This page will be updated when I find something quote-worthy.
SLAVERY IS WRONG. A slave is a person who is the property of another or others, such that whatever the slave produces can be taken by force or the threat of force. The slave has no right of self-ownership, and those who exercise dominion over the slave always have the legal right to use coercion against him, but certainly have no natural right to do so. He who takes the life, liberty, or property of another without that other’s consent is stealing; and as the early abolitionist described it, man-stealing is just as wrong, if not worse, than property-stealing, because human beings hold a higher rank in existence than inert property matter.
TAXATION IS A FORM OF SLAVERY. A tax is a compulsory levy on a person subject to the jurisdiction of a government. Anyone who is taxed is a slave because his or her earnings and property are forcibly taken to support the State. Most individuals do not consent to taxation. Historically, the Romance languages, such as French, Spanish, and Italian, have tried to make the tax-payer “feel good” by euphemistically “calling him a ‘contributor’.” “Customers” is the term that our own Internal Revenue Service uses to identify those from whom it extracts payments, using threats of force or actual force in some instances.
THEREFORE, TAXATION IS WRONG. As Auberon Herbert, one of the contributors to this volume, pointed out decades before the passage of the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (on the basis of which Congress legislated a federal income tax): truth and consistency demand that if the State may forcibly take one dollar “out of what a man owns, it may take what it likes up to the last dollar … . Once admit the right of the State to take, and the State becomes the real owner of all property.” To those who wish to debate this point, I only ask: Where in the federal Constitution is there any limitation on the amount that Congress may try to take from us?
— Carl Watner (Render Not: The Case Against Taxation)
Here’s the key concept that statists don’t understand: If you devise or advocate for a system whereby people receive “services” before paying for them, and without ever requesting or agreeing to receive them, then the burden for its upkeep is on YOU, not the “freeloaders” you’re trying to extort payment from.
You’re either an immoral miscreant, or just not good at thinking things through, but either way, it’s more of a YOU thing, so stop dumping the consequences of your dysfunction on everyone else. If your system doesn’t work without robbing everyone, here’s a thought: Come up with another system.
— Brian Blackwell
If stealing 100% of the product of someone’s labor is slavery, at what percentage is it NOT slavery?
— Mary J. Ruwart
But without government, how would we protect ourselves from bandits and predators? How would money be issued and circulated in a free society? How would we defend ourselves from foreign invaders?
I don’t know the answers to these questions – although innovative, plausible, exciting alternatives to government have been advanced over the years.
Those alternatives serve only to show that a free society can provide whatever we need without government. They don’t tell us what a free society will be. A free society isn’t planned, it evolves from the wishes and talents of its members. So there’s no way to know what system of protection, money-issuance, or road-building would win out in the free market. In fact, most likely there would be many systems from which each of us could choose for himself.
I may not know how a free society would work, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work. I also don’t know how computers will work in the year 2000. I know only that the best minds in that world will develop computers and software beyond my ability to imagine today. They will do this because they’ll earn fortunes applying their genius to the needs of computer-users. I will benefit from their talents without knowing in advance what they’ll develop.
And just because I can’t visualize how some task would be accomplished in a free society doesn’t mean such a task couldn’t be accomplished. Today only a few people are developing free-market alternatives to government. What if the best minds in America could make fortunes providing personal protection, national defense, sound money, better schools, safer roads, and efficient mail delivery? The possibilities are far beyond my ability to imagine.
— Harry Browne (The Breakdown [and Replacement] of Government)
Advocates of taxation claim that since most people pay assigned taxes before the guns show up, they have implicitly agreed to it as the price of living in “society.” Most slaves obeyed their master before he got out the whip, yet we would hardly argue that this constituted agreement to their servitude. Today, we have an enlightened perspective on slavery, just as one day we will have an enlightened perspective on taxes and other forms of aggression we now think of as “the only way.”
— Mary J. Ruwart (Healing Our World: In An Age of Aggression)
The Internal Revenue Code is a massive part of the laws of the United States of America. It is complex. I daresay no single human being, even the most expert tax lawyer, understands all of it. Many provisions are almost incomprehensible except perhaps to that most expert tax lawyer, and even he is probably uncertain about many details.
