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Is Taxation Theft?

Yesterday we had a lively discussion on our Facebook page that ended up delving into topics such as the privatization of the oceans and the viability of anarcho-capitalist societies, to the point that I almost forgot how the discussion began. The initial topic was whether government taxation should be thought of as “theft”. While some of our readers likened it more to “extortion”, but most seemed to generally agree that taxation is an act of theft.

Of course this was no scientific double-blind study, and I would imagine that people who read this site and might follow us on Facebook are probably more inclined to hold this view than the average fella. I’ve had many discussions with ”big government” friends where they just can’t seem to admit that taxation is theft, and will vehemently deny that it is the same thing. Phrases like “social contract” - I don’t remember signing anything, do you? - will be tossed out in discussions like these, but never a coherent explanation as to just why taxation is any different than theft.

The fine folks at Merriam-Webster define theft as:

a : the act of stealing; specifically : the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it

b : an unlawful taking (as by embezzlement or burglary) of property

Government has done a fine job of negating parts of the definition of theft by codifying under the cover of law its ability to tax the citizenry. Let’s try looking at this definition again after removing the words “felonious” and “unlawful”.

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better example

A better comparison would be to the protection "services" provided by the mafia. Taxation is precisely the same as mafia extortion.
There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.

---Robert Heinlein

Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.

---Robert Heinlein


Paying for services. What a crock. Reminds me of an old TV episode, Leave it to Beaver (maybe), where this kid just goes and mows a mans yard expecting to earn his gratitude and more importantly his money. When the man sees what the kid did the man was irate and told the kid to leave without being paid. I guess by Steeve's logic the kid would have been justified in getting a gun and forcing the man to pay up.


To some it's theft and to others it is not.

Some people love the state and willingly give whatever the state asks for. To these people taxation is not theft and is more akin to a tithe. But to anyone who doesn't agree with the state and the tax is taken against their will then it is absolutely theft.

Now for the real question. Are those who accept money from the government guilty of theft. I say yes. For instance, if I need money and I take it from you then I am a thief and like Fredrick Bastiat pointed out, if I have government take your money for me then I as well as the government are thieves.

So not only is the government guilty of theft but anyone who accepts money from the thieving government are also thieves themselves. Some try to justify their theft by saying "Hey, the government stole from me so I'm just getting my money back." But by that logic if I stole your money then it would be alright for you to steal Joe Blows money to make up for your loss. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Theft has become the norm and acceptable in our society as long as your thievery is done according to the law.

I say no.

If the mafia thug steals money from the restauranteur, and then hires the barber to cut his hair...or gives the money from the restauranteur to a bum, neither the barber nor the bum has stolen from the restauranteur. Neither the barber nor the bum has "had the mafia thug take the restauranteur's money." In the same way, someone receiving government handouts is not "having the government take anyone's money."

On the other hand, anyone who extracts wealth from the government and manages to keep it from preserving or extending the activities of the government deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

In the end, our only hope and responsibility lies there. We must extract wealth from government and not allow it to extract wealth from us. The payer of taxes is a greater criminal than the recipient of welfare.


I could entertain the argument that someone providing a service and receiving payment wouldn't be guilty but the bum on the other hand would be because he has in essence had the government steal on his behalf. At the very least he is guilty of receiving stolen property which in itself is a crime.

Now I totally disagree with your last statement as it is totally ridicules. Calling the victim of theft a criminal is ludicrous don't you think. And your idea of extracting wealth from government instead of them extracting it from us is akin to an oxymoron. The government has no wealth except what they extract from us.


It's fine for you to disagree, but you would be incorrect as the result of becoming the victim of collectivist thinking.

Notice, the pronoun "us" at the end of your post. No one is extracting wealth from responsible citizens. The government is not extracting wealth from "us" because it is not extracting wealth from *me*. It may be extracting wealth from *you*, but when there are enough people like me and too few irresponsible people who allow their wealth to be extracted, then we will have an end to the problem of government wealth extraction.

Remember, one of the results of the American revolution was a rebellion against taxation. The American revolution was something that happened in the hearts and minds of the people before the first shot was fired. (John Adams)

When the American revolution comes to your heart and mind, you will understand and agree with what I'm saying. Let me try to help: The government has no wealth except what they extract from you.

P.S. You should learn how to spell rediculous.


Perhaps you should learn how to spell Ridiculous yourself. LMAO

I guess you are going to tell me that you make a good living and never pay taxes which you may very well do but that has no bearing on the conversation. We can talk about how we break the law all we want but the reality is that if you skip on enough taxes then you will be punished regardless of whether you agree with it or not.

When you go to the store do you refuse to pay the sales tax? I mean if you say you are not part of the "us" who pays taxes then you must have some special tax exemption or you are a welfare slob who has the government steal working peoples money so you can skate.

And by the way the American revolution was not won by ideas but by firepower. If the "founding fathers" just said that they wouldn't pay taxes and left it at that then they would have ended up where you are headed if you aren't paying your taxes.

