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Taxes: Can Objectivists Pay Taxes?

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Guest DonGalt
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Guest DonGalt

Since taxes are used to force people to live for others benefits, are you not violating objectivism to pay taxes?

Some might make the argumetn that the government provides services, and thus you should pay for those serives. But this violates the idea of value for value-- the level of tax burden is approximately 10 times the fair market value for the services you recieve. (Realize that this is easy to show as most government money goes into the financial pyramid scheme of the deficit, foriegn aid, etc.)

Half of your life you are not living for yourself, you are living for others. And you are not doing so because its in your interest-- you're doing so because you are threatened with force if you don't.

This is clearly not a situation of free traders exchanging value.

So why do so many so-called objectivists seem to think paying taxes is moral?

With the big rift that came out of one objectivist just talking to some (allegedly) non-objectivists, how can so many objectivists directly fund their own opression with taxation?

Seems like there's a conflict there.

Edited by softwareNerd
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I don't know of any true Objectivists who advocate forceful taxation. However, the paying of taxes by Objectivists in modern society is not immoral because it is not a matter of choice. Anything done by a person forced by the barrel of a gun can not be morally judged. The fundamental necessity for morality is choice, which in the case of forcible taxation, is not present. Therefore, Objectivists who pay taxes are not immoral, becuase morality can not be drawn from actions done as the result of force.

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  • 1 month later...

It is true that morality is the realm of choice, and that any action absent of volition is one that cannot be judged with the rubric of morality. Therefore, if an objectivist pays taxes, because he/she is forced to do so by the government (which has a monopoly on the legal use of force), then no volition was used and no judgement on that person's morality can be passed. However, if a so-called objectivist ADVOCATES the tax system, this is an intellectual crime of the highest order, and that person can no longer deserve the title of "objectivist." If it is the service of the government that we are paying for, than it should be a voluntary exchange, entered into consciously and voluntarily on the part of each individual party. This is not the case with taxation, and therefore taxation as such is an immoral establishment.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest DonGalt
It is true that morality is the realm of choice, and that any action absent of volition is one that cannot be judged with the rubric of morality.  Therefore, if an objectivist pays taxes, because he/she is forced to do so by the government (which has a monopoly on the legal use of force),  then no volition was used and no judgement on that person's morality can be passed.  However, if a so-called objectivist ADVOCATES the tax system, this is an intellectual crime of the highest order, and that person can no longer deserve the title of "objectivist."  If it is the service of the government that we are paying for, than it should be a voluntary exchange, entered into consciously and voluntarily on the part of each individual party.  This is not the case with taxation, and therefore taxation as such is an immoral establishment.

But you just advocated the Tax system, by saying government has a monopoly on the legal use of force (and thus, anyhting they force you to do is moral.)

But that aside-- what if people choose to get their services elsewhere? What if they choose mutual arbitration agreemetns (As exist in the US today) instead of courts? what if they choose to defend themselves instead of hiring the government to maintain an army?

IF you really mean that the only legitimate one is a government that exists voluntarily, then you are advocating nothing different than Libertarian authors like L. Neil Smith (who's also an objectivist).

Have you read "The Probability Broach"? He describes a consentual government, only he calls it anarcho-capitalism and the government is a committee of people who exist and are funded, only by voluntary contribution.

I find it hard to believe you guys would accept such a situation-- you seem to be so stridently anti-anarchism and yet, you concede that if government isn't voluntary its immoral.

See the contradiction?

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Your problem, Don Galt, is that you do not have an accurate idea of what rights are. You seem to have the idea that a person has the right to do whatever they want to do, and can only be punished for an action if they agree to the validity of that punishment. A person kills another, and that person must agree to the punishment system set up by the government of the victim in order to be justly punished.

In a free society, a person can refuse to pay for the services of the government, but they can not refuse to suffer the consequences of violating another person's rights!

A proper government has the legal use of force because, and only because, it is placed under objective control. The retaliatory use of force is only right when it is placed under objective control. A person does not have the right to "defend themself," in the sense that they do not have the right to kill everyone on their street whom they suspect of stealing their wallet.

Your ideas are ridiculous. Please don't post here.

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But you just advocated the Tax system, by saying government has a monopoly on the legal use of force (and thus, anyhting they force you to do is moral.)

Again, DonGalt, what are you talking about? Saying that the government has a legal monopoloy on the use of force does not imply that it is funded by taxes, nor does it imply that they can force you to do anything and still be ok. All it implies is that the government is the only thing alowed to use retalitory force. That implies nothing about funding or how it would work in any specific detail.

Next time you post something, why don't you actually read what the other people said. RationalEgoistSG is wrong, DonGalt, you are ridiculous, not just your ideas.

