Peace Requires Anarchy

Libertarian Humor: Taxation Without Consent

11 Comments

Tony Liberté recently began publishing some very good libertarian-themed comics on his Facebook page Libertarian Humor. Here is one from today titled Taxation Without Consent that I found particularly great:

UPDATE 02/17/2013: Today Tony released another comic called Social Contract in response to a popular criticism:

I encourage anyone who believes that taxation is legitimate to read Lysander Spooner’s No Treason, a series of three essays: No. I (1867), No. II: The Constitution (1867), and No. VI: The Constitution of No Authority (1870).

Lysander Spooner’s quote from the first comic is from A Letter to Grover Cleveland:

If taxation without consent is not robbery, then any band of robbers have only to declare themselves a government, and all their robberies are legalized.

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Author: PeaceRequiresAnarchy

“A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.” – Roderick T. Long

11 thoughts on “Libertarian Humor: Taxation Without Consent

  1. I see your point but to be fair in a democracy we vote for our lawn to be cut (to keep the analogy). If you don’t like it vote for someone who’ll change it (I realise I am probably over-analysing a cartoon)

  2. Hi Robert,

    Thanks for the comment. To add voting to the analogy, after the guy says “Hey! I didn’t ask for this!” imagine that Tony’s reply is as follows:

    “I’m sorry, but the people on this street voted and a majority said it was okay to force you to pay me for my service. Everyone on the street was allowed one vote, including you and we all knew that this is how we do things on this street.”

    Would you say “Fair enough” and pay Tony $100 or would you say that the way that Tony and most of your neighbors on your street do things is unjust?

  3. Isn’t that how democracy works? Do you disagree with democracy?

    There are some things that we can do ourselves, however, there are others that we can only do collectively. Mowing the lawn would be in the first group, but deciding on healthcare would be in the second. I cannot fund a hospital myself, only a community can. It would be grossly inefficient for everyone to go their own way. Therefore it is best if the community collectively decides. This will naturally leave some in a minority but thats how democracy works. Its the best/least worst system.

  4. In response to your update (and without going into a technical debate on the nature of the social contract) the government has powers individuals do not. It can do things that people cannot, such as levy taxes. These powers come from the people. We give up some rights and give them to the government to rule on our behalf.

    Second of all, if you don’t like the social contract vote for a change.

  5. “Isn’t that how democracy works? Do you disagree with democracy?”

    Yes, I disagree with democracy. I do not believe that justice is dependent on majority opinion. In other words, I do not believe that what the majority believes is just is necessarily just. I form my views on justice myself.

    For example, I can look at an act (e.g. someone killing another person) and decide that I believe it is unjust without knowing anybody else’s opinion on the matter.

    So in this case, the majority of people (on a street, in a town, or anywhere) can believe that it is okay to threaten the man with force in order to get him to pay Tony (who mowed his lawn) $100 and I can still believe that threatening him is unjust, because my belief is not that the majority’s belief is necessarily correct, but rather is that it is unjust to force someone to pay for a product or service that they did not agree to purchase.

    Do you disagree with democracy too? 🙂 I imagine most people would say they do when it is described in the way I just described it.

    What about in the particular case of the comic? (“Would you say “Fair enough” and pay Tony $100 or would you say that the way that Tony and most of your neighbors on your street do things is unjust?”)

    You may believe that it is okay to force the man to pay Tony $100, but I doubt that it is because the majority of the people on his street said that it was okay to force him to pay. Rather, the reason is probably that you believe that Tony deserves some compensation for the service he performed. Am I right?

    If I’m not right and the reason really is because you believe in democracy, then: If Tony had never mowed the lawn or provided any other service for the man, but the neighbors on the man’s street said that he had to pay Tony $100 for fun, would you believe it would be just to force him to pay? I’ll bet that you wouldn’t and that you thus don’t believe in democracy.

    So if you don’t believe in democracy, then what other objections do you have to the argument raised by the original comic?

    My only thought is that you might believe in democracy in some cases. If so, the question is which cases and why?

    Personally I would never say, “I believed that it was unjust for that person to do what he did, but now that I am aware that a majority of people disagree with me I now agree with them: It was just for the person to do what he did.” In other words, I don’t believe in democracy in any cases.

  6. “[The government] can do things that people cannot, such as levy taxes. These powers come from the people. We give up some rights and give them to the government to rule on our behalf.”

    I do not believe that people can delegate rights they do not have to government (or to anyone else). In short, I agree with John Locke:

    “The people cannot delegate to government the power to do anything which would be unlawful for them to do themselves.” – John Locke (See more quotes on my Quotes page)

    How can people delegate the right to the government tax if they do not have the right to impose taxes on others themselves?

