No it’s not your money: why taxation isn’t theft

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tax is theftA guest blog by Philip Goff.

No it’s not your money

Why taxation isn’t theft

Many political arguments start from the assumption that taxation is the government taking ‘our money’ off us. When austerity hit the arts in 2011, Dr Steve Davies of the pseudo-think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs argued on Channel Four news [TJN: a mainstream UK television current affairs programme] that the 20% cuts to the arts didn’t go far enough: art funding should be entirely abolished on the grounds that it’s unfair to take people’s money off them by force to pay for something they may not want. Again and again the economic right stoke resentment at the state allegedly taking what’s ours by force, and use this resentment to build support for a programme of small government.

But even those who believe in relatively big government tend to share this understanding of taxation as the appropriation by government of ‘our money’. Most on the economic left start from the assumption that it is all things being equal a bad thing that the state takes our money from us, but hold that this prima facie bad is justified by the public goods which taxation makes possible. Well-meaning [UK] public intellectual Alain de Botton encourages us to think of taxation as charity: we give up what’s ours for the greater good of our society.

So both sides tend to agree that one has some kind of right or entitlement to one’s pre-tax income. The economic right believe that the right to pre-tax income is inalienable, or at least that it is trumped only by the absolute necessity of providing the basic requirements of society, such as roads and rule of law. In contrast, the economic left tend to value the good of making society more equal, or of providing a basic standard of living for all, above the good of letting people keep their own money.

This feeling that your pre-tax income is ‘your money’ is difficult to shake. It’s hard not to see the pre-tax figure on your payslip as representing what’s really owing to you for the work you’ve done, and hence to feel that the state is taking away from you something that is yours by right. However, a little careful reflection shows this almost universal assumption to be utterly confused. There is no sense in which you have a right to your pre-tax income.

To see this, we have to ask what kind of right it might be supposed one has to one’s pre-tax income. Presumably, it is either a legal right or a moral right. Once we separate out these alternatives, we can see that the former option is incoherent, whilst the latter is utterly implausible.

You clearly don’t have a legal right to your pre-tax income, as you are legally obliged to pay tax on it. This is a simple analytic truth that follows from the definition of taxation. People who don’t take pay their taxes go (or at least legally ought to go) to gaol.

So if there is a general right to one’s pre-tax income, then it must be a moral right. But it is implausible to suppose that each person has a moral right to his or her pre-tax income, for that would imply that the distribution of pre-tax incomes the market happens to throw up is perfectly just, and this is clearly not the case. There is no justice in the fact that the pre-tax income of a City banker is many hundreds of times the pre-tax income of scientist working on a cure for cancer. This is just an accident of the way our market economy is structured. To hold that each person has a moral right to their pre-tax income would be to hold that the market economy just happens to deliver to each person exactly what they deserve, and this is clearly not the case.

Perhaps there are specific cases in which a person happens to deserve their pre-tax income; these would be rare and happy co-incidences in which the market happens to deliver exactly what is deserved. But the mere fact that your pre-tax income is £X does not entail that in any morally significant sense you are entitled to £X. The money the market happens to throw at you is not necessarily the money you deserve. No doubt you have worked hard for that money; no doubt you have made a contribution to the public good; you have special talents that others lack, etc. But others also work hard/are talented/make a contribution, and the market has not taken these morally significant factors into consideration in working out what to give to whom. For better or worse it’s almost certainly not fair that you have what you have relative to what others have got.

It’s the responsibility of law makers, then, not to respect pre-tax incomes, but to disrespect pre-tax incomes. Insofar as the market fails to yield a just distribution of incomes, the state should work to correct that distribution. Of course, to some degree the scope for such correction will be limited by economic realities. The pragmatic argument between right and left as to the relationship between tax levels and incentives to work or invest is a perfectly sensible one. But it is crucial to distinguish the pragmatic argument of the economic right, ‘We must lower taxes in order to encourage investment’, from the moral argument of the economic right ‘We must lower taxes in order to give people more of their money’. The former argument is based on an empirical claim which stands or falls with the data. The latter argument is based on the wholly confused notion that there is something morally significant about the distribution of incomes the market happens to have thrown up.

Your pre-tax income isn’t the money you deserve; it is the money the amoral market has gifted you. A government may have cause to respect the whims of the market as a matter of practical necessity. But the state has no moral reason to respect the whims of the market. The only legitimate bar to redistribution is economic reality. Any politician who thinks it a good thing, in and of itself, to give people more of ‘their money’ is confused.

(A similar argument is made at length in ‘The Myth of Ownership’ by Murphy and Nagel, published by Oxford University Press).

Philip Goff is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Central European University. He has research interests in consciousness, the ethics of taxation, and fictionalist interpretations of religious practice. He writes at Conscience and Consciousness. Also see and is @philip_goff  on Twitter.

See more on this topic in Tax Justice Focus, 2010.



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78 thoughts on “No it’s not your money: why taxation isn’t theft

  1. GM says:

    Completely inaccurate, and something only an academic could have written.

    I’m going to ignore the first point about the law, as it’s all but circular. Of course, if the law states you must pay x amount of tax above y threshold, you’re legally obliged to pay it.

    The second point is far more interesting – the morality of income. You write “There is no justice in the fact that the pre-tax income of a City banker is many hundreds of times the pre-tax income of scientist working on a cure for cancer. This is just an accident of the way our market economy is structured.” [sic]

    Of course there is. People are paid in proportion to how much revenue they generate – something that leftists/academics will never understand (the later because they generate no revenue and produce nothing of real economic value, and must be paid out of taxation). A banker who is paid £1m/year is WORTH £1m/year, because he brings in many times more than that to his organisation.

    It is not an ‘accident’ of the way our economy is structured that people are paid based on the revenue they generate. It’s simple common sense, and entirely natural. If you want to see what high levels of redistribution do for an economy, plot a graph of government spending as a proportion of GDP vs GDP per capita for any countries you like. You will find that the more redistribution, the lower the GDP per capita.