Yet one thing is certain: virtually nothing in the code is there by accident. Every incomprehensible provision is there to serve the interest of someone who made it worthwhile for a politician to direct his staffers to put it there at an opportune point in the legislative process.
You didn’t determine any of these provisions. Unlike those who did put them there, often with billions of dollars at stake, you don’t count. Your role in the entire taxing affair is simple and normally boils down to two things: one is to pay the amount that the IRS tells you to pay; and the other is to be punished with penalties and interest if you don’t satisfy the IRS.
A third, of course, thankfully never reached by most people, is to go to prison for tax fraud. Imagine that: tax fraud. The mind rebels at the very concept. It’s as if Jesse James rode into your town, took everyone’s wallet and watch, and then shot a few people for failing to hand over everything the James Gang demanded.
— Robert Higgs
[This was a letter addressed to Shirley Peterson, then Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, this “note” lambasts her 1993 message to tax-paying Americans.]
Dear Ms. Shirley Peterson,
The past year, 1992, was a taxing year for every American. As you well know, the typical American family spent practically 40% of its income on federal, state and local taxes. Everywhere you turn there is a government agent on hand to collect money, and a government official, like yourself, to try to doubletalk us into believing that you are actually performing a vital service.
You imply that we could not survive without your assistance. Yet, the fact is quite the reverse: you people in government could not survive without us, the workers and the producers in society. Where would your sustenance come from if we didn’t provide it? American government monopolizes or interferes in essential services because the large majority of people use them. These areas of life – like money, banking, schooling, communication, and protection services – are the lifeblood of society. Government stranglehold on them yields control over every person in the country. Essential services, if not provided by government, would be forthcoming. People do not walk barefoot because there are no government shoe factories.
You thank us for complying with the tax laws voluntarily, but in the next breath, write of directing your enforcement efforts against those who “fail to report and pay.” Come on, Ms. Peterson! The only reason millions and millions of taxpayers send you their money ‘voluntarily’ is because you, Congress, and the Federal Marshall Service threaten them with imprisonment, penalties and fines, and confiscation of their property if they do not. You would surrender your wallet to a thief who brandished a gun, and threatened you for “your money or your life,” but you wouldn’t call it “voluntary.”
If you truly believe in accountability, you ought to accept responsibility for the crimes of the organization you head. No Mafia syndicate, no pirate band, no gang of criminals has ever acted more brazenly, and more openly than the thieving Internal Revenue Service. The only thing that distinguishes your institution from its brothers-in-spirit-in-crime is its degree of legitimacy – the fact that most Americans have come to accept its existence, like death, as inevitable.
There is no way you could possibly improve your service. Evil actions should be abandoned, not made more efficient. If you are serious about your dedication to the welfare of American society, I urge you to submit your resignation. There is no way to make your job compatible with the norms of honesty, morality, and integrity. Please think about this before you work another day on the job.
Don’t you just love it when people condescend to you after you’ve said, for example, that people pay taxes or obey regulations “at gunpoint”? “When,” they demand to know, “has anyone from the government pointed a gun at you to make you pay taxes or obey regulations?
This sort of response is hard to take seriously. Even if one has never encountered evidence of police carting folks off to jail for such violations of law, one might make the time to read the sanctions expressed in the statutes: fines and imprisonment. Does anyone really imagine that enforcement of such sanctions is carried out by unarmed government agents?
Yes, normally, people either obey the government’s laws and regulations or, when charged with violations, submit to the legal process that imposes fines or tosses them into prison. Why they go along peacefully is no mystery. Determined resistance would bring forth the government’s violence in an instant. So in fact the gun is always there, and always known to be there, whenever the government requires or forbids anything, especially when it categorizes an action as a felony, as it has done for hundreds, maybe thousands, of actions, many with no victim except the grasping and intrinsically violent state itself.
