May 18, 2009

Taxation and Violence

I think it almost irrefutable that in the final analysis the power of government rests on its ability to inflict or credibly threaten violence. The capacity of the state to collect taxes and enforce its laws ultimately depends on its capacity to send scary people to your home, smash down your door, seize your property and deprive you of your liberty. The many intermediate stages such as official letters, court dates and so on between ultimate cause (nonpayment of taxes) and ultimate effect (dragged from your home in handcuffs) don't change this fact one iota and the relationship between citizen and state will always be defined by the latter's greater capacity for force.
I would regard this as true whether the state in question is a liberal democracy or a tyrannical dictatorship.

Furthermore the frequency with which the last resort is employed is also immaterial. No country has used nuclear weapons since 1945 but to claim that their existence has not influenced the course of subsequent history is absurd.

My own libertarianism stems in large part from my belief that violence and the threat of it are things to be used only as a last resort. People who decide upon the rates and the allocation of taxation should ask themselves if the things they are spending money on are so critically important to the health of the nation that they justify the threat of violence involved in its collection.

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