Rand Paul recently suggested that cigarette taxes played a role in the NYPD killing of Eric Garner. This has sparked much ridicule from people supportive of cigarette taxes and taxation in general. Are they right? Is Rand Paul right? This post seeks to offer an opinion on that question.
To begin with, the confrontation might never have happened without Eric Garner selling loose cigarettes. And that would not have been considered a crime without taxation on cigarettes. It’s true that the cops may have still stopped him for another reason or just to harass him, but the likelihood was increased by cigarette taxes.
It’s true that cigarette taxes didn’t literally kill Eric Garner. They did however contribute to the context in which he was killed. When you empower police through compulsory taxation laws; you set up a situation where they may have to forcibly subdue violators. And the act of tax evasion is not a violent one. A person may resist the imposition of a tax with violence, but that doesn’t mean the initial act of refusing to pay a tax is itself violent.
The reason we libertarians oppose compulsory taxation is that we object to the use of force against peaceful people. If the analysis above is correct; tax evaders fall into the category of peaceful persons qua tax evaders. And therefore cannot be justly coerced into paying taxes. Not even taxes with good intent and cause in mind.
The sin kind of taxes leveled on cigarettes are also a particularly loathsome form of taxation. It financially penalizes people who choose to keep buying large quantities of the good being taxed. It’s usually motivated by puritan standards too. The notion that people should meet a state enforced standard of moral or health purity.
Using force to impose such a standard is particularly galling. It would be bad enough for people to receive undue nagging social pressure to enforce purity standards, but the use of physical force to enforce them is even more odious. Such a thing needs to be opposed by liberty lovers everywhere. And we left-libertarians can lead the way.
Some suggestions for working on this issue include peaceful agorist black market activity, educational work, and civil disobedience like occupying congress person’s offices. All of which have been done before with some success. I encourage people to get started on this project today. And to help bring sin taxes to an end. You can trying hooking up with the Alliance of the Libertarian Left or this site, The Center for a Stateless society to assist in the efforts mentioned above.