    This shouldn’t even need explaining after the Soviet Union led to the collapse of half the world’s economies and the greatest mass murders of the twentieth century, but there we are. I guess it’s easy to argue for redistribution when you’re the one dependant on it.

    • Laurent ZIBELL says:

      The argument that a person “generates” or “makes” any amount of money is in general a complete fallacy, since it makes to believe that all persons are direct labour. In modern organisations, the enourmous majority of people working are indirect labour: they contribute to the structure that is productive, but their individual contribution cannot be isolated from that of their colleagues. Even a banker does not signle-handedly generate X MEUR to its bank: s/he is supported by a whole infraxtructure (among which the very name / reputation of the bank), which allows hom/her to be effective. What the respective contributions of the person and of the structure is, is anybody’s guess.

    • Nick Shaxson says:

      Nope. A lot of banking involves wealth extraction, not wealth creation. Via risk-taking to bailouts; etc etc etc. So ‘bringing in’ money isn’t the same as creating wealth, from a country’s perspective. He is not worth that much money, except on the narrow perspective of the bank itself. And you will find, if you actually do the research, that the high-tax countries grow just as fast as the low-tax ones – only without the penalties of high inequality, crime, etc.

      • Green says:

        Exactly. In fact, the simplest way to quickly “bring in” a lot of money is through devastation of resources. And that means destroying, not creating wealth.

    • Green says:

      That’s completely confused answer. Current economic value has nothing to do with social value (or even economic value in the long run). That’s the whole point. Completely useless, as of now, mathematical theory, might well facilitate whole branch of economy in the future. Cure for cancer is socially worth infinitely more than current economic value generated by some banker (if he/she generates value at all, he/she may well be busy creating new economic crisis).

  2. benjiiiiiii says:

    There are two types of wealth. One that is privately created, and one that is commonly created(that is the rental value of land).

    Unfortunately, we socialise private wealth because commonly created wealth is privatised.

    This is double theft, by coercion.

    Quite simply, only the wealth we create together should pay for the services we share together.

    Because this is the only morally correct way of raising revenues, is is also the only one which does not penalise work or enterprise.

    An annual fee for exclusive rights to use land, directly relates to the benefit the payer receives, and is non-coercive, insofar as the payer chooses where to live and do business.

    The opposite of taxes on income and capital. Which are morally, if not legally on a par with theft.

    Pay for what you use, not be penalised for what you produce, is how a just and civilised society should organise its affairs.

    • Billy.R says:

      Taxes are theft, its either pay or go to jail, now you explain to everyone how that is not theft

      • Nick Shaxson says:

        So paying for goods at a supermarket is theft of your money by the supermarket? Taxes pay for roads, courts, schools etc. Taxes are payment for services received. Tax 101.

        • Rodrigo says:

          Payng for goods at a supermarket is not theft because you intend to do so. it’s voluntary.

        • Rodrigo says:

          Payng for good at a supermarket is not theft because you intend to do so. it’s voluntary.

          • Nick Shaxson says:

            well, don’t consume the tax-funded public services then: the rule of law, roads, and all that. Go and live on a small island somewhere. that’s the choice.

        • Rodrigo says:

          The point is that roads, courts, schools and so on are a monopoly. That means you can’t migrate and choose to pay for a different service. You need to stick with the government services and that’s it. It’s like the situation of the state-owned company called correios in Brazil, that operates the national post office of the entire country. It’s a monopoly: its service is expensive and poor, not to mention its 2billion loss in both 2015 and 2016. Guess what? We can’t do anything about it, we have to stick with it.

          • mik says:

            Exactly, I am going to make you pay me under the Threat of force provide you with the service you may or may not want and then Deny you the choice to pay for alternatives for that service in a free market because I have monopolized all the services and if you don’t like it you can leave, as long as you get my permission and purchase a passport and fill out the correct documents etc complete nonsense not an argument taxation is theft period

        • Mason Taylor says:

          Do you need police, fire, or teachers every day? You as in you the individual.

      • Trevor Ridgway says:

        Billy R . I heartily agree ! ALL Taxation is THEFT + COERCION by the State or it’s authorised subsidiaries.
        The “Professor” is delusional. His premise is designed to be controversial and attract detractors responses as NOONE in their
        right mind would accept that “they are FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE for their indolent neighbour.
        Objection to taxation is demonstrated very well by those who REFUSE TO WORK and so avoid income and the taxation of that income ONLY TO HAVE THE STATE INTERFERE and support them WITH OTHER PEOPLE’S TAXATION.
        The State bases this on it’s moral obligation to support it’s citizens and GIVES IT A REASON to impose taxation on all those who
        generate an assessable income ( it even INVENTS THE TERMINOLOGY and THE LEGISLATION to suit it’s purposes ).
        Should a person be imprisoned for FAILURE to pay their GOVERNMENT CALCULATED taxation , then we all get an opportunity
        to further support that individual in prison ( via our taxes ) and his family members , if any , outside the prison ( via our taxes ).
        So it is a lose / lose situation for TAXPAYERS. The government has , in effect , imposed on us the delusion that we ARE financially
        responsible for our indolent neighbour ! Additionally , if a few of us object we can also be imprisoned. IF a LOT OF US object
        it can be called A CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT ! However , the REAL PROBLEM REMAINS seemingly immutable…………………the BUREAUCRATS ! True change MUST OCCUR WITHIN THE BUREAUCRACY if taxation is ever going to be JUST !

  3. Flashman says:

    Bang on Benjiiiii – put the money we have earned though our own endeavours and hard work back into our pockets rather than being penalised for any success we have achieved.

  4. freeman says:

    Becoming a “taxpayer” is entirely VOLUNTARY. (But I didn’t enter in that contract fully informed). Your public servants do not want you to know that they need my CONSENT to take your money.
    No consent + no contract =Theft
    Acts, statutes and legislations only apply to PERSON`S and cooperate government employees
    Did I claim to be a British Citizen? “NO”

  5. Micah says:

    The writer is basing his whole argument on pre-tax income, which of course is circular logic, and completely ignores the fact that income tax is not the only type of tax.

