Taxes Aren’t the Only Way Governments Get Your Support

Tax resisters recognize the importance that financial exactions like taxes have for the functioning of the government, and how refusal to provide that money can be a way of making change happen. But a government’s subjects also provide crucial support to a regime in other ways than through taxation, and some tax resistance campaigns have attacked these as well. Here are some examples:

  • Quakers were careful not to pay war taxes, but their discipline might also remind them not to help the military in other ways — for instance “by grinding of grain, feeding of cattle, or selling their property for the use of the army,” or by purchasing government bonds for war. In , one Quaker, Thomas Luscombe, refused to rent his cart to haul military baggage or to pay two shillings to hire a cart from a less-conscientious carter, and for this he was hauled into court and fined £4, ten shillings, and sixpence. Having refused to pay this, a bailiff then seized £10 worth of goods from his home (equivalent to about $950 U.S. today) — about 100 times the original amount he refused to surrender.
  • If you’re paying rent to the government or to government-protected elites, this is pretty close to a tax, and a rent strike feels a lot like a tax strike. Such was the case, for instance, in the Kirkby Rent Strike in reaction to a government-imposed rent hike.
  • A number of tax resistance campaigns have patiently reminded resisters not to contribute to the government by purchasing government bonds.
  • I remember a war tax resister at the NWTRCC national gathering discussing her attempts to withdraw from California’s government employee pension system because of her disagreement with that system’s investments in the military contracting industry.
  • In colonial North Carolina, the government began seizing ships that did not carry papers indicating that the stamp tax had been paid for the ship, whereupon “the inhabitants of Wilmington entered into an agreement not to supply his Majesty’s ships with provisions until such seizures were stopped.”
  • In Greece in , members of a union representing electrical power workers cut power to a federal government building, protesting the hypocrisy of adding a new tax onto citizens’ electric bills while at the same time the government itself was failing to pay its own electric bills.