Libertarian Perspectives on the Ethics of Taxation

  • Walter E. BlockEmail author
  • Christian Torsell


We provide a survey of significant libertarian contributions to the discussion surrounding ethics and taxation. By significant contributions, we mean those which have exerted a strong influence both on libertarianism, popular and academic, and on political and ethical discourse more broadly. Our discussion centers on the work of three prominent libertarians: Robert Nozick, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard. For each, we present his or her position concerning some ethical aspect of taxation and evaluate objections to it. Section 4.2 discusses Nozick’s analogy between taxation of labor from earnings and forced labor and applies his argument against the fairness principle to fairness-based justifications of such taxation. Section 4.3 focuses on Rand’s view that compulsory taxation as such is unjust and considers her proposed scheme of voluntarily-funded minimal government. We argue that she failed to convincingly argue for either the feasibility or desirability of the latter. Section 4.4 addresses Rothbard’s similar position concerning the injustice of taxation per se and defends his view against possible justifications of that institution.


Taxation Libertarianism Justice Coercion 

JEL Classification



  1. Barnett, William, and Walter Block. 2007. Coase and Van Zandt on lighthouses. Public Finance Review 35 (6): 710–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bell, Nora K. 1978. Nozick and the Principle of Fairness. Social Theory and Practice 5 (1): 65–73. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  3. Block, Walter E. 1972. The Polish Ham Question. In The Libertarian Forum, vol. 4, no. 6–7, p. 5.Google Scholar
  4. Block, Walter. 1983. Public Goods and Externalities: The Case of Roads. The Journal of Libertarian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Review VII (1): 1–34 (Spring).Google Scholar
  5. Block, Walter E. 1983a. How Immigrants CREATE Jobs. In North Shore News, p. A6, January 30.
  6. Block, Walter E. 1983b. Protect Canadian Jobs From Immigrants? Dollars and Sense. January 2.Google Scholar
  7. Block, Walter E. 2000. Word Watch, April 20.
  8. Block, Walter E. 2001. The Moral Dimensions of Poverty, Entitlements and Theft. The Journal of Markets and Morality 4 (1): 83–93.
  9. Block, Walter E. 2002a. Accepting Government Subsidies, Fraser Forum, February 27.Google Scholar
  10. Block, Walter E. 2002b. Homesteading City Streets; An Exercise in Managerial Theory. Planning and Markets 5 (1): 18–23. September.;
  11. Block, Walter E. 2002c. On Reparations to Blacks for Slavery. Human Rights Review 3 (4): 53–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Block, Walter E. 2003. National Defense and the Theory of Externalities, Public Goods and Clubs. In The Myth of National Defense: Essays on the Theory and History of Security Production, ed. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, 301–334. Auburn: Mises Institute.Google Scholar
  13. Block, Walter E. 2004a. The State Was a Mistake. In Democracy, The God that Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy and Natural Order, ed. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann, 2001 May 25.
  14. Block, Walter E. 2004b. Radical Libertarianism: Applying Libertarian Principles to Dealing with the Unjust Government, Part I. Reason Papers 27: 117–133.Google Scholar
  15. Block, Walter E. 2006. Radical Libertarianism: Applying Libertarian Principles to Dealing with the Unjust Government, Part II. Reason Papers 28: 85–109.Google Scholar
  16. Block, Walter E. 2007. Ron Paul and Matching Funds, October 1.
  17. Block, Walter E. 2008. Replies to Readers, September 23.
  18. Block, Walter E. 2009a. Libertarian Punishment Theory: Working for, and Donating to, the State. Libertarian Papers 1 (17)
  19. Block, Walter E. 2009b. Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism. In Property, Freedom and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, ed. Jorg G. Hulsmann and Stephan Kinsella, 137–148. Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute.Google Scholar
  20. Block, Walter E. 2010. You are a Rotten Kid (Rent Control and Libertarianism). February 27.
  21. Block, Walter E. 2011a. Hoppe, Kinsella and Rothbard II on Immigration: A Critique. Journal of Libertarian Studies 22: 593–623.
  22. Block, Walter E. 2011b. Rejoinder to Hoppe on Immigration. Journal of Libertarian Studies 22: 771–792.;
  23. Block, Walter E. 2011c. May a Libertarian Take Money From the Government? March 11.
  24. Block, Walter. 2012. James Buchanan on Inheritance: A Critique. Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy 1 (2): 159–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Block, Walter E., Chris Arakaky. 2008. Taking Government Money for Grad School? May 23.
  26. Buchanan, James M. 1983. Rent Seeking, Noncompensated Transfers, and Laws of Succession. The Journal of Law and Economics 26 (1): 71–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Chodorov, Frank. 1962. Taxation Is Robbery. In Chodorov, Frank. Out of Step: The Autobiography of an Individualist, 216–239. New York: The Devin-Adair Company.
