Outline of Juan Carlos Rois’s “War Tax Resistance as a Human Right”

What follows is my translation of the outline of a paper that criticizes the efforts to enshrine conscientious objection to military taxation as a human right. The paper is attributed to Juan Carlos Rois, and I have found it on-line in PDF and at Insumissia as a web page.

I may try to translate the whole paper, but it is somewhat tough going. I’m not actually bilingual — I just know enough Spanish to get myself in trouble with it, and something like this is good practice. I’m almost certainly missing some nuance, translating many things more awkwardly than necessary, and probably getting a few things wholly wrong. I’d say “caveat emptor” but nobody’s paying for this.

In particular, the Spanish word “derecho” can mean “right” (as in “human rights”) or it can mean “law.” Rois uses the term in both senses, sometimes in the course of a single paragraph, and it isn’t always clear to me which one is the most appropriate translation. Be aware that when Rois talks about “rights” he very deliberately is using a term that implies “legal rights,” and not something like “natural rights” or “god-given rights” or anything that implies that the rights have some sort of existence that precedes the system that enforces them.

Tax Resistance as a Human Right


  1. Initial approach to the topic: Limitations, suspicions, and skepticism concerning war tax resistance and other related topics
    1. Confusion and ambiguity at the outset: A human right to war tax resistance is vague, and stuffed with paradoxes and contradictions.
      1. The lack of specific mention in international legal instruments.
      2. The current definite tendencies of human rights in the context of the new world order:
      3. Is it possible that states would voluntarily admit some type of limitation (in legal form) to military spending?
      4. The controversy in legal doctrine: between radical refusal and partial & nuanced tolerance to a right to war tax resistance.
      5. A look at jurisprudencial positions.
      6. The limits of war tax resistance as a stand-alone, not fundamental, right to redirection or exemption:
      7. The argument of war tax resistance as a human right.
      8. The argument of war tax resistance as disobedience securing the exercise of human rights denied by militarization.
      9. Differences of “character,” “extent,” and “context” between a human right or a disobedience in defense of human rights and a legislative proposal for a “peace tax”: Or, how not to confuse the collar for the dog.
      10. A recap for those lost in the maze.
    2. The aspiration of the law as a liberator and the deception of the law as a golden cage: “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
    3. An attempt at classification, biased but hopefully also valid.
      1. Proposals with an institutional focus.
      2. Proposals with a reformist focus.
      3. Proposals with an alternative focus.
  2. War tax resistance as a human right: What is not and what can be a human right to war tax resistance from the perspective of war resisters.
    1. Diatribe against a reductionist approach to the subject-matter and the justifications for a “human” right to war tax resistance:
      1. (First) criticize the traditional concept of human rights:
      2. Criticize (secondly) the reductionist concept of human rights as individual rights.
      3. Criticize (however vaunted) the fundamentals of conscience based in ethico-religious imperatives.
      4. (And finally) criticize the traditional record of human rights and the claim that all social needs must be called human rights.
      5. A rest stop along the road.
    2. Make a tentative search of the elements of war tax resistance that want to be a human right or guaranteed by a human right.
      1. The realistic and multidisciplinary vision as reasonable discourse, around which to make our “ethical” construct with a normative claim.
      2. The “additive” character of dissent as a constructor of new human rights.
      3. Rights of the “first,” “second,” and “third” generation.
      4. The class of resistance to war as an imperative class (the Russell paradigm).
      5. The choice of peace and the search for a new world order.
      6. Outline of a peace with substance and the role of war tax resistance in this ensemble.
    3. Legal justifications of war tax resistance
      1. The purpose of the law is to build peace.
      2. Human rights are incompatible with the arms race.
      3. War tax resistance forms a part, at least via prevention, in the human right of peace and a just and mutual world order.
      4. The theory of sovereignty and the justification of disobedience.
      5. War tax resistance is supposedly a form of democratic participation in the determination of defense policy.
      6. War tax resistance is supposedly an invocation of personal responsibility in the legal and political process that enriches the law.
      7. There is no duty to contribute to military spending, but only a legal obligation in a weak sense.
    4. Towards a legal characterization of war tax resistance
      1. My preference for accenting “resistance to war” and disobedience to this option.
      2. A human right to war tax resistance.