Taxation is the Fuel of War (and vice-versa)

The current motto of The Libertarian Enterprise is “taxation is the fuel of war” — a phrase found in the L. Neil Smith essay from which these excerpts are taken:

, Western populations have gradually become accustomed to higher and higher rates of taxation. Americans are presently commanded to stand and deliver about half of what they earn to governments at one level or another. Whole volumes could — and have — been written about the economic and social damage this kind of taxation does to a culture.

But what concerns me here is that taxation is the fuel of war. Warfare of the kind witnessed for the first time only in , warfare that kills tens of millions in the space of only a few years, warfare that snuffs out whole cities in the blink of an eye, is possible only when governments can seize and spend a significant fraction of the economic output of their host populations.

What makes dealing with this problem most difficult is that many still believe high rates of taxation and government spending can be employed benevolently, on various sorts of social programs from free public education (itself a major source of war) to transfer payments to various people and organizations for various reasons. But the power to do great good is the power to do even greater harm.

Setting aside many another argument against such programs — most of them supplied by several decades of cold, hard reality — the most important is that sooner or later, supposedly benevolent programs will be used, one way or another, for war. To supply an example, the government has threatened on many occasions to use Social Security rolls to ensure compliance with Selective Service. Student loans are used as an inducement to sign up, as well. Give it to government, it will be used for war.

Our culture desperately needs to reconsider the whole notion of taxation. There may be a hundred “worthy” objectives you’d like to see achieved with money taken from your neighbor — or you may simply like seeing your neighbor humbled and diminished. I worry about how it affects children when they finally figure out that they’re living in a kleptocracy.

One thing is sure: no government forced to subsist on bake sales and TV benefits will go looking for trouble in a world full of other tax-fattened, slave-owning governments eager to supply it. If Princess Di had focused on the ability of governments to pay for landmines, there would be fewer of them in the world today.

“Gentlemen, get the thing straight, once and for all: The policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.” ―Chicago mayor Richard Daley,