Here we will consider the last three of four questions.
When does it become immoral for the government to tax us? That is, where do you draw the line and say no more?
When does it become immoral for the government to tax us? That is, where do you draw the line and say no more? Well, consider what we established as the justification for taxation in INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 2A.
Therefore, because some agency has to exercise the force required to maintain order and protect everyone’s rights, forcing everyone to pay taxes to maintain a good government is one of those cases where the means is in accord with the end and therefore justified.
That is, we can justify forcing people to pay taxes because government has an indispensable purpose which requires all of us to pay for it. However, what if government starts doing other things with our tax funds? Then what justification do we have for raising taxes to pay for those additional things?
Consider what we have added. In this country we have various health, education, and welfare programs. Supposedly, because you have a right to:
- Life = government has to provide our healthcare.
- An education = government has to educate us.
- Food, clothing, shelter, a job, and so forth = government has to give whatever it is we can get enough people to vote for.
Does the Constitution authorize Congress to spend our money on health, education, and welfare programs? No. So why does Congress do it? Why do some people rob banks? Because that’s where the money is. Congressmen rob the Federal treasury because that’s where the money is that they can use to buy our votes.
The purpose of government is to keep us from infringing upon each others rights, not to give us our neighbor’s property. When government starts taking some people’s property and giving it to other people, we have too much government. The answer to the next question explains why that is a problem.
How do we ensure that a government that runs our lives will exercise its power for our benefit and not someone else’s benefit?
How do we ensure that a government that runs our lives will exercise its power for our benefit and not someone else’s benefit? Well, if the government is running our lives, we already have a big problem. Consider the issue. Government is supposed to protect the rights of All the People, not skew things to the benefit of special interest groups (We are all members of some special interest group.). Therefore, we have to keep politicians focused on protecting the rights of the People. That is, to make certain our politicians are not tempted to skew things to the benefit of some special interest group, we have to make certain they don’t have a conflict of interest.
The Conflict Of Interest
What usually causes politicians to have a conflict of interest? Instead of just expecting politicians to protect our Rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, we start expecting them to give us so-called “rights” like “free” healthcare, schooling, food, clothing, shelter, job benefits and so forth. Unfortunately, no politician can give us anything unless he starts taking what he gives us from our neighbors, and there lies the conflict of interest. When politicians start giving us stuff for “free”, we make the same people responsible protecting everyone’s Rights also responsible for taking away some people’s Rights. That’s how politicians get the stuff they use to give “other people” their “rights”. Such a system is not charity; it is just thievery on a mass scale that seems okay because everyone is doing it.
So How Should We Help The Needy?
So how should we help the needy? In an old post, THE RIGHT OF FREE ASSOCIATION, I cite what Alexis De Tocqueville observed about 1830’s America in his classic work, Democracy in America. Here is a sample. I suggest reading the entire post.
Wherever, at the head of some new undertaking, you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association. I met with several kinds of associations in America, of which I confess I had no previous notion; and I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men, and in getting them voluntarily to pursue it.
What De Tocqueville observed is that when Americans saw a need, they voluntarily banded together and did something about it. If you love your neighbor, that is what you do.
How big and powerful does the government have to be before the people have lost the ability to refuse it anything it wants?
In a constitutional republic the People instill their values into their government. In an authoritarian or totalitarian regime, government seeks to indoctrinate the People in politically correct values. What is the distinction? In a society that operates as a constitutional republic, a limited government, the People disperse control of the educational system and mass media infrastructure among many people who operate independently of each other. An authoritarian or totalitarian regime, however, seeks survival by indoctrinating the People. To that end authoritarian or totalitarian governments monopolize the educational system and the mass media infrastructure.
The Education Problem
We want our children to have a good education, one that helps us as parents to instill the right values, right? What makes us think we can depend upon politicians to help us? Who trusts politicians? Yet that is what we have done. We have put government in charge of our educational system and turned what should be a blessing into a predicament. Instead parents being in charge of what the children they love learn, children learn whatever the dominant political party thinks important.
The Problem Of A Free Press
We want to find out what is going on in the world, right? Ideally, we would choose from a variety of independent mass media outlets. Then we would compare notes with our family, friends and neighbors and decide which outlets are the most credible and informative. But what if the mass media is dominated by the government or a relatively small number powerful men and women interested in influencing the political system (see section on Crony Capitalism)? What if much of the mass media seems more interested in dispensing propaganda than in being trusted?
An Observation From The Past
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey (6 January 1816) ME 14:384.
For the time being control of our educational system and mass media infrastructure is still somewhat dispersed. If we want to remain a free people — if we do not want government lackeys corrupting our children and feeding us falsehoods — we need to support school choice for parents and fight any effort to concentrate the mass media into the hands of a few wealthy men or government official officials.
What Is To Come?
Please refer to INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 1 for links to the other posts.