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  1. #1
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    Is taxation theft?

    To start I would like to say: I don't want this thread to turn into a debate about whether taxes are good or not, but about whether they are theft.

    EDIT: I'm not putting a definition here anymore... Use common sense.

    Since taxes fit the definition, I think I can accurately call taxes theft.
    Last edited by kuijias; January 25th, 2010 at 05:12 PM.
    "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetant" -Isaac Asimov

  2. #2
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by kuijias View Post
    To start I would like to say: I don't want this thread to turn into a debate about whether taxes are good or not, but about whether they are theft.

    I'll define theft as:
    Forcefully (without their permission) taking money/property from someone.

    Since taxes fit the definition, I think I can accurately call taxes theft.
    If you define it like that then there's little room for debate. The definition makes no reference to legality. But then, by the same token, imposing a fine on somebody would be theft, as would be recovering a debt.

    And even by this definition, taxation isn't always theft. For example, I'm happy to pay my taxes. I understand where the money is going and I understand the governments need money to function. I agree with taxation and I consider it a social duty of mine. The government tells me how much it wants from me, and I freely and happily give it to the government. It has my permission. It's not theft. Of course, there are some socially maladjusted individuals out there who do not permit the government to take their money in taxation and only pay their taxes due to fear of punishment. For those, I guess taxation is theft, by your definition.
    "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world" - Richard Dawkins

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  3. #3
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by Allocutus View Post
    If you define it like that then there's little room for debate. The definition makes no reference to legality. But then, by the same token, imposing a fine on somebody would be theft, as would be recovering a debt.
    If by fine you mean a bill, then that is not theft, if I agree to pay for my electricity then when they ask for my money, they are asking for money I already promised them.
    If you mean a speeding ticket, then you have also agreed to that by signing whatever papers when you got your driver's licence.

    Neither case is theft, taxation isn't a deal you volunteer for.
    "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetant" -Isaac Asimov

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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by kuijias View Post
    If by fine you mean a bill, then that is not theft, if I agree to pay for my electricity then when they ask for my money, they are asking for money I already promised them.
    No, that's not what a fine is. That's a bill. I meant A FINE.



    If you mean a speeding ticket, then you have also agreed to that by signing whatever papers when you got your driver's licence.
    No.

    1. You don't sign anything about obeying speed limits when you get your license.

    2. You can get a speeding fine whether or not you are licensed.

    3. I wasn't referring to a speeding fine. I was referring to fines generally. Say you steal a chocolate bar from a supermarket and get caught. You go to court and get a $50 fine. You have already returned the chocolate so you're not paying $50 for it. Rather, the court orders you to pay money as punishment. That's what a fine is. By your definition, it is theft.
    "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world" - Richard Dawkins

    "If you could rationalize with Religious people there would be no more Religious people" -Gregory House

  5. #5
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by Allocutus View Post
    By your definition, it is theft.
    That fee is theft, yes.
    "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetant" -Isaac Asimov

  6. #6
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by kuijias View Post
    That fee is theft, yes.
    It's not a fee. It's a fine. A pecuniary penalty. Ok, but we agree that having to pay a fine (including a speeding ticket or a jaywalking ticket) is theft.

    But what also is theft is when you go and recover your own property. Say I lend you a car and then I go and take it back from your without your permission. By your definition that is also theft. Agree?
    "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world" - Richard Dawkins

    "If you could rationalize with Religious people there would be no more Religious people" -Gregory House

  7. #7
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by Allocutus View Post
    It's not a fee. It's a fine. A pecuniary penalty. Ok, but we agree that having to pay a fine (including a speeding ticket or a jaywalking ticket) is theft.

    But what also is theft is when you go and recover your own property. Say I lend you a car and then I go and take it back from your without your permission. By your definition that is also theft. Agree?
    Fine, right. If you lent it to me you wouldn't be stealing my property, so no, that is not theft.
    "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetant" -Isaac Asimov

  8. #8
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by kuijias View Post
    Fine, right. If you lent it to me you wouldn't be stealing my property, so no, that is not theft.
    But you defined theft as this:

    Forcefully (without their permission) taking money/property from someone.

