Saturday, October 27, 2012

Taxes as Theft Given Legitimacy Through Ritual

If some person or group of people takes your property (including money) by force or threat of force, we call such an action theft. If I approached you and told you that unless you gave me your money that I would kidnap you and lock you away in a building I owned, and that if you resisted, I would kill you, I would be guilty of theft if you gave in, kidnapping if you did not, and murder if you resisted. Would it be better if I hired someone to do it for me? Of course not. I would be just as guilty, with conspiracy added to it.

Now suppose I got a large number of people together and engaged in the same action? What would you call that? A gang, if we were poor; a mafia if we were wealthy. Would we be less guilty of theft? Of course not. Having more people involved in your crime doesn't make it less of a crime. Laws against gang activity and organized crime suggest we think it worse when more people are involved.

I could go through this same thing with murder. Whether it's one or many involved in the murder, it's still murder. However, as I have observed here and here, our governments perform rituals that allow them to commit certain kinds of murder when they engage in capital punishment. One could certainly make the argument that our governments perform rituals that allow them to commit certain kinds of theft when they tax. This suggests that taxes are without question theft -- if we agree to the above definitions of theft -- but that through our governments make such theft legitimate for our governments to engage in. Calling theft by some other name, such as "tax," doesn't change the fundamental nature of the transaction.

The real question with taxes, then, is the same question with capital punishment: is the ritual we engage in legitimate? Should it do what we make it do?

The real question isn't whether or not taxes are theft. Taxes are theft. The question is whether or not we believe the rituals we undergo to make it legitimate are, themselves, legitimate.

I think when we do away with capital punishment, we will be a more moral people. Immoral actions are not made moral through ritual. I do not think that is a legitimate role for rituals to perform. I think we become more moral when we reject that role of ritual. I think, too, we will be a more moral people when we reject the legitimacy of the ritual that allows governmental organizations to legitimate theft.
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