Big Idea #2: What Do You Owe Society?

Ok… You might be thinking, “Government is force? Taxation is theft? This sounds a little far fetched.”

But isn’t history the struggle of humans to earn freedom from those that wish to control them? Mark Skousen once said, “The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society.”

This fun video shows an exchange between one that advocates self-government and a skeptic. You can also think about the questions below the video.

What happens to a person that doesn’t pay taxes? Does the IRS look the other way? Or do they enforce the mandatory payments? If you found out that the IRS wasn’t actually putting people in jail for failure to pay taxes, would that make you more or less likely to pay what the government says you owe? Taxation depends on an increasing amount of unpleasant consequences that end in violent force.

But don’t we all owe something to society? Isn’t there a social contract that says you have a responsibility to help pay for government? Isn’t it like going into a restaurant, eating dinner, and then not paying for your meal!?

First, the restaurant sets the rules because they own the business. They accept all of the risks and reap all of the rewards because they are the owner of the thing.

So who owns you? Who owns your house? Your car? Your children? Are you property of a government? Or do you own yourself?

We also have to think of property or the things you own. How is property acquired?:

  • You can work to create or improve something that wasn’t previously owned.
  • The previous owner gives you a piece of property voluntarily. We’ll call this trade. A voluntary trade happens on the terms of both sides, and the threats of violence are not present.

Normally, if a peaceful person is threatened with violence by someone in order to take their property, we would call that theft.

In the end, governments cannot be responsible for your success, fixing your failures, or ensuring that the basics of life are met. Otherwise, you are the property of someone else. But how can we be sure self-government works? The evidence is in the flow of human migration. People in countries at the bottom of the diamond (low personal and economic freedom) try to escape to countries at the top of the diamond (high economic and personal freedom).

Chris Spangle is the publisher and editor of We Are Libertarians, a news site and podcast that covers national and Indiana politics from the libertarian perspective. Spangle previously worked in marketing for the Englehart Group on behalf of the Advocates for Self-Government. He also served as the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Indiana and producer of the Abdul in the Morning Show. He now works as the web director of a nationally syndicated morning show.

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