You find yourself engaged in conversation with a friend, co-worker, family member or even a stranger. Perhaps it’s at a bar over a few drinks or maybe it is online in one of those infamous Facebook political debates. No matter the context, the outcome is still the same. As an anarcho-capitalist you lay out the arguments, as you always do, to demonstrate that government is illegitimate and that taxation is indeed theft. Perhaps you use argumentation ethics coupled with estoppel or you just get them to agree that the Non-Aggression Principle is an objective moral standard. They may even agree that the NAP should be followed in our everyday lives! But once you mention how taxation is fundamentally theft and the initiation of violence against others, the conversation falls apart. You can see it in your opponents’ eyes: that look of fear as the nagging idea that everything they have been taught about government is wrong. Hastily, they blurt out: “Well, if you don’t like it, you can leave!”
They have already admitted defeat. You have already won the debate. But why is that?
First, what makes theft wrong? It seems like a stupid thing to have to ask but clearly with statists it must be brought up. Let’s think about self-ownership first. If we own ourselves, there is no other person on earth with a better claim to our bodies than us. If we are the only ones with a legitimate claim to our bodies, we are the only ones that have a say in how our bodies are used and what actions we take. If this is true, we have the right to contract out our labor to an employer for a wage. Stealing the fruits of our labor or using violence to make us work is fundamentally unjustified because, as we said, no one but ourselves has a better claim to our bodies than us. So when you steal something from someone, you are claiming ownership of their labor or the fruits of their labor. If this is true, you are claiming ownership of their bodies and at that point, you are now a slave master. Theft is wrong because it violates self-ownership. If no one but the individual has a right to decide how the fruits of his labor are used, theft is wrong because coercion of some kind has been used to dominate that person and override his personal sovereignty. Taxation falls into this same idea, and if you do not believe this idea, try not paying your taxes one year (or multiple years).
To this, the statist often says: “Well, you know that this is what the majority has decided so you can still leave. No one is making you stay!” This falls flat for four reasons:
- It ignores the main critique of taxation by appealing to the majority. This is, in a way, an appeal to authority logical fallacy. This kind of fallacy is like saying, “Well this person says ‘X’ and they are an expert on the subject so I’m right!” Likewise, this fallacy is saying, “Well the majority has decided and the majority obviously knows best!” What the collective decides is not always moral and this is made true by observing Germany circa 1933 to 1945 (the Jewish Holocaust). So this “argument” (and I’m being generous by calling it such) completely ignores the argumentation put forward by the anarcho-capitalist by just defaulting to the position that your ideas are wrong because a group of us says so. This does nothing to refute the legitimate critiques brought up by anarcho-capitalists about the legitimacy of taxation by government.
- This kind of logic means a whole host of horrendous things can be justified so long as the majority bestows its blessing upon it. Let’s use an example to illustrate this. Say there is a neighborhood that is well-known for being “rough”. Carl lives in this neighborhood and while he was walking home one night from a late shift at work, he gets mugged by one of the gang members that exercises violence over that neighborhood. By the logic of the statist above, it’s actually Carl’s fault because he knew that by living in this neighborhood, the gang would be harassing him and stealing from him. If he didn’t want to be stolen from, he should just move from the neighborhood (regardless of the economic barriers that may prohibit him from doing so). The “argument” ignores the core of the anarcho-capitalists’ argument that taxation is fundamentally unjust and instead seeks to blame the victim of the crime. Another example we can use is that of saying to a young girl getting gang raped by frat boys that she didn’t have to stay at the party. She knows that these guys rape people, so it’s her fault she’s continually being raped because she never left (this argument will drive the SJW leftist INSANE).
- This “argument” also assumes that the collective is “real” in the same way individuals are real. But the collective (or society) is just an abstraction whose abstract existence rests solely on the existence of individuals interacting with each other. Once the individuals disperse, the collective ceases to exist. Therefore, it seems like logical gymnastics to argue that the individual must take a lower priority to the collective which relies on the individual’s continual existence for its own existence. How can something that relies on the individual to exist take priority and gain rights above and beyond that of the individual which it relies upon? This makes no sense.
- How can this abstraction make rules regarding the fruits of others’ labor when it did not produce them or labor? For this, I default to my ugly sweater example. Say at my house I have an ugly sweater rule. Anyone that is a guest on my property must wear an ugly sweater at all times. If you do not like it you can leave. This is legitimate because I own the property (I either homesteaded it, voluntarily traded for it, or it was gifted to me). Because the property is the fruits of my labor I am the only one (like my body) to make rules regarding its use. Now let’s say you invite me to your house. When I arrive I bring out my ugly sweaters and tell you, “You have to wear an ugly sweater and if you don’t like it you can leave”. This would be absurd because your property is not my property. It was not gifted to me nor did I voluntarily trade for it and I did not homestead it. You did. Therefore, you are the only one (like your body) that has the right to make rules regarding its use. So when the mob arrives demanding payment of our “fair share”, they are illegitimately laying claim to property and wealth they did nothing to earn. Is this not theft? The mob is coming onto property it did not homestead in order to make rules regarding the property itself and wealth that property produces even though none of the individuals that compose the collective homesteaded it, traded for it, or were gifted it. These demands of the mob are made under threats of violence as well.
So the stupidity of saying, “You can always leave,” is just a poor attempt at trying to justify the initiation of violence against others and their legitimate property. Such ideas should be repugnant to us, yet statists viciously defend the bandits in power that steal from everyone else. The irony of it all is when it is directed at an anarcho-capitalist. Anarcho-capitalists have rejected the initiation of violence and will only use force to defend themselves; meaning, you don’t really have to worry about them anymore. Why does the individual that has rejected violence and is merely pointing to an injustice have to leave? Shouldn’t government be the one to leave since it is the institution that is perpetrating the crime? Shouldn’t the statist that is defending the unjust initiation of violence also leave since they clearly condone such horrible actions? So the only person that can legitimately tell another to leave if they do not like it is the individual defending his property from government and statists that seek to coerce wealth from him “for his own good”.