Is Taxation Theft?

  • Robert W. McGee

Abstract

Those who take the position that tax evasion is unethical or a sin often do so because they view tax evasion as theft — the taking of property that does not belong to them or the failure to give up property that belongs to someone else, namely, to some government. If you are supposed to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and you do not, then you are depriving Caesar of his property. But can that argument be turned around? Could it be argued that taxation is theft, and that tax evasion is merely an attempt to prevent a theft from taking place?

Keywords

Income Expense Shoe 

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NOTES

  1. 1.
    Nozick would say that income taxation is the theft of the fruits of one’s labor. Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. constitution, which made income taxation constitutional, was passed in 1913. Before that, the government raised the money it needed through excise taxes and tariffs.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Letter of Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, Monticello, Virginia, June 24, 1813, reprinted in Thomas Jefferson: Writings 1280-86(1984). The quote is from 1280-81. 4 Letter of Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Paris, September 6, 1789, reprinted in Thomas Jefferson: Writings 959-64 (1984). The quote is from 959.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Id., at 960.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    1d., at 1281.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    1d., at 962-63.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Some political commentators regard John Tyler as America’s greatest president because not a single law was passed during his administration. Actually, a tariff and a treaty (and perhaps some other laws) were passed during his administration, so it cannot strictly be said that “no laws” were passed during his administration. Actually, it might better be said that Harrison was the greatest president, since he died a few weeks after taking the oath of office, thus not having time to do much damage.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    One advantage of a democracy over a dictatorship is that, under a dictatorship, one person tyrannizes the other 99.99%, whereas under a democracy, at worst, 51% tyrannize the other 49%. Herbert Spencer expresses a similar view in Social Statics 189 (1970). He expresses the view on page 210 of the 1851 London edition. Others would say that the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is the number of feet on your throat.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    For various views on the theory of the social contract, see Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651); John Locke, Two Treatises on Government (1689); Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract (1762). The U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776) reflects Locke’s view, that a government that fails to protect basic rights can be replaced by the people with one that will protect these rights.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, originally self-published by Spooner in Boston in 1870, reprinted by Rampart College in 1965, 1966, and 1971, and by Ralph Myles Publisher, Inc., Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1973. The quote is from page 1 of the 1971 edition (p. 11 of the 1973 edition). The constitution Spooner is referring to is the U.S. Constitution, which was adopted about eighty years before he wrote this essay. Emphasis is in the original.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Much of what is now done by government can be done more efficiently and cheaper by the private sector. The growing body of privatization literature points this out clearly. For examples, see Robert W. Poole, Jr., Cutting Back City Hall (1980); Randall Fitzgerald, When Government Goes Private (1988); James T. Bennett and Manuel H. Johnson, Better Government at Haif the Price (1981). One way to minimize the tax bite would be to privatize as much as possible.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    S.E. le Card. Gousset, Théologie Morale I, 504 (1869), as quoted in Rev. Martin T. Crowe. 1944. The Moral Obligation of Paying Just Taxes, The Catholic University of America Studies in Sacred Theology No. 84, at p. 59.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Or their representatives, in the case of a representative democracy.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Gury, Compendium Theologiae Moralis (1850), as cited in Crowe, supra, at 61.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert W. McGee
    • 1
  1. 1.Andreas School of BusinessBarry UniversityMiami ShoresUSA

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