    This is the question that the late Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii was asked in this interview and struggled to answer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABB-lScOoSk

  7. “There are some things that we can do ourselves, however, there are others that we can only do collectively. Mowing the lawn would be in the first group, but deciding on healthcare would be in the second. I cannot fund a hospital myself, only a community can. It would be grossly inefficient for everyone to go their own way.”

    Almost everything can only be done collectively. I can’t mow my lawn completely by myself because I wouldn’t know how to make a lawnmower or where to get the materials and so on.

    I cannot fund a grocery store myself; only a community can. I cannot build a house by myself and so on.

    But does that mean that many people cooperating to voluntarily provide these services on the market is less efficient than forcing people to pay people to provide them?

    Thank you very much for your comments. If you choose to take the time to respond to any of my responses I will be happy to reply to you again. If not, I understand (they are rather long). Peace.

  8. The problem is how you phrase your argument. Justice and democracy are separate. Something can be right or wrong, how popular it is, is a separate matter. So it is possible for the will of the people to be unjust. The extortion you describe is both democratic and unjust.

    Why then do I still support democracy? Because it is the most just system. It is the system with the least amount of abuses. The tyranny of the majority may have its faults (though they are greatly exaggerated) but it is better than the tyranny of the minority.

    I believe both a libertarian and an anarchist society are both completely unworkable and would collapse almost instantly. This however is a long argument that will not be solved here. I plan to a blog post in a week or two to go into full detail

  9. Ok its midnight here in Ireland, so i’ll keep it brief and return another time. One hospital is cheaper to build than two and two are cheaper than 10. If you are an anarcho-capitalist who believes that competition will provide the best outcome then there must be 10 hospitals (or there abouts). Otherwise there would be an oligopoly and they would use their market power to exploit the consumer. However, 10 under capacity hospitals is a horrendous waste of resources.

    A hospital will benefit everyone, it is only fair that everyone pays. Otherwise there will be a free rider problem. That is, I could opt out of paying for the hospital while I’m young, but opt in once I retire. So I get the benefit without the cost. Hence the need for it to be compulsory.

    Then there is the morality, that we as a society may choose not to let people die for lack of medical treatment for lack of money. The welfare state is based on the principle that health and other services are there for us, all of us, when we need it. Poverty should not deny people the basic necessities. You may be excited about an anarchist society but it offers little to the sick, the old and the poor

  10. “The extortion you describe is both democratic and unjust.”

    As is the extortion of the US Government known as taxation.

    It appears that you believe in a system that you believe is inherently unjust for the reason that the consequences of not embracing some injustices would be a society that would be less just overall.

    That is the position I held during the few-month period in which I understood the arguments that governments were necessarily unjust (e.g. because they all aggressively impose taxes), but believed that governments were necessary to provide certain necessary functions, such as protection of peoples’ rights and dispute resolution (police and courts).

    “Why don’t we have libertarian anarchy? Why does government exist? The answer implicit in previous chapters is that government as a whole exists because most people believe it is necessary.” – David D. Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom, p. 83 (see the Quotes page)

    David Friedman’s book “The Machinery of Freedom” (available for free online) makes a compelling case that governments are not necessary. He argues for libertarian anarchy using practical consequentialist arguments rather than rights-based justice arguments.

  11. “Ok its midnight here in Ireland, so i’ll keep it brief and return another time.”

    Sounds good. To keep my reply brief, I have been convinced that the problem of economies of scale possibly giving rise to a natural monopoly and the free rider problem (with public goods and things like the hospital scenario you described) can be addressed to a sufficient degree to make the outcomes of a free market society better (more prosperous and just) than the outcome of society with a state and all of its inefficiencies. (Of course the market system isn’t perfect, but I think it’s more efficient than the government system, which, for example is always inherently inefficient due to central planning and is also inevitably plagued by special interest groups going benefiting themselves at the expense of the public.)

    As for the morality issue, I believe that voluntary donating to the poor is very moral and get depressed by those who believe that we need to threaten people with violence to get them to be decent human beings (which I believe is unjust and immoral). Also, interestingly, literally every person I talk to say that *they* would donate if they weren’t forced to, but that *others* wouldn’t and so there wouldn’t be enough to help poor people out. Maybe one day the average standard of living will rise enough that people will no longer use this rationalization to try to justify stealing money from people to give to the poor, since even if many people wouldn’t donate the fact that everyone is so wealthy would likely mean that even a few people donating would be enough to take care of the poor. Peace.

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