Taxation is Theft

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Here is an argument I want to defend:

Premise 1:           To take an individual’s property without their consent is theft.

Premise 2:           Taxation is taking individuals’ property (money) without their consent.

Conclusion:         Taxation is theft.

Now, this argument is valid, meaning that if both premises are true then the conclusion is also true. In a valid argument, it is impossible for both premises to be true, and the conclusion be false. However, an argument can be valid but not sound, meaning that if the premises were to be true, then the conclusion would also be true, but one or more of the premises are false.

The following argument is an example of an argument that is valid, but not sound:

Premise 1:           All triangles have three sides.

Premise 2:           If all triangles have three sides, then pigs can fly.

Conclusion:         Pigs can fly.

This argument is valid, because if both premises were to be true, then the conclusion must also be true. However, this is not a sound argument, because the 2nd premise is false. It is not true that if all triangles have three sides then pigs can fly. So, even though the argument is valid, we can still reject the conclusion because one of its premises is false.

This means that if both premises of the argument for taxation being theft are true, then taxation is theft, no matter what your opinion is or what any expert says. In order to reject that taxation is theft, you must first show that either premise 1 or premise 2 (or both) is false. So, let us examine the premises!

Premise 1 states that taking an individual’s property without their consent is theft. This is true by definition, meaning that the truth or falsity of that statement is not dependent on any sort of physical evidence or observation, but rather is true in virtue of conforming to the definition of theft. It is similar to the statement that all bachelors are unmarried. That statement is true under any and all circumstances, and no expert or scientific observation can possibly change that. The reason is, that bachelors are by definition unmarried. There can be no such thing as a married bachelor.

Some people may try to argue that part of the definition of theft is taking someone’s property without consent or legal right. I put emphasis on the “legal right” part, because if that is built into the concept of theft, then premise 1 is false. The problem with including that as part of the definition, is that it is committing a logical fallacy known as circular reasoning. What that means, is that the conclusion is being assumed in order to prove the conclusion. Imagine if I said God exists, therefore God exists. Immediately you can see that there is a problem with that; I have failed to prove anything, because in order to demonstrate my conclusion (that God exists) I started off with what I needed to prove. In the same way, whether or not any legal system can override property rights, is the very thing in question, and so putting that in the definition for the concept of theft is committing a fallacy. Even if every dictionary in the world included that as a part of the definition, that doesn’t change the fact that it is committing the circular reasoning fallacy. If it were true that government laws are a foundation for what our rights are, then we are forced to say that slavery wasn’t wrong; after all, it was legal. Jim Crow laws would be justified if laws are what decides what is actually true of our rights. What Hitler did was legal under the laws of Germany, but we can agree that just because the government law said something, did not mean it was correct. Even if something that violates human rights is legal, that does not mean that it is correct.

So premise 1 seems very secure, but what about premise 2? Premise 2 stated that taxation is taking individuals’ property without their consent. Without a doubt, taxation is taking individuals’ property, but is it with our consent? Well, if you decide not to give the government your money, then men with guns will come to you, and take you by force to throw you in jail. That is not consent. If someone were to come up to you on the street, point a gun at you, and say give me your money or I’ll shoot you, then that is theft. That’s more or less exactly what the government does.

Some people like to say that we give consent. They say that by living in the civilized society, we are agreeing to the rules of the society. The problem with that, is that it is false to say we agree to anything. If it is true that we agree to everything society says, then show me the contract where anyone made this agreement? Obviously that’s not possible, because there is no such contract. None of us have ever voluntarily agreed to any contract between ourselves and the government. Also, we noted earlier that just because society sets certain rules and laws, doesn’t mean that they’re right.

Other people try to say we give consent to taxes by living in the area that the government owns. This is a bad argument for multiple reasons. First of all, the government does not own everything within its arbitrarily drawn boundaries, but also that is still theft if your only options are to either give your money to the government or uproot your entire life, home, and property, and pay the expenses of going to live somewhere else (where you will still be taxed).

Perhaps the most common objection I hear when I say taxation is theft, is this exact phrase, “but what about the roads?” To begin with, there is most certainly a free-market solution to roads that is far better than government roads, you can find that argument HERE (not published yet). The idea behind this question, is that we are giving consent to the government because we use the services it provides. The issue with that, is that receiving a service is not the same as giving consent. Aside from the fact that you have no choice to opt-out of those services, just because you are given something in return does not mean you gave your consent. If someone hacks into your bank account, takes some of your money, and buys you a motorcycle with that money, it is still theft. You did not consent to the motorcycle, even if you decide you like it and want to use it. You were robbed, and getting a service in return did not change that fact.

So, it seems premise 2 is also very secure. Since both premises are true, then we have no choice but to accept the conclusion, even if we feel it is false. However, this does not follow that taxes should not exist. Although it is my personal opinion that taxes should not exist, many people argue that there are cases where something can be theft, but also justified. For example, if a child is dying in front of you, and there is a life-saving medicine immediately next to you which does not belong to you, it would be justified theft if you were to steal the medicine to save the child. It seems impossible to get around the fact that taxation is theft, however I’ll leave it up to you to wrestle with the question as to whether or not theft is justified in the case of taxation.

Author: Ryan Scarbel

Ryan Scarbel is the founder and Executive Director of Free the Campus, Inc. Ryan is a student at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who's passion is to promote free speech and challenge all ideas in search of truth.

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