    That doesn't stipulate that the property must belong to the other person. It simply says that taking it FROM them (ie, from their possession) without permission is theft.
    "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world" - Richard Dawkins

    "If you could rationalize with Religious people there would be no more Religious people" -Gregory House

  9. #9
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by Allocutus View Post
    But you defined theft as this:

    Forcefully (without their permission) taking money/property from someone.

    That doesn't stipulate that the property must belong to the other person. It simply says that taking it FROM them (ie, from their possession) without permission is theft.
    Okay, you're right I poorly defined theft.

    ---------- Post added at 06:13 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:09 PM ----------

    Still, doesn't taxation fall under most people's definition of theft?
    "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetant" -Isaac Asimov

  10. #10
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    A common idealist libertarian Randite argument is that taxes should not imposed on others since it is morally wrong. Because it causes direct coercion. That philosophy fails to ignore the fact that direct coercion is a good thing if it can prevent an indirect coercion which is worse.

    The government has the responsibility to defend people against coercion and other vital functions. In order to do this a tax is needed. People are not going to pay voluntarily for these services.

    I will tell you what theft is. Theft is receiving services from the government such as protection from foreign and domestic aggression, and then not paying for it. If you don't want to pay taxes in your country, move elsewhere.

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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by SwanSong View Post
    I will tell you what theft is. Theft is receiving services from the government such as protection from foreign and domestic aggression, and then not paying for it. If you don't want to pay taxes in your country, move elsewhere.
    A homeless man washes your car windshield when you are stopped in the road, is not paying him theft?
    "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetant" -Isaac Asimov

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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by SwanSong View Post
    A common idealist libertarian Randite argument is that taxes should not imposed on others since it is morally wrong. Because it causes direct coercion. That philosophy fails to ignore the fact that direct coercion is a good thing if it can prevent an indirect coercion which is worse.

    The government has the responsibility to defend people against coercion and other vital functions. In order to do this a tax is needed. People are not going to pay voluntarily for these services.

    I will tell you what theft is. Theft is receiving services from the government such as protection from foreign and domestic aggression, and then not paying for it. If you don't want to pay taxes in your country, move elsewhere.
    What's the difference between direct and indirect coercion? Can you give some examples?
    Yo Bizzaa!!

  13. #13
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by kuijias View Post
    To start I would like to say: I don't want this thread to turn into a debate about whether taxes are good or not, but about whether they are theft.

    EDIT: I'm not putting a definition here anymore... Use common sense.

    Since taxes fit the definition, I think I can accurately call taxes theft.
    Rather difficult to answer your question without a definition, and I have a feeling by "your definition" it probably was.

    Taxes exist in most political societies to cover the cost of:

    Public property maintenance.
    Building of public properties such as: schools, parks, rec centers, etc.
    Paying the salary of public servants from the garbage man to the mayor.

    In most political societies most if not all of these services (all of which have not been listed) would not be made available without taxes.

    Is it theft? Like I said, by your definition, probably. Since you removed your definition I suppose I will need to make presumptions.

    I would say it is not. There is something in political philosophy called the "social contract" (Rousseau I believe?) You can find the book at any book store. Basically it says that people come together and form a union "the people" and there are a set of guidelines that we must all follow to make this union work. When you join this union you agree to these rules.

    Now this union can be applied to any political society (although I am sure Rousseau may have had specifics in mind): communist, capitalist, etc. It merely implies that you agree to live by the laws of that society.

    The taxes can be seen as a "law" of that society, and when you "join" this society you are agreeing to abide by these laws. In this instance it is not without your permission or knowledge. You have agreed to these terms by joining this union.

    A society forms, and in this society the people have decided that all men and women must pay a tax, perhaps not monetary, perhaps they are communist and each person must pay a tax of 10 hours of labor to the government a year. When one joins this society they are agreeing to the rules set by the society.

    With this in mind one could argue that whenever you join a society with rules, you are agreeing to the rules set by that society. Like the payment to a plumber, or debt holder, you have agreed to pay for your "membership" or services.
    Witty puns...

  14. #14
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    If you fail to qualify the statement with a definition, then you're simply asking for an opinion. This is mine:

    The simple act of taking is not theft. If I take a toy from my child, is that theft? If I snatch the keys from an intoxicated person about to drive, am I stealing?

    I do think that the level of taxation in our country is confiscatory, detrimental, immoral, unethical and in some cases could be considered unconstitutional. But until deemed illegal by a court of law, it is not theft.