  28. Cohen, G.A. 1995. Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Cowen, Tyler (ed.). 1988. The Theory of Market Failure: A Critical Examination. George Mason University Press.Google Scholar
  30. De Jasay, Anthony. 1989. Social Contract, Free Ride: A Study of the Public Goods Problem. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. DiLorenzo, Thomas J. 2012. The Rothbardian Analysis of the State. September 14.
  32. DiLorenzo, Thomas J., Walter E. Block. 2017. An Austro-Libertarian Critique of Public Choice. Addleton Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  33. Feser, Edward. 2000. Taxation, Forced Labor, and Theft. The Independent Review 5 (2): 219–235. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  34. Goldberg, Bruce. 1961. Review of Rand’s ‘For the New Intellectual’. New Individualist Review, November: 17–24. Scholar
  35. Hart, H. 1955. Are There Any Natural Rights? The Philosophical Review 64 (2): 175–191. Scholar
  36. Holcombe, R.G. 1997. A Theory of the Theory of Public Goods. The Review of Austrian Economics 10 (1): 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 1989. Fallacies of the Public Goods Theory and the Production of Security. Journal of Libertarian Studies 9 (1): 27–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Huemer, Michael. 2002. Is Benevolent Egoism Coherent? The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 3 (2): 259–288. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  39. Hummel, Jeffrey Rogers. 1990. National Goods Versus Public Goods: Defense, Disarmament, and Free Riders. The Review of Austrian Economics 4 (1): 88–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Michael, M.A. 1997. Redistributive Taxation, Self-Ownership and the Fruit of Labour. Journal of Applied Philosophy 14: 137–146. Scholar
  41. Nozick, Robert. 1974. Anarchy, State and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  42. Nozick, Robert. 1971. On the Randian Argument. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 52 (2): 282.Google Scholar
  43. Osterfeld, David. 1989. Anarchism and the Public Goods Issue: Law, Courts and the Police. The Journal of Libertarian Studies 9 (1): 47–68.Google Scholar
  44. Pasour Jr, and C. Ernest. 1981. The Free Rider as a Basis for Government Intervention. The Journal of Libertarian Studies 5 (4): 453–464.Google Scholar
  45. Rand, Ayn. 1967. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Signet.Google Scholar
  46. Rand, Ayn. 1964. The Virtue of Selfishness. Signet.Google Scholar
  47. Rothbard, Murray N. 1977. Power and Market: Government and the Economy. Menlo Park, CA: Institute for Humane Studies.
  48. Rothbard, Murray N. 1978. For a New Liberty. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  49. Rothbard, Murray N. 1981. Taxation: Is It Voluntary? Libertarian Party News, March–April: 13–15.Google Scholar
  50. Rothbard, Murray N. 1997. The Logic of Action: Applications and Criticism from the Austrian School, vol. II. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  51. Rothbard, Murray N. 1998[1982]. The Ethics of Liberty, New York: New York University Press.;
  52. Rothbard, Murray N. 2007. Can There Be a ‘Just Tax’?
  53. Schmidtz, David. 1991. The Limits of Government: An Essay on the Public Goods Argument. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  54. Sechrest, Larry J. 1999. Rand, Anarchy, and Taxes. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 1 (1): 87–105. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  55. Sechrest, Larry. 2003. Privateering and National Defense: Naval Warfare for Private Profit. In The Myth of National Defense: Essays on the Theory and History of Security Production, ed. Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Ludwig von Mises Institute: Auburn, AL.Google Scholar
  56. Sechrest, Larry., 2004a. Private Provision of Public Goods: Theoretical Issues and Some Examples from Maritime History. ICFAI Journal of Public Finance 2 (3): 45–73.Google Scholar
  57. Sechrest, Larry. 2004b. Public Goods and Private Solutions in Maritime History. The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 7 (2) (2004): 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sechrest, Larry. 2007. Privately Funded and Built US Warships in the Quasi-war of 1797–1801. The Independent Review 12 (1): 101–113.Google Scholar
  59. Spooner, Lysander. 1966[1870]. No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority and A Letter to Thomas F. Bayard, Larkspur. Colorado: Rampart College.
  60. Spooner, Lysander. 1886. A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on his false Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People.
  61. Tinsley, Patrick. 1999. Private Police: A Note. Journal of Libertarian Studies 14 (1): 95–100.Google Scholar
  62. Vance, Laurence M. 2006. The Fraudulent Tax. October 9.
  63. Vance, Laurence M. 2007. Real Tax Reform. April 16.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of BusinessLoyolo UniversityNew OrleansUSA

Personalised recommendations