Wednesday, August 25, 2010

generosity tax

In a generally interesting interview, Penn Gillette makes the case that government taxation is a form of theft and that if society has genuine needs, they should be met by the charitable giving of citizens. Of course, I find it very amusing and ironic that he makes this argument in an interview that is primarily devoted to Penn arguing that all religious people are naive idiots for believing in any sort of deity. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black...

But what really strikes me about this argument, an argument I've heard many times from extreme libertarians and anarchist-types, is this essentially amounts to a tax on generosity. Governments exist to meet needs that cannot be met on an individual basis. Of course, there can be considerable debate about what exactly those needs are and how to best meet them, but most people can agree that at least some level of government is needed for society to function. And from that it follows that revenue must be collected to pay for the services of government.

Typically, this is done by requiring everybody who operates under the protection of the government, with access to the services provided, is required to pay a portion of the cost. What the libertarians desire, however, is that this be voluntary. While that sounds nice in theory, this simply leads to a situation where selfish people can choose to pay nothing and still receive the benefits of having a government. Generous people, meanwhile, must pay extra to make up for the shortfall caused by those who give nothing.

Next time somebody throws out the idea that government has no right to "coerce" or "force" people into giving, ask that person why they believe the government should tax generosity.


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