Ron Paul and Libertarians Are Wrong: Here is Why We Need Taxes

Taxes are an inconvenience, but are a small price to pay for the freedoms they allow citizens to obtain. 

It is a given that individuals have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (and many would argue, and I would agree, that the latter requires property rights). It easy to say that any infringement upon any one of these rights is immoral, but that would not paint the full picture. In fact, to maximize these rights for all individuals inevitably requires the infringement of another’s rights. Any societal decision is always a balancing act of expanding and impeding individual rights.

An easy example is with common law crimes, such as assault. When an individual assaults another, the victim’s right to life and pursuit of happiness has clearly been violated. The perpetrator should then be punished, which — through jail time, fines, etc. — would require infringing their rights. In this case, no one would doubt that the infringement of the perpetrator’s rights is justified due to his actions. There is a clear perpetrator and a clear victim.

Unfortunately, most decisions are not so easy.

Take, for example, a tax to fund a health care program for impoverished children. For a child to go without health care would be a violation of his pursuit of happiness, as well as his right to life in many cases. However, this poses a difficult question: who is the perpetrator? It could be a child’s parent or guardian. It could be the said parent’s employer. It could be the doctor. It could be the health insurance industry. There is no clear cause-and-effect as there was with the assaulter.

Remediation of the issue could come in many forms, but assuming no singular accountability can be established, it would have to come from a party that was not directly responsible. There are then three options: individual aid, charitable aid, or governmental aid. The first two are voluntary, but fall short largely due to either limits in scope or the unreliability of voluntary actions.

That leaves the third option, a government program. Taxation enforced by rule-of-law that is then managed and distributed objectively to the children in need. This would require an infringement on its citizens’ right to pursuit of Happiness/property. It is a trade-off. In a democratic country, the people must decide whether or not the trade-off is justified.

This is an example of a social safety net program, which actually goes much deeper than the most fundamental uses of taxation. The two most basic functions of a government are maintenance of law and order and a military. Without these two fundamental functions, society would not be able to function at all. There would be no repercussions for rights violations, and no effective way to defend itself from invasion. Anyone making a hyperbolic statement such as “taxes must be abolished” must either not comprehend the full implications, or is a true anarchist.

Assuming those fundamental governmental functions are excused, any argument that argues that further taxes are unequivocally “an immoral and violent affront to human dignity” is not operating under a realistic understanding of human rights. Rights are never given or taken away for nothing. We all comprehend how that works in the case of common law crimes such as assault, but it seems more us need to see how it extends to all societal policies.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Phoenix McLaughlin

International Political Economy student in Colorado, with a background in environmental policy.

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