  15. #15
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    It's not theft, its taxes.

    The difference is that the taxing agent is also the legal agent. Laws define both property and theft, and laws also define taxes. Taxes cannot be theft so long as the legal authority has determined them.

    Now you may feel taxes are immoral and unjustified, but that is a political matter rather than a legal matter. It may feel tantamount to theft but it is not.

    A burglar does not define your rights to property, but the state does. You don't own anything without the state certifying that you own it. If you try to claim property without some recognition of ownership then only your personal force protects it as property. If the state recognizes it then the state will protect it in court and by force. In return for this essential service the state has taxation. If you wish not to be taxed you must renounce all property rights within the state. And indeed if you have no property you likely won't be subject to any taxation.

    To have the kind of no-tax world you seek you must abolish the state itself and its authority. So if you are an anarchist then you see tax as theft.

    The american founders didn't oppose taxation, they opposed it without having a stake in their government and so we have our representative system.

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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Well put Sig Fried. That is what I was trying to get at; but I figured since he was so reluctant to give a definition I would try to address it as a philosophical ("I have not agreed to this, therefore it is theft") argument rather than a legal one.
    Witty puns...

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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigfried View Post
    The american founders didn't oppose taxation, they opposed it without having a stake in their government and so we have our representative system.
    A very good post sir. I agree completely with your opinion.

    But with regard to the above statement, I would say that the American Founders never envisioned, intended, or would have approved of the system and level of taxation as it exists today.

    In a recent interview Obama said this of elected officials: "Our job description is to solve problems and to help people." This quote goes to the heart of what's wrong in Washington. The leaders in Washington as of late (in the last 50 years) don't need to "solve problems" or "help people". They need to make it easier for the people to solve their own problems and help themselves and each other.

  18. #18
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    I have already written about this on my blog.

    Summarizing, yes, taxation is theft. See the above link for details.

    Taxation is not like buying something in a store. I can go to another store if I choose or set up my own store. I have no choice but to "buy" services from the government, at the price the government violence monopoly demands.

    "You can go to another country!" is invalid. No matter where I go, there are a group of thugs claiming the ability to tax me. Via corrupt international treaties, all countries offer lousy working conditions for their slaves. For example, as condition of IMF and WTO membership, countries are barred from using gold or silver as money. Inflation is a type of tax.

    If you really think about it, the Federal Reserve is one huge price-fixing cartel.

    The income tax means that I don't own my own labor.

    Property taxes mean that I don't really own my house/land. I merely have a perpetual transferable lease.

    I don't own my labor. I don't own land. My savings are stolen via inflation. Doesn't that make me a slave?

    The free rider argument is invalid. This degenerates into the "forced rider" problem. I am forced to pay for government, whether it is efficient or not, whether it does a lousy job or not. If the government fails to prevent a terrorist attack, can I fire them and buy police protection from someone else?

    I'm willing to pay the fair market price for police protection. I object to being forced at gunpoint to pay for a monopolistic seller of police protection.

    If you really think about it, everything that government currently does could be more efficiently done in a really free market with no government taxation/violence monopoly. Just because it hasn't been tried before, doesn't mean it wouldn't work. It's hard to see it, because it's a huge mental shift from the way you've been conditioned to think.

    Most people get hostile when you say "Taxation is theft!" I see that as an indication of the importance of the subject. Most people can't admit that they've totally been conned by the State. It's a huge shock.

  19. #19
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    Taxation is not like buying something in a store. I can go to another store if I choose or set up my own store. I have no choice but to "buy" services from the government, at the price the government violence monopoly demands.
    You are only forced if you choose to stay in this society. This is what society means. The very essence of an established society is one giving up some of their liberties to live in unity/convenience/whatever you wish to call it.

    If you are dissatisfied with this society make your own. "But that is not practical" is not a legitimate counterargument. The option still exists.

    "You can go to another country!" is invalid. No matter where I go, there are a group of thugs claiming the ability to tax me. Via corrupt international treaties, all countries offer lousy working conditions for their slaves. For example, as condition of IMF and WTO membership, countries are barred from using gold or silver as money. Inflation is a type of tax.
    So why should an established society listen to you?

    You are free to move anywhere you like, simply because there are not many (or any in your argument) places you could move that agree with you does not invalidate my argument, or the argument in general. Whether or not there are people in a society who agree with you does not in any way impact the statement: "You do not need to stay here."

