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Critique of voluntary taxation

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Before anyway skewers me for problems with the following, let me acknowledge that this is just the product of a Sunday morning reverie fueled by Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and Bach’s BWV 169 Cantata.

So now how about this, combine Rand’s lottery idea with the Hamburg honor system. You pay in your share anonymously, calculated I’m not sure how (note that Hamburg’s 25% of property is a very high figure, particularly for an investor). You get a numbered ticket, like a raffle ticket, so it’s anonymous until you come forward. There’s a drawing, and some number of people get their taxes refunded double and maybe a few hit the jackpot (pick a figure in excess of a large number). Then, in order to collect, you have to substantiate the amount of tax you paid.

Later on a cynical mood will strike me, and I’ll come back and scoff at this. But it looks like it’s worth the old college try.

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This actually isn't true. Rand repeatedly said that compulsory taxation is wrong, and Objectivism is opposed to it. How are you going to protect rights with an agency that is violating rights as a mea

I have no idea, but one could track down the references listed on the wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntary_taxation

A similar example: some economists will say that the free-market "rations" production one way, while a socialist state rations it a different way, but that national product has to be rationed out one

Shifting gears a bit:

Since a portion of the income tax pays for legitimate as well as illigitimate functions, could it be said that witholding payment violates rights (are not the police, soldiers, judges and elected officials entitled by contract to their pay and benefits?)

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Shifting gears a bit:

Since a portion of the income tax pays for legitimate as well as illigitimate functions, could it be said that witholding payment violates rights (are not the police, soldiers, judges and elected officials entitled by contract to their pay and benefits?)

Any anarcho-capitalist or social contract critic worth his salt is going to immediately ask: contract with whom? Where's my signature on this contract? Then the more Objectivist flavored reply comes: what gives you the right to initiate force against me?

I don't see this line of thinking going anywhere. Government establishes and maintains itself by coercive means, yet is necessary for the protection of rights. That's the paradox.

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I don't see this line of thinking going anywhere. Government establishes and maintains itself by coercive means, yet is necessary for the protection of rights. That's the paradox.

Is it actually true in every case that a Government establishes itself by coercive means? Was this actually the case with the newly established American government? What form did this coercion take and who were the victims?

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Is it actually true in every case that a Government establishes itself by coercive means? Was this actually the case with the newly established American government? What form did this coercion take and who were the victims?

There were royalists, some went into exile. I like to think the founding of the US comes close to being an exception, but you can't claim it had universal consent (which I acknowledge is an impossible standard, there's the rub).

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[M]y claim [is] that no voluntary system has ever been instituted [. . .]
Ohhhh, so that's your claim, right? Pretty much begging the question, I'd say.

Government establishes and maintains itself by coercive means, yet is necessary for the protection of rights. That's the paradox.
No, it isn't; it is a contradiction. It is a contradiction in your view that violating individual rights is legitimate if done to protect them. The non-contradictory alternative is that you should not force the protection of individual right upon people, and, at the same time, the fact they cannot or do not want to afford for any reason doesn't mean they have no rights.

But hey, don't attack me. It's not me, it's my "straw-man." He has really no self-control.

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Ohhhh, so that's your claim, right? Pretty much begging the question, I'd say.

Begging what question?

No, it isn't; it is a contradiction. It is a contradiction in your view that violating individual rights is legitimate if done to protect them. The non-contradictory alternative is that you should not force the protection of individual right upon people, and, at the same time, the fact they cannot or do not want to afford for any reason doesn't mean they have no rights.

The grammar of your third sentence is nonsensical. As to your objection to my use of the word paradox: “A paradox is a seemingly true statement or group of statements that lead to a contradiction or a situation which seems to defy logic or intuition.“

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox

All you have to do is consult a dictionary.

But hey, don't attack me. It's not me, it's my "straw-man." He has really no self-control.

Oh brother.

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  • 1 year later...

Can anyone recommend a book that discusses the pros/cons of voluntary taxation.. in detail? I've been reading articles about it here and there but would like to read something more comprehensive, if it exists.

I have no idea, but one could track down the references listed on the wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntary_taxation Edited by Grames
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If government cannot "compete" over time with third party private alternatives to deliver any particular service... then is not the path to minimal government made crystal clear?

