[Note: “Tax” is functioning adjectivally rather than imperatively in the above title.]
William Gillis writes today:
A Desperately Needed Note To Anarcho-Capitalists From The Poor
Guys, the more y’all make taxes the center and end-all of your critique the less we give a damn. Some of us don’t make enough to pay them. And some of us have never bothered paying them anyway, especially in states without sales tax. What are they going to do, audit us?
Taxation is simply not on our radar.
The more it matters to you, the less you matter to us.
I think he’s partly right and partly wrong on this.
Where he’s right is that libertarians and anarcho-capitalists too often stress issues affecting the middle class (and all too often the rich!) and say far too little about those affecting the poor.
But my gripelets are these: first, he makes it sound as though “the poor” and “anarcho-capitalists” are non-overlapping groups – whereas I’ve known plenty of desperately poor anarcho-capitalists (and have been one myself, for that matter). And second, he makes it sound as though taxes hurt only those who pay them – whereas every dollar transferred from the voluntary to the coercive sector makes the economy slower, less competitive, and less productive, cements the already-rich in their positions of privilege, depresses wages, increases costs (and thus prices), and makes it harder to start new enterprises, thus closing off the principal means by which the poor can escape poverty (namely either being hired by such enterprises or starting such enterprises themselves).
If taxes aren’t on the poor’s radar, they should be – since those too poor to pay taxes are in fact the principal victims of taxation.
Hey, anarcho-capitalist and poor graduate student on measly stipend (spent three years literally below the poverty line) with medical expenses not adequately covered for right here!
My adviser and I had a discussion about the libertarian place in social class structure. We think libertarians tend to come from lower-middle class backgrounds. Really poor backgrounds often time don’t produce people that get college educated, which is where most people discover libertarianism. As our movement grows, I hope this will change.
And note that of many rich libertarians, quite few started off rich. I think when people start off rich they’re more sympathetic to the status quo – because its not that bad for them.
I guess anarcho-capitalists aren’t the only ones who lose sight of the broader context from time to time.
I certainly agree Roderick, that taxation is bad for everyone and that it is of sharp importance to those in poverty as well. But my outburst has more to do with the default language and strategic approach of most anarcho-capitalists. While on a theoretical level, they’re right, taxation sucks, it’s only such an immediate and prominent expression of the whole system’s oppression for the middle class (and upper working class). So why start there? And, worse, why try inexorably to bring everything back there, even after issues of class and hostility to the rich are apparent in the person you’re preaching at. It only throws the class divisions into sharp relief and alienates the most powerful counter-economic and insurrectionary force around.
While I’m not calling anyone out specifically, and I’m certain that there are financially weak ancaps out there, class is no simple matter of income bracket. There’s all the world of difference between a white college student living alone on 10,000 a year with an extended safety network of family and friends and a single mother of color in the projects on 30,000 a year.
But moreover, when I speak of poverty, I’m speaking more of a culture and framework of perspective that isn’t readily available to the sort of person who might defensively claim that both their parents were “working class.” I’m not saying there isn’t room for understanding–that is after all what I’m advocating!–just that when “the evils of taxation” are the first and last things out of someone’s mouth (and anything else, a hastily tacked on note), it’s clear that they don’t get it.
Sure — I agree with you on all of that.
At the risk of being accused of “not getting it”, I have to say that I consider taxes to be one of the worst evils of government, because the government’s ability to confiscate property from individuals makes so many other abuses possible. How much less war would government be able to wage if they couldn’t force individuals into paying for it? Security forces funded by voluntary contributions would not invest in SWAT equipment and training. The drug war would not be waged. Ect.