Yes, Taxation Is Theft: Now What?

Taxation is theft. If you have many friends ranging from tea party to anarchist, you have likely seen one or more memes in your social media feed with that message. Some prove more clever than others. Many are just obnoxious, like the one crafted for Easter that used the crosses of Calvary as the t's in "taxation is theft." For reasons not immediately clear, these posts have spiked in popularity.

The underlying message proves true. Taxes are collected under coercion, rather than earned through trade or persuasion. If you fail to pay your taxes, men with guns will eventually be sent to arrest you. If you resist that arrest, they may legally use those guns to shoot and kill you. It's something we don't typically pause to think about in our day-to-day lives. When we do, we often discount the coercive nature of taxation with rationalizations about "the greater good" or "public interest." Memes stating that "taxation is theft" thus confront us with a provocative truth.

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That said, now what? You've got my attention with your meme. You've convinced me that taxation is theft. Now what am I supposed to do?

This is the problem with much of what passes for activism among the insurgent right. Too much of it amounts to little more than snark with no practical application or call to action. What's the plan? Are we going to abolish taxes? Are we going to disband the state? Let's say we get a nice little coalition united around those goals. What then? Is there a clear path from here to there, or are we going to Tyler Durden this thing?

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Short of violent revolution, which would undoubtedly result in consequences far worse than taxation, the path to less government involves incremental change. But a sentiment like “taxation is theft” does not allow for incremental change. It sets one improbable goal and offers no stepping stones to reach it.

That's the fundamental flaw of anarchism, the political ideology which claims "taxation is theft" as its motto. It addresses the faults in a solution without addressing the original problem. Sure, if there was no state to tax you, you could keep all your money, but only until the first gang of thugs came along to take it from you. Would that truly be better? Anarchism seeks to liberate us from coercive taxation, but would leave us enslaved to any other random form of coercion.