Matt Bruenig does not understand the difference between property and taxation when it comes to coercion


Political blogger Matt Bruenig wrote a recent people entitled “How the property is coercive violence move functions in the debate” where he makes the claim that “property is obviously coercive violence” and so the libertarian position against taxation because it is coercive is contradictory.

I think he nefariously ignores the fact that he’s falsely equating two ideas (and I say it so strongly because of his slippery wording and fallacies throughout the piece).  Here is the main point of his article:

Pointing out that property is involuntary coercive violence is useful when a libertarian argues against something else, say taxes, on the basis that it is involuntary coercive violence. Their argument in that case goes like this:

  1. If X is involuntary coercive violence, it should not exist.
  2. Taxes are involuntary coercive violence.
  3. Therefore, taxes should not exist.

But then I point out that this same argument applies to property:

  1. If X is involuntary coercive violence, it should not exist.
  2. Property is involuntary coercive violence.
  3. Therefore, property should not exist.

What Bruenig is missing is the difference between the “coercive” nature of property and taxes.  When you acquire property legitimately, you do so peacefully.  The act of taking possession of something does not require any violence.  For example, if I’m walking through unoccupied woods and find a stone that I think looks nice and I pick it up and take it, I made no threats to and committed no violence against anyone.  Any coercion that might result from my property only occurs when someone else desires that they take or I not have the item.

On the other hand, to put taxation into practice requires the use of coercion.  Unless everyone wants to give up their money in the form of taxes (I’d love an example of that case), taxation cannot exist without the element of coercion.

With property there is no coercion when there is inaction.  The coercion in taxation is used to force people against inaction (i.e. not paying taxes).  To make a conclusion about one and apply it to the other is incorrect.

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If you choose to sell your stone for say, $5, then you felt you were better off with the $5 instead of the stone, and the person you sold it to felt he was better off with the stone than the $5…Everybody wins in this scenario. I think that is clearly different than someone demanding you give them the stone, or a portion of the stone, simply because you have it.

Skyler Collins

Violence used in the protection of property is defensive, not coercive. You could just as easily say that his body (as property) is “involuntary coercive violence,” in which case he should make his body “not exist.”


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