One Human’s Taxation is a Tragedy; Three Hundred Million is a Statistic

An itemized receipt for taxes? How lovely and desirable!

Think tank Third Way just issued a paper [PDF] analyzing what the median US taxpayer of 2009 (who earned $34,140 and paid $5,400 in federal taxes) actually purchased.

Bloggers responding to the analysis note that usually when an exchange of goods occurs, a bill of transfer or receipt is produced. Why is one not given to taxpayers in the same manner? An honest and baffling question for American citizens to ponder, with a lousy answer.

Joseph Stalin said “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.”

When brought down to the individual level, death and taxes aren’t just abstract concepts anymore. Three-something trillion dollars in government spending this year? What does that even mean? It’s difficult to fully comprehend such a vast amount of goods and services and the labor necessary to produce them.

However, when someone takes $200 out of my paycheck, I notice. You probably do too.

When people see that they have to work for two weeks of their year to pay for the healthcare of someone they’ve never met, or for a morning (with luck, probably a Monday) to preserve land they’ll possibly never visit or enjoy, or a full day to pay to fight wars which they may find morally reprehensible, without the choice of refusing, they rightly become angry!

It gets worse, though. There isn’t even a satisfying answer for taxation after one has become aware of the current unavoidability of this process. The argument most commonly given as to why one has to pay this tax “bill” is almost always the supposed Claymore known as the social contract argument:

You live inside of a nation.

You must abide by its rules and what the majority decides.

If you don’t like it, you can leave.

At first blush this seems reasonable. One could choose a different community to live in where the policies are akin to one’s own preferences. Many people are just plain thankful that they are lucky enough to pay that little in taxes instead of much more, or that they don’t live in someplace without indoor plumbing. Those are things to absolutely be grateful for, but the indignity of being coerced to labor against one’s will would not change by moving to any new state.

If one relocated deep in the jungles of Brazil and began creating wealth, it would only be a matter of time before the government came to collect the bill you owed. Build a home on an uninhabited island in the Pacific, and expect the local government to come looking for “its” money eventually.

When people stare down the fact that they have no choice but to give up their money to somebody, toward ends they often don’t even want, never asked for, or don’t morally agree with, they begin to sense that something foul is afoot, and they’re right.

Itemizing taxes to the individual taxpayer’s level is certainly a good start on the road to a free world. Hopefully it would encourage people to demand from their politicians the ability to opt out of services which they didn’t morally agree with, or even just those that they didn’t actually want or benefit from. Eventually they may even discover that they don’t want to pay the salaries of their rulers and would prefer the logical conclusion of a stateless society over the forced labor under government, and then, as an old teacher of mine used to say, we’d really be cooking with natural gas.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory