“I prefer the government to take less from me. I also prefer the government to take less from you.”
I’d like to take some time to respond to a few recent reader comments. I’ve never done this before, but then again I don’t really get all that many comments. Because of the length of my rebuttal to these comments I felt that it would be better to create a new post rather than cram a book into the comments section. First let me say that I have sincerely appreciated the comments I have received. I enjoy the debate. I have especially enjoyed the back and forth with the particular commenter to whom I am preparing these replies.
Comment # 1
“Some free, autonomous, adult, “self-owned” individuals banded together for their mutual defense and their mutual benefit, and negotiated among themselves an explicit, written agreement, binding themselves and their posterity to the creation of a nation.”
Lysander Spooner addressed this assertion far better than I could hope to. The following is a rather large, but extremely persuasive rebuttal from the essay “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority” by Lysander Spooner.
“The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation. It has no authority or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago. [This essay was written in 1869.] And it can be supposed to have been a contract then only between persons who had already come to years of discretion, so as to be competent to make reasonable and obligatory contracts. Furthermore, we know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now. Most of them have been dead forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years. and the constitution, so far as it was their contract, died with them. They had no natural power or right to make it obligatory upon their children. It is not only plainly impossible, in the nature of things, that they could bind their posterity, but they did not even attempt to bind them. That is to say, the instrument does not purport to be an agreement between any body but “the people” THEN existing; nor does it, either expressly or impliedly, assert any right, power, or disposition, on their part, to bind anybody but themselves.
“We, the people of the United States (that is, the people THEN EXISTING in the United States), in order to form a more perfect union, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves AND OUR POSTERITY, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
“It is plain, in the first place, that this language, AS AN AGREEMENT, purports to be only what it at most really was, viz., a contract between the people then existing; and, of necessity, binding, as a contract, only upon those then existing. In the second place, the language neither expresses nor implies that they had any right or power, to bind their “posterity” to live under it. It does not say that their “posterity” will, shall, or must live under it. It only says, in effect, that their hopes and motives in adopting it were that it might prove useful to their posterity, as well as to themselves, by promoting their union, safety, tranquility, liberty, etc.
“Suppose an agreement were entered into, in this form:
“We, the people of Boston, agree to maintain a fort on Governor’s Island, to protect ourselves and our posterity against invasion.
“This agreement, as an agreement, would clearly bind nobody but the people then existing. Secondly, it would assert no right, power, or disposition, on their part, to compel their “posterity” to maintain such a fort. It would only indicate that the supposed welfare of their posterity was one of the motives that induced the original parties to enter into the agreement.
“When a man says he is building a house for himself and his posterity, he does not mean to be understood as saying that he has any thought of binding them, nor is it to be inferred that he is so foolish as to imagine that he has any right or power to bind them, to live in it. So far as they are concerned, he only means to be understood as saying that his hopes and motives, in building it, are that they, or at least some of them, may find it for their happiness to live in it.
“So when a man says he is planting a tree for himself and his posterity, he does not mean to be understood as saying that he has any thought of compelling them, nor is it to be inferred that he is such a simpleton as to imagine that he has any right or power to compel them, to eat the fruit. So far as they are concerned, he only means to say that his hopes and motives, in planting the tree, are that its fruit may be agreeable to them.
“So it was with those who originally adopted the Constitution. Whatever may have been their personal intentions, the legal meaning of their language, so far as their “posterity” was concerned, simply was, that their hopes and motives, in entering into the agreement, were that it might prove useful and acceptable to their posterity; that it might promote their union, safety, tranquility, and welfare; and that it might tend “to secure to them the blessings of liberty.”
Comment # 2
“I don’t use the power of the state. The state is us working together for our mutual benefit. We gave the power to tax to Congress through the contract and later, by our explicit agreement, added the income tax in the 16th Amendment.”
In order to bring clarity to this popular belief, I call on Murray Rothbard’s “Anatomy of the State: What the State is Not.” Again, I couldn’t say it better, so why try.
“With the rise of democracy, the identification of the State with society has been redoubled, until it is common to hear sentiments expressed which violate virtually every tenet of reason and common sense such as, “we are the government.” The useful collective term “we” has enabled an ideological camouflage to be thrown over the reality of political life. If “we are the government,” then anything a government does to an individual is not only just and untyrannical but also “voluntary” on the part of the individual concerned. If the government has incurred a huge public debt which must be paid by taxing one group for the benefit of another, this reality of burden is obscured by saying that “we owe it to ourselves”; if the government conscripts a man, or throws him into jail for dissident opinion, then he is “doing it to himself” and, therefore, nothing untoward has occurred. One would not think it necessary to belabor this point, and yet the overwhelming bulk of the people hold this fallacy to a greater or lesser degree.
“We must, therefore, emphasize that “we” are not the government; the government is not “us.” The government does not in any accurate sense “represent” the majority of the people. But, even if it did, even if 70 percent of the people decided to murder the remaining 30 percent, this would still be murder and would not be voluntary suicide on the part of the slaughtered minority. No organicist metaphor, no irrelevant bromide that “we are all part of one another,” must be permitted to obscure this basic fact.
“If, then, the State is not “us,” if it is not “the human family” getting together to decide mutual problems, if it is not a lodge meeting or country club, what is it? Briefly, the State is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion. [emphasis added]
“And the tax evader may disagree with a law to pay for government services through taxes, yet the rest of us, to secure our right to pay only our share of the costs and not his, will also enforce this rule.”
I’ll shoulder the burden of rebutting this comment on my own. By using direct quotes I will do my best to avoid putting up a strawman to burn, and address the notions expressed in direct a manor, giving all care to meet the apposing view on it’s surest footing, at it’s sharpest edge, and on it’s most balanced approach.
Let me begin by asking a few questions of my commenter. The answers given are taken directly from this blog’s comments in the course of dialog.
Q. Does the government require you to pay more taxes because some people pay less then their fair share or in some cases no taxes at all?
A. “The tax evader who fails to pay his fair share of the cost of public services is an aggressor against those honest taxpayers who he forces to pay his share in addition to their own.”
Q. Do you prefer lower taxes? See Comment # 3
A. “[Yes. I believe I have the] right to pay only [my] share of the cost of government services.”
Let’s boil these comments down to their essence.
“I prefer the government to tax me less and other people more.”
Bare in mind here that the commenter understands that failing to comply with the State’s demand for tax dollars results in punishment.
“I am morally and ethically obligated to pay my taxes. And I am also legally obligated. But it is not the threat of penalty that makes me pay my taxes.”
So the threat of penalty does exist, and knowing that, the commenter prefers a situation where others are threatened and coerced by the State to pay more than they do so that he might pay less for the government services he so deeply cherishes.
Seriously, how could one misidentify the aggressor with greater error? On one hand there are people who demand money from you and threaten to put you in a cage if you don’t comply. But this is not the enemy? This is not the aggressor? No.
My outlook on taxation is quite different. It goes something like this:
“I prefer the government to take less from me. I also prefer the government to take less from you. Taxation is theft.”
The commenter is convinced that the very people who, in the name of morality and justice for all mankind, demand that the State take less from ALL are the evil, unethical, and immoral villains. How dare those people say all aggression is illegitimate.
While it may be true that “good and honest men will often disagree as to which are the best laws,” when it comes to taxation, only one side of the issue has a moral foot to stand on.