    Explain how property tax isn’t theft, jackass.

  6. Paul Semmelweis says:

    I love how there’s absolutely zero definition of this so-called “amoral economy.” You know, the very thing his entire argument rests upon. If you don’t understand economics, people go down very bizarre and dark roads in order to justify their violent tendencies. To pretend that government is some kind of benevolent referee, immune from attempts at personal gain and influence is pure fantasy.

    • Green says:

      Economy is amoral (doesn’t have morality) by definition. It’s a mindless process. Are you able to justify paying some pop-star without talent (but popular for stupid reasons) million of dollars and at the same time letting some mentally disabled person die? Yet, that’s exactly what would happen if you had your fantasy world (pure free-market economy). Here is the thing you, and many others, simply don’t get. The whole idea of self-regulating economy is based on the myth that consumers a) act rationally b) have absolute knowledge c) are mindful of other people well-being (including future generations). It’s utter nonsense. Moreover, the argument that what you earn in such an economy is what you deserve is circular (it begs the question).

  7. Adam Keasey says:

    This guy hates freedom, uses law as a inconsistent basis for morals, doesn’t factor in other forms of taxation, & makes ridiculous leaps of logic thanks to the mental gymnastics of his commie mind.

    Don’t be a loon, embrace freedom & liberty. #TaxationisTheft

  8. Paul says:

    Maybe rape is ok too as that would be pre love sex.

  9. Wow! It’s hard to say anything about such a completely absurd essay. I’m having a hard time coming up with adjectives bad enough.

    You don’t get the gravity you deserve so we’re going to make a law to fairly distribute that gravity, so that the fat guy who weighs 700 pounds will be able to get around just as easily as the marathon runner.

    The market gave me money, without me pointing guns at anybody to get it? Then it’s mine. All mine. Absolutely fair. I don’t owe you or anybody a single penny of it. Taxation is not only theft, it’s the very worst kind of theft: extortion. A heinous crime. End it. Replace it with… nothing.

    How some people comprehend this simple fact, I’ll never understand.

    • Green says:

      Market is nothing more than a convention. It’s not rational. It has no morality. It’s mindless process. So no, market doesn’t give you what you deserve. In fact, every known mathematical model of completely free market shows one stunning fact – in the end of the process one entity owns everything. So, if markets really gives you what you deserves, it follows that with all probability you deserve nothing.

  10. Sam Grove says:

    “This feeling that your pre-tax income is ‘your money’ is difficult to shake.”

    Apparently, for some people, such as the collectivist writer, it’s a concept that’s impossible to fathom.
    If the person endeavoring to create value isn’t entitled to it, who is?
    If a person’s creative efforts don’t entitle her to control and dispose of her output or compensation for her output, then what does?

    Extortion (the exercise of political power) doesn’t seem to justify any claim on the output of another, that’s the morality of any robber.

    • Green says:

      “If the person endeavoring to create value isn’t entitled to it, who is?” You simply don’t get the point. Money you earn is only a measure (and very flawed one) of real value you create. Money is not value, money is not wealth. It’s only accounting tool. In fact, there is nothing simpler than earning money from destroying real wealth (devastation of rainforests for example). If you confuse money with value, no wonder you can’t understand why we need taxation. You’re living in the wonderland of circular logic.

  11. Even if individuals didn’t have property rights in their income, you’d still have to explain why the government was entitled to take mone from them. Philosopher Michail huemer explains:

    “How may a government finance its activities? The main method now used is coercive extraction of money from the population (taxation). The prevalence of this method of finance is most likely due to the fact that it is a very reliable method of collecting very large amounts of money. But it is not normally permissible to coercively extract money from others, even if you have a very good use for the money. On the face of it, therefore, taxation appears impermissible.

    That inference, however, seems to presuppose that individuals are justly entitled, prima facie, to their pretax incomes. Thomas Nagel and Liam Murphy have disputed this assumption. They believe that property rights are created by governmental laws and therefore that one only has property rights in those things to which the state’s laws grant one ownership. By creating tax laws, the state shapes the property rights that individuals have such that individuals own only their after-tax incomes. 9

    In response, there are three views one might hold regarding property rights. First, one might hold that property rights are natural, that is, moral rights that exist prior to the state. John Locke, for example, held that individuals are justly entitled to the fruits of their labor, even in a pregovernmental society. 10 On this view, taxation would seem to be a prima facie injustice, for whatever the ethically correct way of acquiring property may be, it presumably is not forcible extraction of goods held by others.

    Second, one might hold that property rights are partly natural, in that there are certain broad principles of property that are valid independent of governmental laws, but that there are many details of a regime of property rights that are not settled by these general moral principles. For instance, perhaps our inherent moral rights determine that we are justly entitled to the fruits of our labor, but these rights do not determine at what altitudes one may fly one’s airplane over someone else’s land. One might hold that state-created laws are needed to settle such matters of detail. This view still offers little comfort to a defender of taxation, for the entitlement of one agent to coercively extract vast quantities of resources from the rest of the population is not the sort of matter of detail (like the altitude at which one may overfly others’ property) that is plausibly taken to be left indeterminate by the basic moral principles of property.

    Third, one might hold that there are no natural property rights. Nagel and Murphy assume that this means that property rights are created by governmental decree. This is plausible only for one who presupposes a strong doctrine of political authority. Nagel and Murphy ascribe to the state a moral entitlement, arising from its power to create property rights, to coercively enforce its chosen distribution of resources. Since no nongovernmental agent may declare a distribution of resources and a regime of property rights and then coercively enforce them, the state’s right to do so would require political legitimacy. At the same time, the state’s creation of a regime of property rights would presumably impose obligations on the part of citizens to respect that regime. These would be political obligations. If, therefore, the state has no authority, it has no such power of creating property rights as Murphy and Nagel suppose.

