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The Ethics of Taxation

"This [preparing my tax return] is too difficult for a mathematician. It takes a philosopher."

 -Albert Einstein

There is a famous quotation from American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes that is carved on the facade of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington: "Taxation is the price we pay for civilization". This is a widely held and common belief, despite the fact that even patently uncivilized and corrupt regimes also have taxation. Hitler's taxes did not make his regime any more civilized for the fact of having them. Holmes famous saying is a non sequitor. In logic, this means that the conclusion does not follow from the premise.

Most people have assumed that taxes, like death, are inevitable. They have not questioned whether we need taxes and they certainly have not questioned whether taxes are ethical.

I should explain that I come from a libertarian paradigm and ethics. The fundamental premise of libertarian thought is that the initiation of violence is immoral. All other libertarian ideas flow from this one simple premise.

Some of the subsidiary ideas include that the only proper use of force is in self-defence or in retaliation against someone who has initiated the use of force. Another is that fraud is "force by stealth" and is as much to be condemned as the overt use of force.

Although the focus of this website is on a practical way to do away with taxes in the long run by finding an alternative method of funding government, the ethical principles discussed in the essays linked below are worth looking at regardless, particularly if you are interested in philosophy and ethics.

Taxation is Theft Q.E.D. - In this essay from West Coast Libertarian in April 1996, I start from basic premises and argue that, ethically speaking, taxation is no different than theft. It's just theft on a grand scale. I wrote the article in response to a tirade against the "tax revolt" by a local daily's Ethics and Religion writer who implied that people who opposed high taxes were somehow immoral or lacking in civic duty or at the least, very whiney SOBs.

Sophisticated Slavery - In this essay I wrote back in 1998 I argue that the modern progressive income tax system is really a very sophisticated form of slavery. Again, the argument proceeds from certain premises through to a logical conclusion. The article originally appeared at the Investing: Canada topic site at About.com.

Epibaryno - This is an interactive Socratic dialogue about the ethics of taxation. As in a Platonic dialogue, Socrates is the teacher. But in this interactive version, you will have a choice of answers to give to Socrates questions. At this time the dialogue is under construction and it will be posted once I have finished creating it. The name of the dialogue, Epibaryno, is a Greek word with the following meanings: επιβαρύνω = aggravate, burden, charge, task, tax.