Libertarianism and Property

Libertarians are big on individual rights.  Anything that helps the group at the expense of the individual is considered theft.  A good example would be taxation.  Taxes are theft because I work for my money and the government steals it so that someone else can benefit.  In a way, this is a form of slavery.  Therefore, libertarians aren’t a fan of taxes.

Two main tenets of Libertarianism is that one of the purposes of taxes (or maybe the only purposes) is to protect private property and to prevent harm.  This got me thinking: how do taxes protect my private property?  It can’t be a police force because the police protect all forms of property, not just mine.  So according to Libertarianism, that’s theft because my money is protecting someone else’s property and preventing someone else from getting harmed.  It can’t be the military because that’s not protecting my private property, although it is protecting me from being harmed, but this also includes everyone else.  Thus, my money is protecting everyone else.

So how can the government protect my private property without interfering with anyone else’s?  I don’t think it can.  Not unless it taxes everyone for the benefit of everyone.  But if this happens, doesn’t this undermine the whole philosophy of individualism?

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
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2 Responses to Libertarianism and Property

  1. # “how do taxes protect my private property?”
    It works on the same principle that any kind of insurance does. Consider life insurance rates; they are calculated by actuaries based on statistics on death sliced every which way, and since only 1/1000 (say) people contributing to the pool need to be paid, the insurance company is sure to make a small profit except in unforeseeable circumstances.

    Similarly, tax rates – city and state level taxes – can be set based on crime statistics in a particular city or state. The pool allows you to protect your property by paying a smaller sum than you would pay if you had private security guards guarding every property and person.

    The key here, however, is “voluntary.” Taxes are not the only way to raise revenue, and they must always apply at the city and state levels so that people can move to other cities and states if their existing places becomes too oppressive; federal taxes give no such opportunity. Private security companies, and gated communities are other options that can be explored.

    As far as the military is concerned, a system could be devised where the states have a veto over the declaration of war. For peace time, the states could pay from their tax collections. Consistent free loaders can be kicked out of the union. If the union becomes too oppressive, the state could secede. This of course, is based on a minarchist position. An anarchist libertarian would point towards private defense companies and say – that’s my military.

    Bottom line – there is no contradiction involved as regards individualism and taxation as long as the term “voluntary” is applied. Freeloading can become a problem, but legislation is not the best way to solve it.

  2. Thekillerj says:

    I can’t think of a way federal taxes (or city/state taxes) do this either. Personally, I’m okay with paying taxes to police and military forces if they’re being run correctly even if they benefit other people. I understand the dilemma though, I just don’t have an answer right now.

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