The title question is a word for word quote from a post I came across in the Reformed Pub. I’ve been asked this about a million times.
My response to the second question is: Do YOU even? In this post I demonstrate why this text does not in fact defeat the Taxation is Theft mantra. Spoiler alert: it’s because of my exegesis of the text of Romans 13!
Others and I have pointed out repeatedly that taxation is an activity that, if done by anybody other than the government, would be theft. It is the forceful confiscation of property (usually money) from non-criminals. There are numerous attempts from many different angles to try to justify this activity. Probably the hardest for a Christian to answer is the argument that follows:
“Romans 13:7 says, ‘Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, [etc.…].’ Since this verse says that taxes are owed, they can’t be theft.”
This is an argument that should be taken seriously and not simply swept away. In answering this argument, I hope to demonstrate why I find it unconvincing not because of my unwillingness to submit to the text, but because of my exegesis of the text itself.
We have to back up at least one verse, which will lead us to back up to the beginning of the chapter and even into the previous chapter, but I don’t want to exegete that in exhaustive detail. I’ve done that elsewhere. Let’s just look at verse 6 for starters:
“For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.”
Paul qualifies the statement he’s about to make in verse 7 by giving us a reason why we owe the taxes. What is that reason? “The authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.” What very thing? The service of bearing the sword against wrongdoers in society.
With that in mind, it’s very clear to understand that in verse 7, Paul is exhorting us to see our taxes as being owed to the magistrate for the same reason we would owe revenue to anyone else we owe revenue to. If I buy a pizza, I owe the pizza shop money, because they made and delivered me a pizza. If I have a government provide the service of magistrate for me, I owe it to them to pay the services fees they require.
Now at this point, I think that anyone who would make the above argument is probably nodding their heads thinking that they’re in agreement with me, but I think that is because they haven’t fully followed the logic to it’s conclusion. Most of them seem to think that justifies a State government.
It is my hope to demonstrate two things. First: that an anarcho-capitalist free market for government services does not in any way violate what Paul is commanding here. Second: that the very nature of a State monopoly government, by definition, involves the use of the sword in coercive ways that are not authorized by Romans 13. I’ll do them in the reverse order, though.
I have to be clear here. I, even as an anarchist, am not opposed to the existence of sword bearing magistrates. I am not opposed to the sword bearing magistrates collecting revenue (call it taxes if you want) from those who they serve. It is not the fact that the government raises funds that makes their taxation theft. What makes the State’s taxes theft is that the State itself, by the very nature of its existence, violates the purpose for which God gave it the sword.
According to Romans 13:6-8, Taxation is payment for services rendered. Specific services. So at max, taxation is only not theft if it’s used to punish wrongdoers. Any other use is most certainly theft. Since our government does mostly other things with our tax money, then our government’s taxes are theft.
If a government were to restrict their activities to only the proper use of the sword, I’d be ok with saying their taxes aren’t theft.
But there’s still a problem with the fact that they enforce a territorial monopoly on the provision of that service. This involves the improper tax-funded use of the sword in two ways:
- They combat competing sword bearers so as to establish and protect their monopoly.
- They coerce non-criminal citizens to subscribe to their service involuntarily.
In all other service industries a consumer may subscribe to Provider A, Provider B, Provider N, or none. The State makes it so that you have no option. You must subscribe, and your subscription must be to Provider A. They enforce this edict by the threat of force. This terror to good conduct is a violation of the definition of the service found right here in Romans 13! (See verses 3-5).
Consider therefore that the use of taxation to fund the use of the sword to coerce subscription to taxation is an improper use of tax revenue, and therefore THOSE taxes are theft! Even if that’s the only improper use of the sword that the State does!
No consistent definition of theft would exclude taxation. No consistent theory of how revenues come to be owed to someone would include how the State mandates subscription to their service. Logical consistency simply will not allow you to claim that taxation isn’t theft. You might try to argue that it’s justifiable theft, but it’s still theft. For taxation to avoid accurately being called theft, the definition of theft must be amended with the proviso “except if done by the government.” But that begs the question: what right justifies the government to operate this way?
The Christian Statist will invariably reply that it is because God gave them that authority. True. God did give him his authority. But since God clearly defined what he’s to do with that authority, and nowhere does that include coercing non-criminals, this actually works against the Statist’s position. The authority the magistrate has does not give him a different moral or legal standard to operate on. He exists to uphold the moral and legal standard. For him to operate contrary to that standard is self-refuting. What does it make him when he does things he would rightly punish other people for doing?
