4 votes

A government without taxes?

Can government exist without taxation? Should government exist without taxation? I'd say, yes and yes.
Our definition of "government" has been perverted through centuries of federal expansion. From a broad interpretation, government is only defined as a political body which controls the actions of its members. From an only slightly less broad perspective, government has just three functions, legislation, arbitration, and enforcement. It is a method to decide what laws should exist (am I allowed to commit fraud?) It should arbitrate disputes (was this really fraud?)And it should enforce the result (how are the damages paid to an individual who was defrauded?)
Outside of these functions, consider the fact that military, education, roads, and postal service all existed before the federal government. When the colonies needed militias, they were raised locally, independent of a large federal mandate or draft. Roads and trails existed far before the United States Government did. Education has always been available in the private sector and the public intrusion into that realm has been nothing short of a disaster. As Lysander Spooner would tell you, mail service is also available and far more efficient when done privately.
Now I realize it is difficult to grasp a government which functions without taxation, or as I'd say, without stealing from its citizens. However, consider the fact that most government positions used to be part time. Most government positions, even things such as fire departments, used to be manned by those patriotic few who felt the "call" of public service (maybe a stretch to say they were all patriotic, but you get the point, they were part time).
In a minimalist government which I speak of, the role of goverment is so small and so non-invasive that only a small number of citizens are really needed to fulfill government obligations.
As you can guess, I am not an anarchist. At the very least, I agree that the best society is one in which it's members have gathered to agree upon a set of rights which that society promises to protect for each individual. Even if that government is nothing more than a document listing those rights, and the tendency of the people to attempt to protect each other when individuals rights are infringed by others,I'd still call that a government. And in such a society, that government has no more power to control it's citizens than is necessary to protect our individual rights. However, with the mindset that this government, just like any individual, should use no more force than is necessary to secure individual rights, taxation then becomes an uneccesary use of force which only serves to grow the power and scope of a government.
Even as I realize that our nation is not ready for this idea, is it too much of a utopia to think that a nation full of freedom loving individualists could function without stealing money from each other and calling it taxation?

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Even Ron Paul has no

Even Ron Paul has no illusions about a Federal government that does not lay and collect taxes, he just wants them minimized and for the government to be scaled back to a level where they are carrying out their Constitutionally limited functions.

I'm in. Let's do that.

Talk about a stimulus plan!

We would have at least twice our present income to spend PLUS

Businesses would not need to charge so much for goods and services because THEY are not paying the taxes.

It would probably be like tripling your present income.

Oh wait, who's gonna feed the folks that can't find a job? OH yeah, they would find a job if the freebies ended. I'm mostly talking about upper echelon politicians and bankers.

Just look what Iceland did! France is going that way too.

Good examples.

Even if the State didn't tax...

It would still be a coercive monopoly provider of law, and still be incompatible with the Non-Aggression Principle.

Check out the Laissez-Faire Journal at LFJournal.com

"The State is a gang of thieves writ large." - Murray Rothbard

I'd like to bench press 500lbs

Right now, I can only put up about 125lbs, but I think I'll just put 500 on the bar and see if I accomplish anything. If my spotters save me from being crushed, then maybe next time, I'll move up in small 5 pound increments.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).


End transmission.

NOTE: I am not advocating violence in any way. The content of the post is for intellectual, theoretical, and philosophical discussion. FEDS, please don't come to my house.

The only perversion of the word "government"

is the one you're trying to commit yourself. Each and every "government" that has existed in the entire history of humanity has quickly, if not from the outset, become master rather than the "public servant" of its citizens. They all employ coercion to control the lives of peaceful people, and they all fund their activities by some form of taxation. That kind of coercive activity is what the word "government" has always meant. The monopoly on *legal* coercion is, in fact, government's defining characteristic.

Now you want to invent a new kind of social organization that isn't coercive or funded coercively, and call it "government." Sorry, the word already has a meaning -- the precise opposite of the one you would like it to have.

