Taxation, Humane, and Other Words

In looking, via the wordpress reader, through posts of various topics, I ran across a post which claims “taxes are an expression of mans humanity.” Those of you who read my posts in favor of libertarianism will have already guessed that I do not agree with that assertion. And I could leave it at that, but I think the whole concept needs some unpacking and some sarcastic, mocking ridicule a serious and reasoned rebuttal. You may be thinking you already know where this is going. Well, let us just see where this does lead.

The post in question is “Taxes: Humane or Inhumane?” by someone called gaurarader at a weblog entitled The Socratic Diablogs. (The author references another post by Jeffrey Tucker, but proceeds to basically address almost nothing in Tucker’s post beyond its title and Tucker’s preference for markets. So that post will not be directly addressed here.) In gaurarader’s post, the author says this:

Taxes pay for social welfare programs like medicare, medicaid, foodstamps (snap), universal education, police and fire departments, etc. that are the essence of mans humanity.

Um, no. But before I get to the real criticism, I should unpack a few terms.

humane
adjective
—characterized by kindness, compassion, mercy and/or sympathy, particularly for those in the middle of suffering and/or distress.

humanity
noun
—the quality of being humane.

tax
noun
—involuntary, compulsory financial obligation imposed by a government for the sake of revenue.

tax
verb
—to demand a tax from a person, business, organization, et cetera.

authoritarian
adjective
—supporting or advocating obedience and subordination to authority and control imposed by the government.

Oh, did I have to put that word authoritarian into the list? Yes, I did. And yes, I know these definitions are not official dictionary definitions  for this list of words, but they are sufficient definitions for the way these words are used in the context of this discussion.

Now let us get down to the meat of why I disagree with gaurarader.

I do believe that helping other people is indeed humane and something we should all strive to do. Let us have no mistake about that. Helping the ill, the infirm, the poor, widows, orphans, children, and on and on, is good and proper. And I try as I am able to support charitable efforts to such ends. Believing in and wanting to help others, however, does not mean taxes are humane or an expression of man’s humanity. Not even when taxes are spent on government programs with supposed aims of charitable aid. And especially not when said government programs are bloated, wasteful and ineffectual.

And when those programs are bloated, wasteful and ineffectual, as U.S. federal and state social welfare programs mostly are, they are not humane. And therefore taxes taken for the purpose of being spent on such programs are not the essence of man’s humanity.

Taxation, in itself is not humane at all. Taxation is forcibly taking money away from people. There is nothing humane about that. It is not compassionate or kind or charitable. Taxes are also used to pay for wars and development of military weapons that are decidedly not involved in being sympathetic to those who will be killed with those weapons.  One might argue is taxation necessary for government to function, but to say taxation is an expression of humaneness (i.e. man’s humanity) is to say something that is patently incorrect.

In addition, in his post gaurarader (and yes, all you offendable folks, I am using male pronouns even though I do not know gaurarader’s gender) says this:

[Jeffrey Tucker] also extolls the virtues of markets over government but somethings are either too important or inefficient to be left to free markets (see above list).

Why does gaurarader make this assertion? He does not say. What support does he provide for his assertion? None. You the reader are simply supposed to see his list of social welfare programs and agree that these things cannot be left to the market. But there is not one thing in gaurarader’s list that cannot be handled in the marketplace. And at least four things in his list—medicare, medicaid, food stamps and universal education—are so ineffectively and wastefully provided by the government that the idea these things are too important to be left to the market is outright laughable.

At the end of his post, gaurarader says this:

We need to reframe taxes as a sacred moral duty that we as a society are eager to fulfill rather than violent theft.

To reframe taxes in that manner would require changing the nature of taxation. As I said before, taxation is forcibly taking money away from people. The nature of taxation is not changed by dressing it up in comforting words such as “sacred moral duty”.

The author gaurarader believes we should be eager to submit to taxation in the name of all those government run social welfare programs he supports. Taxes pay for the government run social welfare programs which, he says, “are the essence of man’s humanity.” It is because of this, his words indicate, that he believes taxes should be considered “a sacred moral duty that we as a society are eager to fulfill”. These are things “too important or inefficient to be left to free markets”, i.e. only government should do them.  What seems clear to me is that gaurarader considers supporting these programs and supporting the government doing them to be a sacred moral duty.

Which leads to the obvious conclusion that gaurarader believes the solution for societal ills is authoritarianism. Yes, I am saying he is advocating for obedience to government control as the way to solve problems. And yes, I am saying he is making the argument that coerced obedience to authoritarian government is humane. And yes, I am also saying that he is entirely wrong.

Demanding other people surrender their money in the name obedience to a “sacred moral duty” and under the threat of coerced incarceration and/or forfeiture of property is not a humane means of dealing with other people. Humaneness is achieved when individuals voluntarily act in kindness and compassion and sympathy toward others. That is what humane means.

So no, taxation is not humane. Taxation is not an expression of humaneness. And, in my opinion, any humanity that might be said to be a part of government run social welfare programs is tainted by the decidedly unhumane nature of the taxation used to fund them.

4 Responses to “Taxation, Humane, and Other Words”

  1. Excellently written, very well said.

  2. HI there, Gaura Rader here. Thanks for responding to one of my posts. I didn’t really make any arguments in that post so there really wasn’t anything to rebut, but here are couple of links to articles that do actually make some brief versions of arguments if you are interested in a more serious discussion:

    http://socraticdiablogs.com/2013/09/01/is-taxation-theft/
    http://socraticdiablogs.com/2013/09/25/j-s-mill-ron-paul/

    Both are very brief but a better place to start than the post you picked.

    Cheers,
    Gaura

    • Thank you for the reply. You might not have made any arguments, but you certainly made some assertions. Thank you for the links. I will likely use those posts as prompts for future posts of my own.

  3. Yes there were some assertions 🙂

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