There are a number of objections that come up at this point. This section is somewhat long because I want to try to fairly deal with as many of them as I can.
But Christians are commanded to pay our taxes!
Yes indeed. But even though Romans 13 tells us that we as Christians should subscribe to their service, that doesn’t give them the authority to coerce everyone to subscribe. Elsewhere, Christians are commanded to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). Does this make slapping someone in the face not assault? Is there a certain class of people for which this is morally justified? That doesn’t logically follow.
And in case you think I’m making a false-equivalence here, read Matthew 5:38-42 and then read Romans 12:17-21, which is the context of Romans 13. Do these passages not rhyme? It’s in the context of the fact that we are not to carry out vengeance (or even Lex Talionis justice – Matt 5:38) for ourselves that we are told by Paul to subscribe to the magistrate and support his work of being the one God appointed to carry out that role in society.
But where in there does it say that there must only be one magistrate? In fact, it says “governing authorities”. It’s a logical non sequitur to say that our duty in this situation gives the government the moral right to coerce.
But Not all Taking of Life is Murder, so Not All Taking of Property is Theft
Correct. Not all taking of life is murder. Taking the life of a violent person in defense or punishment against an act of aggression is justified, and is a key reason the magistrate exists (Gen. 9:6).
So if the government may take life and not be murdering, then they can take property too, right? Yes not all government taking property is theft. Indeed if a person steals another’s property, the government has the authority to coerce the thief to pay back what was stolen and then a little extra to compensate the victim for having been stolen from.
But that doesn’t apply to taxation! Do you not see why this analogy is flawed? In the case of a murderer, you have a person who has done something violent that has caused harm to a neighbor. In the case of a thief you have a person who has done something violent or sneaky to take what doesn’t belong to him without consent. In both scenarios, the instigator is the criminal who first does something wrong that must be punished.
What has a peaceful non-criminal citizen done to deserve having his property taken from him? Nothing. He’s not committed any crime. There’s no justification to take anything from him.
Well he didn’t obey the law to pay the tax, right? That makes him a criminal and the government can force him to pay, right? If you don’t see how this is a logical non sequitur, I don’t know how to help you. This is basically the government bullying people. This is how the mafia operates. You have someone minding his or her own business when along comes some guy with a gun and says, “You have to give me money.” You say, “Why do I have to give you money?” And you say, “On what grounds,” and he says, “Cause I said so.” And you say, “No,” so he attacks you and takes the money anyway. You ask him what gives him the right, and he says, “You didn’t comply with the command to give me money.”
Now it’s wrong for anybody to do this, right? Well not in the Statist mind. In the statist mind, there’s that proviso: Except for the government!
But You Used the Service (or you indirectly benefitted from it). You Owe it To Them to Pay For It. If you Don’t Pay it, You’re Stealing From Him!
There are actually two flawed arguments wrapped into this objection. First is the Social Contract. The second is public goods theory.
Social Contract Theory
The Social Contract theory has absolutely no merit whatsoever. There is no consistent definition of contract that would apply to the Social Contract. There are two theories of contract: the consent theory, and the title transfer theory.
The consent theory is more widely known and understood. It goes that, for a contract to be legally enforceable, all parties must have given voluntary consent to the agreement.
The title transfer theory (which is Rothbard’s and is much better IMO) is that contracts are only legally enforceable (by coercive force) when there is a transfer of title involved (i.e. property). If I just give a verbal agreement to do something, you don’t have any authority to force me to do it at gunpoint. However, if you pay me money to give you some property, and then I re-neg and try to hold onto the property and your money, then I’ve stolen from you, and you have legal justification to treat me as a thief.
Neither of these definitions of contract can apply to the Social Contract. If consent is required, at what point did I consent to the Social Contract?
- When I was born? So children are now capable of making life-long, legally binding contracts now?
- Did my parents consent for me? So parents can consent to life-long, legally binding contracts for their children now?
- When after 12 years of indoctrination in government schools, I didn’t opt-out of the contract? So contracts are now effective by default unless someone explicitly opts-out? Also, you can bind someone to a contract by brainwashing them into saying yes when that’s not really informed consent?
- When I voted? So trying to use the legal process to peacefully appeal to the government to respect my freedoms is now somehow to be construed as consent to have my freedoms taken away?
- When I didn’t move to Somalia? So when the Mafia rolls into town and demands that everyone pay them protection money, they’re fine right? Because anybody who doesn’t agree can just move away. Right? If I’m a kid playing on a playground and a bully comes over and starts pummeling me, he has a right to do that because if I don’t leave the playground, I’m consenting to be bullied?