Ironically, it sounds like your only problem with applying the word "anarchist" to your position is that the definition of that word has been corrupted from its original meaning ("society without rulers") to mean something almost opposite (i.e. "violent chaos"). The irony is that you are trying to redefine the word "government" in a way precisely equal to the way the word "anarchy" has been debased.

Recommended reading: The Most Dangerous Superstition by Larken Rose


Here is the dicitonary.com definition of government; "the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc.; political administration".
That is all.
By this definition, let me give you an example of government, that is not anarchy, but fits my description of being minimalist.
5 men alone in the wilderness come to an agreement that they each have individual property rights, and that if one of them steals from another, the other four can, if they chose to help, act with the smallest amount of force necessary to return the stolen property to the owner by taking it from the thief. They do not elect a policeman out of the five, nor a legislator, nor a president. They simply write down on a piece of paper,or verbally state that they agree to respect those individual property rights, and have the intention and right to rectify any abuse of them.
By the above definition, these 5 men have created government by agreeing to control the actions of one of the members of the group if he abuses property rights. It doesn't require funding. And the force required is nothing more than the force an individual is morally authorized to protect their own life and liberty by themselves anyway. They only difference is that the group agreed to it, and they have promised (though they are not obligated) to help restore justice in the event of theft.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

Political means vs. economic means

You aren't looking closely enough at that definition. Government is political control over the people of a region. It is the division of the community into rulers and the ruled. "Control" is not about voluntary, mutual agreement; "control" means you do as you're told, or men with guns put you in a cage or kill you.

Political means of dealing with other people should, as the Austrian economists teach, be contrasted with economic means. People deal with one another economically by voluntary trade -- two parties dealing together by mutual agreement and to mutual advantage. People deal with one another "politically" by employing coercion -- usually in the form of commands called "laws," which are issued by a ruling class, backed up by heavily armed thugs called "police."

The essentially coercive nature of "government" doesn't make good public relations, which goes a long way to explaining why bland definitions like the one you quote are -- politically correct, shall we say? But think about the bland words "political" and "control," and what they really imply. Not so soft and fuzzy.

Your example of 5 men in the woods does not begin to form "government." A group of guys unanimously agreeing to abide by an ethical principle is a far, far cry from granting one of those guys the moral right to tell the others what they can or cannot do with their own property, and demand that they pay him for the privilege of being bossed around by him. What you have described is 5 guys agreeing to the non-aggression principle. You don't need 5 guys for that -- just two. In fact, you only need one: YOU can choose to live by that principle, whether anyone else does, or not. Other people face the same choice, and may choose to do so -- or not. You suggest that four people will gang up to stop the fifth from violating their property rights. Well, maybe. Or maybe the four will gang up in order to violate the property rights of the fifth! There is no magic in numbers of people. Virtue is an individual quality, not a social one. "Groups" do not agree to be bound by rules or moral principles -- that is something only individuals can do. What would become of your 5-man "government" if three of the five did not agree with your non-aggression principle?

Case in point: You seem to think that most people would favor a system that forbids stealing from others. On the contrary, most people nowadays are all in favor of stealing from others. Is there another explanation for the election of Barack Obama? And reflect on the reason why even Ron Paul won't call for the outright abolition of the "Social Security" Ponzi scheme of institutionalized theft?

