I Don’t Owe You Anything


One of the arguments liberals use for the taxation of the rich is that the rich wouldn’t be rich without them, or rather, the government we have.

I think I have uncovered an argument to dispel that notion once and for all, and help rich people feel comfortable trying to keep all the money they have earned for themselves.

Imagine you lived in a town, and there was a fellow named Peter who offered protection services. He went around and beat up all the thugs, murderers, and thieves, so that everyone else can live their lives free of crime, for the most part.

If the fellow needed something, like a bullet proof vest, or a secretary, or a building with a jail, how would he get the money?

Well, if he was doing his job, and it was exactly the job the people wanted done, then they should be happy to give him the money he needs. In fact, the conversation would look something like this.

First, Peter would meet with the town representative, who the townspeople trusted with to represent their interests properly.

Peter: I need to raise four million dollars to build a larger jail and pay for the salary of my four deputies.

Town Representative: That seems like a lot of money, why do you need so much? Can you get along without the jail or a smaller jail, or perhaps with fewer deputies?

Peter: Well, I’ve looked at the problem as best as I can, and this is what I think I need them for. (Peter and the Town engage in a long conversation about what can be cut, and what the needs really are.)

Town Representative: Well, I’m satisfied. I’m glad we can come to an understanding. See, we value your services, but we like our money too. I believe the people in our town will be more than happy to share the burden for your services.

Peter: Thanks. When can I get the money?

Town Representative: It’ll take about 3 months, but I should have the money by then.

The Town Representative then takes his case to the town itself, proclaiming that he and Peter came to an agreement to raise such-and-such amount of money.

Rather than hold out a hat, the Town Representative proposes various taxing schemes, one of which the people actually agree to. With the agreement in place, the town representative or an agent representing him begins billing all the townspeople and collecting the money, which he gives to Peter.

Problem solved.

Question: If you lived in that town, and were billed $4,000, would you pay willingly or not?

If you wouldn’t pay willingly, is that because you don’t value Peter’s services, you think the price is too much, or you are paying more than your fair share?

Obviously, if you thought you were paying too small a portion, you would be happy, the same as if you got to buy a $40,000 brand new car for only $10,000. But you wouldn’t owe the government anything, any more than you’d owe the car dealership who gave you the deal.

If you felt like you were paying too much, then you’d feel like you were paying $10,000 for a car barely worth $500. Of course, out of a sense of respect for your fellow people, and in the interests of keeping order, you write the check and things go on.

Now, here’s the question: How much do you really owe Peter?

The answer: What you were willing to pay, without consideration for law and order and your sense of duty to your fellow townspeople.

Why do I know this? Because this is how free markets work. A thing is no more valuable to you than what you are willing to pay for it. No one, in their right mind, would pay more for something that is worth less (at the time they buy it). This is how we measure the value of things, not on how much people actually paid for it in times past, but what people are willing to pay for it today.

If you feel like you pay too little taxes, then you can pay a little extra, or find someone who you think pays too much in taxes and pay their taxes for them, or vow to yourself to pay extra when you get a little extra cash. Of course, we know that people generally don’t do that. Instead, they pocket the surplus as profit and life goes merrily on.

If you feel like you pay too much in taxes (which is all of us), then you are saying that you have already paid more than what government is worth for you. You ended up paying more than what it was worth, and so you definitely don’t owe government a dime.

Therefore, anyone who pays their taxes grudgingly doesn’t owe anyone anything. The money we keep which we don’t pay in taxes is ours to keep, the same way the money left over after we buy a car is ours to keep.

I think the logic is a little hard for liberals to grasp, so let me put it to you in a different way.

Let’s say you wanted to buy a hamburger, because you like hamburgers. So you go to McDonald’s to buy the hamburger. When you get there, you see that it is a $500 hamburger, and so you decide, “I’m not going to buy it, because it’s only worth $5 to me.” So you turn to leave the store, but to your surprise! there are a bunch of FBI agents there. “You have to buy that hamburger, you don’t get a choice. You have to bear your fair share of the cost of hamburgers, and if you don’t buy that hamburger, then society will collapse and you’ll be left with lawlessness.” For whatever reason, maybe the threat of jail, maybe because you buy their arguments, you fork over $500 and get the hamburger, which you grudgingly eat.

Do you owe McDonald’s anything after being forced to buy the hamburger that was worth only $5 to you? Of course not. It is rather the opposite: McDonald’s owes you $495, which you are never going to collect on.

The same is true with taxes. We don’t get to choose whether to pay our taxes, because we feel it is more important that order be maintained and we have a duty to each other. Every time we pay our taxes, and we feel like it is too much, it is because we get less back from our government than we have paid for.

And so, in the end, it is not us that owes the government, but the government that owes us. Of course, we’ll never see a dime from the government.


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