That’s right, you’re not dreaming, you read that right: Taxation is not theft.
Now, before you accuse me of being a Libertarian In Name Only, allow me to explain. One of the things that drew me to the Libertarian Party is that the platform was logically consistent. The other two parties seem bipolar and hypocritical as they argue for both choice and regulations simultaneously. We Libertarians have principles, and we see them to their logical conclusions even if they land us in politically unpopular positions. This is why I am imploring every ‘big L’ Libertarian to stop it with the “Taxation Is Theft” bromide.
I don’t recall the first time I saw the “Taxation Is Theft” tag, but just like the “Kilroy Was Here” tag, it has spread across the libertarian blogosphere just as insidiously. If we are not careful, it will envelop our party as candidates will undoubtedly be asked to pledge to two things: the NAP, and that taxation is theft. I believe the origins of this motto are anarchistic, and anarchists cling to our party like barnacles; we need to get our ship into fresh waters so they fall off.
If you think about what it means to say “Taxation Is Theft,” you are endorsing the notion that government has come to you like a thief in the night, taken your money, and left you with nothing in return. Unfortunately, that is not factually, or grammatically true. Yes, the government does take your money by force, but you do get something for your tax money, and, by definition, that is not theft; it is extortion. I will grant the anarchists one thing: “Taxation Is Extortion” doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way “Taxation Is Theft” does, but I’d gladly sacrifice marketing for accuracy. The only person who does not believe that we need a police department and the various agencies that uphold contracts and protect us from companies that would pollute for greater profits, is an anarchist. They actually believe that the government is worthless. They believe that if every government agency and department went away, that the town in which they lived would magically be taken over by a wave of volunteerism and self-sufficiency.
To them, taxation really is theft. If the Libertarian Party is not careful, like a Trojan horse, we will have allowed the anarchists to lure us into a logical inconsistency usually reserved for Democrats and Republicans. Why run for office if that office is worthless? Why have a party if the system in which it operates is a scam leading to theft?
Taxation is extortion, much like the mob protection service ‘offered’ to shop owners in the neighborhood. You may not have asked for what government has said you ‘needed,’ but you are getting something, whether it be a library, a highway department, a consumer protection agency, or a recreation center.
Begrudgingly, you may actually benefit from it.
Instead of being trapped by this errant slogan, Libertarians should be arguing how to make the necessary functions of government fair, efficient and constitutional. If we make pragmatic arguments, not only will we be grammatically and factually consistent, but we will act like the adults in the room worthy of election. And that’s why we have a political party, yes?
* Steven Thomas Sadowski is a member of the Libertarian Party nationally and in Massachusetts locally where he lives with his wife and two children in Sherborn. A proud member of the “pragmatic wing” of the Libertarian Party, he advocated and volunteered for the Gary Johnson for President campaign, whose election gains granted major party status to the Libertarian Party in Massachusetts. Steven is finishing up a mathematics degree at UMass Lowell where he hopes to teach. Steven has also attended Berklee College of Music and played in several bands and ensembles since the 80’s. He is an avid hunter and outdoorsman, and holds a black belt in Aikido.