    The result would seem to be that even after the state has made its laws, there still are no property rights. (If one finds this conclusion implausible, one ought to return to the view that there are natural property rights.) One might think the rejection of property rights leaves the way open for taxation: since taxpayers have no right to ‘their’ wealth, the seizure of some of that wealth will no longer appear as a rights violation. But by the same token, the state will have no right to that wealth either, and thus citizens do no wrong by withholding it. Meanwhile, there are the harms the state coercively imposes on those who fail to pay taxes, and these would seem to be prima facie injustices.

    In short, the defender of taxation must hold that the state, rather than the taxpayers, is justly entitled to the tax revenues that the state collects. There is no plausible way to defend this view unless one assumes a doctrine of political authority.”

    Huemer, Michael (2012-10-29). The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey (pp. 145-146). Palgrave Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

    …and you won’t be able to demonstrate that the state has legitimate authority, as the rest of Huemer’s book demonstrates.

  12. ScottJames says:

    And this chuckle head is deemed “professor.”

    His reasoning is so circular and fallacious, it’s hard to believe this wasn’t penned by an undergraduate student.

    First: Just because the governments are granted the right and responsibility to tax, for the common good, allegedly, having been granted such lowers by the populace, it does not follow that the income generated is not belonging to the individual who is taxed. By majority consent, we surrender our wealth to the governing body, who in returns x, y and z in a legal and social contract. We elect officials to legislate such collection.

    In this social contract, the check and balances are as follows:
    1. Everyone has skin in the game. Everyone pays.
    2. Because everyone has skin in the game, we elect officials who will legislate sound financial policy, providing necessary services, within a manageable budget.
    3. Property and income is first and foremost held as belonging to individual(s), and collected via DUE PROCESS OF LAW.

    Make no mistake, this so-called professor is lazy in his reasoning, dangerous in his presuppositions.

    And he has many soul mates.

    • Green says:

      On the contrary. The whole idea that you deserve what you earn is circular and fallacious. It confuses money with wealth (real value) and by doing so makes money you earned well-earned by definition (you deserve it, because it’s a value you brought to society) or – alternatively – makes assumption that money is absolutely exact measure of real value you worked out. First attitude is circular, second is simply false. It’s child’s exercise to show that money and wealth are two different things and that you can easily earn not only much more money than your work is worth in objective terms, but you can make money from destroying wealth (take industry which devastates natural resources, or irresponsible banking which leads to economic crisis). Market is just social convention, we may of course discuss what forms of taxation are more or less justified, but the only rational measure you can use in such reasoning is improved well-being of society as a whole. Idealizing earnings and suggesting that taxation is just theft is simply infantile.

  13. Stephen Curtin says:

    The fundamental issue of taxation is whether the individual owns his or her self. If so, the fruit of his or her labor belongs to them and no one else. Taking it is theft. If not, let’s dispense with the nuance and call it what it is: slavery, as the individual does not own his or her self.

    Of course it is the beneficiaries of the State which always argue the hardest that taxation isn’t theft, since without it they think they’d be out of a job. They can’t fathom that they might compete in a free market, because currently they have nothing to offer a free market but bad, worthless ideas. So of course they desire the job security a monopoly on force and theft provides them.

  14. MIke says:

    I wonder if Prof. Goff would support a taxation program to equalize his income down to the level of the rest of the world? Typically, these Rawlsians do all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify income equalization within their own borders, but aren’t so keen about equalizing with say Sub-Saharan Africa. Their moral compass starts spinning in all kinds of different directions when their conceptions of justice would actually force significant lifestyle changes on themselves.

  15. David says:

    “You clearly don’t have a legal right to your pre-tax income, as you are legally obliged to pay tax on it. This is a simple analytic truth that follows from the definition of taxation. People who don’t take pay their taxes go (or at least legally ought to go) to gaol.”

    “You clearly don’t have a legal right to claim you are not a slave when you are legally declared to be a slave,” said the Southern slave owner to his slave.

    Slavery was legal. The internment of German Jews in German concentration camps was legal. Apartheid was legal.

  16. Billy Talty says:

    I had to stop at the halfway point. You made a statement that in my opinion is jumping over some huge gaps, and to even consider the second half of your argument, they need to be filled.
    “it is implausible to suppose that each person has a moral right to his or her pre-tax income, for that would imply that the distribution of pre-tax incomes the market happens to throw up is perfectly just, and this is clearly not the case.”

    Where do you get that rule from? Why does a moral right to one’s income implies that distribution of that income is just?

    Further how is it not just? You claim that because a Banker gets more than a doctor who cures cancer it isn’t just. But, that seems rather than a repudiation of markets, a repudiation of social norms, because people in general value knowing their money is safe more than having a cure for cancer. It also implies that having a cure for cancer is itself valuable. One is a holder of tangible goods, the other a holder of knowledge. As we know from history knowledge is cheap and usually easy to come by, but few people take advantage of it.

    Finally, what is justice ), and how does it apply to our sense of rights. Hayek dispelled the idea of social justice all together. Even Rawls agreed that distribution can be unequal if the outcome is better for the least of us. You seem to be playing loose with terms and coming to premature conclusions.

  17. Billy Talty says:

    Also, the argument Nagel and Murphy make is rather different. Their main point is that because income and property cannot be protected without a state, there is an implied necessity of a state for private ownership. There view essentially hurts Anarchist, but nothing more. A Nozickian minarchy could still fit within that perimeter. I believe John Tomasi does a good job pointing this out in the book Free Market Fairness.

  18. kenneth detro says:

    I am guessing that your use of the phrase “Taking money off us” is a reference to the presumed naivete of your interlocutor. Or perhaps, you simply cannot help but congratulate yourself at their expense.

  19. Billy Beck says:

    Why don’t you come take what’s mine by *yourself* instead of hiring thugs to do it for you?

    Don’t bother. I know the answer.

