Imagine this scenario- you return home after a hard day of work, ready to enjoy a well-deserved rest and those nice things that you could buy with the money earned with your effort. After a while, you heard someone knocking at the door. At the other side, you find a complete stranger who claims to be your neighbor. Before you can greet him he tells you that he is there to take what he is entitled to. You look confused at him so he repeats, this time slowly, that he is there to claim a share of your income. You are considering calling the police when he threatens you with the same thing if you refuse to give him what he is asking for. Trying to keep your cool you ask him what is his right to such a claim, to which he answers:
“I have five children to feed. My unlucky sister needs an assisted reproduction fertility treatment to get pregnant. My brother, a scientist, wants to research the evolution of the South American monkey, and his three-year-old son, my nephew, has to go to school. We have needs to meet, but we lack the resources. So I have a right to your income, don’t you think?”.
You pinch yourself to check if you are dreaming but the situation is real. Still amazed, you slam the door in his face and continue your life.
We should ask ourselves this question: Why do we see this scenario as an absurdity if it comes from our neighbor but instead we see it as something noble and logical when it comes from the government?
Our brains usually stop functioning when we hear the words “government” and “law”. How it is possible that such words can magically transform every immorality and injustice into something completely decent and justified? Why do we let the State, an institution that supposedly should ensure our property, to do something that we would not allow our neighbor to do?
In reality, the story I have told has a different ending: your neighbor goes into your home and takes whatever he deems appropriate. Before leaving, he pats you on the back and says that you should feel proud of fulfilling your duty, unlike some criminals that avoid it by hiding their income.
Let us be honest. If “government” and “law” were not involved nobody would hesitate to call this situation a robbery. However, the essence of an act cannot change because of that involvement. It can make it legal but it cannot make it moral.
Many of the arguments employed to justify taxes argue that the real problem is not the coercive nature of taxes but instead resides in the establishment of a “reasonable” share to collect and in the proper utilization of that share.
What is a “reasonable” share? Nobody has defined it. What Thomas Jefferson could have found reasonable may differ considerably from the opinion of Bernie Sanders. Nicolás Maduro, president of Venezuela, may have a very different concept of what is reasonable than the Prime Minister of Australia.
“Reasonable” might be a 2% or a 99% of income depending on the inclinations and concept of the right functions of the State of the current ruler.
On the other hand, some say that taxes are justified if they are used properly. The problem is that “proper use” is also a very variable concept that would require that people shared the same scale of values.
What would be a “proper use” of resources: building a road to a barren place or building a new hospital? Is “proper use” the creation of a top-class airline or the rise in teachers’ wages? The concept of “proper use” varies from person to person.
Finally, there is the argument of honesty: taxes are justified from a moral point of view if the ruler is not corrupt and does not steal the money collected. In our previous story, this would mean that the neighbor’s actions would be justified if he distributes everything that has taken.
We have reached a point where we no longer ask about the moral nature of actions but only about their convenience and legality. The end justifies the means, and the law has taken the place of right and justice.
The policy of being generous with other people’s money- which amounts to nothing else but the violation of the principle of private property- has transformed the aggressor into a hero and the victim into a criminal. As one would expect, this has generated some natural consequences: from tax evasion and tax havens to laziness, the decrease of productivity, strikes, and violence.
The solution is to restrict government and law to their natural function, which is the equal protection of the right of all citizens to life, property, and freedom.
The policy of redistribution will keep ruining societies, and this destruction will increase its speed with the increasing generosity of such redistribution.