Mises Economics Blog
The Angry Economist
Civilian Gun Self-Defense
In The Pipeline
Motherhood and Taxes
Josh writes in response to this article:
That's true; in some circumstances people have recognized large-scale theft. I think Josh has it exactly right that people "see government as something wholly different than simply a large organization."
This does make government special. But not unique. Individuals still retain the right of self-defense, and private security companies and guards are widespread. These examples of non-government force are also legitimate — and, unlike government, operate without theft.
Some forceful government action is legitimate. Some forceful private action is legitimate. Some forceful government action is illegitimate, and some forceful private action is illegitimate. Private theft is always illegitimate. Why isn't this also true for government theft?
I am very sympathetic to this argument. It is, fundamentally, why I accept subpoena power. And it's also why a total end to forced taxation is among the last, not first, changes I would like to see in the government.
I don't know how much revenue would be raised by voluntary means, either. I wouldn't get rid of forced taxation until it was clear that voluntary sources would be sufficient. And, of course, the transition from forced to voluntary sources would be gradual.
The military certainly is expensive. There's a useful summary table (S-10) in the 2006 federal budget that shows 2004 military spending as $436 billion of total federal outlays of $2,292 billion, or 19%. (As a percentage of total government spending, including state and local spending, it is less.) But national defense is a purpose I'm happy to contribute to, even as I might quibble about the sums involved.
It's things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — together more than twice as expensive as the military! — that I complain about and regard as pure theft. These programs do not serve the purpose of protecting individual rights, so they are illegitimate government action. Government should not do these things even if funded voluntarily; those who favor these things should set up private organizations to pursue them. (More about this in a forthcoming post.)
I am willing to temporarily endure a system of forcible taxation in order to fund the essential activities of government. I will not consider it proper or desirable, and I condemn government involvement in non-essential (non-rights-protecting) activities.
I still see no principled way to defend forcible taxation. My question about what distinguishes government from a gang cornering me in an alley still stands. What is incorrect in the analogy: Social Security is the product of a gang of the elderly, and as illegitimate as such a literal gang's demands would be?
Social Security doesn't protect individual rights, so I don't think of it like subpoena power or national defense. It's stealing. And that's wrong, just like Mom said.