David Little’s Tax Resistance Appeal Denied

Remember David Little? Canadian fellow, stopped paying his taxes because he didn’t want to be complicit in funding abortions?

He’s been fighting his case in court, asserting that he has a right not to contribute to government spending for things that violate his religious beliefs. He hasn’t been having much luck. Most recently, the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick shot down his appeal, saying, basically, that democracy is all about a democratically-elected, representative government deciding how much of your money it wants to take and what it wants to spend it on, and individual conscience doesn’t enter in to it, and that’s a good thing.

The ruling has some weirdly-tortured political philosophy in it, such as this bit from the opening paragraph:

The fact that a person files a tax return and pays taxes does not connote an expression of support for any government policy or expenditure. These obligatory acts are the annual price Canadians pay to ensure there is a continuing debate over the appropriateness of government policies and expenditures made in accordance with the existing law.

See, if Canadians didn’t pay their taxes, they wouldn’t be able to have a continuing debate over the appropriateness of government policies and expenditures. You wouldn’t want that, would you?

The ruling is surprisingly full of poor arguments of this caliber, which is odd, because the conclusion they come to is a sort of commonplace no-brainer towards which (once you accept certain statist premises — ones that come with the territory in state courts) there are straightforward and sound and well-trodden arguments.

The meat of the issue is that same one that John Brown argued (see The Picket Line for the ) — whether paying taxes to the government implicates you morally in the government’s actions or its spending decisions. In this case, the court pretty much denies that there’s anything worth arguing about — it doesn’t, so taxpaying doesn’t have any freedom-of-conscience implications, so there.

Quoting a precedent: “The simple, if subjectively unpleasant, obligation to pay taxes to a government some or all of whose views and programs one opposes does not imply support of such views and programs or force the taxpayer to act contrary to his or her personal beliefs and convictions; on the contrary, it is an essential part of living in a democracy such as Canada.”

Little hopes to make a last appeal to the Supreme Court, but says he won’t pay his taxes or fines in any case, and is prepared to go to jail for non-payment.

This is the first I’d heard of The Poplar Rates Rebellion but it sounds like an interesting one: In the government of Poplar, a division of London, in protest against an unequal sharing of tax revenue between rich and poor boroughs, stopped collecting and passing on a variety of tax called “precepts” to the regional authorities. Thirty members of the Poplar Borough Council were imprisoned amid large protests.