Receiving Government Payments – A Voluntaryist Dilemma

As a Veresapiens and voluntaryist, I consider government to be unHuman. A government is, by definition, based on theft and coercion. I want to shun government in every way possible, just as I would any other criminal organization.

But, the government keeps taking my money, and I want it back.

For example, I’ve had Social Security taxes ‘deducted’ from my paychecks for over 40 years, now.

So, here’s my dilemma…

If I think Social Security is a typically immoral government program, should I participate in it anyway when I become eligible to receive payments, especially after having been forced to make payments into the program for all those years?

Walter Block has written that since all government funds are essentially stolen loot, “…it is a positive virtue to relieve the government of its ill-gotten gains“. In fact, he writes, “…the more money you take from the coffers of the state the better libertarian you are“.

Sounds good. But here’s the rub…

The money the government has taken from me in Social Security (and other) taxes over the years is long gone. That money was spent long, long ago. The government no longer has my stolen property.

So, when I ask for the Social Security money that the government ‘owes’ me, where will that money come from? Well, the government, having no money of its own, will simply go out and steal money from my neighbors and give it to me.

How would I feel, as a Veresapiens and voluntaryist, about me using the force of government to take other people’s money?

I might try to make myself feel better by saying “The government is going to collect the tax money, anyway, and I might as well get my fair share”. But it’s still stolen money. Another person’s money.

And, as the US population ages, Social Security taxes will no longer cover Social Security payments. Beyond payroll taxes on current workers, the government will need to both borrow money, to be repaid by future taxpayers, and print money, a hidden tax on everyone.

I don’t think I’m really punishing the government when I “relieve it of its ill-gotten gains”. If anything, I’m doing it an invaluable service.

The government loves to dole out the cash. The government wants to give money to everyone. When everyone’s getting government money, no one wants to get rid of government, they just want to fight over who gets how much.

As Bastiat said in his essay Government,

“The State is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.”

When you take money from the government, you serve to perpetuate government.

If you want to end government, I believe the best approach is that suggested by Boetie in The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude:

“For if tyranny really rests on mass consent, then the obvious means for its overthrow is simply by mass withdrawal of that consent.”

If more people declined, whenever possible, to receive stolen goods (tax money) from the government, it would go a long way toward delegitimizing those government programs and the government.

So, here is how I think I should approach my dilemma:

  • Do whatever I can to minimize (legally) the amount of money that the government takes from me in taxes.
  • Accept that any money that is taken from me by the government is unrecoverable without causing harm to others (theft of their money).
  • And therefore decline, whenever I can, to take any ‘entitlements’ payments (freshly stolen goods) from the government.

I think perhaps those who take the least money from the coffers of the state are good libertarians, too.

 

This essay is adapted from a version posted previously on the Everything-Voluntary blog.

2 thoughts on “Receiving Government Payments – A Voluntaryist Dilemma

  1. Very astute refutation of Walter Block’s thesis. I have always had trouble with the idea that stolen money is somehow moral if it is in the hands of a libertarian. What does one’s philosophical beliefs have to do with property rights? It seems a rejection of libertarian principles to assert that libertarians are more deserving of the money, and it is the game of a central planner to assert that libertarians would spend the money more wisely.

    I do however see some leeway in the fact that the parasitic class that is government has made life much more difficult for the average person. Not only have they made it more difficult, but they have charged us for it! Perhaps we can view the pre-distributed sum of money that is appropriated for social welfare of some sort as yet another tragedy of the commons. Of course taking money created by inflation or taxation is wrong, but if I don’t do it, someone else will.

    Perhaps there is no libertarian solution to a government made problem? In a tangential way I wrote about this just last week at http://thehumanecondition.com/2013/01/31/easy-to-become-a-libertarian-easier-to-be-an-anarchist/

    Sorry for the shameless self-promotion, but it’s relevant. Keep up the great writing! Thanks for all your work!

    • Thanks for the great comment.

      I understand how people would feel justified in getting some of their individual taxes back or in getting their ‘fair share’ or in not wanting the money they don’t take to go to someone else. I think the Government understands that as well. They’re happy as long as we all line up to get our fair share. If people think the Govt owes them something, they’re not likely to want to shut down the Govt.

      If the mob steals your TV and you go to demand it back and they say we don’t still have your TV but we can give you Joe’s TV, is that OK? Your Social Security taxes are long gone. Any money you take is coming from someone else.

      If taxes are theft, and immoral, then I think we should shun the thieves!

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