Questions For Libertarians Taxation & State Funded Services

@Simon916 has raised a number of questions about libertarian views. There are 11 in total and all are sensible questions. I will not go through them in order, I will deal with the what I consider the weakest points first and work through to the strongest.

If Libertarians hold that it is morally wrong for the state to take their money in taxes, why do they not take the principled stand against this moral wrong and refuse to pay tax in the full knowledge of the consequences? Why do they not refuse to use services paid for through immoral means?

I suspect that most libertarians are not living in such desperate
circumstances, or lack the necessary capacity for such absolute self
sacrifice, required to take the drastic action required to bring about
social change in the face of a moral wrong.”

There are two distinct point here.

1. Why don’t libertarians refuse to pay taxes
2. Why do libertarians use services funded by taxes

For libertarians the decision on the first point is simply a choice between two evils. Pay taxes that you think are unjust or have your liberty taken away and spend part of your life in prison!

If a burglar holds a knife to your throat and says open the safe or I will murder you. It is rational to open the safe. It does not imply any hypocrisy to subsequently assert that you are against burglary.

If everyone chose to die rather than open their safe, it would over time change society. Burglars would get no benefit and seek other ways to operate. This would be good for society, but a lot to ask of the first few thousand victims and their families.

The same argument can be raised against socialists. If they feel it is morally wrong for large inequalities in wealth to exist, why don’t they simply rob the rich and give to themselves and take the consequences?

Decisions made under threat of force do not shed any light on the morality of the person being threatened.

I don’t think this is a valid criticism of libertarians. It might be a criticism of humanity that we prefer self preservation to martyrdom, but that is a more general philosophical issue.

The second point is why do libertarians use services funded by taxation. The implication being that it is hypocritical to take the benefits of taxation, whilst opposing it.

A specific example of this point that comes up a lot on Twitter, not in this case from @Simon916, is the claim that Ayn Rand was a hypocrite for excepting welfare and state medical assistance in her final years. I will use Ayn Rand’s own words on the subject (made long before she became ill) to explain the point:

The same moral principles and considerations apply to the issue of accepting social security, unemployment insurance or other payments of that kind. It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the “right” to force employers and unwilling co-workers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.

The Objectivist, June, 1966

So taking benefits from the state, at least up to the value of any tax you have paid, is simply restitution. The return of your rightful property, taken by the state without your consent.

What if you consume more in benefits than you have paid in taxes?

In many cases there is simply no alternative to using taxation funded services. E.g. If you want to have a crime investigated and a criminal punished the state has granted itself a monopoly on the provision of this service. If you want to use the road network to travel, the state owns virtually all the roads.

To quote Ayn Rand again:

“ The victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it.

The equivalent argument to socialists would be that they should starve rather than eat food produced by profit making private corporations or live in the dark rather than use energy created by big oil & gas companies.

If you have no alternatives in the environment you find yourself in, it is not hypocrisy to make rational self serving choices within that framework, and still oppose the framework.

 


 

 

This entry was posted in General Principles. Bookmark the permalink.