And of course if title transfer is required, there’s no way the Social Contract is valid. At least, not in the sense that it binds me in any way. I’ve sent thousands of dollars a year to the government. If anything, they owe me. Big time. What property have they given me? Can they even give me property that wasn’t first taken from someone? Nope. Not at all.
God Consented For You
This argument was raised to me once when I got to this point in the debate. The particular person I was debating seemed to think that I was relying on Locke’s view of the “consent of the governed” as the basis for the validity of the social contract. I’m not sure why he thought that. Locke supported the social contract on the basis of the consent of the governed. I reject the Social Contract entirely. “Consent of the governed” is a contradiction in terms. This objection really misses all the targets, because I only bring up consent to defeat applying the consent theory of contract to the Social Contract. By pointing out that hardly anybody could truly be said to have consented to the Social Contract, I hope to prove that the Social Contract is not a valid contract by that theory. This is not to uphold the Lockean view of Social Contracts, but to debunk it. I don’t hold to the consent theory of contract. I hold to the title transfer theory of contract.
But suppose I do hold to the consent theory of contract, and I am beholden to the Lockean view that consent is required for the Social Contract, and if consent is given the Social Contract is valid. I argued that very few people can actually be said to have consented. Then comes the objection: But God consented for you!
Ultimately this is a category confusion between the Decretive and Preceptive will of God. The Decretive will is that which God sovereignly and providentially enacts throughout history as he guides the course of human history for his own glorious and redemptive purposes. The Preceptive will is God’s moral law, that which God says ought to be.
The basic idea of the objection is that since God has exercised his decretive will to give the government their authority, this carries with it certain amendments to his preceptive will – i.e. that he is allowed to use his sword to coerce non-criminals. Notice that that idea is not exegeted from the text, but is read into it. As I demonstrated, there are better, more logically consistent conclusions that can be reached without reading this idea into the text.
To take this view would require us to come to some absurd conclusions. Suppose the King of Spain invades France, wins the war and takes possession of France. The King of Spain then annexes what used to be France as part of his dominion. Who then has the rightful God-given authority to govern France? By God’s sovereign decretive will, the King of Spain is now the King of the territory formerly called France. The French Christians should submit to the authority of the King of Spain and pay him taxes in obedience to Romans 13.
But how does this retroactively justify his invasion? Doubtless if he had lost the war, we would never have called him the rightful King of France. We would call him an aggressor. If he’s an aggressor when he loses, then he’s also an aggressor when he wins. By God’s preceptive will, the definition of aggression does not change simply because you can successfully accomplish the goal of your aggression, even when that aligns with God’s decretive purposes.
How then can we arrive at a theory of Social Contract that grants the State the permission to declare to people, “you are in a contract with me whether you like it or not” when no one is bound to any other contract in this way? Certainly, by God’s decretive will, the State is the authority we are under. Certainly also, by God’s preceptive will, we voluntarily submit to this state. But that is not a contractual situation. It certainly gives no moral justification for the State to bind people to their authority. This is the same basic flaw of the first objection!
The Second flawed component of the objection is Public Goods theory. There are two ways to apply Public Goods theory here. One way is to make the freeloader argument. I.E there are certain “public goods” that benefit everybody because they have positive externalities outside their initially intended outcome. For example: if someone robs your neighbor’s house and then is caught, the police aren’t just serving your neighbor. They’re also serving you, because now the robber can’t rob your house next. Since you can benefit from these public goods without paying for them, then nobody is going to voluntarily pay for them voluntarily. So if these things are going to exist, everybody has to be coerced to contribute to them.
I give the benefit of the doubt to my objectors that they aren’t making the freeloader argument here. To do so would be to stray from dealing with the exegesis of the text of Romans 13, and indeed from a Biblically oriented ethic in general, to utilitarian pragmatism.
Rather, I think they are trying to advance a theory that somehow you come to owe the government for the service they provided simply because you indirectly benefitted from it. This isn’t a pragmatic argument about whether such services could exist without coercion, it’s an attempt to bind you morally to a duty to pay for things you indirectly benefit from.
Hans Herman Hoppe eviscerated both the utilitarian freeloader argument and the ethical argument in the first chapter of The Economics and Ethics of Private Property (you can get the entire text of this book for FREE from Mises, so if you haven’t read it, you have no excuse).