    Let us say there is a strip of establishments: bars, restaurants, shops, etc. Let us say that any number of these (from one to all of them) establishment does not allow activity X. Using the argument "well I cannot do X anywhere else because everywhere else is the same." is irrelevant . Who cares? If you are not satisfied with the conditions offered by said establishment(s) leave. It is irrelevant on a practical level whether or not there are other establishments to go to. These places were established before you arrived, and you are free to invest time/money/labor in them, or not invest in them. However if you continue to stay within any one of these establishments it is implied that you are going to follow the rules laid out.

    The income tax means that I don't own my own labor.
    How? You are not forced to work. You are not forced to choose a certain job. You are not forced to do certain labor. You have the choice to work as hard as you like. You can apply for any job, negotiate a salary, etc.

    How exactly is that not owning your labor? You receive the benefits of your labor do you not? 100% of your labor is not taken from you, you still own it, regardless of what amount you "own".

    Property taxes mean that I don't really own my house/land. I merely have a perpetual transferable lease.
    Again... how? When you have a lease you do not profit from this lease. You can NEVER profit from a lease because you have NO ownership in a lease. A lease is merely a contractual agreement that you will pay X amount of money for y amount of time, for service or goods A. You profit from owning land. At some point in time you may sell that land at a profit if you own the right land. You never profit, or even break even from a lease. I find your comparison here to be very flawed.

    I don't own my labor. I don't own land. My savings are stolen via inflation. Doesn't that make me a slave?
    No. Slaves own nothing, make nothing, and are allowed no choices.

    The free rider argument is invalid. This degenerates into the "forced rider" problem. I am forced to pay for government, whether it is efficient or not, whether it does a lousy job or not. If the government fails to prevent a terrorist attack, can I fire them and buy police protection from someone else?
    If a society establishes itself in such a way as the above mentioned, then it is up to that society. You may leave said society at any time you wish. Again, whether or not there is any other place for you to go is irrelevant. If the people establishing said society agree to the terms and conditions set out, then those are the terms and conditions that new comers must follow.

    I'm willing to pay the fair market price for police protection. I object to being forced at gunpoint to pay for a monopolistic seller of police protection.
    Man, and I thought soap operas were overly dramatic.

    If you really think about it, everything that government currently does could be more efficiently done in a really free market with no government taxation/violence monopoly. Just because it hasn't been tried before, doesn't mean it wouldn't work. It's hard to see it, because it's a huge mental shift from the way you've been conditioned to think.
    I disagree. Is government good? No. Is what you are suggesting good? No. Humans beings are flawed creatures who can be rather cruel and hostile at many times. Having no government is no better than having government, both are flawed.

    Most people get hostile when you say "Taxation is theft!" I see that as an indication of the importance of the subject. Most people can't admit that they've totally been conned by the State. It's a huge shock.
    I do not think anyone is really being hostile. There are better things to do than get hostile on the internet...

    Your system is no better. Human beings will never live in peace and harmony, whether we have a state or no state; human existence is a perpetual state of chaos and violence. Your system is no better than any current system out there.


    You make the point "I cannot fire the government, therefore it is theft." "I can get services nowhere else."

    Well you can, but they are not to your liking. That is irrelevant. Alternatives exist, and you are more than welcome to pursue other interests. Hell, you can even form your own country if you can find enough people to support your cause.

    The point is you have the option. Whether or not it is practical is irrelevant.

    A society forms with certain rules and guidelines, they define the laws, powers, etc. All of this rests on what the society "believes" the laws to be. Perhaps by your personal definition it is theft, but more importantly by the societies it is not.

    If a society decides to have a state like you mentioned: taxes, inability to fire the government, etc, then all of this is acceptable. Whether or not YOU find it acceptable is meaningless. Society is not about the individual, even in the most "free" of societies; it is about THE GROUP.
    Witty puns...

  20. #20
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    Re: Is taxation theft?

    I think before we can legitimately answer the question of "is taxation theft," we'd have to try to suss out matters such as property rights, and whether all such "rights" come from governmental fiat, or whether some exist "naturally."

    I don't think it unreasonable to suggest that there are certain "natural" property rights--that "theft" can exist independent of a specific legal code, and that it is the recognition of such theft that leads to those codes.

