By Michael Miller
There are enough tax evaders to elect a government!
Three out of four Canadians (77 per cent) say they are determined to evade taxes. 42 per cent said they had already evaded taxes. (COMPAS poll, Financial Post, June 3, 1995) "Evading taxes" means escaping taxes by illegal means. It includes such things as hiding income from the government, smuggling cigarettes or liquor, buying smuggled goods and secretly paying cash to escape sales taxes.
If a party got 77 per cent of the vote, it would be a landslide. Even 42 per cent is usually enough to elect a government. Voting is safe, and tax evasion is threatened with fines and prison terms; yet enough Canadians to elect a government are evading taxes.
Why? "Most respondents said they cheated because they were disgusted with governments, politicians, regulations, the welfare system, bureaucrats and excessive taxation." They're sick of the welfare state, and can find no one to vote for.
A moral revolution is under way. The chairman of COMPAS is quoted as saying, "The most striking finding ... is the evidence of changing ethics." The article explains, "Many of the Canadians who admit to cheating do not regard themselves as dishonest."
In this moral revolution, the Post is on the side of reaction. Throughout the Post article, tax evaders are called "tax cheats," tax evasion is called "cheating," and so on. The usually admirable Diane Francis says, "Of course, tax evasion is deplorable and not to be applauded." And, "Tax evasion is immoral as well as illegal..."
Oh yeah? Let's review a simple fact of life: taxation is robbery. Taxation is the forcible, but routine, seizure of one's rightful property by the government. If you don't think taxes are collected by force, think about what happens to those who refuse to pay them.
The "changing ethics" deplored by Post and pollster are easily explained. Is it dishonest to frustrate the intentions of a robber? Is it cheating to put your money in your shoe when you are in a sleazy part of town? Certainly not. Neither is it cheating to prevent the government from robbing you.
It is said governments are different because they're elected. But so are directors of corporations; that doesn't allow them to rifle shareholders' pockets. Would it make you feel any better if burglars were elected?
It is said that if you evade taxes, the government will raise taxes on others. Apply that to the free-lance tax collectors who lurk in alleys, and its corruption is obvious. It says that if you don't let them rob you, you'll be to blame that they rob others. It takes robbery for granted, and shifts the blame to bystanders!
Besides, the underlying premise that government spends a certain fixed amount of money is false. When a statist government gets more money, it does not lower taxes. It spends more! War used to be the sink down which governments poured taxes; today they pour taxes into the insatiable black hole of the welfare state. They also hire more tax collectors. It is not tax evaders who contribute to these evils, it is tax payers!
In fact, tax evaders defend us from rapacious governments. Cigarette smugglers (and their customers) recently drove governments to reduce cigarette taxes. Those who evade sales and income taxes are pushing government to reduce those taxes.
Tax evaders greatly benefit their fellow citizens by warning government of the practical limits of taxation in a way that is hard to ignore. Tax evaders help limit taxes.
Is it moral to earn a living by honest work and voluntary trade? Yes. Are such earnings rightful property? Yes. Is it moral to keep them from robbers? Yes. Do those who do so incidentally benefit others? Yes.
Then should one evade taxes? No. It is dangerous: it can lead to impoverishment and imprisonment. Therefore, don't do it! You are not obliged to take such a risk. But this is merely a warning against incidental evil; it is not a moral condemnation of tax evasion.
There is a name for those who, by acting morally, take a great risk and confer a benefit on others. The name is not "cheat."
One who acts morally at great risk, to the incidental benefit of others, is a hero. Tax evaders are to be applauded as tax heroes! In the conflict between tax evader and tax collector, morality sides with the tax evader, just as in the past it sided with the runaway slave against the slave-owner and legality.
This is no idle comparison. Today, government takes about half our income. If it took it all, we'd recognize ourselves as slaves. But what else are we if government can take whatever it wants from us?
Taxes are a relic of ancient times, as was slavery. Other organizations have found ways to attract voluntary financing. They content themselves with what their customers choose to pay them. So should government.
What? Abolish taxes? Surely that's too radical! Well, only in theory. Most Canadians loathe taxes in practice; only in theory do they still approve of them. Maybe now they are ready to hear a new theory.
Here it is. Taxation is robbery, and robbery should be outlawed. So taxes should be outlawed. So abolish taxes.
Abolitionists are still a tiny minority: only 3 per cent in the poll said they don't believe in taxes. But the step from unrepentant tax hero to tax abolitionist is a very small one and 77 per cent of the population is now poised to take that step! Abolitionists need only tell them they are right, and point out that next step.
The time is right to hoist the abolitionist colors, and begin recruiting. The moral premises of abolition are widely accepted. Only the conclusion remains unthinkable.
Abolitionists can make it thinkable the first step on the road that leads from "cranky" to "eccentric" to "respectable" to "undeniable." From there it is a short step to "inevitable."
Can governments be financed without taxes? Not today's bloated monstrosities, but governments trimmed back to their proper roles? Sure.
How will government be financed without taxes? In principle, the same way as night watchmen, payment for services. It is fun and instructive to guess at the details, but they will have to be worked out in the usual political way, through debates and elections. If you have some good ideas, publish them.
What would a country be like without taxes? Prosperous! And that's just the openers!
When runaway slaves were called thieves, slavery was regarded as a permanent fact of life. Slavery abolitionists changed that. Today's usual certainties are death and taxes. If tax abolitionists do their part, the new century may see the end of taxes.
Tax heroes will have led the way. Meanwhile they keep unrelenting pressure on governments to reduce taxes. So let's drink a toast to tax heroes, and strive to complete the revolution they have begun!
You needn't despair at the state of the world, you can become a Quackgrass activist! Copy this article! Keep the original for future copies. Paper meetings with it! Paper your office! Leave a stack on your business counter! If you expect hostility, use stealth and cunning, it'll drive your opponents wild! Be ingenious! Have fun!
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