  20. geekWithA.45 says:

    There was a time when even the least rigorous liberal arts bachelor’s degree required the study of logic and fallacy in the freshman year to both prevent this sort of fallacious thinking from entering the public discourse, or even worse, being accepted and taken up by it.

    Sadly, the diploma mills tend not to issue refunds, their marks tend not to understand that they’ve been ripped off, and our society suffers profoundly as a result.

  21. Josip Broz says:

    How silly of me to think that my employer owns his income and decides how much of it to give to me. In fact, everything is owned by the government.

  22. Sum1 says:

    This essay is proof positive that having a PhD in philosophy isn’t a guaranty for clear thinking.

    The writer assumes that “the” market “throws money” at you, as though it were a sentient being, and since this being throws around money unequally, the money obtained by you is obtained unethically, and therefore you have no right to it. This is why Government must take as much of that money away in order to make the “throwing” precisely equitable.

    The fallacies of his argument are numerous:

    a) There is no such thing as a market. A “market” is a fictional concept. In the real world, a “market” consists of humans who interact with each other, trading goods, services and financial instruments. That collection of human interactions is called “a market”. “The market” doesn’t throw anything at anyone, it does not “gift” anything, nor does it “distribute” anything – because it doesn’t actually exist. So right off the bat the writer makes a bizarre categorical error, as though the market is a sentient being that engages in an distribution of money.

    b) The writer does not seem to have a clear concept of value or of ownership. In a nutshell, people transfer money to others in return for something that, *in their mind*, is of equal or greater value. (A salary is trade too – trading your talents in exchange for money). Since value is subjective, these exchanges necessarily are unequal. I might value something higher, or lower, than how you value it, and therefore agree to pay for it more, or less, than you would. This is true of any financial transaction. If I have business X and you have business Y, I, based on a set of factors, might value a given work slot at N dollars and you, based a different set of factors, might value a given work slot at M dollars. Workers will either agree or disagree to this level of compensation, also based on their subjective value. The fact that my worker will get N dollars and your worker will get M dollar, even if M ≠ N, does not mean that either of these workers have obtained their income unethically, or that this sentient being “gifted” them their salary unequally. Rather, it means that they each provided different values to their employers and therefore received different levels of compensation. The compensation they receive is therefore wholly theirs, and any funds take out of it by taxation, is a taking of THEIR money.

    I should note that it’s not clear why the writer limits his argument to pre-tax money, since his argument holds equally also for post-tax money: you are not entitled to any money received above the point that is not 100% equal to the money each member of society received. Once we understand that the argument he is making is that no one has any right to anything above what each other member of society has, the nonsensical nature of this argument becomes even clearer.

    • Green says:

      a) False. Market isn’t a sentient being of course, but that’s exactly the point. It’s a mindless process influenced by millions of factors, therefore expecting that wealth distribution which it creates will be just, is nonsensical. That’s exactly the reason why we need some entity (government) which puts a human thought into it.

      If you run computer simulation of totally free market you will find very interesting thing. In the end of the process one entity owns everything. You end up with the same result even if you assume that investment may be successful only by sheer luck. Why? Because money earns money – you can invest more with the same risk (and gain greater profit), or at the same amount with less risk. Purely by chance some entities accumulate better positions, and at the end one entity takes all. Think about it for a moment. Maybe you will figure out how funny this is when you juxtapose this finding with assumption that you earn what you deserve. Because it would seem that from the two it follows: you deserve nothing.

      And of course there is such a thing as market. Structure of this interactions you’re talking about. Existing division of wealth and power, attitudes and misconceptions shared by people, rules of law governing this exchange etc. Most of it has nothing to do with justice and morality. Even sheer stupidity plays it part here.

      b) False. There’re objective values. To have a clear air is of value for everyone (or, at least, it should be, because if it isn’t for x, then x is sociopath, meaning – is hostile towards society and human race)? And yet, it’s in direct opposition to many market forces. Why? Because – and that’s the thing you should learn: a) consumers are not rational b) they don’t possess absolute knowledge c) there exist people (and quite a lot of them) who are completely unconcerned with well-being of others, especially when “others” mean future generations.

    • Green says:

      Sorry, but I must add this. “Once we understand that the argument he is making is that no one has any right to anything above what each other member of society has, the nonsensical nature of this argument becomes even clearer.” No, this is not the point of the argument. The point of the argument is as follows. 1. One’s earning are very flawed measure of value one brings into society (understood as rate at which one’s job is improving well-being of society as a whole) 2. We don’t know any better measure. 3. So we keep money but make some concession by paying taxes (discussion about better or worst forms of taxes is completely different topic).

      Two other things to think about for you. There is a time aspect in real world. Most of mathematics which facilitates current economic and technological advancements was of no economical value when it was created. There’re are many thing of great value for everyone (who can call himself human looking in the mirror) but of no economical worth. For example, a drug for rare disease.

  23. Andrew Lale says:

    I hope the amoral market doesn’t gift you any money for writing this lazy crap.

  24. Rick Drayson says:

    Laws are simply opinions backed up by guns. Nothing more other than sanctimonious pretense towards decency.

    Taxation is theft and anyone who argues differently is just exposing their utter contempt of their fellow human beings because everyone with more than 2 brains cells knows that taxation is not voluntary and consent is not required.

    I would hate to hear Phil Goff’s opinion on rape vs. consensual sex. I shudder at the thought of all the excuses and circular reasoning he would come up with if not for the threat of violence that would be directed at him by feminist groups given his clear lack of morals.

  25. Commonly known as: Boyd, of the family Williamson says:

    This is mind bogglingly inaccurate, and shows a near complete lack of understanding of the parameters defining a lawfully binding contract.

    * “Alain de Botton encourages us to think of taxation as charity: we give up what’s ours for the greater good of our society”.

    It should be immediately apparent that charity is a voluntary act, and as such we have every right to choose not to make a charitable donation. More to the point – ALL lawfully binding contracts must be entered into voluntarily, and with full disclosure.

