Is taxation impractical?

Violence-based Funding

Kings called it tribute rather than theft. Politicians prefer the word tax. But all these words describe a violence-based funding system…pay or suffer violence. This system is both immoral and impractical.
The immorality is obvious. Any other person or institution that tried to fund itself using violence would be imprisoned. But we’re told that practical considerations require us to accept this immorality. Nothing could be more wrong. In truth, taxation is highly impractical, because…

  • It protects The State from the need to perform well — agents of The State get paid no matter how badly they perform.
  • It rewards failure — programs that don’t work usually get increased budgets.
  • It creates other perverse incentives, such as the problem of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. Those who receive benefits have a huge incentive to defend them, but the costs are spread among all taxpayers, so no taxpayer has much incentive to oppose any given hand-out.

These factors cause…

  • Poor performance
  • Massive waste
  • Unsustainable spending

Voluntary funding would be more practical. It would…

  • Force government to perform well
  • Match government services to what citizens actually want

We need…

You should decide how much government you pay for — granting or denying funding so as to exert control.

If you prefer consumer control to violence-based funding, please join us by subscribing to our free email newsletter.

Jim Babka

About the Author

Jim Babka

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Jim Babka is co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and President of DownsizeDC.org, Inc. He’s an author and former talk show host.
Previously, he was the President of RealCampaignReform.org, Inc., defending free press rights all the way to the Supreme Court. He and Susie are the proud, home-schooling parents of three teenagers. He enjoys theology, UFC, target practice, and Tai Chi.

Perry Willis

About the Author

Perry Willis

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Perry Willis is the co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and Downsize DC. He was the National Director of the Libertarian National Committee on two occasions, and ran two Libertarian Party presidential campaigns. He has an extensive background in marketing and fundraising, and has ghost written direct mail appeals for numerous luminaries, including Karl Hess, Ron Paul, Charlton Heston and Harry Browne.

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Show Comments 12

 

  1. HI,
    I loved this, btw!
    I think that if people contributed voluntarily that those who contributed should reap the rewards of the projects they helped sponsor, and those who don’t contribute can’t use or benefit from those projects. That would be interesting to work out the processing of, but then why not put in the time and trouble to do that? I think it would be worthy time spent.

      1. Hi Chris. Thanks for sharing the article. It’s good. But it’s also long (nearly 3,000 words) and uses a lot of jargon. I doubt many people would read it, or really understand it if they did read it. We’re trying to take a different approach with subjects like this. We try to present important ideas in bite size chunks using simple words. We call the articles that take this approach “Mental Levers.” We have a Mental Lever for “free riders.” You might want to check it out. — Perry Willis

  2. Our federal government sets the price for the services they perform through taxation. It’s not like in the private sector however, in that companies can set a price for a product but we can choose whether or not to purchase that product or purchase their competitor’s product. We have no such choice with government. They have a monopoly in a way. Also, our government is a system where the people pay first through taxation then receive the service. Since we have already paid, we have no leverage with the government. We get whatever level of service they give us and we have little or no recourse. It’s very hard for people to complain about the level of service they have received because they have to go through so many channels and the government has nearly unlimited resources on their side to defend themselves. Hence the saying “You can’t fight city hall.” A bottom – up approach, where the people have the power, like you are suggesting and like our forefathers designed, works much better. Their original plan was to have a very small federal government and have the majority of government be local so the people would have more of a hand in it. As you know, concentrating power in the hands of a few individuals inevitably leads to corruption, so I’m with you in wanting the people to have much more of a say in things than they do now. Our current system of taxation is definitely not the most efficient.

  3. I entirely agree with and support this view of changing the government focus from violence to the consumer. The best, most efficient economies are consumer-based, but HOW DOES ONE MOTIVATE A MAJORITY OF PEOPLE to experience this realization and begin avidly supporting this economic theory? 3000 years of history shows that the predominant method of financing government is violence-based theft. So the problem is proving that the consumer-based funding works. Some real numbers that arithmetically present a viable alternative to today’s theft is required to create believers! Further, government must downsize significantly. The U. S. didn’t have income tax until 1913. Excise taxes, import duties, and sales taxes were sufficient. I would support a sales tax that doesn’t destroy retail.

