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Posts Tagged ‘Taxation’

The Hidden Costs Behind Every Government Program | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on August 27, 2019

Behind every million dollar tax-funded high school, for example, there hides a million dollars’ worth of other goods and services that these taxpayers never got to purchase, but would have preferred…

https://mises.org/wire/hidden-costs-behind-every-government-program

When the state constructs a new bike lane, school, or begins a new space mission, the natural inclination of the majority is to cheer this new endeavor as progressive. We possess one new structure or have accomplished one new task than before; society has moved forward, the thinking goes.

The state is responsible for truly technically impressive or beautiful accomplishments like the Apollo missions, the Moscow Metro, the Palace of Versailles, etc. that most would agree clearly produce benefits for society.

Confronted with these concrete and widely celebrated examples of government accomplishments, how can libertarians deny that state action is sometimes a benevolent force in society?

Opportunity Cost

Leaving aside moral considerations and focusing on utilitarian considerations, the answer revolves around opportunity cost and demonstrated preference.

Opportunity cost is the benefits that could have been obtained through the best forgone alternative to an actual employment of resources. If a slice of pizza costs two dollars, and a hamburger costs two dollars, then the opportunity cost of a slice of pizza is a hamburger, and visa-versa.

The resources of any given country are scarce, and the “economic question” that must be solved is, how should the limited resources available be applied to best satisfy people’s subjective preferences?

Even if, for example, the state builds a library that is beautiful, the books are neatly organized, the librarian is competent and cordial, the temperature is well-regulated, and the computers are state of the art, we still need to hold our applause.

In order to be able to celebrate the employment of resources by the state in a particular application, it’s necessary to consider the alternative uses that could have been possible with those resources. If there exists an alternative option that could have better satisfied subjective preferences, then the actual employment, even if it produced benefits, was a relative failure.

Voluntary Exchange and Demonstrated Preference

Now the question is: by what standard can it be determined which employment of resources is best, relative to the subjective preferences of consumers, in any given case?

In instances of voluntary exchange, every exchange is not only ex-ante mutually beneficial, it’s ex-ante the best employment of the resources being exchanged, from the perspectives of the respective property owners. This is called demonstrated preference, which Rothbard explains to mean, “simply this: that actual choice reveals, or demonstrates, a man’s preferences; that is, that his preferences are deducible from what he has chosen in action.”

For example, if Smith sells Jones a lamp for twenty dollars, we can know that of all of the alternative uses of the lamp Smith had available to him, such as using it to read, using it as a decoration, keeping it in storage, etc., selling it to Jones for twenty dollars was his most highly preferred option, because that is the option that he freely chose.

Likewise, Jones thought buying Smith’s lamp was the best of all possible uses available to him of his twenty dollars. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have executed that option.

Involuntary Exchange

On the other hand, sometimes exchange, production, and consumption are not conducted as a result of the voluntary decisions of all of the owners of the property involved, but rather under compulsion of physical force. Then, in the absence of demonstrated preference, it can never be known whether the act benefited any of the involved parties or caused them harm, let alone that it was the most beneficial employment of resources for every party involved.

Given that usually countless options are available to actors at any given time, if would be an astronomically unlikely coincidence for the state to happen to dictate what consumers would have voluntarily chosen to do at a particular moment in time anyway. In this way, it’s metaphysically possible for state action to be equally ex-ante beneficial to all parties involved as voluntary exchange, but never more.

Fundamentally, acts of taxation and regulation, due to their involuntary nature, sever the link between consumers’ subjective preferences and the way in which their resources are deployed.

The Seen and the Unseen

Behind every million dollar tax-funded high school, for example, there hides a million dollars’ worth of other goods and services that these taxpayers never got to purchase, but would have preferred over the high school. Perhaps these goods would have been a million dollars’ worth of flowers, food, board games, medical services, books, cutlery, home renovations, farming equipment, computer software, and math tutor services.