    It should be noted that all legislation is in fact commerce / admiralty law, and as such can only apply to the legal fiction (ALL CAPS NAME). Herein lies the deception – from the day you were born, you have been fooled into assuming that your given name, and the legal fiction NAME were one and the same. This legal fiction was created by, and is the property of the state (and as such we place ourselves in dishonor by claiming to be the legal fiction). Your parents were forced to ‘register’ (from the word Regis, meaning ‘of the king’) your birth to the state (upon this registration, the legal fiction was created by the state). At no time was full disclosure of the nature of this registration provided.

    It should be immediately apparent that , as this contract was not entered into voluntarily, and full disclosure was not provided, this contract is null & void, and cannot be lawfully binding. Yet we continue to accept liability for, and act as surety for the legal fiction, as we do not realize the difference.

    If you actually read the Income Tax Act 2007, you’ll find it applies to person’s:

    BB 2 Main obligations
    Income tax liability
    A person’s income tax liability for a tax year must be calculated, and satisfied
    by the person, under subpart BC (Calculating and satisfying income tax liabil-

    We are specifically referred to the Interpretation Act 1999 for the definition of the word Person (in bold no less!)

    AA3 (2) Definitions
    The Interpretation Act 1999 also contains definitions of terms, including in par-
    ticular the term person, and other provisions that apply to the interpretation
    and construction of this Act.

    The Interpretation Act defines the word ‘person’ as:

    Person: includes a corporation sole, a body corporate, and an
    unincorporated body

    By the maxim of law “inclusio unius est exclusio alterius” meaning “The inclusion of one is the exclusion of another”, we know that only these listed entities in commerce are therefore included. Clearly we, the natural born men & women upon this land, are none of the above listed entities.

    How may know that the NZ government is actually a corporation called “Her Majesty the Queen in Right of New Zealand” (listed with the securities & exchange commission in Washington D.C.) operating via the crown, for the benefit of the state & banking empire “The City of London” which can be traced back to the Knights Templar?

  26. Commonly known as: Boyd, of the family Williamson says:

    I forgot to mention, your employment contract is a private contract between you and you employer. As required in a lawfully binding contract, you both exchange something of substance (ie; labour for money). No third party can enter your contract without the consent of both contractual parties.

    Incidentally, the Wages Protection Act 1983 states the following, which clearly shows that deductions cannot be made without our consent.

    Deductions with worker’s consent
    An employer may, for any lawful purpose,—
    (a) with the written consent of a worker; or
    (b) on the written request of a worker—
    make deductions from wages payable to that worker.
    A worker may vary or withdraw a consent given or request
    made by that worker for the making of deductions from that
    worker’s wages, by giving the employer written notice to that
    effect; and in that case, that employer shall—
    (a) within 2 weeks of receiving that notice, if practicable;
    (b) as soon as is practicable, in every other case,—
    cease making or vary, as the case requires, the deductions con-

  27. Morrow says:

    The mistake is using “just” and “fair” interchangably. “Fairness” is only *one* moral value, of which there are many: liberty, consent, tribal loyalty, aversion to “disgusting” things… and in fact “fairness” is not even useful as a moral principle: it is a moral *heuristic*: there is no real degree of “fairness” that we can non-arbitrarily say is fair *enough* or “morally good”. We can use fairness as a tiebreaker, but we can’t build a principled, consistent theory of ethics on it.

    “””that would imply that the distribution of pre-tax incomes the market happens to throw up is perfectly just, and this is clearly not the case. There is no justice in the fact that the pre-tax income of a City banker is many hundreds of times the pre-tax income of scientist working on a cure for cancer.”””

    It is just, as an outcome, because the means *by which it comes about* — voluntary transactions between consenting parties — are just. You’d be hard pressed to call something unjust when everybody involved went into it voluntarily and got what they wanted. How can the *sum* of all such perfectly-just acts be an injustice?

    (Of course, it is also possible for income inequality to come about by completely *unjust* means: profiting from a government-granted monopoly backed by force of law, gaming the system of government-enforced regulations (made-up laws), etc.)

  28. Bill Anderson says:

    I didn’t sign any contract.

    The self-evidence of the violence inherent in the “government” will be transparent the moment I don’t “voluntarily” hand over my stash.

    Philip Goff is simply a coward who lacks the balls to come steal my stuff in person. He’d much rather keep his dirty soul clean by sending his goon squad over to take my stuff. If I resist, his goons will throw me in a cage. If I resist being thrown in a cage, they’ll beat me and or murder me where I stand.

    His argument should replace the words “tax payer” with either “slave” or at the least “serf” so that we know exactly the relationship between the State and the Individual.

  29. CosmicV says:

    Here, let me help you out a bit.

    or to sum it up, I didn’t sign any contract, social or otherwise…

  30. Paul says:

    I read enough. People shouldn’t bother to read all this diatribe. If you point a gun to my head and force me to give you the money >> I << worked hard to earn, call it whatever you like, it's still theft. It doesn't matter what ensues after my money or property is forcefully taken from me. It's still theft. Just like it doesn't matter if I pay my wife dinner in an expensive restaurant after beating her up. It's still an abusive relationship.

    No sophistry on your part or meanderings about some sort of "social contract" (which neither I nor anyone has ever signed) will change that reality.

    If it's involuntary, not "charity" as you attempt to purport. it's coercion. It's theft, it's violence. End of story.

    It's in moments like this that I have greater respect for classical marxists or fascists. At least they have the decency – or I daresay, the balls – to admit that they approve of violence, coercion and confiscation of property against peaceful individuals in order to promote what they see as the ideal society.

  31. Free-man says:

    You own your body, you own your time, and you own the fruits of your labor. If someone try’s to take this from you without your consent, that is called theft… Even when a group of people call themselves government and then vote to take your property from you without your consent, this is still theft. It is embarrassing that this needs explained to people. Nothing gives you a right to force me to work for you. Are we free or are we slaves?

    • Nick Shaxson says:

      You consume services, you pay for the services. The rule of law, and all that. It’s a bit like shopping. So not paying tax, in this way of looking at it, is the equivalent of theft: you get something but you don’t pay for it.