Your last line makes the rest of your argument mute anyway. "The government has no wealth except what they extract from you." And how do they extract it? By threat of force. aka THEFT. Taxation is Theft.

Clarification on paradox

If an individual has or produces wealth, and that wealth finds its way into the hands of psychopaths who think of themselves as agents of government, then that individual is funding an idea which produces a vast array of theft and murder and is not only irresponsible, but criminal.

Yes, such an individual is paradoxically funding his own enslavement, which in itself would not be criminal. He is also funding the enslavement of others, which is criminal.

Someone taking welfare---presuming he does not vote or otherwise take part in legitimizing the actions of the psychopaths---is extracting wealth from them, and is actually helping everyone at least in some small way. Admittedly, there might be more effective routes to the same end, but if we could get enough people to stop producing resources for the psychopaths and claim welfare, that would end the misdeeds of "government" in a hurry.

Walter Block

He says that it is libertarian to relieve the government of its ill-gotten gains.

May A Libertarian Take Money From The Goverment?

It's only theft to those who

It's only theft to those who don't want to pay it. Most people want to pay taxes because they're under some kind of society illusion that everything would be anarchy if they don't pay. Plus they want a social safety net for retirement. Since the US has been a democracy for many decades now, the will of the majority is what matters. I don't see how anyone can ever claim that any system that's in place is there to protect to minority from the majority. It might sound good philosophically, but every system always turns into a democracy or dictatorship. In a constitutional republic the majority will still vote for a candidate with views and promises they like that will end up taking away rights from the minority.

Please come join my forum if you're not a trendy and agree with my points of view.

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Plain and simple. Yes.

Common Sense

"Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." http://www.ushistory.org/paine/commonsense/sense2.htm

tasmlab's picture

Not legally!

If somebody takes your property by use of force than taxation is theft practically, philosophically, objectively.

But theft is a legal term too, right? If it is in the law that they can tax than it ceases to be theft.

Jon Stewart was dinging John Boehner. Boehner said 'we don't want to steal any more money from Americans via taxes' and Jon ripped on him that the 16th amendment made it not theft as taxation was legal.

I thought this was interesting, because I bet a lot of people think that the law defines terms and by extension morality. They wouldn't think that there would be objective morality without somebody else defining it. Much like some Christians wouldn't think that an objective morality exists outside of what's dictated by God.

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

the law code of a violent monopolistic criminal gang

If it is in the law that they can tax than it ceases to be theft.

Don't give the criminal gang any authority by saying that "it is legal". The law code of a violent criminal gang is illegitimate and deserves no respect or recognition.

You should only follow it because you fear their violence and you should not follow it when you feel you can evade them.

tasmlab's picture

I agree with you 100%

I agree with you 100%. I just worry that many people see 'the law' as a statement of consent.

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

Worse than a thief

Spooner says that the government is worse than a thief. He says that continual government theft is akin to slavery.

The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: "Your money, or your life." And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.

The highwayman... does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a "protector," and that he takes men's money against their will, merely to enable him to "protect" those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these.

Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful "sovereign," on account of the "protection" he affords you. He does not keep "protecting" you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands.

He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.

The proceedings of those robbers and murderers, who call themselves "the government," are directly the opposite of these of the single highwayman.

Justify it any way you want

Justify it any way you want but taxation of ANY sort is theft. Whether its income, sales, estate....whatever, you are extorting money by force. I understand that some "services" like a judicial and military branch are necessary...but the funding is still extortion by force, rationalize all you like....but if I dont willingly donate my money toward a cause, that is taking by force....also known as theft.


Personal Income Tax is theft, for one is forced to pay it. There are some taxes that I would not concider theft. Cigarette tax, you don't have to smoke. Gas tax, you don't have to drive. People become addicted to cigarettes (myself included) and the tax is certainly a burden, but no one is forcing me to smoke. Someone might have to walk 10 miles to get to work, although the gas tax sucks no one is forced to drive a car. There are more like these, taxes that are not forced are not theft. The personal income tax is forced, one CAN choose not to pay it, but they will be met with physical force, finanial burden and possible imprisonment, and so there is no REAL choice, that makes the personal income tax THEFT. At least that's as far as I understand tax


You are wrong. The income

You are wrong. The income tax is an excise tax just like the tax on cigarettes and gas. Look it up. You are only forced to pay income tax if you owe it, however. The question is, do you owe it? I don't know, maybe you do, probably you don't. Only you can make that determination.

it's theft in that for every

it's theft in that for every percentage that is taken as tax, is the percentage of time you are working for free. it is a theft of your time and labor.

Do I have the right....

to demand a tax on your cigarettes if you smoke and your gasoline if you drive?

Check out the Laissez-Faire Journal at LFJournal.com

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

Taxation is absolutely theft....

and it's not just theft, but extortion and armed robbery.

