Contra Reason’s Nick Gillespie, the best thing that happened for the liberty movement in 2016 — indeed, arguably the only good thing in what was otherwise a catastrophic year — was the sudden explosion in popularity of the wonderful libertarian mantra "taxation is theft." In addition to being absolutely true and correct, this is also a powerful slogan that portrays libertarianism at its best, as a philosophy that does not waver and does not compromise with evil for political expediency.
So, naturally, there are libertarishes who hate it.
One of the things that drew me to the Libertarian Party is that the platform was logically consistent. The other two parties seem bipolar and hypocritical as they argue for both choice and regulations simultaneously. We Libertarians have principles, and we see them to their logical conclusions even if they land us in politically unpopular positions. This is why I am imploring every ‘big L’ Libertarian to stop it with the "Taxation Is Theft" bromide.
I talk a lot of smack about the Libertarian Party, and it deserves every bit of it, but it’s worth noting that the platform itself is actually pretty good. I also have to give the LP a bit of credit on this specific issue, as just the other day I received this image in an official party e-mail:
I’d seen that before, but it was still pleasant that the LP actually took a libertarian position on something big and bold like that. As I write this, it’s even on the front page of the LP’s web site, so I guess they’re going to run with this. It would probably be good if somebody at the LP mentioned this to the presidential ticket, mind you, which called for a 23% national sales tax, but maybe they just concluded that they’re pro-theft. Who knows with these guys?
I don’t recall the first time I saw the "Taxation Is Theft" tag, but just like the "Kilroy Was Here" tag, it has spread across the libertarian blogosphere just as insidiously [sic]. If we are not careful, it will envelop our party as candidates will undoubtedly be asked to pledge to two things: the NAP, and that taxation is theft.
You know, if you think about it for a minute, those just might be two ways of saying the same thing.
I believe the origins of this motto are anarchistic, and anarchists cling to our party like barnacles; we need to get our ship into fresh waters so they fall off.
Anybody getting the sense that metaphors are not Steven Sadowski’s strong point? Maybe I should stop picking on him before he makes me walk the plank. Avast, ye scurvy anarchists!
If you think about what it means to say "Taxation Is Theft," you are endorsing the notion that government has come to you like a thief in the night, taken your money, and left you with nothing in return.
Now it’s time to play "spot the equivocation." Do you think you can handle it? Can you find the place where Sadowski begins smuggling in just the tiniest bit of falsehood to paper over the argument he can’t really make? Here’s a hint: if I break into your house and take your TV, but my shoe falls off and I just leave it in your living room, are you less burgled?
Unfortunately, that is not factually, or grammatically true.
Nice comma usage.
Yes, the government does take your money by force, but you do get something for your tax money, and, by definition, that is not theft; it is extortion.
Ahoy, cap’n! What manner of semantic skullduggery be this?
Extortion: The obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.
Theft: A criminal act in which property belonging to another is taken without that person’s consent.
So, yes, the two words are for these purposes synonyms. Also fun is that this definition of "theft" fails to mention the rider about not getting anything in return, which mysterious omission it shares with literally every other definition I can find. As a general principle, if you have to invent an entirely novel definition of a common word in order for your argument to hold together, your argument is probably rubbish.
Also, while I’m obliterating you, I shouldn’t fail to point out that you should probably learn what "grammar" means before you accuse people’s speech of being "grammatically [un]true." Which is not, by the way, a thing.
I will grant the anarchists one thing: "Taxation Is Extortion" doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way "Taxation Is Theft" does, but I’d gladly sacrifice marketing for accuracy.
It’s lucky for Steven I’m an anarchist, because he’s exhibiting the exact combination of smug and ignorant that really makes me want to slap him.
The only person who does not believe that we need a police department and the various agencies that uphold contracts and protect us from companies that would pollute for greater profits, [sic] is an anarchist. They [sic] actually believe that the government is worthless. They believe that if every government agency and department went away, that the town in which they lived [sic] would magically be taken over by a wave of volunteerism and self-sufficiency.
Another pro tip: if you are so ignorant of the position you’re professing to attack that you have to default to "a wizard would do it" as your explanation, you should probably consider reading a book before opening your mouth. Otherwise you really just look like a doofus.
Of course, the argument that anarchists don’t believe that police services and contract enforcement are useful is an absurd straw man. What we actually believe is that the government sucks at providing them, just like it sucks at providing everything else. For pity’s sake, Steven, Frédéric Bastiat burned down your ridiculous straw man in 1850. So stop it. And while you’re at it, read that book too.
As for government environmental regulations, well, I’ll just direct you to something a friend of mine wrote a while ago:
One of the things that drew me to the Libertarian Party is that the platform was logically consistent. The other two parties seem bipolar and hypocritical as they argue for both choice and regulations simultaneously.
You should meet this friend of mine, Steven. I think you have a lot in common.
Instead of being trapped by this errant slogan, Libertarians should be arguing how to make the necessary functions of government fair, efficient and constitutional. If we make pragmatic arguments, not only will we be grammatically and factually consistent, but we will act like the adults in the room worthy of election.
So now, since Steven’s played the ever-popular "adults in the room" card, let’s see if you can guess what his occupation is. Think about it for a moment. Mull it over in your mind. Pencils up! Did you guess college student? Bingo!
Even if Steven’s bizarre argument about taxation being extortion rather than theft were meaningful, and even if it were true — grammatically true, yet — am I the only one who’s noticed that he winds up with a call for the Libertarian Party to focus on making extortion "fair, efficient[,] and constitutional?" I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with the party’s focus being on efficient extortion.
No, Steven, better for the Libertarian Party to eschew focusing on being "worthy of election" — which goal resulted in the nomination of William Weld to the presidential ticket, which you may recall he used to shill for Hillary Clinton instead of his own party — and instead focus on being worthy of calling itself "Libertarian." The party’s embrace of the true correct statement that "taxation is theft" is a step in the right direction. Maybe once you’re actually an adult, you’ll understand that.
Oh, I see in Steven’s bio that he’s a black belt in aikido! I better retract this whole column quick!