Taxes have been raised for over 5,000 years. Without tax, so it claims, the state cannot maintain its functions and support its citizens. But some libertarians claim all taxation is immoral: the state stealing the money of the individual. Where does taxation cross the line between legitimate representation and legal plunder?
Yes, taxation is theftShow moreShow less
Taxation is an unjust practice that does not yield the rewards it promises.
Frederic Bastiat, French philosopher of the 19th century deemed taxation to be a legal plunder. According to Bastiat, taxation does neither subtract nor add to the economy of the taxpayer or tax receiver, but is rather an internal reallocation of existing sums, an exchange.
According to Bastiat, the distinction between just taxation and legal plunder is pivotal to whether the exchange reaps sufficient rewards for the payer for exchange of her payment. This is most generally seen in the form of public goods such as roads, infrastructure, security forces, et cetera. Taxation takes a turn towards legal plunder when revenues are squandered for private benefits, like subsidizing unprofitable industries or siphoning money to appease political allies.
What is unique about the exchange in taxation however is that it is involuntary. As Bastiat states, “The true and just rule for mankind is the voluntary exchange of service for service. Plunder consists in prohibiting, by force or fraud, freedom of exchange, in order to receive a service without rendering one in return.” Since taxation evades the realm of freedom, consumers are compelled to pay for services they do not desire. Moreover, Bastiat states that such an exchange distorts the value of these services because of the varying fractions of each taxpayer’s income through their apportionment.
Taxation is not unjust by definition but is subject to abuse.