Voluntaryism Blog

Why Paying Taxes is Immoral

Taxation is one of the most controversial and debated issues in modern society. Some people see it as a necessary and legitimate way of funding public goods and services, while others view it as a form of theft and coercion that violates individual rights and freedoms. In this post, I will argue that paying taxes is immoral, based on the writings of some of the most influential libertarian thinkers in history. Ludwig von Mises was a prominent Austrian economist who defended the free market and opposed socialism and interventionism. He argued that taxation is theft and that tax resistance is therefore legitimate: "Just as no one is morally required to answer a robber truthfully when he asks if there are any valuables in one’s house, so no one can be morally required to answer truthfully similar questions asked by the state, e.g., when filling out income tax returns." He also pointed out that taxation distorts the market process and hampers economic calculation, leading to inefficiency and waste.

Murray Rothbard was a prolific American economist and philosopher who developed the anarcho-capitalist theory of law and society. He also regarded taxation as theft and argued that it violates the non-aggression principle, which states that no one has the right to initiate force or fraud against another person or their property. He wrote: "All state actions rest on the fundamental binary intervention of taxes." He advocated for a voluntary society based on private property, free markets, and self-ownership, where all goods and services are provided by competing entrepreneurs and voluntary associations.

Hayek was a Nobel laureate economist and political philosopher who championed classical liberalism and spontaneous order. He criticized the idea that the state can plan and manage the economy better than individuals, and warned of the dangers of centralization and collectivism. He also questioned the legitimacy and morality of taxation, especially progressive taxation, which he saw as a form of expropriation and discrimination. He wrote: "The system of discriminatory taxation universally accepted under the misleading name of progressive taxation of income and inheritance is not a mode of taxation. It is rather a mode of disguised expropriation of the successful capitalists and entrepreneurs."

Bastiat was a French economist and politician who advocated for free trade and limited government. He exposed the fallacies and contradictions of protectionism, socialism, and interventionism, and used witty and persuasive arguments to illustrate the benefits of liberty and the costs of coercion. He also denounced taxation as a form of legal plunder, which he defined as “the act of seizing the property of others without their consent.” He wrote: "Nothing is more calculated to make a demagogue popular than a constantly reiterated demand for heavy taxes on the rich. Capital levies and high income taxes on the larger incomes are extraordinarily popular with the masses, who do not have to pay them."

Étienne de La Boétie was a French magistrate and political theorist who wrote a powerful essay against tyranny, titled Discourse on Voluntary Servitude. He argued that tyrants have power because the people give it to them, and that liberty can be regained by simply withdrawing consent and cooperation. He wrote: "Only be resolved to serve no more, and you will be free." He also analyzed the various methods that rulers use to keep their subjects obedient and submissive, such as bread and circuses, propaganda, symbols, and patronage. He urged people to resist and reject these techniques and to reclaim their natural rights and dignity.

Rose Wilder Lane was an American writer and journalist who was the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the Little House on the Prairie books. She was also one of the founders of the American libertarian movement, along with Ayn Rand and Isabel Paterson. She vehemently opposed the New Deal, eschewed “creeping socialism,” Social Security, wartime rationing, and all forms of taxation. She wrote: "She ceased writing highly paid commercial fiction to protest paying income taxes." She also championed individualism, self-reliance, and voluntary cooperation, and celebrated the spirit of American freedom and entrepreneurship.

These are just some of the examples of libertarian thinkers who have challenged the morality and legitimacy of taxation. They have shown that taxation is not only inefficient and harmful, but also unjust and oppressive. They have also offered alternative visions of a society based on voluntary exchange, mutual aid, and peaceful cooperation, where individuals are free to pursue their own happiness and prosperity, without being coerced or exploited by the state. I hope that their writings will inspire you to question the status quo and to seek a more moral and free society.