My mortgage payments, stolen from me at gunpoint

One way in which ideologies are kept afloat is by re-describing ordinary parts of social life in a colorful and surprising way: for instance, Proudhon famously re-described property as "theft." Using an extraordinary definition of an ordinary aspect of social life makes the ideologue feel like he is privy to some esoteric knowledge. Sharing that special knowledge with others who have adopted the same ideology builds group solidarity.

Anarcho-capitalists like to do this with taxation. By redefining taxation as theft (note the similarity to Proudhon!) and then claiming that the government "steals money from people at gunpoint" and anarcho-capitalists can feel superior to the "sheeple" who don't have this special piece of information.

Of course, taxes are no more "stolen from me at gunpoint" than are my mortgage payments. After all, if I stop paying the mortgage and try to keep living in my house, eventually people with guns will show up to clear me out.

At this point, any anarcho-capitalist reading this is popping a vein in his forehead: "But, but... you took on your mortgage voluntarily!" Yes, my friend, and you live in this country voluntarily. And you participate in our economic system voluntarily, and one of the requirements for so participating is... paying taxes! Move to a yurt in the remote wilderness, and your taxation worries will be over! Why should you have to move to avoid paying these taxes you "never agreed to"? Well, how about the fact that 99.9% of us, although we might gripe about the level of taxation and many of the things the government does, feel that it is a perfectly acceptable trade-off to pay some taxes in exchange for some government. Where do you get off trying to impose life without government on the vast majority of us who do not want it?

And in any case, even if there is a sense in which it might be argued that I undertook my mortgage "more" voluntarily than I did my US citizenship, what about alimony payments? What about damages due as a result of losing a lawsuit? In both cases there are legal obligations to pay money that were not voluntarily undertaken by the payer. And in both cases, if one refuses to pay up, eventually men with guns will show up. But it would be ridiculous to describe these payments as being "stolen at gunpoint." Just as ridiculous as it is to describe taxation that way.


18 comments:

  1. There is a terrible tendency to redefine words in the movement. One example that comes to mind is when one anarchist told me, in all seriousness, that fraud is violence. The one about "voluntary" versus "involuntary" is, in my view, the worst transgression. When thinking about policies the status of something as either of those two never crosses my mind.

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  2. Also: "Restitution is theft!".

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  3. "Move to a yurt in the remote wilderness, and your taxation worries will be over!"

    Can you provide more details on this tax loophole ?

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    1. rob, please don't be an idiot.

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    2. OK: here is a more serious response to your post.

      I'm a libertarian and think it perfectly reasonable that nobody has the right to use (or threaten) force to make others do what they want them to do, whenever that is possible.

      I recognize this even in a society where everyone accepted this view then conflicts could arise. If 2 (or more) people claim the same property then we need some means of resolving this conflict. This may require the use of force. It will also require some common ground in terms of what a "just" resolution looks like.

      Disputes over alimony or mortgage arrears will come into the category of situations where violence is sometimes needed in order for the conflict to be resolved.

      Disputes over the things that tax money is generally used for (like waging wars , or funding the lifestyles of other) will not come into this category. Its clear that people's rights (to non-aggression) are being violated here.

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    3. rob, I too am against using tax money to fund Iraq and Afghanistan, or funding someone's lifestyle (I guess -- not sure what you mean). So we agree on those points.

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    4. By "funding someone's lifestyle" , I just meant transfer payments.

      Just curious (and this is a serious question) : You clearly believe taxation has a positive role to play in society . What are you in favor of this taxation being used for?

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    5. Isn't this an example of what the thread is about. Gene favors the government doing certain things. Taxation is to pay for those things. The things are benefits and taxation is a cost. Your wording implies Gene wants to impose burdens, but that is not so. If he could fund government magically he would. He accepts the need for burdens.

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    6. I see my tax dollars mainly being used up as follows:

      On Evil Things: War on terror / War on drugs

      On Unjust things: Income and wealth transfers:

      On Inefficient Things: Public goods, like education, that could be provided better as private goods.

      I was hoping Gene could provide some examples of areas where tax was used for things that were both just and efficient.

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    7. Helping the poor is not unjust. And providing law and order and defense are both just an efficient.

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  4. This analogy might make more than 0.0% sense if your mortgage weren't the result of a lender first giving *you* a gigantic lump-sum of money at the beginning of the mortgage.

    If you stop paying your mortgage (and refuse to hand over the collateral), it's closer to the truth to say *you* are the thief. So yes, it's true that the government sends men with guns to try to stop & correct property-thieves. Only thing is, that's *you* in your scenario, not the mortgage lender.

    I can squint my eyes and read the above post to take its intended point, but only by willfully forgetting the basic mechanics of what a mortgage is. Is that how you did it too?

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    1. OK, you simpering, moronic dolt rwcg, did you not read the last two paragraphs, starting with "At this point, any anarcho-capitalist reading this is popping a vein in his forehead: 'But, but... you took on your mortgage voluntarily!'"

      I bet you were squinting your eyes too hard to actually see them, right? Is that how you became such a nitwit?

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    2. What's really amazing here is that I completely, 100% foresaw your whole objection here, and completely, 100% handled it in advance... and yet you went ahead and posted this anyway!

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    3. OK, you simpering, moronic dolt rwcg…

      Perhaps a bit harsh, no?

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  5. Whoa, if I don't participate in the economy, I get exempt from taxes?

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    1. Yes, Silas, go live in the wilderness of Alaska in a yurt, and who is going to be taxing you?

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  6. Gene fails to take into account that not everyone is a deadbeat, and most people pay on time and build equity in their home. Paying taxes provides no such equity. There is also no option to “payoff” your taxes. If I owe $75,000 on my mortgage and send in a check for $75,000, the debt is cleared and I now own the house. I can live in it without anyone coming with guns to toss me out. (except, of course, the property tax collectors.) This reasoning also applies just as much on my last scheduled mortgage payment. At some point, my debt will be paid and the threat of men with guns sent by the lender coming to get me goes away.

    Callahan conflates doing something voluntarily with an explicit agreement.

    More here:

    http://412libertarian.com/gene-callahan-taxation-is-no-different-than-a-mortgage-payment/

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    1. Callahan: A and B are alike in respect C.

      412Libertarain: Callahan equates A and B! He misses that they are different in respects D, E and F!

      Needless to say, you missed the mark 412.

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