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  • 2 months later...

Thanks for dropping the pretense of argument, and resorting to pure name calling.

It makes filtering you out much easier.

If, by the way, you'd like to actually make an argument, please feel free to do so.

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Guest Grantsinmypants

I have thought about the conflict that seems to exist between the requirements of maintaining a full-time government that exists to protect all persons within a given area and how such a government could exist with the consent of all persons within a given area. I think this is the essence of the misunderstandings that many so-called anarcho-capitalists have about Objectivist positions on government.

In order to clarify this, 4 things need to be elaborated upon.

1. What types of people stand to benefit from a single government in a given area?

Obviously, the broadest answer would be non-criminals. More specifically, the entire base of the non-criminal population pyramid would be made up of an ever-decreasing number of people with an ever-increasing affinity and ability towards rational living. And finally, the top of the pyramid would be made up of the most rational, and incidentally, the most wealthy people within a given area (Assuming, of course, a properly-behaving government).

2. What types of people stand to benefit from competing "governments" in a given area?

Obviously, the broadest answer would be criminals. More specifically, the entire base of the criminal, and soon-to-be-criminal, population pyramid would be made up of an ever-decreasing number of people with an ever-increasing galvanization of the attitude that moral superiority was not based on the facts of reality or rational thinking (and everything that that statement entails; but that's another topic), but on which "morality enforcement agency" happens to be the best deal at any given moment. And finally, at the bottom of this inverted pyramid would be made up of a small elite of crusading irrationalists (forgive the lack of originality) who would not only benefit from it as the owners of the various "governments", but would encourage moral relativism in order to be able to attract customers with a new selling point. They would, in effect be nothing more that dues-collecting gang leaders posing as entrepeneurs

3. Who, among these two basic types of people, stand to gain the most or suffer the most from a single government in a given area?

The elites of each type would. Those at the top of the non-criminal pyramid would have a vested interest in funding most, if not all, of the government simply because they have the most to lose. Not only in material terms, but all those further down the pyramid are of some value to them in their business endeavors.

On the other hand, those at the bottom of the inverted criminal pyramid, would either have to cease operations or reorganize their assets into legitimate, private security agencies that are subject to the laws of the single government. (This does not mean that the government's laws exist to take up all of the market-share for rent-a-cops and bouncers; it means insuring that rent-a-cops and bouncers do not initiate physical force). These actions would take them to the top of the non-criminal pyramid.

4. How would the rational, semi-rational, and irrational persons that form the base of the two pyramids peacefully co-exist?

When only rational behavior is encouraged, and irrational behavior is either discouraged or, in certain cases, explicitly prohibited, this perdicament would, ideally, wither away. However, because there seems to be a never ending supply of people who either can not or will not behave rationally, rational persons will have the peace of mind in knowing that should they ever need the services of the law to settle something minor such as a civil dispute or an incident of petty theft, their "law enforcement agency" hasn't been run out of business by its irrational, opportunist managers (or worse, decided that the civil disputes raquet isn't as profitable as the revenge killing raquet, and dropped that department).

Given those parameters, one can accurately assert that a single government in a given area is not only feasible, but also universally consensual and morally preferable to any who has anything to gain, materially or spiritually, for consensual interaction with those who adhear to an objective code of morality.

Although I have gone ahead and highly construed it, this basic concept can be found in Ayn Rand's essay "Government Financing in a Free Society" in her book The Virtue Of Selfishness.

Grant Williams

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  • 2 weeks later...
I don't know of any true Objectivists who advocate forceful taxation.  However, the paying of taxes by Objectivists in modern society is not immoral because it is not a matter of choice.  Anything done by a person forced by the barrel of a gun can not be morally judged.  The fundamental necessity for morality is choice, which in the case of forcible taxation, is not present.  Therefore, Objectivists who pay taxes are not immoral, becuase morality can not be drawn from actions done as the result of force.

Exactly. I would add that if you refuse to pay as a matter of principle, you will be thrown in jail and be unable to pursue your own interests.

As a side note, it is not all that difficult to work "under the table" and avoid paying taxes. Should one feel morally obligated to do so to avoid supporting oppressive government, even if it means their choice of careers is restricted?

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As a side note, it is not all that difficult to work "under the table" and avoid paying taxes. Should one feel morally obligated to do so to avoid supporting oppressive government, even if it means their choice of careers is restricted?

Absolutely not, especially if it would restrict one from the career that would make one truly happy.