Recommended reading: The Most Dangerous Superstition by Larken Rose


If the four people ganged up to violate the fifth person's property rights, isn't that still, by the strict definition, a form of government? Thats still an example of the society controlling the actions of it's members. That would be fascism in a sense, but no more or less a form of government than when the four men ganged up to restore property rights rather than restrict them. Government only needs one action, a member or members controlling the actions of another member. A father "governs" the actions of his son by making him go to bed early. The strict definition only requires that action. Having said that, anarchy is simply the absence of such force, which could only happen if every individual acted without controlling the actions of another, or as we like to call it, "free market capitalism". By the strict definition however, anarchy isn't even humanly possible. Nowhere in the animal kingdom has a species ever followed the non aggression principle to the point that no government existed.
I doubt this helps you understand my perspective, but basically, government is the inevitable control of one member by another, or by many, which will happen any time someone either decides to commit injustice, or decides to prevent injustice. The only time society would have no government (nobody governing the actions of another) is when every member of that society respects every other members individual rights. In the animal kingdom, that has simply never happened, to the point that it is reasonable to say it is impossible. If I glossed over the point that I believe anarchy is free market capitalism at it's finest, let me repeat that again. Although anarchy is humanly impossible, free market capitalism is not. It would be preferential to have both existing simultaneously, however the most modest form of government one in which force, or governance is only used as a method to restore individual property, would produce a sufficiently free market. However, just like anarchy, which requires all members to agree not to govern each other, this minamalist government is equally unlikely, thus a free market is equally unlikely.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

Life without government

Four people ganging up to violate the rights of the fifth would indeed be typical "governmental" action. If the four bother to name themselves "Government of the Woods," and have the power to enforce their "laws," I have no problem accepting their self-description. They can name their gang whatever they like, probably with as much moral justification as is possessed by any other "government." Which is to say: none at all. Do you know what distinguishes "government" from a gang of thugs who claim a certain area as their "turf?" Tell me, if you do.

Can people live without trying to control one another? Sure they can. Most of us spend most of our lives dealing peaceably and voluntarily with other people. We trade our products and labor for money, with which we buy the products and services we desire from others. We live practically our whole lives using trade and love and other voluntaristic motivations -- rather than coercion -- to deal with the people we meet. Most of our private lives are "anarchy," lived according to our own wishes rather than to the demands of some "authority."

About the only time average people use coercion is . . . wait for it . . . when they participate in "the political process." People who wouldn't steal a dollar from a neighbor go to the polls and vote for "laws" and "taxes" that steal thousands of dollars from the same neighbors. They do this under the illusion that stealing isn't really stealing, if "government" does it and calls it "taxation." People who would never use violence against peaceful, innocent people go to the polls and vote for politicians who propose to murder thousands in the name (taken in vain) of "national defense."

It isn't peaceful coexistence that is alien to normal people. Most of the evil and violence in our society isn't done by people who believe that stealing and killing are good things. It is done by people who believe in the superstition that guys who call themselves "government" have a moral right to do things that "normal" people shouldn't be able to do. Murder isn't wrong, if "government" "declares war." A thousand different violations of individual liberty are okay, if "government" writes a "law." People can and do get along extremely well with one another, for the most part -- EXCEPT when "government" enters the picture. Sure there are exceptions; violent criminals will never become totally extinct. Still, I believe the general level of violence in society would dramatically decrease if "government" were not given a moral pass on its use. The existence of evil, violent, sociopathic individuals does not make it a good idea to give one small band of the MOST evil, violent and sociopathic people a legal monopoly on the use of force, and a moral right to rule everyone else. Freaking insanity is what that is. Called "government."

Liberty (aka "anarchy") does not require that all men become saints, fully respecting the rights of every other person. Bad people will exist in any society. But the effect of those bad people effect will be minimized when they are regarded as illegitimate gangsters -- rather than "lawful authorities." Makes it easier to shoot the bastards, hm?

Recommended reading: The Most Dangerous Superstition by Larken Rose


What distinguishes government from thugs claiming their turf? Nothing. One man governing another is by definition, government.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

Wrong answer.

There is one important difference: what Ayn Rand would have called "the sanction of the victim." Most people accept the notion that "government" has the moral right to rule its citizens, and that the citizens therefore have a moral duty to obey the commands ("laws") issued by the rulers. Common thugs do not receive the same respect or cooperation from their victims.

