Taxation is Stealing, The Purpose of Government Spending and Taxes

Drudge's headline reads, "ROB THY NEIGHBOR: HALF OF HOUSEHOLDS PAY NO FED INCOME TAX."  The real article is more even keeled:  Nearly half of US households escape fed income tax.

Nothing like inciting people through calling someone a thief.  We're trained from childhood to stop thieves from stealing.  The inflammatory headline ignores the complexity of the situation.  In a system that taxes, it is inevitable that some will receive more benefits than others.  That is the purpose of taxation and government programs.  If not, then everyone would just keep their money and spend it however they wanted.  As libertarians propose, we could have private jails, private security, private roads - private everything.  However, most of us see the benefit of using our money collectively for the common good.  

The frustration that becomes expressed in Drudge's headline comes not from indignation that the government is helping the poor, but a shift from a form of socialism that protected the rich while allowing the poor to be prey to all of the varying markets.  The United States is still a society that has socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.  This situation might be changing, and the people who were benefiting from it previously will not take that lightly.  On the right, Thomas Sowell, a popular commentator, made this point in an article on real estate and eminent domain:
"A very different form of socialism for the rich protects their communities from even the dangers of a free market...For example, the "open space" laws that have spread across the country to protect upscale communities represent one of the biggest collectivizations of land since the days of Josef Stalin."  

On the left, James Clancy, the president of the National Union of Public and General Employees, made a similar point: 
"Ordinary public taxpayers who worked hard and played by the rules and were exploited in the first place are now being forced to bear the risk and responsibility for the financial mess but get no help with their priorities. It’s a classic case of socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor."
The question that Drudge's headline ignores is, "Who did most of the work that made those who pay taxes have the money to be in an income bracket that has to pays taxes?"  That wealth did not just appear out of thin air.  It was built on the backs of the workers who are now receiving more back in taxes.  Inadequate compensation is more unfair than taxes being levied on those who gained disproportionately to the rest of the work force, but it does nobody any good to start labeling the other group as thieves.

Many people never pay enough in taxes to pay their public schooling off, but that doesn't mean that giving them a public education is wrong.  Right now, at today's rate in Ohio, it would be just under $125,000 owed per student for an elementary and secondary education.  That does not include any preschool programs.   The cost increases when the student follows up high school by going to a public university, so most of us have taken a lot of money from the government for our education.  In the case of education, we're not talking federal taxes, although they do pay 10.5% of elementary and secondary education, but it's an illustration of the point.  Taxes we pay should be used for the betterment of society.  It does not mean that I have to receive proportional benefits for every dollar I pay, nor does it mean that I will only receive benefits equal to what I pay.       

Taxes are used to benefit society as a whole, and most of the time those who are on the poor end need the most help.  Helping them, through education for instance, is typically beneficial to society as a whole.  It is inevitable that some citizens will receive more than they paid and others will pay more than they receive.  That's the way a society that taxes works.  But maybe we should stop looking at it through a benefit-cost ratio and start viewing it through human-love lenses. 

We could be pursuing libertarianism, but most of the people that I hear complaining about taxes are not expressing libertarianism.  People seem to like the areas where the government helps them and dislike other people getting help.  But maybe we shouldn't have problems with people receiving help and living closer to the standard of living we have.


To hear ideas on libertarianism, you can listen to Free Talk Live, or visit other libertarian sites like Free Keene, the Cato Institute, or the Free State Project


I wrote on the subject of Jesus' teaching on taxes a while back: Taxation is Stealing, Health Care, and Jesus' Teaching on Caesar.