Saturday, April 2, 2011

Taxation as Theft. Or Is It "Property Is Theft?"

I'm getting really tired of the arguments from the far right that taxation is somehow stealing from the deserving and giving to the undeserving. It makes as much sense to me as "property is theft" from the leftists. I think that's an anarchist sentiment from Proudhon, but it fits in with Marxist Communism just fine.

Both sayings have some basic logic to them. They really fall apart though, when you use them as a  response to any opposing political or economic theory. I lose respect for argument or discussion when they turn into fights over dogma.

When we the people through our elected representatives tax for the public good, it is perfectly Constitutional and does not turn us into Robin Hoods or Maoists. And there is nothing immoral or illogical about the rich paying a greater share with their greater interest in protecting their wealth that was gained through the stable economic and political system in which we all participate. The disparities of income in our society that are only getting worse cannot be justified on any rational basis. I certainly concede that someone who works harder, creates more, and has prepared and educated themselves sometimes at great expense may deserve a larger income than say a janitor. But the janitor cleaning floors and toilets provides a valuable service. And you cannot convince me that a supposedly benign free market is awarding each of them commensurate to their value to society. I cannot conceive of the words "freedom" or "free market" in any way associated with a system that rewards some banker, investor or even entrepreneur hundreds, thousands, or even millions times more than the janitor for his physical labor. If that is in anyway a moral condition where each gets what they deserve, I want no part of such a society. Yet, here we are.

On the other hand, "property is theft" has a logical sense in the idea that if I claim to possess something, that denies it to everyone else. But that only works if the tangible thing possessed is absolutely unique. And even then I'm not so sure because everyone can have their own unique stuff based on the wide variety of human interests. We are blessed to live on a generous planet that while not with inexhaustible resources, certainly has enough for others to obtain goods as well as ourselves. It's not a zero sum game. We certainly could do a better job of spreading the resources around for the benefit of all. And I'm not talking about Joe the Plumber's bugaboo of spreading-the-wealth socialism (and neither was candidate Obama). All I want to see is more shared opportunity and equality in access to resources and in human treatment and respect. Equal results are not necessary or possible, but we should be doing all we can to provide equal opportunity. And we fall far, far short and I believe stand condemned under the current social and political system.

If only there was a system where we as a people could come together to govern ourselves in united interests maybe through representatives to make it more efficient. And we could set rules for the process to check and balance the power we exercise in governing ourselves so as to not give any one interest unfair advantage or power. And we could list a few, basic individual and group rights to respect while not making them comprehensive because there are thousands of years of human history we can rely on to preserve the good as we remedy the bad and move forward to a more perfect unity. Hmm, something, something . . . .

Ta da! Miracle in Philadelphia!


  1. I love when the far right Tea Party members cry about being taxed too high when they are paying far less in taxes than their parents or grand parents ever paid. Cutting spending is fine, it's all well and good, but at some point taxes are going to have to be raised, and I'd rather see Rush Limbaugh be taxed first than my young newlywed children struggling through school.

  2. And I get really tired of all the anti-government sentiment among our LDS people (obviously, I have a vested interest and feel a little sensitive about it as I'm trying to do some good in the world as a federal civil servant). But we still live in the most wonderful, blessed land in the world (IMO) and I can't think of a better system of government anywhere! (England's Constitutional Monarchy comes close, but there's all that royalty stuff that makes me really uncomfortable - maybe it's better the farther you get away from it as in the Commonwealth Countries like Canada and Australia?)

    And LDS scripture actually says government is something GOOD not just tolerated by God, but instituted of Him for our benefit. (D&C 134:1). And that's not just talking about our government! And before all the Skousenites jump in to tell me how Government has to respect the right of property, of course! Didn't you read my blog above? But it also says nothing about how "taxation is theft"- a perniciously false doctrine as our church leaders tell us to pay our taxes as we participate in the system under law to continue forward towards that "more perfect union." People, get involved in the process. Let your responsible and principled views be known. And do not reject the process because to make it work we have to come to common ground with those we may drastically disagree with. "COMPROMISE" has a lot more than four letters!


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