In my last post I said I didn’t believe the government has a right to tell us how to dispose of our property, and that if we enter into any kind of voluntary exchange with another person, without taking away anyone’s life, liberty or property against his will, the government has no business being involved.
It then occurred to me that, short of adopting a fully anarchist system, government is needed to enforce property rights and punish violence and property crimes, i.e. to deal with private infringements of the aforementioned rights to life, liberty and property. This government must be paid for in some way. I suppose one could imagine a government funded purely by voluntary donations, but there is an intrinsic injustice in that notion, since everyone living under the government’s jurisdiction benefits from the government’s protection of their rights. If they benefit, they should be required to pay, which is where taxation comes in.
Taxation is from one point of view always a kind of theft. If you don’t pay up, the government punishes you with forfeiture of liberty or property. This is not the kind of exchange that is normally tolerated in society: refusal to pay should simply lead to refusal to provide service. But the government can’t abdicate its role of defending the borders from invasion, or decide only to defend those who paid their taxes and leave those who didn’t pay.
The other view is that, since everyone benefits from the government’s protection, everyone under the government’s jurisdiction already owes the government payment for service. Just as the government rightly forces one to pay for services to another individual that have already been rendered, so the government rightly forces inhabitants to pay for services they already benefit from. Justice is maintained.
But what are the limits of the kinds of services government can provide and legitimately charge the public for? And does it matter how the taxes are collected and levied? That is the subject for another post.