On the Obligations of Income-Earners and Property-Owners to Pay Taxes

Michael Giberson

Perhaps you’ve seen the video of Elizabeth Warren, hoping to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, in which she declaims that since roads and police and fire protection are funded through taxes, people have no real claim to their income or wealth against a government that wants to take it. After all, she says, without use of the roads or protection by the policy, people couldn’t earn income or hold onto their wealth. (By the way, I’m looking forward to part two where she explains the consequences for religious freedom entailed by the fact that church-goers drive to church on tax-funded roads.)

Some people like her way of thinking (see the comments here). But obviously her presentation will grate on the nerves of folks that believe governments are instituted to secure and protect rights rather than the wellspring of those rights in the first place.

There are a number of thoughtful (and probably many more less thoughtful) criticisms of Warren’s little speech. Perhaps the best considered response I’ve seen so far comes from Will Wilkinson at The Moral Sciences Club, “Tax and Justice: It is your money.”

2 thoughts on “On the Obligations of Income-Earners and Property-Owners to Pay Taxes

  1. Warren’s position is similar to a French King. The King looks out for the peasants, so any peasant with anything worth taking is obliged to give it all up to the King. It is somewhat like saying “I saved your life back there, so give me your house and car.”

    What reconciles these two positions of government:

    (1) Government provides you help when you most need it, so it is only fair that in gratitude you remit to government most of what you earn.

    (2) During an emergency, it is unfair for private companies to charge more for supplies and services than they would outside the emergency. They do not deserve any additional income from the aid they supply to people who need that aid.

  2. Warren, like most of her ilk, does not answer the question that is never asked and must never be answered: “What is the “fair share” of taxation of various types to be paid by those of differing incomes? For example, is the “fair share” of income taxation for those in the bottom two quintiles really ZERO?

    Our fe(de)ral government must be re-domesticated urgently; and, replaced as rapidly as possible.

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