    1. Hi Eric. You ask how we can get people to support the idea of replacing violence-based funding (taxes) with voluntary funding? You suggest some possibilities that we agree with. But we think the starting point is even simpler than those suggestions.
      Libertarians have long argued that taxes are immoral. That’s good. We should continue doing that. But we should also start arguing that taxes are impractical. Not everyone will be convinced by this argument, but we don’t need everyone. The world is ruled by large minorities. We need to have our own large minority. We think we can best accomplish that by undermining the main argument people use to support taxation — the idea that we need taxes for practical reasons. We need to show people the many ways in which taxes are impractical. We are attempting to do that.

  4. I can see that ‘governments’ provide a few useful functions regionally. The biggest of these is defense against organized outside aggressors (aka foreign armies). I think most people are willing to pay a modest amount toward such a defense (currently approximately 50% of the federal budget is labeled defense, but much of that is spent having military bases and presence far outside the USA’s borders – so reasonably, if true defense plus a little administrative overhead were all we paid in income taxes our tax rate should fall to @25% of what it currently is).
    How would we keep people from ‘free rides’ on our voluntary defence funding? Individuals and states on the borders would be most likely to suffer losses, should they pay a greater amount of taxes because of it?
    If we look at organized defence as a sort of insurance against military invasion (one of the few things the constitution CLEARLY spelled out as an at least partial federal role) then how can we most equitably distribute the cost and address those benefiting without contributing (or as at least one of these other posts suggests, do we care if others benefit – I say yes, because a less widely distributed cost increases the costs for those who DO pay).
    Unfortunately, national governments possess 99.99999% of all habitable land in the world and have significant force to tax us. How can we resist such theft. and by allowing it we just strengthen the force and claim to legitimacy they have.
    The only solution I can come up with is to remove myself as far as possible from the monetary system, which means a significant trade and commerce impediment to myself. …

    1. Hi Grey. I think our need for defense is very tiny. Our oceans and large land mass do most of the job. Our armed population could do the rest. Equally important — our tax-funded military establishment has created far more enemies than it has ever killed. We would be far safer if we had no military establishment at all. Of course, this is a radical notion that will cause most people to balk at first. A full review of U.S. military history might begin to make the idea seem more reasonable. Our blog provides such a history. To the extent we can convince people that we need far less defense than we currently have it will become easier to persuade them that the need could be met with voluntary funding. Equally important, voluntary funding would give politicians a huge incentive to use the military more prudently, lest the funding dry-up. Tax funded defense means political control. Voluntary funding means consumer control.

  5. I appreciate your missives on simple truths on economic realities and the ethics associated. I read Nelson Hultberg’s articles and have decided he is a “Statist” though he mixes in some sound information about issues and politicians. I annotate copies of some of Hultberg’s et.al. articles to emphasize where these
    “Statist” invoke fallacious philosophies, though I’m not sure why I waste my time; maybe a few hundred years in the future, should my “thumb drives” survive, some luck kid will discover my trove of treasures and provide substance for his school essays.

    1. Oh phewy, I made errors in my previous post. “Statist” should have been “Statists” and “luck” should have been “lucky.”

  6. How do you propose to pay for public goods? Economists have long recognized that there are things that benefit all of us that could not exist simply through user fees.

    Would we be a better country if we didn’t have public schools? Where only those who could afford to provide their children with educations would get one?

    How would we pay to defend our country?

    Believe me I toyed with this idea of user fees when I was young and in college and I quickly came to recognize that not all governmental services could be privatized.

    We have private courts like the American Arbitration Association but they function in darkness and our public courts are far better (i.e., jury trials not judgments by elites) and they have to be open to the public with the exception of the American Star Chamber FISA courts.

    The problem with government in general is it is too big, too impersonal, to remote, and full of far to many modern human beings that lack the moral fortitude to do the right thing in spite of their personal or tribal interests.

    Without morality all of our systems and structures will eventually fail.

    1. Thanks for your questions. There is one basic answer for all of them. People will pay for what they want and not pay what they don’t want. The argument that this will not provide enough funding has things backwards. The definition of enough is what people are willing to fund, NOT what politicians or other “experts” think is best.

      Re the so-called free rider/public goods problem – we don’t think it is a problem. Some people pay for fireworks displays that non-payers get to see, but the fireworks happen in spite of the free riders. The same point as above applies, when people want something they will pay for it, even if others get to free ride.

      There is also a secondary answer — many roads are maintained by voluntary contract fees. Taxes are not needed. Instead, taxes are a problem in their own right. Once you have them there’s no way to limit them. Perverse problems such as concentrated benefits and dispersed costs will always cause both the taxes and the spending, and eventually, the borrowing, to grow like topsy. Far better to suffer the free rider problem to the extent that you view that as a problem.

      Re courts — we favor public juries.

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