Taxation Is Not Theft


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.

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  1. You should debate an anarchist. You will lose with this weak logic of yours.

    If a thief comes in the night and steals my stuff and leaves behind something of value, he still stole my stuff. If the state uses violence to confiscate from me, they are stealing from me, even if they do something of value.

    And your argument that anarchists believe the state “is worthless” is incorrect. We believe it is worse than worthless, that it leads people to believe that some special sorts of people exist that don’t act out of their own self interest and are doing “public good.” It is “that great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

    To your claim that anarchists believe in “magic” that would result in a wave of volunteerism and self-sufficiency, I can turn that back on you and claim that you believe in the magic by which a monopoly of violence over a territorial area will suddenly give up their own self interest for the rest of the people. It is ludicrous.

  2. You also seem to have no understanding of the intellectual history of the movement that you are a part of. Libertarianism has always had an anarchist wing along with the supposedly “pragmatic” moderates like yourself. We disagree with you because we believe consistency in ideology is also better strategically for our end goals. It’s not just about what earns some return in the short run (as though the Gary Johnson wing of the party has done this???) but what keeps the government from regrowing into the monster it became due to the freedom that brought about prosperity which was then used to feed the beast

  3. I always believe an article more when, as this one does, it has a picture of an HP calculator in it. The real seal of approval would have been an RPN model in the photo.

  4. “I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.” H.L. Mencken

  5. Re: “Steven Thomas Sadowski…where he lives with his wife and two children in Sherborn”

    = Imagine your wife and two children are taken from you. Pause for a moment and think about that. The gang of thieves then demand ransom. You decide to pay it. Upon their whim they decide to give your wife and two children back—until they do it again next year.

    After this scenario—would you say that you were provided with the service of baby sitting? No? Why not?

    Because the payment of tax no more proves consent than the payment of a ransom transforms kidnapping into mere babysitting.

  6. No belief in magic is necessary to be an anarchist. Just a simple belief that, by and large, people will do what is best for themselves and through this, we’ll often come together for certain shared reasons that we each feel will benefit us individually. Pretty simple, mate.
    After working for 30+ years, over half of what I make with my work is taken from me by governments every year. So more than 50% of my work is stolen from me by government. And the money goes to an endless array of items I don’t wish it to go to. War, coups, corporate welfare, padding the wallets of bureaucrats, etc… Fire protection, crime investigation (cops don’t protect me from squat; they follow up after a crime has been committed), roads, and one or two other items can be provided by voluntarily paying private companies for those services AND you’ll get better service because they are accountable to their customers, not to government.

  7. Lord god… how do you know that you have made someone worse off? The fact you have to forcce them to “buy” something. This proves that any value that they got from government services is outweighed by the value of their money. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have to force them. I can’t believe I am even explaining this to a so called Libertarian.

  8. Okay “taxation is extortion” is more precise. But extortion is a kind of theft. Arguing otherwise is linguistic nitpicking.

  9. The services mentioned as provided by the government can all be provided privately in a free market. A thief who throws a pile of hot dogs on my lawn as he runs away with my belongings is still a thief with no upgrade to “extortionist”.

    • If you signed a contract saying he could throw those hot dogs on your lawn and take your belongings, then it’s not theft. Just because your “taxation is theft” phrase is bunk, and only proves you want to be unaccountable for your actions doesn’t mean taxation is theft.

      • I didn’t sign a contract to pay taxes. They are taken involuntarily and by force.

        • There is no innate right to private property outside of the social contract that allows for private ownership. The only reason you can keep what is yours is because, as a society, we have decided you have that right. If society decide you did not have that right, anyone could take all that you have. Just ask the communists.

          Society also has decided that taxation is the right of the government. The same social contract that allows you to keep what you own undergirds taxation as well.

  10. Do you consent to your property being taken? No? Then it’s theft. It doesn’t matter if a robber breaks into your safe steals your stuff and then buys you a sandwich later… The definition of theft is to take without right or permission. Stop trying to justify theft. It’s literally theft. What they do with it after they steal it is irrelevant.

  11. This is what happens when people who aren’t libertarian, infiltrate the libertarian party and spread lies under the label of ‘being libertarian’.

  12. Is it still rape if the victim gets an orgasm or becomes pregnant and has a child that she grows to love? If I come to your house and take your money on one day, then I come back the next day and give you a stale, half-eaten sandwich, just because you got something back in return, does not make the original aggression magically become something better. Theft is theft no matter how you try to spin it, PERIOD!!!!

  13. You steal my wallet with $ 100.
    Then you give me my wallet and a candy.
    And this is not robbery now.

    Are you dumb or dishonest?

    // You can give me anything to disguise, but it’s still a fact that you robbed me.

  14. This is why the LP doesn’t go anywhere. Leave the 50 Shades of Grey for the soccer moms we need to be black and white. Taxation is theft.

  15. Taxation is not theft, but not for the reason given in this article. Theft is when someone appropriates another’s property without that person’s authorisation. But since a government defines and enforces property rights in the first place, it is entitled and able to designate what portion of any transaction is its property and can extract as taxation.

  16. I agree with this. Taxation is not the problem, the issue is how our taxes are spent. The main issue is ending the welfare state, ending the drug and vice war, cut the spending, and getting rid of useless penalties, licenses, permits, and other pointless regulations. And then if privatize all the roads, schools, and parks, public services would take care of themselves. One can only dream!

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