There’s nothing stopping taxpayers from funding a high school on their own and sparing themselves the deadweight loss of bureaucracy. It really is simply the case that if consumers want a high school, they can pay for one, and as private high schools demonstrate, they often do.

However, the state using taxation to build a particular high school can only divert funds from more highly valued opportunity costs to the lower ranked high school. Otherwise, no compulsion would have been necessary. Despite this undeniable and simple logic, in the U.S., tax-funded expansions of the government K-12 education system, among other interventions, are widely celebrated.

In terms of public opinion, part of the explanation is that the high school can be seen and cheered because it actually exists, whereas the lost opportunity costs, by their very nature as forgone alternatives, never occurred, as so mourning their loss requires abstract reasoning and imagination on the part of the public.

Frédéric Bastiat described this phenomenon in his classic work “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen.” Conspicuous state projects win the public relations war over quietly letting people spend their money as they actually wish to.

The interstate highway system, the Louvre, and the Sixth Fleet may be impressive, but they’re not cause for applause. Relative to the preferences of the taxpayer, no matter how grand and awe-inspiring a project the state completes, it will always and everywhere ex-ante fall short of voluntary exchange.

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The Siren Song of the State | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on July 26, 2019

The so-called war on terror has given rise to a huge industry that has emerged almost from scratch during the past few years. According to a 2006 Forbes report, the Department of Homeland Security and its predecessor agencies paid private contractors at least $130 billion after 9/11, and other federal agencies have spent a comparable amount. Thus, besides the military-industrial-congressional complex (MICC), we now have a parallel security-industrial-congressional complex (SICC).

https://mises.org/library/siren-song-state

Robert Higgs

The state is the most destructive institution human beings have ever devised—a fire that, at best, can be controlled for only a short time before it o’erleaps its improvised confinements and spreads its flames far and wide.

Whatever promotes the growth of the state also weakens the capacity of individuals in civil society to fend off the state’s depredations and therefore augments the public’s multifaceted victimization at the hands of state functionaries. Nothing promotes the growth of the state as much as national emergency—war and other crises comparable to war in the seriousness of the threats they pose.

States, by their very nature, are perpetually at war—not always against foreign foes, of course, but always against their own subjects. The state’s most fundamental purpose, the activity without which it cannot even exist, is robbery. The state gains its very sustenance from robbery, which it pretties up ideologically by giving it a different name (taxation) and by striving to sanctify its intrinsic crime as permissible and socially necessary. State propaganda, statist ideologies, and long-established routine combine to convince many people that they have a legitimate obligation, even a moral duty to pay taxes to the state that rules their society.

They fall into such erroneous moral reasoning because they are told incessantly that the tribute they fork over is actually a kind of price paid for essential services received, and that in the case of certain services, such as protection from foreign and domestic aggressors against their rights to life, liberty, and property, only the government can provide the service effectively. They are not permitted to test this claim by resorting to competing suppliers of law, order, and security, however, because the government enforces a monopoly over the production and distribution of its alleged “services” and brings violence to bear against would-be competitors. In so doing, it reveals the fraud at the heart of its impudent claims and gives sufficient proof that it is not a genuine protector, but a mere protection racket.

All governments are, as they must be, oligarchies: only a relatively small number of people have substantial effective discretion to make critical decisions about how the state’s power will be brought to bear. Beyond the oligarchy itself and the police and military forces that compose its Praetorian Guard, somewhat larger groups constitute a supporting coalition. These groups provide important financial and other support to the oligarchs and look to them for compensating rewards—legal privileges, subsidies, jobs, exclusive franchises and licenses, transfers of financial income and wealth, goods and services in kind, and other booty—channeled to them at the expense of the mass of the people. Thus, the political class in general—that is, the oligarchs, the Praetorian Guards, and the supporting coalition—uses government power (which means ultimately the police and the armed forces) to exploit everyone outside this class by wielding or threatening to wield violence against all who fail to pay the tribute the oligarchs demand or to obey the rules they dictate.