 

One could transition government services by simply opening up the service (no more government monopoly) to others and the option for the taxpayer to stay with the government provided services or not. The "transition" could involve only the effects of an initial opt out which would depend on the service and how important it is to the taxpayer and how efficiently and well it is delivered. 

 

As for the immediate effects, if you were given the option (voluntary taxation) to pay the government to receive a particular service at the same rate you do now for the same services... would it not stand to reason you would continue to do so until an alternative (cheaper, better) were established?  Of course once a large number of people leave the service the specific "government" department offering the services would have to actually become "competitive".  The result would be efficiency and free market justice.  For services that are unneeded or unwanted they will meet a just fate.

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You complain that I want to know more about the historical examples of voluntary taxation that you cite “off the top of your head”? If you know that your examples are irrelevant or don’t stand up to scrutiny, why offer them? Here’s a good counter example I’ll accept without evidence: there were hunter gatherer tribes on the plains of Africa 100,000 years ago that had no system of taxation, voluntary or compulsory, whatsoever. No doubt true, so what?

Now, Iceland. I checked Wikipedia, and it says “The followers of the goðar [the chieftan] owed them military service” and “At first the chieftains relied primarily on peasant levies”. Sounds like there wasn’t a central government imposing taxes, but military service coupled with “levies” paid to a local strongman doesn’t sound like a voluntary government financing system to me....

 

You are context-dropping. 

 

Under an objectivist government, the trend in society must be objectivist for it to work. If it isn't, then the government won't be objective, it will reflect the majority view of the people. When the government engages in activities outside of its proper role, that is when funding will be an issue. That is because it will be engaging in activities outside the self-interest of individual man, and instead, in favor of a special group. Voluntary taxation can only happen when all of the donated money is going to man's self-interest.

 

In a society where the trend and dominant viewpoint is capitalist (morally and politically), donations will not be an issue. There are no historical examples because there was no such society has ever existed. But, if you listen to Objectivist viewpoint: Government is good and in man's self-interest, then it won't be hard to see why funding will be there.

Edited by thenelli01
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If government cannot "compete" over time with third party private alternatives to deliver any particular service... then is not the path to minimal government made crystal clear?

If by "cannot compete" you mean that it's gonna lose, that's not true. If the government gets to compete, it's gonna win. Every time. 

 

A fair competition implies rules that are being followed by two or more sides, and enforced by an impartial third party, in which the best competitor wins. Like a football game, with referees calling the results of plays, any penalties for breaking the rules, etc., and in the end the best team wins. Trust me, if the referee gets to play, he's gonna win.

 

In a free market, the government is supposed to be the referee, not a competitor. That's what makes the market free.

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I agree that governmentally provided legal services can't compete, if shackled to enforcement costs. But must they be?

Firstly, I don't see why a rational person wouldn't pay for the time, effort and bullets spent to protect them. Look at all of the charities and nonprofits devoted to nothing but helping soldiers and policemen; why wouldn't the same motivation extend to voluntary taxation?

Secondly, I see no reason why criminals shouldn't be forced to pay for their own fees- and nothing else.

There are specific costs incurred by crime, including apprehending, charging, confining and feeding the criminal. Logically those costs should be paid by the guilty party ala le miserables.

And if conflicting interests are an issue then why not ensure that the criminals don't pay for anything more than themselves? Keep careful records of each "debt to society" and release them once it's repaid.

Even those murderers who deserve death could be dismantled and sold for spare organs.

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A contract is symbolic of multiple parties' consent; that's why it functions as it does. When you sign the contract to rent someone else's property, it is to objectively show that the landlord and tenants have all agreed to do certain things under certain conditions.

That's what makes contractual breaches an initiation of force; it's essentially postdated fraud.

So the "social contract" could only ever be proper as a literal contract, for all citizens to sign. Anything less is a violation of consent (ergo of rights) under a polite excuse.

---

For society to sign contracts for me is no different from when society dictates what I should eat, drink, smoke or think, except in its complete perversion of the concept of a "contract".

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That's one my high school American Government teacher liked to invoke; "welfare is part of the social contract"!

Eventually I caught onto the game, conceded his point and went on to mention the "free car for Harrison" clause in the fine print.

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I think I covered this topic myself in my thread, "The "Ideal" Federal Govt. and What It Will Cost".

 

The core principle is this: you should pay for the services you use. The various governments (Federal, State, Local) provide various services which people want such as protection from foreign countries, local crooks, etc. Freedom is not free.

