The problem of governance, however, is getting the powers right. I like this passage so much, I'm going to repeat it.
Somewhere, there is a sweet spot at which tax-funded social and physical capital becomes symbiotic with the social and commercial activity that people also engage in. To one side of that sweet spot, to the left, if you will, is the slough of despond in which government becomes parasitic on commerce, and destructive of, social and physical capital. To the other side, to the right, is the cesspool of sin in which the rent-seekers become parasitic on government, which destroys social and physical capital, albeit in a different way.That's what Pajamas Media's Walter Hudson grapples with, in a meditation on the popular meme of taxation as theft.
Sure, if there was no state to tax you, you could keep all your money, but only until the first gang of thugs came along to take it from you. Would that truly be better? Anarchism seeks to liberate us from coercive taxation, but would leave us enslaved to any other random form of coercion.Yes, and the evolution of governance out of a gang of thugs is instructive. Consider the first season of Vikings, in which we have conventions of ownership, and rudimentary voting rights at the Thing, and yet, one of the topics voted on is which direction to go to supplement the Jarldom's income with plunder. And notions of liberty are abstractions in the absence of a good crossbow.
The question becomes how best to secure those rights, how to provide the highest degree of liberty utilizing a minimum amount of coercion. Until we achieve a society capable of better, some degree of taxation must be endured to provide for proper government.We can call it taxation, or we can have private mediators on retainer. Whatever form it takes, it's a portion of the gains from trade being set aside to provide an environment within which additional trading is possible. Thus, in the ensuing paragraph, it's misleading to speak of the taxes as theft.
Force may be morally used only in response to the initiation of force by others, in self-defense, in retaliation, in an effort to claim restitution for harm. That is government's proper role. Taxes may be theft in the purest sense of the term. But if taxpayer dollars are utilized to protect individual rights, the real-world effect will be a maximum amount of liberty and a minimum level of coercion. That's a worthy goal, and wholly attainable.The challenge is in maintaining taxation at a level that is symbiotic with commerce, rather than parasitic on commerce or parasitic in favor of some commercial interests.