Democratic political forms and rituals, such as elections and formal administrative proceedings, disguise this class exploitation and trick the masses into the false belief that the government’s operation yields them net benefits. In the most extreme form of misapprehension, the people at large become convinced that, owing to democracy, they themselves “are the government.”…

Notwithstanding the ideological enchantment with which official high priests and statist intellectuals have beguiled the plundered class, many members of this class retain a capacity to recognize at least some of their losses, and hence they sometimes resist further incursions on their rights by publicly expressing their grievances, by supporting political challengers who promise to lighten their burdens, by fleeing the country, and, most important, by evading or avoiding taxes and by violating legal prohibitions and regulatory restraints on their actions, as in the so-called underground economy, or “black market.”

These various forms of resistance together compose a force that opposes the government’s constant pressure to expand its domination. These two forces, working one against the other, establish a locus of “equilibrium,” a boundary between the set of rights the government has overridden or seized and the set of rights the plundered class has somehow managed to retain, whether by formal constitutional constraints or by everyday tax evasion, black-market transactions, and other defensive violations of the government’s oppressive rules…

National emergency—war or a similarly menacing crisis—answers the political class’s crucial question more effectively than anything else, because such a crisis has a uniquely effective capacity to dissipate the forces that otherwise would obstruct or oppose the government’s expansion.

Virtually any war will serve, at least for a while, because in modern nation-states the outbreak of war invariably leads the masses to “rally ‘round the flag,” regardless of their previous ideological stance in relation to the government.

In searching for the cause of this tremendous, rationally unjustified “rallying ‘round the flag,” we do not have far to go. Such public reactions are always driven by a combination of fear, ignorance, and uncertainty against a background of intense jingoistic nationalism, a popular culture predisposed toward violence, and a general inability to distinguish between the state and the people at large.

Because the government ceaselessly sings the siren song, relentlessly propagandizing the public to look upon it as their protector—such alleged protection being the principal excuse for its routinely robbing them and violating their natural rights—and because the mass media incessantly magnify and spread the government’s propaganda, we can scarcely be surprised if that propaganda turns out to have entered deeply into many people’s thinking, especially when they are in a state of near-panic. Unable to think clearly in an informed way, most people fall back on a childlike us-against- them style of understanding the perceived threat and what should be done about it…

A peaceful state is an impossibility. Even a state that refrains from fighting foreigners goes on fighting its own subjects continuously, to keep them under its control and to suppress competitors who might try to break into the domain of its protection racket. The people cry out for security, yet they will not take responsibility for their own protection, and like the mariners of Greek mythology, they leap overboard immediately in response to the state’s siren song.

When the Israelites had fled from their captivity in Egypt, they made do for centuries with only judges, yet they were not satisfied, and eventually they demanded a king, crying out:

“We will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8:19–20)

Well, they got a king all right, just as we Americans have embraced one of our own, though we call ours a president. The Israelites, as the prophet Samuel had warned, were no better off for having a king, however: King Saul only led them from one slaughter to another (1 Samuel 14: 47–48).

Likewise, our rulers have led us from one unnecessary slaughter to the next; and, to make matters worse, they have exploited each such occasion to fasten their chains around us more tightly. Like the ancient Israelites, we Americans shall never have real, lasting peace so long as we give our allegiance to a king—that is, in our case, to the whole conglomeration of institutionalized exploiters and murderers we know as the state.

