Our Interactions with Government

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In the previous installments, we looked at the government’s monopoly on the use of coercive violence and how non-governmental relationships within the society are voluntary.

Now let’s take a look at how our interactions with government typically involve compulsion.  (In fact, although someone out there might be able to come up with an example to the contrary, I am hard pressed to think of ANY government action that is not based on compulsion.) Perhaps the most common example of our dealings with government is taxation.

Paying taxes is NOT optional.
If you refuse to pay your taxes, men with guns WILL come for you

There are examples of government activities which are partly voluntary.  You may be eligible for food stamps, but you are not required to sign up.  You may be qualified to join the Army, but since we don’t currently have a draft, you are not forced to join.  However, both food stamps and the Army are funded by taxation, which is mandatory.  And the great majority (all?) of regulations are also mandatory.  If you wish to drive a car, a driver’s license is required; it is not voluntary.  In my town, if I wish to burn brush, a burn permit is required, not optional.

None of the above is meant to imply that taxes, laws and regulations are necessarily bad things.  That would depend on the specific law, regulation or tax.  But you should always keep in mind that laws and regulations are compulsory, not voluntary.  Standing behind each law and regulation are the armed agents of the government (see The Purpose of Government).  Also, when contemplating all those very desirable government activities (roads, schools, parks, etc.), we should never forget that they begin with taxation – the mandatory confiscation of property from individual citizens.

(this essay was first published 2/24/2010)

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