Taxation is Theft

Taxation is Theft


The picture of the gentleman in the neon-yellow shirt bearing the statement marked the exact moment that I realized the idea of “Taxation is theft” had crossed into the mainstream. The underlying philosophy is of such first-rate importance that it cannot be allowed to be lost. 

Originally the rallying cry of libertarians, “Taxation is Theft!” has taken a hold in the mainstream. For those who believe it, the words are nothing less than symphonic in nature. It is more than a popular catchphrase, though. Its underlying philosophy is couched in logic and morality. It is a truth. Mark Twain once said “Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.”

Taxes Pay For?

Taxation is the mechanism used by government through which it collects money from individuals under the auspices that the money will be used for public betterment. Roads tend to top the list of things that would theoretically disappear or fall into disrepair if taxation was ever ended, though any publicly funded project can be propped up as an example. For most, income taxes are the most familiar in everyday life. Money is taken from one’s earnings directly from their paycheck. 

According to the Federal Income Tax Brackets for 2016, a married couple will earning $75,300 to $151,900 combined will lose 25% of their earnings to income tax. In addition, there are also sales taxes per state (typically somewhere around 7%), property taxes, service taxes, etc. Essentially, any transfer of funds ends up being leached upon by the government. There is an argument to be made that these taxes are necessary for a functional society, but this is simply not true.

Theft Defined

Black’s Legal Dictionary defines “theft” as: “n. the generic term for all crimes in which a person intentionally and fraudulently takes personal property of another without permission or consent and with the intent to convert it to the taker's use.” 

Two arguments are most often used in defense of taxation: 1) taxes are necessary evils, through which society pays for the things it uses, and 2) taxes are consented to by living in the country and using the things taxes pay for. There are logical inconsistencies with both statements.

Legally Enforced Theft is Still Theft

By virtue of being born in the United States, a child born in 2016 came into the world saddled with $42,000 of debt, having never used a single one of those dollars. Rarely, in fact, does a person use the things their taxes actually go toward paying.

John pays for things used by Sally, who pays for things used by Tom, who pays for things used by John. Taxes are intended to be used to pay for public services and projects, yet the government regularly overdraws, spending far more than it brings in. That practice is exactly why a child is born in debt, having never received a  direct benefit of those taxes. 

According to a report produced in 2011, there were “34 areas where programs [had] overlapping objectives or [provided] similar services.” Government has no reason to work towards efficiency, though, as it is without competition, and can simply levy the burden onto its citizens. I believe there is a rather persuasive argument to be made that whatever taxes the American public paid in recent years that funded drone strikes in Libya did not go towards anything beneficial to anyone stateside.

If the argument that taxes are consented to by living in the United States, then the logical conclusion is that everything government does with those taxes is also consented to. Instead of treating taxes like an investment  from the public, government tends to view its funders as a collective blank check. Furthermore, leaving the country is neither easy nor worthwhile. So long as freedom of speech exists here, there is simply no greater place to live. 


Taxation is by no means a necessary evil. Consider this: the goal of enterprise is to make money; to make money, goods or services must be offered, and they must also be attainable. One can rest assured that companies would build roads, themselves, rather than sit on their hands, unable to reach consumers.

The things we need to function as a society would not suddenly go by the wayside. History very clearly shows us that society functioned quite well without government-funded roads. The same is true for other enterprises the federal government has deemed it necessary to be involved in.

Clearly, though, taxation is not a system most of us willingly buy into. Perhaps, however, buying in would be a viable alternative. Rather than forcing people to pay for services they do not use, charge them for the services that they do use. 

If You Never See It, You Still Miss It

Let’s go back to our couple in the middle tax bracket. At a combined $100,000 in earnings, the couple will take home only $75,000. This couple is not by any means destitute, but this is before taking any other taxes into consideration. The idea that someone should pay a higher percentage as a result of being economically successful is without merit in either a moral or sound economic sense. 

Often, it is argued that the wealthy of society should be taxed at a higher rate. These high earners tend to also be society’s producers. In 2016, Bill Gates called for higher tax rates on the wealthy. Mr. Gates should consider charity, instead. Forced giving is not giving. It is robbery at the threat of incarceration.

Al Capone was finally put away, not for murder or racketeering, but for tax evasion. Which means the government levied an entirely overblown punishment for evasion, because it couldn’t put together a solid enough case for the other charges.

Though one might be tempted to view this example as one of the ends justifying the means, it is the principle rather than the specific facts of the case that give cause for concern. If a government is not bound by law, and may take away a person’s freedom without sufficient evidence, then no person can count on justice being served.

Taxes are taken with the threat of violence. According to the IRS, the punishment for violating Title 26 of the United States Code is imprisonment for no more than five years, up to a $250,000 fine for individuals ($500,000 for corporations), or both, including the costs of prosecution. Make no mistake, if a person tries to the money they earned, the government will bring down the house on them.

There is no denying that taxation is theft by its very definition. One may still consider it a necessity, but even that argument becomes tenuous once history and economics are considered. A better description of taxation than “theft” may be “strong-armed robbery.”

As a final example, imagine the following. You have $100,000 as an individual. I demand that you give me 28% (the correct percentage for that bracket). $28,000, leaving you with $72,000 before ever even seeing it.

Of course, you’d be upset about that. But, don’t worry; the money is going to a fantastic charity that provides services for people. Still, if you don’t hand it over, you will be thrown in jail, so it’s not really an option. 

That is theft. That is taxation.

Follow this author on Twitter @AlexanderT_G_

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