If all Taxation is Theft then all Sex is Rape

Posted on Posted in moral psychology, Politics

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I’ve written on this topic before, but this meme that showed up in my Facebook feed and I couldn’t resist.

So, at what point does taxation become slavery? Never!

Although taxation and slavery share a feature, that of transferring the fruits of one persons’ labor to another entity, they are categorically different.

Asking, “At what point does taxation become slavery?” is kind of like asking “At what point does consensual sex become rape?”

The very thing that makes rape rape is that it is not consensual. And as long as it is consensual it by defintion is not rape. Taxation, within the framework of a constitutional democracy, is not slavery and never will be.

Slavery is holding of someone against the their will. The slave has no rights, no freedom, no personal property, no safety or security, and the slave’s labor goes to the benefit of his master and does not benefit him in any way. The slave did not consent to be in slavery couldn’t rationally ever consent to slavery.

In a constitutional democracy taxes are taken from members of society but individuals have a large suite of essential rights and liberties, they have personal property, they have safety and security, and they enjoy the benefits that their taxes pay for.

And importantly taxes are something at a rational agent would consent to in any sort of initiation state of nature situation. This is too big a topic to say much about here but probably worth noting the much modern political philosophy is oriented towards thinking about how and when the government is justified in using coercion. And that none of the important modern political philosophers like Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Rousseau, Mill etc. had any problem with a system of government that involved taxation.

Frankly this position is strange and irrational that the only way to make sense of it understand basic features libertarian moral psychology.

Libertarians experience taxation as slavery or “forced labor,” to use Robert Nozick phrase, but that is only do to their fairly odd psychology in which they view themselves as separate from the rest of society, have very little empathy, and very high levels of the reactance, which is an emotional response to infringements of their autonomy.

Conservatives and liberals while having slightly different moral compass both value not harming others and value fairness but libertarians don’t any moral value to the traditional foundations of morality that liberals and conservatives share and instead have only one central moral value: liberty.

Here’s a just one quote from a journal article by Jonathan Haidt that well worth reading in its entirety:

Libertarians scored relatively high on just one moral concern: liberty. The libertarian pattern of response was found to be empirically distinct from the responses of liberals and conservatives, both in our cluster analysis of participants and in our principal components analysis of measures. We found strong support for our first prediction: Libertarians will value liberty more strongly and consistently than liberals or conservatives, at the expense of other moral concerns.”

“The only emotional reaction on which libertarians were not lowest was reactance – the angry reaction to infringements upon one’s autonomy – for which libertarians scored higher than both liberals and conservatives. This disposition toward reactance may lead to the moralization of liberty and an attraction to an ideology that exalts liberty above other moral principles – namely, libertarianism.”

Here’s another good quote summarizing the findings:

“They exhibit a high degree individualism, a low degree collectivism, and generally report feeling less bonding with others, less loving for others, and less feelings of a sense of common identity with others. Libertarians have a lower degree of the broad social connection that typifies liberals as well as a lower degree of the tight social connections that typify conservatives. These social preferences were related to their moral attitudes suggesting that libertarians have less functional use for moral concerns.”

It is, from one perspective, unfortunate to have to resort to a sort of personal attack by invoking features of a person’s psychology to explain what is really going on when they take a philosophical position. But at the same time because of the fundamental differences in psychology there is very little room for rational discussion and disagreement. When two people don’t accept any of the same (relevant) premises of an argument there isn’t any room for constructive dialog.

But from another perspective it at at least offers a possible way forward in beginning the dialog on these important issues.

 

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