Is Taxation is Theft?

Better Essays
Taxation, the government acquisition of property from the individual has mixed support in any Western democratic system. To make its way into the good will of the majority, taxation has surrounded itself with doctrines of justification. No law which lacks public approval or acquiescence is enforceable, and to gain such support it must address itself to our sense of correctness. This is particularly necessary for statutes authorizing the taking of private property. Sometimes depicted as ‘theft’ by those who are subject to taxation, the accusation is commonly based on the sentiment what do I get from it? However, one chooses to live in a democratic welfare state and to take up the services society has to offer the individual; the argument of free-will is combated here by the necessities of the individual. Often misunderstood by the tax-paying individual, taxation is not solely a legal obligation, but a social obligation as well; one has a duty to protect the weaker members of society in any welfare state.
Taxation is justified through constitutional law and social convention, and so any rejection of taxation’s legitimacy is a direct condemnation of the legitimacy of the law, the legitimacy of the State, and the appropriateness of this social convention. Any claim that denies the legitimacy of such responsibilities and powers is a claim in favour of anarchy. Thus, the claim taxation is theft has the inferential meaning that government is illegitimate. Theft is conceptually reliant on social convention and legal definition, and so without government or social obligation, the concept of theft is void.
Governmental power is entrusted in the State by the people it represents, and government policy in any democratic state is intended to represent public interests . As taxation is within government policy, and such policies represent the will of the people, taxation is therefore, the will of the people. Theft, lexically defined as taking property without permission or legal right , is an incorrect classification for taxation, as taxation is legitimized through constitutional law.
Taxes are part of a social contract, an agreement between voters and government to exchange money for the government's goods and services. Even libertarians agree that breach of contract legitimates a police response. So the real question is not whether a crime should be met with forcible i...

... middle of paper ...

... tide over the rough times, and this establishes a smooth-running economy that benefits us all. One has a moral and social obligation to ensure the weakest members in society are protected, and taxation is one way of regulating this social contract.
Taxes are part of an agreement that voters make with government, a contract in which citizens agree to exchange their money for the government's goods and services. To consume these goods and services without paying for them is itself theft, and is rightly punished as breach of contract. Some may object that they have not agreed to the contract, but if so, then they must not consume the government's goods and services. Furthermore, contract by majority rule is better than by minority rule, one-person rule or anarchy (which results in kill-or-be-killed). Opponents of taxation under democracy are therefore challenged to find an improvement on democracy.

Heywood, A. Political Theory: An Introduction, Third Edition, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2004.

Mill, J.S. On Liberty, Penguin, London, [1859] 1974.

Pearsall, J. (ed.), The New Oxford Dictionary of English, iFinger™ online editon. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998.