Taxation isn’t Theft

Since the emergence of the species, humans have been coming together for mutual benefit. For as long as there have been people, they have understood that there is safety in numbers. A single person can feed himself, clothe himself, build a rudimentary shelter, take down small game — but if he gets sick, or injured, there’s nobody to care for him. He has to sleep, which makes him vulnerable for a third of the day. He is relatively powerless against large predators, and has a roughly 50-50 chance of prevailing against another human who wants to take his stuff.

Compare and contrast to a small tribe. Fifty members. Now there are people to hunt, people to forage, people to farm. There are people to pick up the slack when some members are too young or too old or too sick to work. There are people to watch over you when you sleep. You can have a blacksmith, or a healer, or a shaman. A band of hunters can take down impressively large game, and with a whole tribe at your back, you don’t need to fear that an outsider is going to come upon you in the night and take your stuff or smash your skull.

Humans are smart, but if they hadn’t figured out how to organize, they would never have thrived, let alone made it out of Africa. There were other factors that contributed, notably tool use, language, and abstract thinking, but organization is the secret of humanity’s success.

Fast forward fifty thousand years, and we’re still at it. We have societies that stretch across entire continents. We have tools that let us send our face across the world in real-time, and our bodies across the world in under a day. We have thrown weapons that can level cities, we have medicine that can cure so many ills and keep us alive far longer. We have sent members of our primitive tribe to set foot on other worlds, we have access to an abundance of food and clean water year-round, we have an endless stream of education and entertainment.

And we owe it all to organizing.

Everything that you have has come to you because of the hard work of someone else. Not that you didn’t have to work hard, too, but you only own a computer because thousands if not millions of people did the work of inventing and assembling it. Advances in mathematics and materials and physics and information theory that you had no part in have culminated in the magical device you hold in the palm of your hand to read this very essay. Those advances are only possible because fifty thousand years ago, a few humans got the bright idea to organize.

From that organization came division of labor, specialization, retention of knowledge. From it came theory of property, of ownership, of law and order, of solving our problems and living together without violence. The methodologies by which we learn things have been refined and distilled from millennia of toil, because even those who toiled in the laboratories and lecture halls were utterly dependent upon those who toiled in the fields and the factories, and it is only because of those methodologies that you enjoy the utterly fantastic standard of living that you have if you’re capable of reading this at all. Hell, the very alchemy by which I can put symbols in front of you and have those be translated to comprehensible ideas in your brain is a fucking miracle made possible only and solely by organization.

Everything that you are, you got from other people. Everything. And everything that you got is only possible because there is a society to begin with — and societies require us all to give up a portion of our profits for the collective good, else they cannot function. Taxation is the personal price you pay for enjoying the stability, security, health, and welfare of living in a society — and the more you have, the more you benefit from things like the roads that get you or your employees or customers to their jobs, or the farm subsidies that keep your food and that of your underlings affordable, or the education that gives you either skills to sell or skills to buy, or the law enforcement and military protection that keeps a band of armed thugs from storming your castle in the middle of the night and taking everything you have.

So don’t you dare tell me “taxation is theft.” Taxation is the utterly minimal price you pay for living a life kings would once have dreamed of.

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