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Reflections on Ron Paul’s Revolution: Taxation is Theft – The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on June 14, 2019

Economic historian, Burton Fulsom, points out that there’re two types of entrepreneurs: market and political. Market is the entrepreneur based in the private sector, whereas political is lobbying the government for your free goodies that are provided via stealing from the American taxpayers.

https://libertarianinstitute.org/articles/reflections-on-ron-pauls-revolution-taxation-is-theft/

By

Mr. Pseu

Ron Paul’s Revolution: A Manifesto, is without a doubt a cornerstone and gem in Libertarian literature. Some might call it a “soft landing”, but it’s a fantastic entry into exploring Libertarian thought in a perfectly succinct, enlightening, genius way. No offense to Human Action, but to hell with Human Action! I’m joking of course, but this little guy at a whopping 186 pages (if you include the edition with a chapter on the economic crisis) covers all the basic principles of liberty ammunition for any debate, enlightening conversation, and just straight up knowledge to make you a little less dumb…

In Chapter 4: Economic Freedom, I like to think of this as Ron Paul’s “taxation is theft” chapter, but the Super Saiyan form in an eloquent Ron Paul, Southern Gentleman fashion.

In a free society, or economy in this case, everyone has a right to their life and property. Likewise, you don’t have the right to infringe on anyone else’s property. Don’t hurt people, don’t take their stuff. The government is hurting you by forcing you to pay taxes.

The system is set up where people try to use the government to dominate each other. It’s a welfare pissing contest. The people shouldn’t let government do things that individuals couldn’t get away with (taxation = theft, conscription is slavery, war is mass murder, etc.). Let’s not forget, the poor aren’t the only ones who benefit from the state’s free goodies. The rich manipulate government too. Ron Paul explains that “the rich are more than happy to secure for themselves a share of the loot – for example, in the form of subsidized low-interest loans (as with the Export-Import bank), bailouts when their risky loans go sour, or regulatory schemes that hurt their smaller competitors or make it harder for new ones to enter an industry.”…

Government power should just be used to protect individual rights: life and property, NOT control the economy. That’s OUR job as consumers by voting with our dollar in the free market to say what goods will be provided and a what price. We dictate supply and demand. This creates competition amongst businesses to decrease cost and increase quality. Government only distorts this beautiful equilibrium…

“Given that the politically influential and well connected – neither of which includes the middle class or the poor – are the ones who tend to win privileges and loot from the government, I do not understand why we take for granted that the net result of all this looting is good for those who are lower on the economic ladder.”

-Ron Paul

…Like income tax, the draft is a form of slavery. Those appendages of the state basically legitimize that they own you and you don’t own yourself. You’re not allowed to make decisions for yourself. That’s not freedom. That is slavery. The government will just pity you and let you keep some of the leftovers after you earn it, HOWEVER you earn it! This isn’t how a free society prospers because individuals need as much capital as possible to invest and make an economy blossom. Government prevents this from happening through intervening via taxes, regulations, lobbies, tariffs, sanctions, you name it. Ending the income tax all together and not replacing it with anything at all would cut government revenue (wasted tax payer money) buy 40%, but this idea isn’t discussed because it would destroy the state if placed on the surface in the public eye…

It’s up to us as individuals to find the alternatives to government. That’s why you have economists like Mises who advocate for the Austrian School of Economics. This school of economic thought is based off embracing the free-market. Austrian economics is the sword to slay the dragon of the state. Private actors and entrepreneurs voluntarily making decisions based on their emotions, needs, subjective value, and self-interest. This is the only economic system which will make us the most free.

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How War Created Taxation – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on June 12, 2019

…the question of politics being the continuation of war by other means.

https://original.antiwar.com/luke_henderson/2019/06/11/how-war-created-taxation/

“Liberty tends inevitably to lead to the just equivalence of services, to bring greater and greater equality, to raise all men up to the same, constantly rising standard of living, […] it is not property that we should blame for the sad spectacle of grievous inequality that the world once again offers us, but the opposite principle, plunder, which has unleashed on our planet wars, slavery, serfdom, feudalism, […] and the absurd demand of everyone to live and develop at the expense of everyone else.”

19th-century French politician Frederic Bastiat declared this statement in his fifth letter of what is now called Property and Plunder to demonstrate that taxation and attempts to force economic equality would ultimately do more harm than good. This last letter also calls forth an important question: is taxation the creation of a warring state?

