Dogma Premise # 29

 Government (democracy) is theft by the majority from the minority.

Although most Capitalists cloak their ideology in the language of Democracy -- e.g., everyone has a chance to prosper, everyone has a chance to participate in the free market -- some take another tack, and express their animosity toward government in terms that honestly and accurately reflect the extraordinary tension between Capitalism and Democracy.

The most brazen of Capitalists declare that a Democratic form of government constitutes theft -- theft by the majority from the minority.  The idea is that when one person takes another’s property forcibly, it is called theft. But when a majority vote to take property from a minority, it is called taxation.

Before we see what is wrong with this view, let us at least give it credit for honestly saying that Capitalism is diametrically opposed to self-government, and indeed would better flourish in a fascist tyrannical state than in a democratic state.  Democracy presupposes that all just power is derived from the consent of the people, which includes not only political power, but also economic power.

Capitalism, by contrast, presupposes that those who are able to accumulate economic power are entitled to wield it however they choose, no matter how acquired -- whether justly or unjustly, whether by labor or by inheritance, and no matter how exercised -- whether for the common good or against it.  Democracy and Capitalism are opposed to each other not because democrats or capitalists necessarily disagree on what is the common good, but because they disagree on who gets to decide.

But even if Capitalism and Democracy are opposed to each other, that does not mean Democracy is Theft.  There are two very good reasons that fully justify taxation and that distinguish it from theft.

First, taxation is in a very fundamental way voluntary.  It is not voluntary in the sense that every person wishes to be taxed, or agrees with the amount of the taxation, or agrees with the way the tax money is allocated.  However, once people agree to have any sort of government at all, and they enjoy the benefits of society -- including the systems of exchange, like money, that make capitalism possible -- then they are already committed to funding government, and the way that is done is by taxation.

So all capitalists are by definition completely committed to the justification of some taxation, and therefore taxation is not in itself theft.  Instead, they merely disagree with the particular facts of how much is levied and how the burden is assigned.  It is a fair question what is the proper way to resolve that.  If you believe that the people should collectively decide, then you believe in democracy.  If you believe that one group should impose their views on another, as would capitalists in overriding the will of the majority, then you are against democracy, which of course capitalists are.

Capitalists may resist this characterization and complain that they think democracy is ok within limits, but that the rights of the minorities are not adequately protected from the will of the majority.  That is a very good thing to discuss, and a hard problem, but by conceding the point that democracy is just “if done correctly,” they admit that taxation is not intrinsically theft.

The second way in which taxation is utterly unlike theft is has to do not with the nature of taxation, but the nature of theft.  Theft is one person's forcible taking of another’s property, which presupposes an undivided, unchallenged superior claim to ownership.  However, no capitalist, worker, or merchant of any sort can claim an undivided, unchallenged claim to ownership in any of their property as to society as a whole.

However, the property was acquired, it was with the assistance of others.  The purported owner might have been educated in a public school, or get to a place of work by public roads.  The purported owner’s customers may only have been able to pay for the purported owner’s good or service because of their own dependence on public markets, public water systems, or other public licensing of professionals, such as doctors.  If the purported owner has been able to retain their property against villains who might covet it or harm it, this may be in part due to fire and police protection, provided by the public.

Those who oppose taxation would like to benefit from all these public services without having to pay for them, and in that they are no more admirable than any shoplifter.  Therefore, it is more accurate to say not that taxation is theft, but that refusing to pay taxes is theft.

Dogma Premise 30

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