      • Sas says:

        What if I do not want anything from the government because I believe free market would provide me the same much cheaper?

        • Nick Shaxson says:

          like, er, reliable courts, a properly organised national transport system, trustworthy police, urban sewers . . .

  32. Marcin says:

    What an awful article clearly written by someone bitter they don’t earn enough? Scholars should earn more than bankers? What a hippie concept

  33. Dennis Richardson says:

    The Hebrew God will straighten you out article author, when HE sends you to your eternal damnation. This planet belongs to HIM, he sets the rules and you are outside HIS rules. Taxation is theft, money does belong to the person that earns it and politicians will spend the same time in HELL that you do, all eternity. I will laugh until the end of time at morons like you. Besides which the civil war will prove you wrong in this life and you will still not believe it. Money created by government’s master in America the New York bankers by fractional reserve banking and those that do are again wrong and again damnation awaits them and you.

  34. Jason Osgerby says:

    This is probably the stupidest article I’ve ever read. I’m having a hard time believing that this was written by a professor of anything. Let’s quickly destroy both of his ridiculous arguments:

    “You clearly don’t have a legal right to your pre-tax income, as you are legally obliged to pay tax on it. This is a simple analytic truth that follows from the definition of taxation. People who don’t take pay their taxes go (or at least legally ought to go) to gaol.” Talk about circular logic. Just because paying tax is a legal requirement, this does not mean that it isn’t tantamount to state theft. Any jackass in a position of power and authority can create whatever arbitrary ‘laws’ he or she wishes to make, and then demand that the populace adheres to them. When we are stating that “taxation is theft”, we are stating that any laws requiring us to pay taxes are morally bankrupt, lacking in legitimacy, and in a sane society would be completely ignored.

    “So if there is a general right to one’s pre-tax income, then it must be a moral right.” This is the only part that we both agree on.

    “But it is implausible to suppose that each person has a moral right to his or her pre-tax income, for that would imply that the distribution of pre-tax incomes the market happens to throw up is perfectly just, and this is clearly not the case.” You are confusing two completely different issues, and then using one to justify the other. How much money a person makes is nothing to do with the topic at hand – the distribution of incomes is irrelevant. If I agree to be paid $10 a year to do a job, then that is the amount of money that my employer and I have agreed as compensation for my services. If someone in another company gets paid $1000 to do a different job, then that has nothing to do with me. Salaries are based on many market forces, such as the demand for specific skills, and the amount of professional experience someone brings with them. This is not a moral issue, it is a contractual issue based upon the eternal market forces of supply and demand.

    “There is no justice in the fact that the pre-tax income of a City banker is many hundreds of times the pre-tax income of scientist working on a cure for cancer. This is just an accident of the way our market economy is structured.” It’s not an accident. Your subjective ideals do not change the fact that the city bankers generates large amounts of revenue for his or her company, whereas the cancer researcher does not generate any income (at least, not until a cure is found and possibly patented).

    The argument that taxation is theft is certainly a moral issue: no government has any right to demand a percentage of every citizen’s income, and threaten non-compliance with jail time. If I work to earn money in exchange for my time and skills, then that money is mine. If the government takes a large chunk of that money against my wishes, then that is theft. If the government tells me to pay this money or else go to jail, then that is extortion and blackmail, and the government reveals itself to be little more than another mob gang engaged in a protection racket – pay up, or else!

    • Green says:

      To sum your whole lengthy argument in one sentence: you’re simply an egoist with no concern for others. It’s the only possible explanation (besides stupidity) for stating (which you did, just maybe don’t realize): it’s true that in economy driven by pure market forces there is simply no place for many advanced branches of mathematics (which may be of no economic value for centuries, as it was with “number theory”, or no such value at all, we simply cannot know that in advance) or drugs for rare diseases (completely worthless economically), but hey, that’s simply the way free market is working, so be it.

      Two other things. Can you tell mi how is that, that highly taxed societies (Scandinavian for example) are better of than most of the world, and how is it a theft, when everyone’s situation (and whole surrounding) are constantly improving? Second, your assumption that after eliminating income tax you will save additional money in amount which was taxed before, is wrong (the whole economy will change, for example, you may deal with higher inflation).

  35. Tyler says:

    I would think a “professor of philosophy” would understand what a logical fallacy was and realize this is complete nonsense

  36. The Buddy Lama says:

    What an incredibly convoluted and dishonest attempt to rationalise criminal behavior! The unbridled arrogance and delusional belief that they alone know what’s best for everyone combined with the ego to impose their will on the great unwashed masses whether they want it or not… Such people are disgusting.

    Government is not a charity and spending other people’s money is not philanthropy, but it sure is fun and easy, and virtually guarantees a dependent voting bloc of dependents. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul… Actual charitable contributions are entirely voluntary whereas government mandated confiscation through taxation absolutely is theft. “Mandatory Contribution” is a contradiction in terms.

    If you want to pursue a particular “social agenda” you are free to start your own charity for that express purpose. Do not assume it is any part of the role of government, or that your social agenda is the same as anyone else’s. You have no right to force others to fund the things you want them to; outsourcing your crimes to proxy government does not absolve you personally of all wrong-doing, you are still an accomplice in the government’s crimes.

    Bastiat called it Plunder: “When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it — without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud — to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed…
    “How is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime…”
    —Frédéric Bastiat, The Law, p. 21, 26

    “When under the pretext of fraternity, the legal code imposes mutual sacrifices on the citizens, human nature is not thereby abrogated. Everyone will then direct his efforts toward contributing little to, and taking much from, the common fund of sacrifices. Now, is it the most unfortunate who gains from this struggle? Certainly not, but rather the most influential and calculating.” —Frédéric Bastiat

  37. Adam Smith says:

    I just wasted ten minutes of my life listening to some cuck try to statesplain to me how he’s entitled to the fruits of my labor. Cool story, bro.

