The recent posting of ads on ebay for shuttle debris brought out howls of protest from people who thought this was shameful behavior. We were reminded that taking 'government-owned property' was punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. This episode not only points up how quickly legions of capitalists will attempt to make a profit, but how our society has institutionalized taxation as a normal, everyday occurrence that is perfectly natural.
The government, it seems, can own things. Collection, apparently, transfers title. Well, then if that is true any person who comes to my door with an ultimatum that I am not willing to suffer immediately takes title to the cash in my wallet. They might tell me that I have to listen to their boombox filled with rap music if I don't pay up; or they will shoot me; or they will force me to listen to replays of speeches at national political conventions, but in the end they will do something terrible and I will give in. (I don't want to give them any ideas, but the threat of being made to listen to recordings of the California Teacher's Association's pleadings for smaller classes in public schools would make me liquidate the 401(k) and hand it over.)
This 'transaction,' however, could not be called voluntary. In fact, I could call the sheriff's office and give them a description of the perpetrator, and they would at least write it down on a notepad and tell me they would try to apprehend the person. They still look at this behavior as coercion, which, interestingly, is also known in Webster's New World dictionary as 'government by force.' Well, is there any other kind?
Regardless of semantics, this behavior is basically theft, as is any transfer of property that is not done voluntarily. Heck, the government won't even give us a system that is close to voluntary. Can you imagine a questionnaire in your tax booklet that lets you fill out the places where your money should go? It would list all the usual recipients such as national defense, education, etc., but would also have lots of lines for you to put in your own recipients. If you wanted to give, say, 10% of the taxes due to national defense because your nephew is in the army, that would be just fine. But you could also write in 90% for the Omaha Bird Sanctuary, or 40% for hemp farming research. Wouldn't this be fun? If you had to pay taxes or eventually go to jail, wouldn't it just be a hoot to have one year out of ten to direct the federal and state governments in how to spend the receipts?
On a small scale, this threat is exactly what is causing the vigorous campaign against school vouchers. Forget any possible benefit to inner-city kids. The real beef is that people would be taking back some of their tax money and directing it to something they wanted. Letting this horse out of the barn could start some kind of national demand to expand a voucher program to other areas.
This, of course, would bring all forms of government to an end because it would bring us full circle back to the point that we should never have left: Spending our income as we see fit. Which is exactly why this proposal should be made the law of the land immediately.
This idea even accommodates those who think government is good. No problem. Just check off the box that says 'spend money as you usually would.'
The results, overall, would be fascinating. If you thought allowing voters to select 'none of the above' started fireworks, wait until you see the results of private choice on 'tax' spending.
But I doubt that any referendum or protest could get this proposal passed into law. Most people will argue that taxation is not theft.
An alternative would be to simply reclaim your property'-up to and including the total value of all taxes you have paid during your lifetime minus the benefits that you have received. This figure would be difficult to come by accurately, but I am sure a reasonable estimate could be made. Once you have arrived at a figure, simply start taking so-called 'government' property and using or selling it until you have been reimbursed. If, for example, you decide to take a government vehicle and sell it on ebay and are stopped by the police, simply explain to them that you are recovering your property. And you only have about $1,563,808.32 to go. You can further explain that you are not counting the depreciation of the currency caused by inflation, nor the economic dislocation started by programs such as the minimum wage, tariffs, etc., and that your figures are genuinely conservative. After the police hear this story, they will no doubt leave you alone.
Either way, some attempt should be made to assert the rights of the owners of property. You can't have it both ways. It's either theft, or it isn't.