— Robert Higgs
Instead of threatening recalcitrant citizens with jail, educate them to their civic duties. Demonstrate why they ought to contribute to their government. Threatening them with force is not a way to convince them. They ought to be left alone and denied whatever government services they are unwilling to pay for. And if the supporters of government are still unable to collect enough in taxes to support the amount of government they deem necessary, then they ought to dig deeper into their own pockets. The fact that government is a “good cause” is no justification for stealing from or killing those who refuse to support it. This is what I call the Christian way of dealing with those who refuse to pay.
— Carl Watner (Render Not: The Case Against Taxation)
Theft is generally defined as the taking of property without the owner’s consent. But when it is some government that does the taking, it is called taxation. But there is a difference between taxation and robbery because robbery is a one-time thing, whereas taxation is something that occurs at regular intervals, which makes it more akin to exploitation or slavery. Does it make any substantive difference whether some government takes one-third of your income or merely forces you to work for it without pay for four months out of the year? Could it be argued that it is the tax collectors rather than the tax evaders who are the sinners since it is they who are taking property that does not belong to them?
If a robber wants to raise $1,000 and forces you and your friends to empty your pockets, is it unethical not to tell the thief that you have $20 in your shoe, even if the failure to declare the $20 results in having your friends pay a larger share, because you are paying less? Is the argument any different when the robber is government? The morality of the failure to pay does not revolve around whether the effect of nonpayment might result in a more severe burden on others, but whether you have a moral duty to pay in the first place. If taxation is theft, then the fact that others might be forced to pay what you do not is of no consequence. Robbery is in no way more justified if the robber takes equal portions from all of the victims. But is taxation really theft, or do taxpayers consent to be taxed?
It might be argued that taxation is not really coercive because voters, somewhere along the line, have consented to be taxed. But there are a number of flaws in this line of reasoning. For one thing, the voters who consented to be taxed did so sometime in the past. In the case of the individual income tax in the United States, for example, they gave their consent in 1913. Many of the people who gave their consent then are now dead. And many of those who were alive and of voting age back then did not give their consent.
It is a fundamental principle of both common law and basic justice that one person cannot be held for the contract or another, so even if consenting to he taxed is viewed as a contract between citizens and the state, the contract is null and void as far as those who did not consent are concerned. So taxation cannot be said to he noncoercive just because some group of voters agreed to be taxed sometime in the past.
— Robert McGee (The Ethics of Taxation)
The most un-American phrase in our modern vocabulary is “take home pay.” What do we mean, “take home pay”? When I hire a man to work for me we discuss three things: the job to be done, the hours he shall work, and the wages he shall receive. And on Friday when he receives that pay envelope, we have both fulfilled our contract for that week. There is no further obligation on either side. The money in that envelope belongs to him. He has worked for it and he has earned it. No one, not even the United States Government, has the right to touch it. Who dares to lay profane hands upon that money, to rudely filch from that free man the fruits of his labor, even before the money is in his own hands. This is a monstrous invasion of the rights of a free people and an outrageous perversion of the spirit of the Constitution. This is the miserable system foisted upon the people of our country by New Deal zealots and arrogant Communists who have wormed themselves into high places in Washington. This system is deliberately designed to make involuntary tax collectors of every employer and to impose involuntary tax servitude upon every employee. We don’t need to go to Russia for slavery, we’ve got it right here.
— Vivien Kellems (That All the World Should Be Taxed)
Suppose America’s best entrepreneurs were competing to provide the best schooling, the safest and fastest roads, the most stable money, the best defense. Today the government preempts these fields – through prohibition, regulation, or subsidy. But once it became profitable for the world’s best and freest minds to address these needs, we could enjoy excellence in protection, schooling, and purchasing power comparable to what we now get in telephones, computers, and fax machines.
How would these things operate? I have no idea, and it would be presumptuous to think that I knew what people would want and what geniuses would create. I know only that a market solution would provide what we need and desire – not what enhances the politicians and their allies.
— Harry Browne (The Breakdown [and Replacement] of Government)
By the time I am 67, over $600,000 will be paid over into Social Security on my behalf. That money would have been worth $1.9M if I had gotten a 5% return. My annual interest would be $95K.
The Government promises me $3,075/month at 67, which is $37K/year.
How is this not THEFT?