Any time someone takes your property without your consent it is theft.

Shiny badges do not magically grant someone the right to steal.

The only major difference between the State and the Mafia is that the State hides behind a false claim of legitimacy.

If I were to approach you and demand 30% of your income and threaten to lock you up in a cage if you didn't cooperate, most people would rightfully label me a thief, but if I were wearing a shiny badge that said IRS on it, most people would suddenly think what I was doing was legitimate.

But, regardless of who I am, or who I work for, It is always wrong for me to forcefully take the property of others.

Check out the Laissez-Faire Journal at LFJournal.com

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

is it theft to take a toy

is it theft to take a toy away from your child against his will?

no, because you have legitimate authority over your child. it is taking, but it is not theft.

like it or not, the government acts with the legitimacy of law, and the people have their future in their own hands. if they don't want a legal order and a government apparatus, they can tear it down, leave its jurisdiction, etc.

we have government because the majority of people in the territory we live in want there to be an apparatus funded by all and available to all to provide defense of rights, arbitration of disputes, defense from external attack, administration of justice to criminals, etc.

you cannot have an apparatus to do these things if no one has to pay for it. that is the default state of affairs. everyone has to come up with their own defense and defend their own property. this state of things doesn't last long, as people choose a coercive legal order to defend their property, allowing them to specialize in other areas.

there are theories that this can be done in the absence of any coercion, but these theories have never been put into practice.

taxation without consent is theft

income tax is taken without consent.

sales tax on the other hand is more consensual, If the sales tax rate is too high then it will push people into the black market. When the rate is low, more people will participate as the penalties for avoidance will not justify the risk.

the key is to contain government expansion and deficit spending.

Sales taxes are not consensual...

because the government forces businesses to collect it and pay it.

Imagine this scenario: You walk into a store to purchase $100 worth of groceries, you get up to the register and I am standing behind the owner threatening him to give me 10% of all sales he makes or I will lock him in a cage.

He adds on an extra 10% percent to your bill, and you voluntarily pay it and go on your way.

While It is correct that you voluntarily payed the extra 10 percent, the shop owner had no choice but to collect it and pay it to me, I coerced him into it.

Obviously, you would say what I am doing is theft.

Now imagine this same scenario with and IRS agent instead of me.

It is no different when the government does it, it is still theft.

Sales Taxes are theft, because they steal from business owners.

Do you agree?

Check out the Laissez-Faire Journal at LFJournal.com

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


When one asks "is taxation theft?" it presupposes that there is a state in existence to collect the tax, so within the realm of this presupposition you have to pick your poison...and in this case, the answer would be that sales tax is more consensual and thus, not theft.

Even in the case of an AnCap society that has privately built roads there has to be some means of collecting to pay for their construction and maintenance right? tolls, you say...right? but that's not a 'tax' right? you can choose NOT to use that road the same way that you can choose to not pay a sales tax, unless of course there is a means of enforcement.

So in the case of the AnCap toll road, if somebody decides NOT to pay the toll, who then has the right to deprive that person of their life or liberty for traveling on it without payment and wouldn't that entity have the same role to play as the IRS? There are many scenarios you can imagine where this could be the case. A medical emergency, for example.

Interestingly on a side note, if you think about it, all crimes are a form of theft. killing is theft of life. Lying is stealing the truth. Adultery is theft of one's trust and so on...

So what do you think?

the an caps will claim that

the ancaps will claim that no one is subject to any jurisdiction they did not sign off on, or contract to, in their private law society. the ancaps have to ignore the prickly issue of people getting born all the time to sidestep the inevitable issue of non-contractual coercion emerging in a given territory.

even if you signed up and agreed to the tolls and taxes of your private law society, your children have not. thus they have to be forced to sign, or be booted from the society if they refuse. otherwise the contractual private law collapses. this is basically analogous to being born into the legal order of the state as it exists right now. you either sign off by staying, or leave. if you don't leave, you submit to coercion.

all these crackpot anarcho theories have to ignore the fact of birth and the coercive nature of the family to maintain a veneer of logical consistency. apply a little pressure and they yield like hot wax.

Really like

where you're going with this post. Makes a whole lot of sense! I think there will always be some type of governing agency that will collect taxes/tolls, and there will be a law enforcement in both societies that will punish those who don't pay taxes/tolls, whether it's in a minarchist society or in an AnCap society.

This isn't about whether you pay the sales tax or not.

The business owner is being threatened with imprisonment if he does not collect and pay the tax.

The business owner does not have a choice.

In your AnCap society example, the road owner has the right to charge a fee because it is his property, and he has the right to deny you access to his property, just as you have the right to deny access to your home.

The State does not own the business nor it's products, and it has no right to demand property which does not belong to it.

It doesn't matter whether you presuppose there is a state or not, taking someone's property through force is still theft.

Check out the Laissez-Faire Journal at LFJournal.com

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