Even the most superficial analysis could not fail to point out that using the alleged criterion of inexcludability, rather than presenting a sensible solution, would get one into deep trouble. While at least at first glance it seems that some of the state provided goods and services might indeed qualify as public goods, it certainly is not obvious how many of the goods and services that are actually produced by states could come under the heading of public goods. Railroads, postal services, telephone, streets, and the like seem to be goods whose usage can be restricted to the persons who actually finance them, and hence appear to be private goods. And the same seems to be the case regarding many aspects of the multidimensional good “security”: everything for which insurance could be taken out would have to qualify as a private good… Just as many state-provided goods appear to be private goods, so many privately produced goods seem to fit in the category of a public good. Clearly my neighbors would profit from my wellkept rose garden – they could enjoy the sight of it without ever helping me garden. The same is true of all kinds of improvements that I could make on my property that would enhance the value of neighboring property as well. Even those people who do not throw money in his hat can profit from a street musician’s performance. Those fellow passengers on the bus who did not help me buy it profit from my deodorant. Do all these goods … since they clearly seem to possess the characteristics of public goods, then have to be provided by the state or with state assistance?
Here Hoppe lays bare the idea that just because something has positive externalities that makes it a “public good”. Many private goods have positive externalities. Why are they not public goods? Indeed, it seems impossible to distinguish between public and private goods apart from the say-so of some government or government shill economist.
He goes on to say:
… To come to the conclusion that the state has to provide public goods that otherwise would not be produced, one must smuggle a norm into one’s chain of reasoning [i.e. beg the question]…
The norm required to reach the above conclusion is this: whenever one can somehow prove that the production of a particular good or service has a positive effect on someone else but would not be produced at all or would not be produced in a definite quantity or quality unless certain people participated in its financing, then the use of aggressive violence against these persons is allowed, either directly or indirectly with the help of the state, and these persons may be forced to share in the necessary financial burden.
Oh but why is this a problem?
It does not need much comment to show that chaos would result from implementing this rule, as it amounts to saying that anyone can attack anyone else whenever he feels like it [the Democrat or Republican will object that only the government can attack, but in reality, voting is an indirect form of this attack. See Bastiat]… this norm could never be justified as a fair norm. To argue so, in fact to argue at all, in favor of or against anything, be it a moral, non-moral, empirical, or logico-analytical position, it must be presupposed that contrary to what the norm actually says, each individual’s integrity as a physically independent decision-making unit is assured. For only if everyone is free from physical aggression by everyone else could anything first be said and then agreement or disagreement on anything possibly be reached. The principle of nonaggression is thus the necessary precondition for argumentation and possible agreement and hence can be argumentatively defended as a just norm by means of a priori reasoning.
This is Hoppe’s “Argumentation Ethics”, which basically boils down to: if you really believed that coercion is justified, why are you trying to persuade me that coercion is justified? Why not just coerce me? The fact that you’re trying to persuade me means that you believe it’s morally superior to persuade! But that must mean that coercion is immoral!
So in this context, what’s the problem? The answer is that regardless of the pragmatic reasons behind it, public goods theory requires immoral coercion, and it can’t even be applied consistently. We don’t coerce people to pay for everything they benefit from indirectly. On what basis do we say that they should have to pay for the police when we don’t expect them to pay for their neighbor’s garden or their fellow bus passenger’s deodorant? There’s no consistent a priori reason for it. It seems to be arbitrary. Or perhaps we feel that it’s justified in this particular case because it’s necessary. But then we’ve slipped back into utilitarianism haven’t we?
So in case that utilitarian pragmatism might be screaming at you in the back of your mind, Hoppe goes on!
Even the utilitarian, economic reasoning contained in the above argument is blatantly wrong…. it might well be that it would be better to have the public goods than not to have them, though … no a priori reasoning exists that this must be so of necessity… In any case… to leap from the statement that the public goods are desirable to the statement that they should therefore be provided by the state is anything but conclusive… Since money or other resources must be withdrawn from possible alternative uses [Opportunity Cost] to finance the supposedly desirable public goods, the only relevant and appropriate question is whether or not these alternative uses to which the money could be put… are more valuable – more urgent – than the public goods. And the answer to this question is perfectly clear. In terms of consumer evaluations [Subjective Theory of Value], however high its absolute level might be, the value of the public goods is relatively lower than that of the competing private goods because if one had left the choice to the consumers … they evidently would have preferred spending their money differently [Diminishing Marginal Returns].