This is not a trivial distinction. Few people are naturally inclined to run around murdering random strangers. But people who accept "government's" right to command obedience -- from soldiers and "law enforcers" are the ones who commit the murders that politicians and banksters are too cowardly to carry out themselves. Few people are naturally inclined to steal from poor, honest working families. But "government employees" at the IRS think it's a job that needs to be done -- because "government" told them to. When people regard obedience to government as superior to the dictates of their individual consciences -- THAT is what creates most of the evil in the world.

Recommended reading: The Most Dangerous Superstition by Larken Rose

Dictionary . com definition

the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc.; political administration:

This is the definition of the word we are debating. Nowhere does the definition require moral right, taxation, or anything other than people, and control. Keeping this universal definition in mind, rather than using our own subjective definitions, which we don't agree on, thugs exerting control over their turf is most certainly "government"

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

Most people?

I'm not debating this issue from the definition that "most people" have come to use. I'm simply using the dictionary definition, so that personal bias doesn't enter the debate. I'm not talking about government the way many folks, or some folks, or other folks define it. I'm talking about it the way the dictionary defines it, so as not to let our personal differences cloud our ability to communicate. The dictionary doesn't say that government requires some moral right to be agreed upon in order to be called "government". I don't accept your assertion that a moral right is a required aspect of the word. Not because I don't believe it, but because the dictionary simply doesn't require it. If we can't be sure about the meaning of the words we use when we debate, then our debates are useless.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

By any other name...

I'm happy with "government" without taxation, though many will say there can be no such thing. I'm happy with "voluntary taxation," though many will say there can be no such thing.

All I can say is: If you want to keep your words "government" and "taxation," then you need to figure out a way to do it on some other foundation than the current one of slavery and aggression, because *I do not consent.* And there is a growing number of people like me.

Human society as we know it was built on slavery and aggression. Many people are tricked by the idea of moving to a different plantation with somewhat better conditions. They call it freedom and call themselves free, but they do not reject the foundation. In reality, they only think they are closer to being masters.

Every once in a while, few and far between, you'll find someone who rejects the foundation (of slavery and aggression) and is seeking a better basis for human society.

are tolls taxes?

We don't have them where I live,

So I'm not very familiar with them, but I'd guess no. If a toll is simply a fee for using a service, then it is only applicable voluntarilly to those who wish to use that service.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

tasmlab's picture

New Hampshires legislators

New Hampshires legislators all earn $100/year. With such a ceremonial amount, they could easily be asked to forgo the $100.

So you could get the laws for free. The violence to enforce them is where money is needed. Perhaps volunteer police like volunteer firemen?

Say a very small sovereign (a small town of 10K) unanimously decides it's going to use democracy to elect volunteer legislators to make a very thin roster of laws like no murder, no assault, no stealing, no fraud, and no polluting your neighbors yard or the commons.

Then do-gooders around town volunteer to be volunteer police (for people without private security) . They all have cell phones and when someone hears of a crime, they give a ring, and the volunteers grab their shotguns and dash to duty - leaving their day jobs or dinner tables or whatever - to go stop the bad guy.

That might mostly work somewhere. At least for a while.

Currently consuming: Morehouse's "Better off free", FDR; Wii U; NEP Football

Some thoughts to counter

If we still used the Constitutional system of direct and apportioned taxes, the citizenry would be more involved and more informed. (and it would encourage the threat of succession frequently) It would also be much easier to stop government spending. I have thought about it a lot - I would be fine with taxes under this system. If you are going to have a nation, and a government, a republic or other, then everyone participating on an equal level just increases equality. The current Marxist system does not put everyone on an equal level, nor does everyone participate. The Constitutional system also makes elected representatives much more responsible to their constituents.

While I think it is a grand idea to have no taxation at all, I don't see how that would work. If, on the other hand, all taxes were local & state (for fire services, police, etc....) and the federal government only received an apportioned overage of those taxes, I would be fine with that as well.

