While Objectivists believe that taxation is immoral, it is nonetheless an omnipresent issue in modern America that is here to stay for some time.
If Objectivists should strive for a culture of reason and should generally support steps that move the country and society that direction, how should Objectivists then approach tax reform? Should they advocate a progressive tax system? A flat tax system? Something else?
What is the standard by which one should judge taxation schemes?
asked Jan 02 '13 at 12:09
JK Gregg ♦
The question answers itself: "Objectivists believe that taxation is immoral...." What should one do about immorality? First and foremost, don't do it -- and don't willingly help others to do it.
The question, however, seems (mostly implicitly) to regard Objectivist morality as impractical and ineffective in the face of current trends: taxation "is nonetheless an omnipresent issue in modern America that is here to stay for some time."
Ok, so if the moral course can't work in today's world, then the question becomes: what other standard should one use to "judge taxation schemes"? Note the slick way this type of question tries to induce Objectivists to give up their moral perspective.
In case anyone wonders why taxation is immoral, it is an initiation of physical force against those from whom the government forcibly loots the wealth which the government spends. Taxation inherently violates individual rights. One cannot preserve individual rights by participating in (or aiding and abetting) their destruction. The top political priority today is to preserve individual rights, to the best of one's ability and opportunity. The only way to "reform" taxation (i.e., government financing) is to make it voluntary (with "revenue shortfall" serving to limit government spending rather than provide impetus for imposing or raising taxes.
The proponents of tax increases are far from innocent in their "agenda." As Ayn Rand explains in The Voice of Reason Chapter 22 ("To Dream the Non-Commercial Dream"):
In my [article in Philosophy: Who Needs It] on "The Establishing of an Establishment," which discussed government grants to the social sciences, I wrote: "The origin of an aristocracy is the king's power to confer on a chosen individual the privilege of receiving an unearned income from the involuntary servitude of the inhabitants of a given district. Now, the same policy is operating in the United States...."
It is the morality of altruism that will need to be challenged, inevitably. Nothing less will suffice, especially nothing as short-range and narrowly concrete as squabbling over taxation rates without a proper moral context. As Ayn Rand pointed out in VOS, Chapter 15 ("Government Financing in a Free Society"):
Any program of voluntary government financing is the last, not the first, step on the road to a free society—the last, not the first, reform to advocate. It would work only when the basic principles and institutions of a free society have been established. It would not work today.
What kind of reform would the first to advocate? Ayn Rand suggested one strong possibility in The Ayn Rand Letter, Volume 1 No. 11:
...abolish all government subsidies in the field of the social sciences and, eventually, in all fields.
She elaborated further in her article, "The Establishing of an Establishment":
The fundamental evil of government grants is the fact that men are forced to pay for the support of ideas diametrically opposed to their own. This is a profound violation of an individual's integrity and conscience.... The Constitution forbids a governmental establishment of religion, properly regarding it as a violation of individual rights. Since a man's beliefs are protected from the intrusion of force, the same principle should protect his reasoned convictions and forbid governmental establishments in the field of thought.
In any case, the continuing rise in U.S. governmental debt seems certain to force some serious cutting of government spending in just a few short weeks, and government subsidies to the social sciences certainly ought to be high on the list for cutting.
Update: Abolishing all Income Taxes
A comment by Collin begins:
In Atlas Shrugged, when John Galt finally speaks to Dr. Stadler at the end of the novel, he says to cut all income taxes immediately.
I looked up this scene in the novel and found what Collin apparently was thinking of, but Galt was talking to Thompson, not to Stadler:
You want me to be the Economic Dictator?"
It's sometime later that Galt meets with Stadler (at Galt's request). Immediately upon the mere sight of Galt, Stadler launches into a frantic, long-winded speech about how he basically "couldn't help it" and how Galt's captors inevitably will have to kill Galt. Galt replies simply: "You have said everything I wanted to say to you." Stadler runs out of the room. No mention of taxes in the Stadler scene. (Remember that Stalder had been a prominent physicist and head of the Physics Department at the Patrick Henry University, where Galt, Francisco and Ragnar had been his students. Thompson was the political "leader," aka "the Head of the State.") Note also that the scene with Thompson is a test of Thompson's true intentions, not a serious discussion of tax reform in a context of consensus on restoring individual rights and freedom.