So basically, if someone really needs something, they’re going to buy it, regardless of whether there might be positive externalities. Think about this in the context of my original example of your neighbor being robbed. Is he really going to sit back and not call the police about his robbery simply because you’re going to benefit indirectly? Is he going to wait for you to call the police? Would you act that way? Of course not. If you’re robbed, you’ll call the police. That there are positive externalities of this is great, but in no way does this put us in a freeloader situation.
Of course, the freeloader situation doesn’t bind us to anything anyway, because the public goods theorist has to demonstrate why the thing provided by the State is more necessary than the alternatives uses of those resources, which a State that doesn’t operate with profit and loss cannot possibly do. Even still, many libertarian theorists have explained how most of the perceived “public goods” could be provided by free markets. For just a taste, see Walter Block’s excellent talk at Mises.
In any case, there’s no a priori reasoning why the public good of policing must be provided by coercion. Neither ethics nor utilitarianism requires it, and as far as ethics goes, it’s a self-contradictory proposition. In order to protect you from coercion, we must coerce you. Seems fair.
But wait. Suppose you do benefit directly from his services. In that case, then don’t you owe him compensation?
I’ve made a distinction between those who directly benefit from the police (those who are actually victimized and actually served by the police who catch their criminal, or perhaps those specifically contract with them to protect certain definite properties to certain definable levels of security) and those who simply enjoy the indirect benefit of the positive externalities of others being served by the police, and I’ve proved that there’s no justification to require the indirect beneficiaries to pay.
But what about those who do directly benefit from the police services? Do you owe them compensation?
Yes you do. As the bare-bones principle you should pay for the services you use. Romans 13:7.
What makes this complicated is the fact that in our State, there’s no direct correlation between what we pay and the services we received. They don’t provide us with a bill for the services they provided. They don’t give us any commitments to provide any specific services in return for our subscription fees. And they don’t use our subscription fees exclusively for providing the service they are supposed to provide. They also don’t give us an option to opt-out.
To go from an obligation to pay for the services we definitely use to a blanket carte blanche for the government to coercively charge whatever they think is fair to anyone they might potentially serve is a non sequitur. No other financial obligations come to be owed this way.
But if we Love Our Neighbor, Shouldn’t We Provide Police For Him?
Sure maybe. I don’t know. Suppose for a moment that is true. So what?
Here again the objector has advanced a norm that isn’t applied consistently. That norm is: “If something is a moral duty, then there is justification to coerce a person to perform that moral duty.” We’re not talking about negative moral standards here. That is to say, “thou shalt not murder” is a negative moral standard, for it is the prohibition of a certain activity that is not to be done. If that activity is done, punishment should be given to the person who does it. No, what we’re talking about now is “positive” moral standards, or duties. Things that ought to be done.
If the norm above is true that men may be justly coerced to perform their positive moral duties, then by what standard do we determine which duties should be coerced? Charity is certainly a moral duty! Are we now to justify socialism by this norm? If the objectors would have no problem with that, then we need to have a very different sort of conversation. The problem is that the objector has not recognized the intrinsic link between this kind of justification for statism and socialism. He’s tried to dress it up in fancier clothes, but this is logically identical to an argument that says that poor people can’t afford police services and so the rich are obligated to provide it to them. After all, don’t the rich have a positive moral duty to be generous with their wealth?
The specific objector who made this argument pointed to Romans 13:8-10
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
But this interpretation is a really awkward reading of the text and not at all forced by plain exegesis. This portion of the text more clearly links up with our duties in Romans 12 and in 13:3 to “do what is good”. Suppose this “doing what is good” does include submitting to taxation. So what?
We’re at the same logical non sequitur we’ve arrived at multiple times already. It’s the same flaw as the first objection because it’s basically a rehash of the first objection. How does the Christian having this duty grant permission to the State to coerce the performance of that duty?
The Free Market Will Never Work!
There’s a better way to provide justice. A market for sword bearing magistrates would provide the service only to voluntary subscribers to whom “taxes” should indeed be paid. Not only that, but markets are the only mechanism that provide high quality goods and services ubiquitously and affordably.
Finally, it in no way conflicts with what Paul says here in Romans 13. There will still be a market demand for the service, and the market will provide as many service providers as are necessary to meet that demand. Further, there will be positive externalities, as mentioned above, so that even those who don’t have direct need of the service can benefit indirectly from it.
The service to be provided is justice on the behalf of those who have been wronged. When someone is wronged, they call the police. The police investigate, and if they find the perpetrator, pass sentence upon him. The only difference is that there will be multiple police agencies you could choose from. You can hire the one with the best reputation for doing the best job. If they don’t do a good job, you can fire them and hire someone else.