  38. taxation IS theft says:

    hey gimmie your money then dont be a hypocrite its not yours its MINE

  39. David Sutton says:

    Personally I have long agreed with the concept of a laissez-faire society since it is the only moral choice being based on truth.

    Self ownership is innate and is not morally challengable.
    Self ownership entitles all people to use 100% of their own resources to survive, prosper and thrive.
    Diminishing peoples ability to utilise 100% of their own resources by any means including taxation ultimately demonstrates that we are not entitled to self ownership and are therefore still slaves.

    The exchange of ideas and the division of labour is humanities crowning acheivement.
    There is no endeavor that is more human or of higher moral value.

    Trade encompasses these values.

    Voluntaryism is something I am in favour of to all those statists who feel that services should be payed for.

    People just need to think for themselves.

  40. Joel Richard says:

    I think the moral responsibility to pay for public service exists. It is the means in which the money is gathered that is immoral. The initiation of force is not justified. In pretty much all of these cases, taxation becomes extortion since the choice is removed.

  41. Doug says:

    What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard at no point in your rambling incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul?

    • Kenny says:

      Lol, I think Billy Madison’s critical analysis of the Industrial Revolution was more grounded in reality than Goff’s post.

  42. fucku says:

    Rofl what a retarded post

  43. Smartguy says:

    Merriam Webster definition of THEFT:(1a)
    the act of stealing; specifically : the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it

    If one person stealing from another is theft, then one group of people stealing from another group is massive theft.

    The notion that a large group of people can grant magical powers to politicians just by voting is nonsense. The majority simply has enough physical force to enslave the minority. Majority oppressing minority (democracy) is still oppression! Pointing a gun at me gives you the POWER to rob me, but not the RIGHT to do so.

    Claiming taxes are not theft because they provide “essential services” would follow logically that it’s ok for me to rob you at gunpoint as long as I give you a hand-job after.

    Fuck your essential services. The free market is driven by productivity. The government is driven by war. Maybe the free market doesn’t always provide EQUAL pay to everyone, but neither does government!

    I’d be happy to pay a voluntary contribution to essential services in society in exchange for no more taxes. This way we’d be free to decide for ourselves what “essential services” actually are, what level of quality we want, and how much we are willing to pay for them. Next time I hit a pothole and get a flat tire, or the trash guy leaves my can in the street, or a cop writes dozens of petty nuisance tickets to exploit the community he’s supposed to protect, I’d love to be able to FIRE them and hire a better company.

  44. Bill Walls says:

    Taxation is still theft.

  45. The ONLY basis for determining if a wage is just or unjust is wether or not it was voluntarily agreed to. Did you agree to work for 50k while the CEO works for 500k? If you think that is unjust then don’t take the job, negotiate for more or negotiate for less for the CEO. If you agree to the salary your offered then what is unjust about it. By what right does a third party have to come into the middle of this transaction and declare an injustice where the two parties involved have an agreement. There can be no injustice where there is an agreement. The problem here is third actors who have a vision of society they prefer and no one is going along with their ideals and are instead pursuing their own interests. So these busy bodies, like the author of this article, have no trouble with coercing others out of their money on the basis that they think there is an injustice, when no one else involved does. If this were the case then why use the government as a middle man? Just walk up to a rich man, shove a gun in his belly and demand he give 90% of his income to charity. Somehow I doubt this author or any other SJW types will have the courage of their convictions to do such a thing even though it is precisely what they want the government to do in their stead.

  46. TheCritic89 says:

    “So if there is a general right to one’s pre-tax income, then it must be a moral right. But it is implausible to suppose that each person has a moral right to his or her pre-tax income, for that would imply that the distribution of pre-tax incomes the market happens to throw up is perfectly just, and this is clearly not the case.”

    This is the crux of your argument. Unfortunately, for your argument, it is illogical and a fallacious misstep.

    The moral right to your pre-tax income plays out like this: you are entitled to a good or service for which you have already paid. Your labor, skllls, knowledge, whathaveyou is yours to provide. You can work or not work. If I decide I want to work, I find an employer who will pay me to do so. There are interviews, contracts/agreements, etc. I will do X for you, and in exchange, you will provide me with Y amount of dollars. You are entitled to Y. Whether or not the company is overpaying you. Whether or not it seems asinine that Miley Cyrus makes more money than any professor of any subject at any school is irrelevant. If they wanted to make the money Miley Cyrus makes, and they could do what she does better than her, then they have the choice to pursue that economic goal.

    To suggest that a deliberate action or policy cannot be moral because the market is not moral implies that the foundation of any morality is affected by accidents. It is not.

    Your article is one written with not-so-hidden undertones that you don’t like that work that is important in YOUR opinion doesn’t get as much money as it should. That has nothing do with morality, at least not in the way you suggest.

    You shouldn’t have taken the left at Albuquerque in the hunt for the mark that you missed.

  47. Georgio says:

    What is the functional difference between a aggregate tax rate of 85 to 90 percent and indentured servitude or slavery? 10 to 15% of the fruits of your labor isn’t much but not outside the realm of possibility in some socialist countries. At some point the suckers are just going to vote with their feet…

  48. Kaimanawa says:

    The whole system is wrong e.g. Monetary , we should all be resource based and use them collectively for the greater good of humanity. Check out the Venus Project on Google search

  49. Dennis Richardson says:

    Article writer, the Hebrew God will straighten out your wrong thinking when HE sends those of you that believe, “it is not your money thereby taxation is not theft”, to HELL for violating HIS Ten Commandments. In the meantime, it is going to be civil war soon in America to rid America of the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve Board. It may be legally by the Congress and President Donald Trump to restore the Constitution from thieving immigrants and/or democrats like you, but more likely it will be by war. Many voters for the democratic party and Hillary Clinton will be determined to have voted illegally, those will be removed by deportation. Declared war by Congress at President Donald Trumps request may yet happen to destroy Mexico when it becomes necessary due to as a result of some treaty Mexico achieves with China.

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