Tax is Theft 2: The Law is an Ass

Yesterday I wrote about how taxation is theft. It is a simple concept – the government takes from you without your consent, forcing you to pay for things it wants. If you refuse then they lock you up. Tax is theft; legalised theft.

Those last two words are where people have the problem. Many people say that mugging is theft because the law says so, but tax is not, simply because the government says it isn’t.

This leads to some worrying conclusions. If you support tax and deny it is theft simply because the government says so then by your very own logic genocidal killings perpetrated by governments are also fine because government says so. This problem cannot be ignored by claiming that these states are illegitimate because they are dictatorships. Michael Mann notes that many genocides are committed by democracies. Mark Crovelli goes as far to point out that genocide itself is democratic.

Don’t just dismiss that point – read it. Genocide is a democratic decision. And furthermore let us not forget that it was a democratically elected American government that used nuclear weapons on Japan, (the largest ever erasure of human life in seconds), that committed war crimes in Vietnam, and helped the democratically elected government of Britain fire bomb Dresden killing thousands of civilians. Democracies allowed and indeed encouraged slavery and treated women and ethnic minorities as second class citizens. Democracies to this day execute their citizens – to see how tyrannic democracies can be, read the Patriot Act and the NDAA that the US has signed into law, allowing the government to indefinitely detain people without trial.

And of course the piece de resistance; quote Godwin’s law if you wish to, but Hitler was elected. He won three elections. Everything Hitler did was legal, the Holocaust was legal in Germany. By any logic that says tax is not theft the Holocaust was also legally legitimate.

If one is to argue that we shouldn’t call tax theft because theft is illegal and government says taxation is not, we should not be calling the Holocaust ‘murder’ or ‘genocide’ as both of those are illegal.

So what is my point? Why did I title this piece ‘the law is an ass’? My point is that the government saying something is okay, does not make something okay. The government saying x is legal does not make x legal. When people claim that tax is not theft and that state killing is not murder they make a basic error; that the only law that exists is government law.

Law doesn’t come from government, it comes from the fundamental rights of the people. Our (in my view, negatively contrived) natural rights to life, self ownership and thus ownership of property. Government makes its own laws where something is illegal for the people to do (steal, murder, print money), and yet legal for itself to do (tax, genocide/death penalty, inflation). There is no great justification given as to why the government can do this; it does it because it can, because it says it is right when it does it and wrong when you do it. Might is right, do as it says not as it does.

Law comes from people. When you are taxed against your will you are stolen from. Theft does not need government laws to exist (although as I pointed out in my last article, the law even defines tax as theft). Theft is theft regardless if a government exists to agree or disagree. When you take my property without my consent you steal from me. I don’t need to quote chapter and verse of law books for that to be true, it is true from the very nature of what stealing is (taking without consent). And what is tax? Taking without consent.

Majority rule (democracy) doesn’t make something right or legal. The 51% voting to murder the 49% is no more legal than the 95% voting to kill the 5% or the 99% voting to take the property of the 1%. I assume many of you reading disagree with me, yet you, even if you are a majority, have no more right to take from me because there are more of you than I than you do to kill me. Having a majority on your side does not make your view right, it makes it popular. The two are not the same. Having a majority on your side, forming an institution, calling it government, and passing a law saying that your view is right does not make it right.

If you believe tax is not theft, I would love to hear your argument. But I ask, justify it from the first principles; tell me why taking without consent is acceptable when the majority do it but not when a mugger does. Telling me that it is okay because the majority say so is circular logic of an enormous order; saying that government can make the illegal legal for itself because it makes the laws is not justification at all, and has terrible consequences for what you have to then be comfortable with government doing.

Taking without consent is never acceptable – it is always theft. If you do it, if I do it, or if the government does it.


  1. @Alasdair

    I dont accept Governments services, I am forced to use them. When a kidnapper feeds me food I am not consenting to kidnap by eating it. Same when I use Government services: they are huge monopolies that the private sector can’t compete with. So no, being forced to use Government services does not imply consent on my part

  2. @Alasdair – If an explicit contract between government and governed is unfeasible, why are we not at least taught about the ‘social contract’ in school and given the opportunity to opt-out?

    Failing to tell someone that by using a service they are subject to certain terms and conditions is fraud, at least.

    Tax is theft, Social Contract is a fraud & Government is a racket.

  3. We’re not going to agree on this one, so I won’t write a long reply, but here’s a simple thought: unlike some other crimes like torture and murder, taking property without consent *isn’t* always wrong. It usually is, but there are circumstances when it isn’t.

    For example: you run a garage. You agree to fix someone’s car in exchange for payment. They leave the car with you, and you fix it, but they then refuse to pay. Most people would say in such circumstances you would be entirely justified in holding onto the car and refusing to release it until you were paid (and indeed, in the law you have the right to do that). Yet what you are doing is taking it without its owner’s consent.

    The analogy to taxation doesn’t quite work, because this arrangement involves a contract, and we don’t sign explicit contracts with the government, as that would be completely infeasible. But the logic is similar: by accepting the government’s services, you accept that they have the right to take money to pay for those services as prescribed by law. That’s really as best as I can explain it.

  4. 1740″s. South east England. A whole industry thrived on importing and selling goods mainly tea, free from the high import taxes imposed by the then govt to fund its wars everywhere. They had the answer, officials came to confiscate their goods, they beat bullied and killed them. Just a thought.

  5. Your analogy is flawed.

    Theft is defined as the unlawful taking of property. From the merriam-webster dictionary:

    theft, noun:
    a : the act of stealing; specifically : the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it
    b : an unlawful taking (as by embezzlement or burglary) of property

    That’s just simply a matter of semantics, that is black and white.

    Whether or not a particular activity is acceptable to society is a different matter. The law often (but not always) overlaps with this general view and there is certainly feedback between the two; however I think most people would agree that legality does not strictly equal morality.

    While you clearly disagree, society as a whole finds taxes an acceptable side-effect of civilization. It is entirely acceptable for you to hold that view and to try and convince us all that things would be better if the rich were allowed to enslave us all – however, it is disingenuous to imply that disagreeing with you implies support for murder.

  6. I actually struggle to find too many problems with an LVT, obviously I oppose the idea of taxing people full stop, but as far as taxes go LVT seems to have a minimal distortionary effect and be an effective way to raise revenue.

    granted it is a much more georgist way of looking at land ownership which I fundementally disagree with, along with the idea of tax, but if we had to have a tax I think LVT > income tax.

    I havent studied it that much so feel free to tear me a new one on this

  7. Ollie, I totally agree with you on taxes.


    As a progressive and fair system of ‘charges’ for public services, how do you see the land or land value tax?

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