A few weeks ago, an organization called Turning Point USA, which is a student movement for free markets and limited government, was on campus handing out promotional items and information about their organization and other items.
One such item was a poster which had the phrase “Taxation is Theft” underneath a picture of Uncle Sam wearing a bandana over his mouth. Naturally, because of my libertarian leanings and a need for something to fill my bare walls, I grabbed one.
After the poster sat in my room for a few days, I asked myself “Is taxation really theft?” I realized that this statement: “Taxation is Theft,” although effective propaganda, is a huge oversimplification. The poster should read: “Most Taxation is Theft.”
Government is necessary for civilization and government requires funding from taxes. Without government, a society would be, by definition, an anarchy. I am not an anarchist or an anarcho-capitalist. I think anarchy would make for a primitive society. The subject of almost every policy debate is not whether or not government should exist, but rather which powers are legitimate for a government to possess.
The answer to this question is simple. The government’s sole duty is to guarantee man’s right to life, liberty and property. Once the government employs itself in anything more than strict protection of these rights, it is going out of its natural bounds.
The right to life, liberty and property are negative rights, meaning they merely require inaction from others, such as refraining from killing or stealing. A little over a hundred years ago, progressives started introducing the idea of positive rights.
A prime example of positive rights is Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights, a vision for America that Roosevelt explained during his 1944 State of the Union address. Roosevelt claimed man had the right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation, the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation” and the right of every family to a decent home.
These rights enumerated by Roosevelt sound nice, but these rights are impossible to guarantee without infringing upon the rights of others. A right to any physical thing, whether clothing, a house or a wage, requires violating other people’s rights to liberty and property when they are forced to use their capital, labor and time to guarantee other people’s positive rights.
It is fundamentally different to ask someone to not do something to guarantee a right because a person can abstain from doing an infinite amount of actions at anytime, but there is a limited amount of actions someone can do at one time, not to mention there are limited resources to complete those actions.
This is why most taxation is theft: Most of what the government spends its money on is its futile effort to guarantee man’s positive rights in the form of such things as corporate bailouts, bureaucratic spending and farm subsidies. The government should only spend money on things necessary for guaranteeing negative rights, such as courts to provide rule of law, legislators to make laws and an executive branch to enforce the laws.
Until the size, scope and power of government is reduced to its sole, fundamental duty — to protect citizens from infringing upon the rights of other citizens — there is truth in the statement that taxation is theft.
It is my hope that one day, a future generation will live in a country where the statement taxation is theft is undeniably false and my wall will not be adorned with a cheap poster about taxes.