— Todd Hagopian
Sometimes apologists for the state argue against the “taxation is theft” claim by asserting that the government is providing everyone with protection of life and property and therefore it is not simply stealing from anyone but providing a critical quid pro quo. Seems half-plausible at first hearing.
But the more you think about it, the less plausible it seems, for a host of reasons. Take my own case, for example, which is certainly not unique. I have not lived in the USA since 2015. Yet both the IRS and the Louisiana Department of Revenue have continued throughout the years since my emigration to threaten me with grave harm — in particular, the seizure of my financial assets in the USA — if I do not continue to cough up the same amounts of tribute that I would have been forced to cough up had I never left the country.
Okay. I’m paying for my government services, but because I do not reside inside U.S. jurisdiction, I receive no protection of life and property whatsoever. This rationale is bogus. The federal and state governments of the USA tax me and threaten to seize my assets not because we have an exchange agreement of some sort, but simply because they can extort me and get away with it. It’s really that simple.
And, boiled down, it’s also that simple for people who never left the country. You are being shaken down, pure and simple. You are at the mercy of a violent gang of extortionists. You’d have to be blind not to see the reality of your victimization.
— Robert Higgs
As taxation is made compulsory on all, whether they vote or not, a large proportion of those who vote, no doubt do so to prevent their own money being used against themselves; when, in fact, they would have gladly abstained from voting, if they could thereby have saved themselves from taxation alone, to say nothing of being saved from all the other usurpations and tyrannies of the government. To take a man’s property without his consent, and then to infer his consent because he attempts, by voting, to prevent that property from being used to his injury, is a very insufficient proof of his consent to support the Constitution. It is, in fact, no proof at all. And as we can have no legal knowledge as to who the particular individuals are, if there are any, who are willing to be taxed for the sake of voting, we can have no legal knowledge that any particular individual consents to be taxed for the sake of voting; or, consequently, consents to support the Constitution.
— Lysander Spooner (No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority)
I learned to be suspicious of ways of bettering mankind than require the government to point a gun at innocent people and say “Give me your money or I will kill you” — which is what taxation always involves, ultimately. We don’t think of it because we just give them the money. We don’t make push come to shove. But if you think it through, you’ll realize that if you’re adamant, if you’re stubborn — if you say “No, I won’t pay my taxes” and they issue you a summons, and you say “No, I won’t go to court” and they come to arrest you, and you say “No, I won’t be arrested” — you’re getting perilously close to the point at which they either club you into submission and hall you off to jail, or they shoot you on the spot. You are not at liberty to decline these blessings, ok? We’re all supposed to pay when told to pay.
— Robert Higgs (Against Leviathan – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT4s2vTj4gQ&t=3900s)
All other persons and groups in society (except for acknowledged and sporadic criminals such as thieves and bank robbers) obtain their income voluntarily: either by selling goods or services to the consuming public, or by voluntary gift (e.g., membership in a club or association, bequest, or inheritance). Only the State obtains its revenue by coercion, by threatening dire penalties should the income not be forthcoming. That coercion is known as ‘taxation,’ although in less regularized epochs it was often known as ‘tribute.’ Taxation is theft, purely and simply, even though it is theft on a grand and colossal scale which no acknowledged criminals could hope to match.
— Murray Rothbard
If roads are dependent upon theft (taxation), then the existence of roads is unjustifiable. That’s all anyone needs to know about the subject.
Here’s the novel idea: Remove all immoral options from the table before planning your project. Questions of feasibility can proceed from there, and yield whatever they yield.
Whether roads can or cannot be produced, mankind will be better off this way because Truth/morality/nature has you covered. Following its Laws is the path to humanity’s highest thriving in all cases. There are no trade-offs of benefit where Truth is concerned.
— Brian Blackwell
No middle ground is possible on this subject. Either “taxation without consent is robbery,” or it is not. If it is not, then any number of men, who choose, may at any time associate; call themselves a government; assume absolute authority over all weaker than themselves; plunder them at will; and kill them if they resist. If, on the other hand, taxation without consent is robbery, it necessarily follows that every man who has not consented to be taxed, has the same natural right to defend his property against a taxgatherer, that he has to defend it against a highwayman.
