Self-Ownership & The Case For Voluntary Taxation
Anyone can oppose a particular tax as being unneeded, wasteful, or too expensive. But what if government buildings, schools and roads are in poor shape? What if there appears to be a real need for higher taxes? Consider the following syllogism developed by Professor Robert Nozick* of Harvard University.
PREMISE A: I own myself.
If you don't own yourself, then who does own you? Is it the mailman, the next door neighbor, some foreign corporation, doctors, politicians? Who? The abolitionists asked this question before the Civil War, when slavery was quite acceptable to the general public.
PREMISE B: What I produce is part of me.
This premise is less generally accepted than the first. But if people own themselves (the right to life), then they must own what they legally produce (providing they do not initiate physical force or fraud). How can it be any other way? If you cannot dispense your income freely, then you are enslaved to another. As Nozick argued: it is wrong to foist benefits on one person and then command someone else to pay. “What if I mowed your lawn and then demanded you to pay me?”** This is exactly what government does through forced taxation.
CONCLUSION C: Therefore I own what I produce.
If someone else had a claim to on person’s income, the person would not truly own himself. Since each individual must give personal consent, a majority vote has no effect on the morality of forced taxation. Rape does not magically become okay when ten men do it. One hundred robbers have no more right to break into your home than one. Can a 51% majority who happen to be Christian force the 49% who are Muslim to pay for a new church? Of course not! So why should they have the authority to make you pay for something you did not personally authorize? Yet most people have accepted the bizarre concept that Peter has a right to make Paul fund government programs mandated by Peter.
TAXES SHOULD BE VOLUNTARY
Those who favor government programs should be the ones to pay for them. In this way, the self-ownership premise is not violated, nor the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which “prohibits involuntary servitude.”
If a product or service is worthwhile, people will support it. After the American Revolutionary War many churchmen and politicians warned that if the U.S. government did not fund churches and clergymen (as some colonies did during the colonial period), there would be few churches. But it did not turn out that way! Those who do not participate, have no responsibility to fund such a system. Would it be fair for everyone to be billed for Disneyland's upkeep, even those who never attend? To be equitable, only those who use it should pay the cost, through user fees.
Since time equals money and since humans are mortal, to confiscate money from an individual is to take a portion of his or her life. In a way, those who steal are physically injuring the victim. They are taking a piece of limited life away from the victim. Taxation is simply a form of coerced redistribution of other people’s lives.
**The concepts of self-ownership and individual consent date back to John Locke (1632-1704) who is considered the main influence behind the American Revolution. Locke’s concept of “life, liberty and property” was used by Thomas Jefferson as the philosophical basis for the Declaration of Independence. And it was Thomas Jefferson who as President repealed all federal taxes on individuals. This policy lasted until the Civil War.
**Quote from Prof. Moore
Another good quote from Prof. Moore “No one is anyone else’s master, and no one is anyone else’s slave.”