Once, long ago, when man was still living in filthy huts in tiny communities while he barely survived from hunting and gathering, there lived a caveman named “Ug”. Now Ug was not like the other caveman. He was always thinking about things beyond his everyday survival needs. On day when the other hunters were preparing to leave for the day to forage for game and food, Ug elected to stay behind and “think”. He sat under a tree all day contemplating the circumstances of life and all that he had to do to survive. He had to spend time gathering wood for a fire or else he would freeze to death. He had to search for game and other edibles out in the dangerous wilds so that he would not starve. He had to take water from the stream back to his hut so that he would not thirst. “Nature is oppressing me! If I do not labor, it will kill me!”
Now most reasonable people would find Ug’s conclusion to be irrational and just plain wrong. How could unconscious factors of our natural environment oppress us? Oppression, in the way we seek to define it as, is when one sentient person forces their will upon another sentient person in order to extract something of value from them by force. Scarcity (the reason Ug must labor) is just a fact of living in the environment we live in and categorically different from one person seeking to dominate another for their own gain. But when you talk to statist, particularly on the legitimacy of taxation, you will hear all kinds of weird mental gymnastics in their attempts to justify the initiation of violence against others. Recently, this happened to me.
This person asked me “Where do we draw the line?” I responded by telling them that anything should be permissible so long as we do not violate the person or legitimate property of others. Doing so would be coercion or the initiation of violence and by doing so, we would then bear the risk of having defensive force used against us. To this, they responded with something rather strange. “What if someone does not want to voluntarily exchange anything or has nothing to exchange?” To this I again said that if they refuse to exchange property that is legitimately theirs (property gained through homesteading, mixing one’s labor with unclaimed resources, voluntary trade or gifting) than that is their prerogative to abstain from trade. If another party used violence to coerce them, they are attempting to dominate this other person and use force against them which is a violation of their personal autonomy. This is unjustified and the person being coerced would then be justified in defending themselves from their aggressor with force in kind. As far as not having anything to trade, there is always labor which can be traded in exchange for a wage.
The statist then asked “What if they do not want to labor?”
“They starve and die” I said.
From this point, they made the illogical jump to saying “So one must contribute or die.” I can see how if you are working backwards from the false premise that taxation is justified and moral, that you could make such a false logical jump. This only highlights the importance for working from philosophical axioms and synthetic a priori propositions. But this point brings us back to the story of Ug. There is a difference between being forced to work because nature and the scarcity that comes along with it will kill you, and working under threats of force from another human being who has no extra special rights beyond yours. Conflating the scarcity of nature with the coercion of one person against another is just improper and a false comparison. This is because one is a factor of existing (the scarcity of nature) and the other is one human trying to dominate another for the scarce means the other has legitimately gained. Under such horrible logic, there is no difference between loving sexual relations between a man and woman and man raping a women. This is a harsh example, but like the statist I spoke to, under their logic, legitimate. This is because the rape example, like the nature/taxation example, ignores consent. I know for a fact that the statist I spoke with would find rape abhorrent and consensual sex fine, but why say line of logic regarding consent is valid and another is not? Isn’t this contradictory? Are not theft and rape both unjustified because both violate the person of someone else?
So I asked this statist if they are saying that nature oppresses them. “Keep on point” they said. But this question is on point. They are saying that being forced to work by the natural scarcity of our environment is that same as being forced to work for a governing authority. This makes the assumption then that either governments are natural, that unconscious forces of nature should be given the same moral agency as individuals, or that individuals, like nature, can be absolved of all moral agency all together. Neither of these conclusions line up with reality for reasons beyond the scope of this post though I hope that all three sound profoundly absurd regardless. No, the only conclusion is that nature is categorized as something all together difference from acting man. Therefore, such a comparison is all together false. We can plainly see that there is a difference between saying “If I do not labor I will starve to death in nature” compared to “Bob will kill me if I do not labor against my will for him.” But this statist wants to say that these two ideas are exactly the same therefore taxation is justified.
I hope the stupidity of such an argument is abundantly clear.