I think at minimum, with modern technology and warfare, there needs to be military spending - and that takes some form of revenue. Now, I believe we should have a smaller defensive military - but with current technology, a large militia that can be called on, and a stockpile of weaponry in case we need to defend ourselves.

"In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot."--Mark Twain

Government cannot exist without stealing

resources from the private sector.

I would love to debate the topic but Rothbard's booklet the Anatomy of the State is so perfect and undeniable I will refer you to it for thought if you have not read it.


audio version:


Even this booklet by Rothbard is assuming that government needs to perform the functions of taxation and military, so he is certainly not wrong in the idea that a "state" requires those functions and thus, must steal in order to exist. However, I'm specifically asking if the definition of government can be so limited that these functions Rothbard is taking for granted as a necessary part of the state, can be erradicated. Is volunatary government even government? If 1 million citizens simply agreed to a bill or rights, and promised to follow those ideals, isn't that still government, even if they don't elect a president, or legislators, or demand taxation. Anarchy exists in absence of any agreed upon code of conduct or agreed upon definition of individual rights, but Rothbard continues to say that the natural state of man involves individual property rights. What is it called, if not government, to say that the members of society agree that individuals have property rights. I can see how one woudn't want to call that agreement "government", but it most certainly can't be called anarchy.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

What do you mean by

"must steal in order to exist"?
We approve a contract (compact - Constitution) and agree to pay x amount through determined means in order to receive the benefits that contract spells out it will provide. How is that theft?
What we never agreed to is the fed gov taking money from the fruits of our labor, our paychecks, as we expected it to live within the means of it payment structure. That's the only place where I see theft taking place, but you didn't spell that out and I haven't read the Rothbard document so I don't know what premise was set up in it.

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
James Madison

You signed the Constitution?

Because I didn't. I wasn't even alive. I didn't agree to any contract where the government gets to take my money. I was born into it and have been getting screwed by it ever since. Any legal contract I've ever heard of requires the two parties to consent. I wasn't even there when the right to tax was put into this contract you are talking about, nore did I ever agree to it.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

Anarchy is not a lack of rules, it is a lack of rulers.

As an anarchists I have no problem with government. I think you should be absolutely free to have any government or society you wish. I think it should be voluntary though, in other words, I would like to opt out. There is no way to get a consensus in a given geographic area. What happens when a baby is born? He may or may not chose that particular government.

But the biggest problem I have with government is its history. It has always and everywhere existed to protect the power of a group of parasites. The US system was supposedly one of the smallest governments with a written agreement. But look what happened in just over 200 years. It has been a disaster. And personally I see that kind of consolidation of power the antithesis of freedom as unpopular as that viewpoint may be.

So I guess I agree with you that government is okay. It cannot exist without taxation though, imo. But it has to be optional. So what would be wrong with folks signing contracts to participate in the society of their choice? That is basically anarchy. The force is what I find immoral. And the monopoly too. Right now we are forced to participate in murder by paying for it. It is heart wrenching.

I do not see the break in logic of Rothbard's assumptions as you do.

I don't see a break in logic,

just in definition. I think the issue a lot of folks get into is the idea of anarchy seems to make most folks think that a murder would go unpunished, and thus, the victims families would continue to murder in retaliation with no end. Anarchy seems to imply no rules or laws but free market capitalism requires at least property laws. Even if there is no paid organization to enforce those laws, free market capitalism at least implies that society agrees to those laws which prevent property rights infringment. So I think it is just an issue of definition of government.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

The government's job

is to serve and protect and to do that as economically as possible.

What exists today is a self-serving monarchy designed to subjugate the masses and further bloat and empower the Kitchen Cabinet (look up Andrew Jackson's presidency) and other rich cronies.

It will not last and will end badly - it always does.

The law cannot make a wicked person virtuous…God’s grace alone can accomplish such a thing.
Ron Paul - The Revolution

Setting a good example is a far better way to spread ideals than through force of arms. Ron Paul