Those who are vocal about their belief that taxation is theft know all too well that stating our views publicly often elicits some odd responses. Often, those who don’t know better assume that we oppose goods and services that government provides that are actually beneficial. I’ve been told many a time that because I oppose taxation, I must hate roads or fire departments, but this could not be further from the truth.
The idea that taxation is theft is a moral stance. Because we believe that each individual owns themselves and the product of their labor, we see it as wrong to take money (or anything else that someone has rightfully earned) from them without their consent. Saying that we oppose something being funded with stolen money does not mean we hate that thing in general, just as saying that we find slavery to be morally wrong does not mean we are against people picking cotton.
In my experience, even those who understand our logic on why we believe taxation to be theft still sometimes think that what we are hoping for is impossible. They say that if the government were to stop funding certain things, those things would not exist at all. This line of thinking shows both a lack of imagination and a misunderstanding of market forces.
In a free market without government-funded roads, the demand for modes of transportation would be great. People would still have a need to get from point A to point B and would be willing to pay to do so. Consumers would have more money than they do now to do this, given that they would not be paying taxes to go toward things they desire like roads, but also toward things they don’t want like expensive foreign wars and wasteful spending.
No one can say exactly how roads would operate (although there would likely be a variety of different methods), given that one cannot predict with 100 percent accuracy the outcome of a free market. Often, market forces result in better ideas than anything we could have thought of without them. However, it is disingenuous to say that there are not legitimate possibilities that are easy to think of now.
Some roads could be run under a toll system on a pay per use basis; others could involve a pass or subscription that is paid for periodically. An E-ZPass-like system could be used to transfer money or verify subscriptions. Another possibility would be businesses in a commercial area pooling their money in order to fund nearby roads, as these businesses have an incentive to find a way for customers to reach their stores. The cost of the roads could be internalized in the prices of the goods or services they sell. Other roads could be funded by the owner of the road selling ad space, just as occurs today on billboards. The advent of self-driving cars could make such ad space considerably more valuable, as drivers would not have to pay the same level of attention to operating their vehicles as they do now.
Smaller roads with less traffic could be funded by homeowners associations or other voluntary groups made up of those who live in that community. When someone buys a house, it could be stipulated that they provide a certain amount of money per month to the maintenance of the road they live on in order to be able to use it. This method already occurs on private residential roads.
One must also keep in mind that cars driving on roads are not the only possible method of transportation. The government heavily subsidizes the auto industry; when something is subsidized, it results in an increase in it. A subsidy for corn results in more corn being created, just as subsidies for roads and automobiles result in more roads and automobiles. A truly free market in transportation could provide us with a revolutionary new mode of transportation, like Elon
Musk’s Hyperloop, or could result in a greater use of things like trains, planes, and maritime transportation. So no, being opposed to the government using money taken through taxes to fund something does not mean that we are against that thing existing at all, and we do in fact have other ideas about how society could function. Solutions to the problems of government corruption, inefficiency, and authoritarianism require out-of- the-box solutions. Continuing to do what we’re doing will only result in more of the same out of control government that we see today.
You can read more from John Hudak on Think Liberty here.