During Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign, I decided that the best way to help his cause was to buy t-shirts. This way, the campaign got both cash and advertising. I’ve since kept up with the t-shirts, compiling a small wardrobe of shirts relaying a variety of libertarian messages.
Today I wore my “taxation is theft” shirt. As should be clear, I oppose taxation because it is theft; any instance where a person is compelled to unwillingly contribute money constitutes theft. Since I oppose theft in all instances, I certainly oppose it in this instance.
Of course, advocates of taxation will assert that I receive something in return for my “contribution.” By this argument, anyone can take my money by force if they provide something in return. The typical response to this is to point out some democratic activity to identify the few people permitted to forcibly take from me. However, neither collective will nor democratic action removes from taxation the threat of violence for non-compliance.
There are those who claim to willingly pay their taxes. To them I say, “have at it.” However, willing contributors are typically engaged in charity or subsidy, neither of which requires theft or the force of law. I applaud any voluntary contributions even if they are to the government. As soon as they aren’t voluntary, they constitute theft and should be opposed in every case.
The ultimate and predictable argument presented by people wed to state dominance is the question of “public services” like roads and other infrastructure: Who would build and maintain roads if not for the public spirited denizens of government agencies? The answer, of course, is that people would build roads just as they do today.
During the industrial revolution, advances in productivity yielded increases to supply of a host of consumer products. Much of this productivity centered around factories and mills where technological advances and assembly lines improved efficiency. While the builders of these industries grew wealthy, so did the vast majority of people who now had access to less expensive clothing, durable goods and food. To get to these factories, roads were required. To ensure that people could travel from their homes to these factories, roads were required. To provide places where the products of these factories could be sold, roads were required.
The need for means of travel sparked the building of roads. Of course, roads existed long before the industrial revolution, but the need to transport ever larger quantities of goods over longer distances triggered other advances in road building and transportation. None of this required government oversight, foresight, or edict. In other words, necessity built the roads.
From this point the argument will typically devolve into concern for the less fortunate: Who would build roads for the poor? The answer is the same: anyone who has a need to access, or provide access to, labor and distribution of goods. The poor have to eat and cloth themselves just like everyone else. To the capitalist, they are a market to serve not a victim to subsidize. The same roads transporting goods across the country are made accessible to all. While access to these roads would likely include a fee to cover upkeep, that would be no different from the fees currently extracted through the numerous tax schemes claimed by bureaucrats and politicians as a means to keep up the roads. The difference is that competition for transit possibilities would make roads cheaper and better maintained. Of course, had government not hidden the cost of roads through taxation, socializing the cost and making road travel appear less expensive than it is, other means of transportation might have been developed by now to reduce the cost and improve efficiency. Then the question might be: Who will build the hover ports?
One of the many reasons for government inefficiency and waste can be found in the source of funding. Be it through taxation (i.e. theft), borrowing (i.e. future taxation/theft), or monetary expansion (i.e. theft through devaluation), all government programs are funded through use of someone else’s money. As a result, little regard is paid for need, effectiveness, efficiency, or return on investment of any government led undertaking.
In Toronto, a city park received a bid to build a set of steps for between $65,000 and $150,000. When a local resident spent $550 and built them himself, the city paid to have his steps removed. While Mr. Astl’s efforts may have resulted in an inferior solution, he certainly proved the exorbitance of the estimates offered by the city.
In New York, John Stossel shows a bathroom built by the city for a price of two million dollars. When Mr. Stossel questions city officials, they assure him that this price is reasonable. Perhaps just as egregious is the length of time needed to build such a facility in the city: years rather than months.
Finally, it would be difficult to measure the amount of waste directed by Congress toward the U.S. military. Many stories abound of appropriations for weapons systems and equipment which are neither called for nor used by the military. While a nation $20 trillion in debt might make better decisions, the choices that concern other people’s money are easy to make, particularly since repercussions are few and far between.