Tag Archives: Bastiat

Receiving Government Payments – A Voluntaryist Dilemma

Join Tom Woods Liberty Classrom

As a Veresapien 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 Veresapien 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.