“Oh but that would never work!” the Statists object. The police agencies will just go to war with each other, or the rich will buy the police and so justice will be perverted.
First of all, you’ve imported a view of human nature from Hobbes instead of the Bible. Human nature is indeed depraved, we are sinners, and our inclination is toward sin, but that does not mean that we are all as sinful as we could be. By God’s common grace, sin can be restrained, and one means he provides for that is the magistrate. So what’s to prevent the magistrate from becoming criminal? Well what’s to prevent our State from becoming criminal? In a market, the justice company will need to provide the best service he can for his customers or they’ll go to another justice company. He can’t wage war against another company. It’s expensive! If he doesn’t do a good job being a just and effective police department, he goes out of business. His own self-interest here works to keep him in check.
Second, compare the theoretical flaws of the free market government that everyone imagines with the real, actual flaws of the record of all State governments throughout history – regardless of how the State is structured (democracy, republic, monarchy, etc). In every form of government there have been either tyrants who have been able to dominate their people or bureaucrats who have been able to sell favors to the highest bidder and so do injustice in the name of their benefactors – Or Both! And when I refer to corrupt bureaucrats, I’m not talking about some incident in the past. I’m referring to the current state of our fascist economy in the United States of America. Here politicians and regulators are bought and sold. There is a revolving door between regulators and lobbyists such that the laws and regulations get written in favor of the major corporations and do not accomplish their stated ends. The rich already buy the government and justice is already perverted. The very State that the Statists propose as the solution for these problems is corrupted by the very mechanisms they propose for the prevention of corruption!
Could there be bad actors on a free market? Certainly, but on the free market, there would be the natural checks and balances of profit/loss and competition that will create natural restraints on the bad actors. These will either prevent them from acting too badly or punish them naturally when they do. And if any business does commit a crime of violating someones’ life, liberty, or property, that can be handled by the police. They’ll still exist you know! Theft and murder will still be crimes! There will still be a demand to punish murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. The main difference will be that when the criminals are agents of a government, there will be other governments you can call in to deal with them. Right now, you have only one government, and when the agents of government act criminally, you have to ask the government to arbitrate a dispute to which it is a party.
Finally, notice that we’re talking pragmatism again. What “works” really doesn’t matter if it’s immoral. Ultimately, the only objections that can be raised to this are utilitarian in nature. Those utilitarian arguments fall apart, as I demonstrated, but they also must justify why utilitarianism trumps Biblical ethics. By what standard do the ends justify the means?
You’ll Never Have a Free Market, The State is Entrenched.
True. I agree. I’m a pessimist when it comes to Libertarianism. I doubt very much that, short of a serious great spiritual awakening, things will alter the direction they’ve been progressing in, which is distinctly toward greater and greater State power.
Yet, I don’t think this means that we should change our definitions or categories. The fact that the State is entrenched and we’ll probably never be able to have a truly free market doesn’t change the fact that they preserve this monopoly through unjustified use of the sword! It doesn’t change the fact that their revenues are collected through an activity that would be theft if done by anyone else.
To Wrap Up
In summary, I’ve conceded that the State charging tax revenues for the provision of their service as magistrate in and of itself may not technically be theft.
But as I pointed out, they do not restrain themselves to the use of the sword in only the authorized ways. Not only does this apply to things like welfare, it also applies to their monopolization of the service. This is a wrong use of the sword that calls into question whether the taxes they demand are actually due.
Further, since monopolies who have this kind of power don’t have the incentives necessary to keep their operations focused in on providing the service they’re supposed to offer, leading them to provide terrible products and services at exorbitant costs (see Comcast as the case in point), we should not expect the State to render the service our tax is supposed to pay for.
It comes as absolutely no surprise that our government spends more resources on welfare, unjust wars, and policing non-violent behaviors like drug use, while real criminals go unpunished.
So it may be assumed that a State will never render the service (or so rarely render it that they might as well never render it), and therefore a State’s taxes are always theft.
If a State ever did only use tax revenue for policing justly, I would agree that those taxes aren’t theft.
But even in that situation, I would still argue that a market is to be preferred for both moral and practical reasons. The moral reason is most important. That the state enforces their mandate at the edge of the sword against tax avoiders means that they are using their sword in an unauthorized way. At the very least the taxes that fund this activity are theft (because they are taxes used for non-sanctioned purposes), and therefore that the State *is* stealing in at least a certain percentage of it’s revenues. A little bit of theft is still theft.
“Taxation is Theft” is just a shorthand way of communicating this.