In antiquity, according to Bastiat, war developed from a nation that would instead of creating their own wealth, would wait for other nations to acquire their own property and then proceed to conquer them. After many victories where the citizens would be slaughtered and their property confiscated, these warring nations came to a realization that “putting the vanquished to the sword amounted to destroying a treasure” because they lost any potential wealth the conquered would create. They resorted to slavery to “put plunder on a permanent footing,” and truly acquire all property and services one would acquire.

Though there were actual slaves, the main method of continuing plunder was to enact tolls and taxes for protection from the ruling nation. This set a precedent that can still be seen today of taxation being the primary means of funding and maintaining war. These ruling nations and monarchies, however, ran into the problem of civil unrest because of the clear division between conqueror and conquered and birthed what has become modern politics.

In the collection of lectures titled Society Must Be Defended, postmodernist philosopher Michel Foucault ponders the question of politics being the continuation of war by other means. Among the many ideas discussed, Foucault shows how history and knowledge were narratives created in order to support war, and were the precondition of politics.

He notes how history was used as a tool by nobility to convince the royalty of the magnificence of his victories and where all discourse “explains contemporary events in the terms of contemporary events, power in terms of power, and the letter of the law of the will of the king and vice versa.” At the same time, the idea of equality was being used as a tool to cause unrest between a nation’s citizens and its aristocracy.

“In other words, a device typical of all despotism […] was used to convince inferiors that a little more equality would do them more good than much greater freedom for all,” states Foucault. It was these factors that contributed to politics becoming the in-between of war. Whereas before the dominated had no say in the conquests of their domineers, now they had a slight say in the activities of the State.

To justify war, the elected bodies had to resort to new means to encourage war and, simultaneously, taxation which Foucault describes as a “race war.” The race war is the “us vs. them” narrative between the noble warring group and the savage enemy and is used to justify the murders and other atrocities the State will commit in the name of war. Everything that Bastiat and Foucault describe is evident if one looks at the history of wars in the United States.

Desperate to defeat the Confederacy, President Abraham Lincoln enacted a 3% income tax to fund more troops. However, enforcement failed and the government had to pay off its massive debt through printing $150 million. Its legacy was not forgotten though and many congressmen of the time felt that an income tax was an inevitable future for the country.

Congress passed the nation’s first permanent income tax in 1913 and since then has continually used war as a way to steadily increase the rate. During World War One, the United States raised the highest tax bracket from 15% to 67% and did not drop to pre-war levels after it ended. World War Two was even worse with any income over $2.5 million (in today’s dollars) being taxed a 92%, and only going to 70% at it’s lowest for nearly 30 years.

During those 30 years, the US went to war in Vietnam, Korea, and intervened in many other nations to fight the enemy of communism. This was the greatest demonstration of Foucault’s race wars, as it allowed the continuation of high taxes and shows the use of politics to continue wartime status from decades prior.

It cannot be denied that war and taxation are inextricably linked. Unfortunately, history, Bastiat, and Foucault seem to show that the only true way to eliminate excessive taxation and government overreach is to halt its hunger for conquest. The task is immense, but if taxation’s origins and the State’s methods of justification can be recognized, the task can commence.

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Robert Nozick on Self Ownership,Slavery and Taxation

Posted by M. C. on March 1, 2019

https://www.iep.utm.edu/nozick/

By Edward Feser from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

…In line with this, Nozick also describes individual human beings as self-owners (though it isn’t clear whether he regards this as a restatement of Kant’s principle, a consequence of it, or an entirely independent idea). The thesis of self-ownership, a notion that goes back in political philosophy at least to John Locke, is just the claim that individuals own themselves – their bodies, talents and abilities, labor, and by extension the fruits or products of their exercise of their talents, abilities and labor. They have all the prerogatives with respect to themselves that a slaveholder claims with respect to his slaves. But the thesis of self-ownership would in fact rule out slavery as illegitimate, since each individual, as a self-owner, cannot properly be owned by anyone else. (Indeed, many libertarians would argue that unless one accepts the thesis of self-ownership, one has no way of explaining why slavery is evil. After all, it cannot be merely because slaveholders often treat their slaves badly, since a kind-hearted slaveholder would still be a slaveholder, and thus morally blameworthy, for that. The reason slavery is immoral must be because it involves a kind of stealing – the stealing of a person from himself.)

