Are Taxes Voluntary or Coercive?

A thoughtful Libertarian: “Because, unlike businesses (who rely on customers who choose to trade money for goods or services) and unlike charities (who rely on donors who choose to give), governments rely on taxes to get their money. Similarly, they rely on threats, rather than persuasion, to get people to do or no do things.

This reliance on credible threats of violence means that government is always the third option, for a libertarian. This, for practical and moral reasons. It doesn’t work well Taking things from people without their permission is wrong.”

And the response… But haven’t voters chosen to vote for the representatives that have set the tax rates? Wasn’t voting for Democrats who then increase taxes a choice made by the majority of voters? When Kansas lowered taxes, wasn’t this also reflective of a voluntary choice of the voters?

This is a key point. My perception is that Libertarians tend to view government as some external force, something that has invaded us from the outside. But government is an extension of the population – it is (one of) the vehicles that citizens use to organize their interactions. If we view government as an outside invader, then overturning everything it does makes sense. If we view it as a tool of the voters, then Libertarian positions seem strange and disconnected from reality to most voters. Are Libertarians really saying we should end the laws that say everyone drives on the right side of the street, or that meat packers can’t put rats in hotdogs, or that banks can’t use depositors funds to gamble in Vegas?

Government might always be the third option, but it is still a voluntary choice when we do turn to it. Speaking of it as an outside occupier that needs to be overthrown not surprisingly causes most voters to view Libertarianism as a great approach to a spirited conversation but not an actual philosophy of governance.

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