    If I built a house to live in, I can see where I would consider that house "my property." "Mine" because of my investment in its construction (generally speaking... I'm sweeping over a lot of fine points, I know). If someone from a far land came and took that house from me--lived in it and denied me that right, I would feel as though I had been violated; that my property had been stolen.

    I might feel that I would be morally justified in fighting to keep/regain my property as, in a sense, what has been stolen from me is not only the property itself, but the time and energy invested in the original securing of that property; that is, some of my very lifeforce (if you will ) has been taken against my will and for another man's use. But there are, perhaps, advantages in not relying on my own strength of arms in securing my rights--and in society, I could call the police to my aid, the courts, government, to reacquire what is justly mine; my house.

    But I submit that the initial act of taking my house from me isn't "theft" because some statute declares it so, but because it is theft, which is why such statutes were initially written.

    Or, to put it another way, imagine two astronauts travel to Jupiter, where they are outside of the jurisdiction of any legal authority. One is jealous of the other and so kills him. We would recognize that as "murder," even if there was no court to try it.

    If this is so, then I can imagine that there might be an instance where the government can take property from a person and thereby commit theft, in that it would violate a "natural" property right that pre-existed even the formation of a given government.

    Quote Originally Posted by DevilPup John View Post
    I would say it is not. There is something in political philosophy called the "social contract" (Rousseau I believe?) You can find the book at any book store. Basically it says that people come together and form a union "the people" and there are a set of guidelines that we must all follow to make this union work. When you join this union you agree to these rules.
    It's been a damn long time since I've read The Social Contract, so please forgive my ignorance/faulty memory.

    However, one issue I take with your stance is the last sentence there. I am an American citizen by virtue of my birth, however I don't remember "joining" my society nor "agreeing" to its rules. Further, I'd argue that this is true of most people--we may be a part of our specific societies based on agreements that our forefathers have made, but only a segment of us ever enter into a specific, explict contract with our society.

    Further, if we find taxation to be theft in the sense of violating natural property rights (if we agree that such natural property rights exist), I'm not sure that I agree that a person can surrender those by contract. As I do not believe that a person can legitimately sell himself into slavery, surrendering what I believe to be his own natural rights to liberty, I don't know that a person can legitimately surrender his right to property, as such.

    Quote Originally Posted by DevilPup John View Post
    You are only forced if you choose to stay in this society. This is what society means. The very essence of an established society is one giving up some of their liberties to live in unity/convenience/whatever you wish to call it.

    If you are dissatisfied with this society make your own. "But that is not practical" is not a legitimate counterargument. The option still exists.
    I also should like to take issue with this.

    The idea of "if you don't like a particular society, you can just leave" seems to me to be impractical at least. And to my mind, it raises a host of questions.

    Does such a response justify anything that a "society" may do? If we're living in a place where slavery is allowed, and supported by government, would that invalidate any complaints that such slavery is immoral or unjust or a violation of natural rights? Would we say to people who would so complain: "well, just move or create your own society if you don't like it!" ?

    Also, can a person always do that? Move or create a new society? You say that the impracticality of it doesn't matter, but is that really so? Suppose we're talking about East Germany subsequent to the construction of the Berlin Wall? Could you say to a person complaining about the immorality of governmental action that they can just move away, when the government has set its power against such a thing?

    If we say that the policies of the Cold War Soviet Bloc aren't comparable to taxation, because taxation doesn't prevent a person from moving... I'd ask if that were really true. "Moving" or "creating a new society" requires certain material means. If taxation is not theft, and if the government or society has a right to confiscate its members' property by virtue of the fact that it is government and society, then couldn't taxation take from someone the very means necessary to move away, or create a new society?

    Finally, I know that you've dismissed the argument that "there might be no place to go," but how far can we take it? Suppose the globe were united under one government? Could we then say to someone who doesn't like the government's policies to "just move"? With respect to taxation, if every country on earth taxes, isn't that comparable to having a single global government with a tax policy?

    Suppose our global government were to claim jurisdiction into space and beyond? Suppose there literally were "no place to move to" to escape what is considered "unjust government"? Would that make a difference?
    Thank you for the opportunity to discuss these things with you!

    If you'd like to know "where I'm coming from" you can look here.

 

 
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