But if individuals are inviolable ends-in-themselves (as Kant describes them) and self-owners, it follows, Nozick says, that they have certain rights, in particular (and here again following Locke) rights to their lives, liberty, and the fruits of their labor. To own something, after all, just is to have a right to it, or, more accurately, to possess the bundle of rights – rights to possess something, to dispose of it, to determine what may be done with it, etc. – that constitute ownership; and thus to own oneself is to have such rights to the various elements that make up one’s self. These rights function, Nozick says, as side-constraints on the actions of others; they set limits on how others may, morally speaking, treat a person. So, for example, since you own yourself, and thus have a right to yourself, others are constrained morally not to kill or maim you (since this would involve destroying or damaging your property), or to kidnap you or forcibly remove one of your bodily organs for transplantation in someone else (since this would involve stealing your property). They are also constrained not to force you against your will to work for another’s purposes, even if those purposes are good ones. For if you own yourself, it follows that you have a right to determine whether and how you will use your self-owned body and its powers, e.g. either to work or to refrain from working.

So far this all might seem fairly uncontroversial. But what follows from it, in Nozick’s view, is the surprising and radical conclusion that taxation, of the redistributive sort in which modern states engage in order to fund the various programs of the bureaucratic welfare state, is morally illegitimate. It amounts to a kind of forced labor, for the state so structures the tax system that any time you labor at all, a certain amount of your labor time – the amount that produces the wealth taken away from you forcibly via taxation – is time you involuntarily work, in effect, for the state. Indeed, such taxation amounts to partial slavery, for in giving every citizen an entitlement to certain benefits (welfare, social security, or whatever), the state in effect gives them an entitlement, a right, to a part of the proceeds of your labor, which produces the taxes that fund the benefits; every citizen, that is, becomes in such a system a partial owner of you (since they have a partial property right in part of you, i.e. in your labor). But this is flatly inconsistent with the principle of self-ownership…

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Taxation=Theft – International Man

Posted by M. C. on June 19, 2018

Well, first off, it’s important to understand that governments do not exist for the purpose of serving the people, as they so often claim. Their real business is to scalp the populace to as great a degree as possible, short of creating an uprising.

https://internationalman.com/articles/taxation-theft/

by Jeff Thomas

Theft is defined as “the taking of another person’s property or services without that person’s permission or consent.”

Almost invariably, governments pass tax laws and set tax rates without any consultation with the citizenry. Further, no final approval is sought by the citizenry that they consent to the tax or the rates. It is simply imposed.

Most of us tend not to regard taxation as theft, yet, by definition, that’s exactly what it is.

But some countries, notably the US, go further in disguising the theft, by stating that the payment of tax is “voluntary.” I personally am not aware of a single instance in which an individual or corporation decided not to pay a tax and, if discovered, was allowed to go unpunished. A typical penalty is a fine equal to the tax amount, plus compounded interest on both the tax and the fine. Such a condition is anything but voluntary. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Kinds of Theft | The Daily Bell

Posted by M. C. on November 12, 2017

Remember when Joe Biden said we all enjoy paying taxes?

http://www.thedailybell.com/editorials/three-kinds-of-theft/

1. The Con

The con artist cheats you out of your money. He makes you think you are getting something of value, or he tricks you into being robbed without your knowledge. Most people are conned into supporting taxation, assuming taxes are the price of civilization. They assume that is the way it has to be, and that taxes are justified because people get government services in return.

tax crime Read the rest of this entry »

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