Roy A. Childs reiterates a time‐​worn truth: Taxation is theft!

Roy A. Childs, Jr., was an essayist, lecturer, and critic. He first came to prominence in the libertarian movement with his 1969 “Open Letter to Ayn Rand,” and he quickly established himself as a major thinker within the libertarian tradition. Childs edited Libertarian Review from 1977 to 1981 and was a Cato Institute scholar from 1982 to 1984. He wrote and edited hundreds of book reviews for Laissez Faire Books from 1984 until his death in 1992. Some of his essays were collected in Liberty against Power, published by Fox & Wilkes.

That hated day is upon us again—April 15th. That is the date by which the American people must either pay up or run for cover, the deadline for payment of their “taxes,” that venal tribute which robs them of their rightful earnings day after day, month after month, year after year, lifetime after lifetime. Taxation in America today has reached unpitying proportions, and the people of this nation find themselves staggering ever more under its weight. But the cruelty and venality of the tax collectors knows no civilized limits. Political leaders come before us and pledge to reduce the awesome burden; no one takes them as anything but filthy liars. They are not willing to acknowledge the right of people to keep what they earn; they are not willing to cut back on their spurious “programs” which—virtually without a notable exception—are leading to the ruin of society and economy alike; they are not willing to stop oppressing the American people.

To reduce taxation in America today we must be ruthless both in describing the activities of the government and in describing the nature of taxation itself. Only when the American people understand that the programs dragged before their eyes as the solutions to every conceivable problem merely make matters worse, while benefitting a small, privileged elite at the expense of the majority, can we abolish these destructive functions of government. Only when the brutal truth about taxation itself is understood will the American people begin to see that the reduction in the size of government and in taxation must be regarded today as virtually an end in itself. Those who wish to grasp fully the inner essence of taxation can do no better than to read and reread the classic passage from No Treason, by the great libertarian Lysander Spooner, which cuts through lifetimes of obfuscation and confusion:

“It is true that the theory of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid voluntarily; that our government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily entered into by the people with each other; that each man makes a free and purely voluntary contract with all others who are parties to the Constitution, to pay so much money for so much protection, the same as he does with any other insurance company; and that he is just as free not to be protected, and not to pay tax, as he is to pay a tax, and be protected.

“But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: “Your money, or your life.” And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.

“The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.

“The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.”

When they realize that they have had enough, and that there is no reason to suffer the treatment that they get at the hands of the government, the American people will take their first step down the road of that rebellion against taxation and regimentation which will find, at its end, true individual liberty. They have done it before; they must do it again.