— Lysander Spooner (No Treason #2: The Constitution)
People who talk about tax evasion as if there were something wrong with it are hilarious. No one talks about, say, Walmart evasion as if there were something wrong with it. They sensibly suppose that people who don’t want what Walmart offers for sale don’t hand over their money to Walmart. Why not assume equally sensibly that people who don’t want what the government offers don’t hand over their money to it?
Yeah, yeah, there’s that stuff about public goods and free riding. But so what? People give lots of money for various sorts of public goods, rather than free riding on the donations or purchases of others. Happens all the time. If people really valued what government supplies, they could give money to the government in the same way that they give vast amounts of money to churches, synagogues, colleges, and charities of countless kinds.
But government is a band of violent criminals extorting money from people and doing a great deal of evil with the proceeds. Of course perfectly decent people will evade handing over their money to such disreputable and often evil individuals. It is scarcely a bad thing to keep one’s money out of such malevolent hands. Prudence may dictate paying off the government to stay out of prison, but no one should conclude that people have a moral obligation to submit to extortion exactly as the extorter dictates.
— Robert Higgs
Statists often argue that taxation is not theft because “governments” use tax revenue for things that are for the “common good,” so it’s just a matter of people paying for goods and services they receive. Such an argument ignores the fundamental nature of the situation. A simple example makes the double standard obvious. Suppose a stranger came up to you and said he had mowed your lawn, or left an item for you at your house, and now demanded that you give him $1,000, though you had never agreed to any such arrangement. Obviously, that would constitute extortion, and you would have no duty to pay, even if he really had mowed your lawn or left you something. No one has the right, without your consent, to provide you some item or service – when you didn’t ask for it and didn’t want to buy it – and then forcibly take from you whatever he declares the item or service to be worth. And yet that is exactly what every “government,” at every level, always does.
— Larken Rose (The Most Dangerous Superstition)
Even famous economists have often characterized the government as engaged in an exchange relationship with the public. Government officials provide certain goods and services, they say, and the public pays for these things in the form of taxes, fees, fines, civil forfeitures, and so forth. This way of charactering the relationship is fundamentally misleading.
The main problem is that the government does not make an offer that anyone can decline. The government’s kingpins decide what to provide, where, in what amounts, and subject to what terms of access. If I don’t like the terms of the offer, tough luck. I’m not dealing with Amazon or Walmart here. I get what they choose to give me, and I pay whatever they say I must pay for it. (If I don’t, they will hurt me.)
Moreover, many of the goods and services provided have no value to me and many others. And even if I place some value on them, I may not value them anywhere close to what they collect from me to supply them.
Most important, many of the alleged services the government provides not only have no value to me, they in fact have negative value. I would pay to avoid them. Some of them I despise with all my heart. The government does not give a big or little shit if I don’t want my taxes used to spy on me, extort me, abuse me with a multitude of vicious laws and regulations, or lavish trillions of dollars on the merchants of death and the armed forces so they can roam the world slaughtering people disliked by Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the neocons in the USA. I pay, like it or not; and in exchange I get all this shit that I hate with all my heart and soul. This is not my idea of an exchange arrangement.
— Robert Higgs
It is not true that the services would be impossible without taxation; that assertion is denied by the fact that the services appear before taxes are introduced. The services come because there is need for them. Because there is need for them they are paid for, in the beginning, with labor and, in a few instances, with voluntary contributions of goods and money; the trade is without compulsion and therefore equitable. Only when political power takes over the management of these services does the compulsory tax appear. It is not the cost of the services which calls for taxation, it is the cost of maintaining political power.
— Frank Chodorov (Taxation Is Robbery)
If some in our society think that certain government services are necessary, then let them collect the revenues to support those services in a voluntary fashion. We who oppose taxation may or may not support their efforts. It would soon be revealed which services are sufficiently desired. And if the people collecting the money to support these services do not, in their judgment, collect enough, then let them dig into their own pockets to make up the deficiency or do without. They do not have the right to spend other people’s money.
— Carl Watner (Render Not: The Case Against Taxation)
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