Taxes Aren’t Theft – What They Are Might Be Worse

Taxes are Extortion

You’ll sometimes hear people say, “Taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society.” But taxation is not a price. Prices are paid willingly and can be negotiated. Taxation is forcible and non-negotiable: what the IRS says you owe is what you owe. You don’t pay your taxes according to the value you’re receiving from street repair or a fire department. You pay your taxes so men with guns don’t take your house, liquidate your business, or put you in jail.

“Taxation is theft,” isn’t quite right either. Taxation is extortion. Or maybe a mob protection racket. “Nice small business you got there. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.” Taxation is the collection of your money under the vague threat of real violence.

Sex without consent is not sex, it’s rape. Payment without consent is not a price, it’s extortion. At best, it’s economic coercion: you are forced to pay for things you want (public education, libraries, parks) and lots of things you don’t want (bombs, police brutality, mass surveillance, the prison-industrial complex).  

In his iconic The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek writes:

Economic control is not merely control of a sector of human life which can be separated from the rest; it is the control of the means for all our ends. And whoever has sole control of the means must also determine which ends are to be served, which values are to be rated higher and which lower, in short, what men should believe and strive for.

I tend to argue an economic angle on pretty much anything, so my critics will sometimes say, “everything isn’t about money.” But given the power associated with stealing unlimited amounts of other people’s money, and spending it on what they weren’t willing to pay for,  stealing and spending are the means of total social control. Totalitarianism. 

If taxes were ‘prices’ paid voluntarily, taxes would have to be earned by government. If you can’t refuse to pay the “price” whether it’s fair or not, you’re being extorted. If your labor and earnings are extorted from you by violence, you’re enslaved.