Suppose Howard Roark could have worked at a quarry all his life and been paid "under the table," avoiding paying taxes and supporting the bureaucracy that was trying to hold him down. Well, what would that accomplish? Nothing. They put all kinds of barriers in his way that impede him from being an architect, so to try to get around those barriers he should refuse to be an architect? That doesn't make much sense. That's just letting them win.

Although, if it ever gets to the point where the government taxation and regulations and everything make it impossible for you to succeed at your profession, as in Atlas Shrugged, then perhaps it would be the right choice to "go on strike."

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On further thought I am no longer sure I agree ... when you pay taxes your money is used to some extent to violate the rights of others. Don't you have any obligation at all to try to avoid contributing to rights violations? (To make this clearer, imagine you live in Nazi Germany and your tax money will be used to murder Jews and invade other countries.) Isn't there some point at which you should refuse to cooperate with an oppressive government?

On a related note, what if the career you choose can only be practiced as a government employee, so that your pay comes indirectly from stolen money?

In both cases you do have a choice, although your own ability to pursue your goals would be reduced.

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Marshall,

As a moderator, I would request that in the future, if you are to post something such as your post about the Atlasphere article, to post it in a new thread in a different section. Your post does not apply to the Can Objectivists Pay Taxes? thread, nor does it fit in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Chat. I would suggest in the future that you put such posts in perhaps the Speakers and Events section or Activism for Reason, Rights, and Reality. If you could please practice discretion in where you post such things, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

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I believe the reason Marshall is not allowed to post new threads is that he was banned. In other words, he is treaspassing into private property against the consent of the owners. And he is doing so by using a guest account - which permits him to post in existing threads but does not have the capabilities to create new threads.

If I am correct, should not these posts be removed and the new ip address be banned as well?

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I believe the reason Marshall is not allowed to post new threads is that he was banned.  In other words, he is treaspassing into private property against the consent of the owners.  And he is doing so by using a guest account - which permits him to post in existing threads but does not have the capabilities to create new threads.

If I am correct, should not these posts be removed and the new ip address be banned as well?

I think I've been too lenient with Marshall because I have known him for some time through a friend of mine, and we’ve talked occasionally about computer-related issues. It was I who invited him to this forum, and I guess I felt hesitant about kicking him out. Each time I did so, he logged on from another IP and toned down his rhetoric…briefly. However this forum is my property, and just as I can un-invite guests from my house, so can I from my forum, and this guest has certainly overstayed his welcome. I've banned his IP and will be more diligent in keeping him out in the future.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I would like to relay a personal story...

In the beginning of my objectivist studies I had a similar opinion as Don about the immorality of forced taxation. I decided that to be a true, uncorrupted, totally consistent objectivist that I could not in good conscious, pay income taxes. My reasoning at the time was as follows:

1) Time, in the context of my life is finite

2) I trade my limited time (i.e.- part of my life) for currency (i.e.- Federal Reserve Notes)

3) Therefore, currency is the concretized representation of my life and any forceable confiscation of my currency is an indirect attack on my life. For those moments that I trade time for currency, and never realize the product, I am in involuntary servitude.

I also believed the statement 'Morality ends where a gun begins' was a cop-out. This may be true in a strict sense, but in no way helps with the answer to the question of the legitimacy of forced taxation.

The question then becomes, Does the government in an objectivist society, via its monopoly of the use of force have the right to compel performance of the individual to pay income taxes. I believed the answer to be no. But we are not living in an objectivist society, this is a fact of reality, and must be take into consideration.

The question now becomes, ammending the points above. Points one, two, and three are true statements, but what also needs to be taken into consideration is the consequences of that resisting action (i.e.- jail, garnishments, etc.) and how does this entire context effect your ability to serve your own rational self interest. I submit, that your rational self interest is better served by paying you taxes and living with the minor contradiction until a point is reached where you have a reasonably good chance of succeeding with your efforts. When this times comes, you must resist. Do I believe taxation is wrong... I do. Do I pay my taxes now... I do. My wages were garnished, fortunately I did not do jail time. What has this taught me? That reason is served only by others who recognize reason. When one party does not recognize it, you have two choices... Comply or Resist. If you resist, you must consider the likelyhood of success. I realized after many painful years that the government had a bigger stick than I did.

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  • 2 weeks later...

i didnt read this whole thread because frankley i don't have the time, but i think its pretty common sense, that if you pay taxes for things like maintenance of roads, schools, etc, that taxation for those items are just if you: drive a car, have children in public school. id say a majority of americans drive, so the idea of being taxed for utilities makes sense, but when i consider taxation for the benefit of other peoples children, i feel cheated. this is one of the hardest concepts for peopel to grasp when i try to explain the philosophy to them, "why not help when you can, even if it does put you at the short end of the economic expense", that and the idea of beign selfish as a non-negative.

