“If Taxation is Theft, Who Will Build the Roads?”
“Taxation is theft” is a popular Libertarian meme that is often objected to with the question about who will build roads. It needs to be qualified. Taxation is theft if the money taken from some people is given to other people who did not earn it. Taxation is not theft if the tax is used to pay for a constitutional provision of government. Prior to the 16th Amendment (1913), there was no income tax. “[T]he federal government managed its few constitutional responsibilities without an income tax, except during the Civil War period. During peacetime, it did so largely — or even entirely — on import taxes called ‘tariffs.’ Congress could afford to run the federal government on tariffs alone because federal responsibilities did not include welfare programs, agricultural subsidies, or social insurance programs like Social Security or Medicare.” And we can add to these Obamacare, the Department of Education, Planned Parenthood, and a whole list of alphabet soup agencies that have no constitutional validity.
I found the following in a Facebook post:
If you think that taxation is theft, then stay off the roads, stop drinking water from public water works, don’t use a toilet connected to sewage treatment, don’t go out at night where you need to see by streetlight, don’t EVER go to a hospital emergency room, or call a cop for help, or a fire department if your house is burning down, in fact, if you think taxation is theft, get the hell out of Dodge and go live out in the middle of the desert or in a mountain ravine and STFU already.
Let’s deal with the “who will build the roads” question. It’s a favorite of Statists. It’s like asking, who will build the cell phone infrastructure or the internet and computer industry? First, roads are built by private companies. Second, paying a tax to use roads is not wealth redistribution. Third, some have proposed privatizing the construction of roads. Roads would be built based on demand. Fourth, the gasoline tax is a non-punitive service tax. The only people who pay the tax are those who use the roads. If you don’t drive, you don’t pay the tax. If you take a taxi, you pay it indirectly in the price you pay for the taxi ride because the price you pay includes the costs required to maintain a taxi. The same is true if you use Uber or Lyft.
The same is true when you and I buy something from the internet and it’s delivered to our home or office. The fuel costs that were necessary to bring the item to market and shipped are built into the price.
You’ve seen signs posted on the rear of trucks: “This vehicle paid $3,642 in road taxes last year.” No, it didn’t! You and I paid the taxes because they are tacked onto the commodities the trucks haul.
With the advent of electric cars, the taxing system will most likely change.
Unfortunately, fuel taxes are no longer held in a trust fund and are now being used for wealth redistribution. “In 1990 Congress approved an increase in the gas tax but allotted only half of the new revenue to building projects. The other half was dedicated to deficit reduction – which then, as now, was all the rage. In 1993 Congress approved another gas tax hike and again devoted some of the revenue to deficit reduction…. When Congress severed the link between the gas tax and infrastructure, it broke the tax itself.” (Forbes)
What about water and sewer? Paying for these services is not a tax. Paying for water and sewer is no different from buying chicken or steak at the supermarket. You pay for what you use. The more you use, the more you pay. My son has a well. He does not pay for water. We have a septic system. We don’t pay for sewer.
Police are governmental. They should be paid for with taxes. The same is true of the military. (Wars are the biggest factor in raising taxes, expanding government, ongoing deficit creep, not to mention the loss of life and property.) Fire departments are financed through property taxes, not an income tax. Water, sewer, police, and fire departments are local, not federal.
While not all taxes are theft, certainly a majority of them are.