We’re just a few weeks away from one of the most dreaded days of the year: April 15, Tax Day. Over the past few years discussions around Tax Day have led to a larger conversation of non-filers and/or non-payers of income tax. In the last Presidential election Mitt Romney made headlines with his comments about the so-called “47 percent” – the percentage of Americans who pay no income tax. Some libertarians, specifically Ron Paul, responded to Romney’s complaints that nearly half of all Americans don’t pay income taxes by saying “We’re half way there!”
Even though over half of Americans do provide money to the federal government it is not accurate to say they “pay” taxes. Certainly, you could say people pay taxes though you would also need to say that someone being mugged is paying the mugger.
Some will argue that governments provide services and the taxpayers are simply paying for those services. That, too, is a flawed argument since most of the so-called services are being provided without consideration of whether or not anyone actually wants the service provided by a government. This would be akin to someone mowing your lawn and pruning your hedges, without your prior consent, and then demanding payment. This would rightly be considered a form of extortion, if not outright theft, and no one would rightly claim the homeowner was stealing services if they refused to pay for the unwanted lawn maintenance.
That taxation is theft is not a novel concept. Murray Rothbard wrote that taxation “is theft on a grand and colossal scale which no acknowledged criminals could hope to match.” And in the 1840’s Frederic Bastiat referred to taxation as “legal plunder.” He wrote in The Law, “legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on.”
Bastiat added, “This question of legal plunder must be settled once and for all, and there are only three ways to settle it:
1. The few plunder the many.
2. Everybody plunders everybody.
3. Nobody plunders anybody.”
As a principled libertarian I seek a society without legal plunder, a society where nobody plunders anybody, because no one other than you has a legitimate claim to the fruits of your labor, and no one other than myself has a legitimate claim to the fruits of my labor. Such a society would be one “of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony, and logic.”