 

Moreover, the more you have to protect, the more it costs to protect. Ergo, rich people should pay more for this protection than poor people.

 

In the thread above we concluded that a "perfect Objectivist society" might see overall taxes be cut by something like 1/3 to 1/2. This is a nice bonus, but is far, far from the "tax free utopia" that many mistakenly assume a free society produces.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The core principle is this: you should pay for the services you use. The various governments (Federal, State, Local) provide various services which people want such as protection from foreign countries, local crooks, etc. Freedom is not free.

Which is absolutely right.  But I think the more important principle is consent; you shouldn't charge someone for what they don't want.

 

Which doesn't equate to enforcing laws that they don't want, simply as such.  The central flaw in Roy Childs' argument for anarchy is that it conflates "monopoly" with "coercive monopoly" and subsequently omits any consideration of whether any attempt at another government is rightful or not (which should clearly take center-stage in any such discussion).

 

But you shouldn't take anyone's money without consent which does mean, in the very least, voluntary taxation (essentially donations).  I don't see why this is an unrealistic or impractical ideal, though, precisely because you should pay for what you use.

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Which is absolutely right.  But I think the more important principle is consent; you shouldn't charge someone for what they don't want.

 

Which doesn't equate to enforcing laws that they don't want, simply as such.  The central flaw in Roy Childs' argument for anarchy is that it conflates "monopoly" with "coercive monopoly" and subsequently omits any consideration of whether any attempt at another government is rightful or not (which should clearly take center-stage in any such discussion).

 

But you shouldn't take anyone's money without consent which does mean, in the very least, voluntary taxation (essentially donations).  I don't see why this is an unrealistic or impractical ideal, though, precisely because you should pay for what you use.

 

Can you craft a scenario wherein anybody realistically lives completely without any protection whatsoever from the government? Absolutely none? In order to secure our rights in the USA from terrorists we have an extremely expensive military to pay for. Everybody living under the protection of this military gains a value from it, which means that morally they must pay for it lest they be moochers. In other words, by the very virtue of you living in the nice, safe USA, with police roaming around to protect your rights, courts, etc. etc. etc... you are using a great deal of expensive stuff.

 

So maybe, technically, taxation is "voluntary" in that you can choose not to pay taxes by moving out of the USA and renouncing your citizenship lest you lay claim to the protections afforded every citizen. But that's your choice: pay taxes or leave the USA and all of your property in it.

 

Which is all to say that a "completely voluntarily paid-for government" has the all of same fallacies as the various arguments for anarchism. Rights cannot exist outside of the context of a government to protect them.

 

Objectivism portends lower taxes, but not no taxes.

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Objectivism portends lower taxes, but not no taxes.

This actually isn't true. Rand repeatedly said that compulsory taxation is wrong, and Objectivism is opposed to it. How are you going to protect rights with an agency that is violating rights as a means of its existence?
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This actually isn't true. Rand repeatedly said that compulsory taxation is wrong, and Objectivism is opposed to it. How are you going to protect rights with an agency that is violating rights as a means of its existence?

 

Where did she write that? I only recall Ayn Rand writing to the effect that thinking in terms of a specific taxation system is drastically premature, etc. Certainly today's taxes are wrong since they include many things you do not make use of (i.e. paying for people you don't know and don't like), and obviously Ayn Rand would be against that, but I don't recall her ever making a blanket statement about taxes in general.

 

This also backs into a semantic issue: if there's a "fee" you are required to pay in order to be a citizen or resident of the USA--wherein you are free to not pay it and leave--then it's possible to not call that a "tax" since it's "voluntary". However, most people would call that a "tax"...

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Where did she write that? I only recall Ayn Rand writing to the effect that thinking in terms of a specific taxation system is drastically premature, etc. Certainly today's taxes are wrong since they include many things you do not make use of (i.e. paying for people you don't know and don't like), and obviously Ayn Rand would be against that, but I don't recall her ever making a blanket statement about taxes in general.

Rand states that since compulsory taxation would violate the non-aggression principle, her ideal limited government would collect payment for services voluntarily. Cf. Virtue of Selfishness, p.110. The rest of the chapter follows a discussion of some possible methods of voluntary financing. There was once a good thread here critiquing these suggested methods but I can't find it now.

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