The Cato Institute tweeted an article from their site, Libertarianism.org, with the text “If #TaxationIsTheft (and it is), does it follow that we must abolish ALL taxation? Not necessarily…” A lot of libertarians took umbrage with this, but it’s worth examining. The piece was written by Michael Huemer, from whom Slappy and I take a lot of influence, and is called “Is Taxation Theft?” Perhaps the tweet is a bit click-baity, but it isn’t incorrect.
The point is to examine whether all theft is unjustified. In his book, The Problem of Political Authority, Michael Huemer adds a small yet very important caveat to the Non-Aggression Principle to formulate his ethical axiom on which the rest of his political philosophy rests. He says that people have the prima facie right to live free from harmful coercion. This would mean that someone who wants to violate the Non-Aggression Principle ought to have a very good reason for doing so. He explains these ideas in this talk from PorcFest X.
These ideas of course do not justify the state. It only means that in some very specific situations, an individual would be justified in doing something that would otherwise be considered immoral. No better alternative could exist. This doesn’t invalidate the Non-Aggression Principle but simply shows that it is inadequate to appropriately solve every situation. The Non-Aggression Principle is a bedrock libertarian idea but exceptional lifeboat scenarios can show some limitations.
Slappy and I dig deeper into these ideas and offer some examples as we defend this piece by Michael Huemer.
Episode 45 – Exploring the Non-Aggression Principle in more depth
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