Andrey (azangru) wrote,

Here is a commonplace in the liberal discourse that I have always been struggling with — the idea that since the state collects taxes from its subjects, these same subjects can expect to be treated as employers of state officials and of public sector employees, or as buyers of public services:

(a variation of this argument is that citizens are complicit in wars that their states wage, because they sponsor these wars by paying taxes)

I fail to see how this reasoning can hold. It would be more convincing if citizens were free to pay or not to pay their taxes. It would be even more convincing if, after having chosen to pay taxes, citizens would have the power to direct where their taxes would go: on building the proverbial roads, or on improving hospitals, or on funding the military. Then, if disappointed by the job of the police, or of the military, or of the president, or of the legislators, and so on, citizens would be able to terminate or redirect their payments. Then they would be justified in expecting to be treated as employers or customers.

But this, of course, is not how things are. Taxes are not optional. Citizens are coerced into paying them, and have no control over their distribution. The state (although a fictional entity) acts as an oppressor, such as a feudal lord, or a racketeer would. Is it reasonable to expect that an oppressor will treat you as a master, because it is your money he extorts? I think not.

If this sounds marxist, or anarchist, then so it is; their analysis (in a monstrously simplified form, perhaps; I have never studied political economy, or moral philosophy systematically) has always appealed to me.

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