Taxation: An Attack on an Individual’s Productive Capacity
Property rights are the fountainhead of liberty in a democratic society: the very concept of rights presupposes a concept of ownership. It is by nature of their sovereign beings that individuals possess rights; no other entity, especially those of political or social construction, enjoys such an advantage. Their rights are conditional upon law codes and the contexts of the civilizational landscape, and thus, not truly inalienable rights.
But ownership also presupposes a system of value. Property is a material expression of ownership. There must be some material expression by which it is valued. The point of society, from an individualist perspective, is to promote value through interaction. This means there must be some tangible system by which value can be appraised and individuals, whose value-judgments may not be completely aligned, can assess whether they receive fair compensation in return for what they give up in an exchange. Without such a system, there can be no freedom, for rights are propagated only though mutual respect: if one loves a capacity in oneself, the same must be respected in another. This must be the basis of value-driven transactions.
Money is the obvious answer to these problems. Money is a tool; it creates an empirical scale of value by which individuals can gauge whether a given trade has a reciprocal value-for-value exchange. It does not eradicate other types of value — there are extrinsic conditions, such as esthetic need and esthetic judgment that can affect how highly individuals prize different goods — but it does allow for the growth of economies. Currency stores value so that society can advance beyond a barter system. Producers and consumers must still engage their reason in economic transactions, but the empiric scale of money allows this to be done more efficiently and with more immediacy and makes trade possible on a much broader scale.
There is, clearly, a heavily theoretic component to money. An individual’s material worth is an expression of their sovereignty as an individual: a recognition that they, by nature of their being, have a sovereign right to exert their will over the things around them, to mold them in accordance with their desires and inclinations. It is only through ownership that man’s productive capacity can come to its fruition.
The taxing power of the government represents a direct threat to man’s productive capacity, in both a tangible and a theoretic respect. The means of direct taxation is an act of assertion: it places government, imbued with a morality denied those who resist it by its monopoly on legitimate authority, above the individual. It stakes a claim to the income which the individual has worked to secure. Income represents the contract between employee and employer: in return for the productive labor of his employees, which help the employer bring his creative vision into being, the employer gives a fair value compensation in the form of a wage. This wage is an affirmation of the worth of the productive capacity of the individual. As a resource, it also empowers the individual to go forth and commit further productive acts, as it gives him the resource to purchase the goods necessary to do so. When government takes a cut of this, it limits the productive capacity of the individual by drawing down on the only resource through which man can enter into exchange with man (this act is made doubly unconscionable by the fact that, by law, the government promotes the dollar as the only legal means of exchange).
Direct taxation is government saying to man, “You are not really master of yourself, nor primary owner of your property.” The claim to a portion of the income individuals earn as a reward for their productive efforts creates an intermediary between man and property. Only after he has satisfied government’s claim to a portion of his income is he free to dispose of the rest of it as he sees fit. He must first worry about paying the taxman and then satisfying his other needs. Government never suffers in this exchange: productivity does. The government will not wait until the individual has completed a project towards which he is desirous of applying himself; its demands come with a strict time table, and it is up to the individual to comply or face the consequences of running afoul of the law. It is impossible, when it is only the individual who suffers by this exchange, who must rearrange his priorities to satisfy government needs, which represent a limitation on his ability to satisfy his own needs, to maintain any sense of sovereignty.
Originally published at The Politics of Discretion.