Jon

3 misspeled words, no make that 4...

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The point is not so much that you shouldn't help other people, but rather that you shouldn't be forced to help other people. If so many people want to pay for other people's children's schooling, then why don't they do so without getting the government to force everyone else to do so as well against their will?

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I did read the whole thread and missed seeing two points:

1. Objectivists must pay taxes because it is the law. You may not pick and choose the laws you obey, regardless of how good or evil they are. It is all or none, period! There is a name for this principle -- it is called "the Rule of Law."

The reason for this is that the first purpose and most important benefit of participating in the contract with other men that a government represents, is the objectification of the principles by which men shall interrelate. And it both is and must be not only the principles that are objectified, but also the process and procedures by which they shall be revised.

On Oct 28 I posted (qua guest) an explanation of the process by which men would form a new government and constitution (go to the end of the thread, "What is the proper way to establish a government?") Within it you will find my ideas regarding the way in which men cope with the dilemma of contracting with others who will most likely victimize them by joining with a majority to impose one or more faulty concepts of rights.

If you apply the principles I described there to the apparent (to you) conflict between paying taxes and your Objectivist principles I think it will help you abide by (and solve other dilemmas with) the necessity for a 100% commitment to the Rule of Law.

2. In the meantime, while you suffer -- probably for the rest of your life -- from the evils of taxation, you can at least enjoy the knowledge and use of this classic tidbit from Ayn:

The only ones who have a right to benefit from taxation are those who oppose it in principle. Anyone who advocates taxation and acts (votes) to enforce it is an accessory to a violation of human rights. Implicit in any such violation of human rights is that rights have no validity. The thief that acts as if the victim's rights are invalid cannot claim those same rights for himself.

That is why no thief (or accessory to theft) has any right to the booty. And thus, no taxer has any moral claim on the benefits.

Those who oppose taxation, on the other hand, are the victims. All the benefits they can grab when the government offers them would never repay them for what was and will be stolen from them in their lifetime (and don't forget to include pain and suffering, punitive damages, and your fees!).

MichaelM

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You can morally judge any act. But when you morally judge the act of making payments demanded by the government at the point of a gun, be sure you have your contexts in order.

My understanding of this thread is that it deals with paying taxes by citizens of this country (or some other mixed economy government). In that context it is immoral to *not* pay taxes, because that would be self-sacrificial. It would preserve X dollars while placing your grip on life, liberty, and the pursuit of hapiness in grave danger. There is no value to X that is greater than the latter. The immorality of collecting taxes, by the way, has nothing to do with the morality of paying taxes.

If I remember Ragnar's adventures correctly, he was an outlaw. He pirated government ships on the open sea to get the money to reimburse the immoral taxes taken. This is an entirely different context. He made the judgement that the losses exceeded the gains from living under the laws of that government. So, he abandoned all claims to his political rights and reverted to self-rule by his own moral principles. In other words, he became a full-fledged revolutionary.

In that context, there would be no point to even considering payment of taxes. Therefore, are you sure Ragnar said *paying* taxes is immoral? Could it be that he said *collecting* taxes is immoral, and therefore he felt justified in taking the proceeds back from the government?

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As a businessman I pay both corporate taxes and personal income tax. Mostly to the federal US government.

My take on this issue is fundamental. In order to live in the united states of america, you are paying taxes. This comes in MANY forms.

a) The land you live on. Someone somewhere is paying property taxes on your dwelling and land. Whether it is you or the land owner you rent from.

b ) Sales tax and excise taxes. Like it or not, buying automobiles, gasoline etc are things you MUST buy locally and MUST pay sales tax on it. True for most states. For everything else, but stuff online :blink:

c) Purchasing goods from US corporate suppliers means corporate profit for those companies which pay taxes to the federal goernment on all those profits.

d) Personal Income Tax - Federal

e) Social Security Tax - Federal

f) Personal Income Tax - Local & State

NOW.... The fact is, if you're alive you're paying taxes. The latter 3 (d,e,f) may be avoided if you work hard enough. However in MY experience, its the greater good to pay them so you can work toward achievements which are greater than what you could earn working "under the table".

Do I want to pay taxes? No. Do I have to in order to live in this country? Yes. Do I not want to pay taxes so badly that I am willing to leave it?

Not yet. :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

The key term in this discussion is "forced taxation." Whether or not it is moral or not to pay taxes, it is forced; you have no option. You CAN avoid income taxes, but for anyone who lives in a city, you can not avoid sales tax. The fact of whether or not it is moral to pay taxes in that circumstance is irrelevent, because we all have a gun at our heads.

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