He repeats the question with increasing numbers of thugs, until that number comprises a majority of the whole population, at which point the theft acquires the name "tax"; and then he asks his fellow Christians to identify the precise moment, in that progression of larger and larger gangs of thugs, when the immoral act of theft became a moral act instead - and, of course, why. Silence then falls, for not one of them can do it.

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