Taxation, Forced Labor, and Theft
27 Pages Posted: 7 May 2018 Last revised: 1 Dec 2018
Date Written: April 19, 2018
In 1974 Robert Nozick famously claimed, “taxation of earnings is on a par with forced labor.” If we assume that forced labor is morally objectionable, something akin to slavery, then Nozick’s claim about taxation challenged the very heart of socialist redistributive liberalism. Numerous scholars understood that this argument was important and had to be answered. I will not engage this literature directly. Rather, I will present a new argument establishing that Nozick was basically correct – taxation, of a sort utilized in most redistributive democracies, is immoral.
Using the Principle of Relevant Difference and an On Pain of Irrationality method I will move through a series of cases starting with a version of Thomson’s violinist case. These cases will establish that 1) that forcibly kidnapping someone and hooking them up to a violinist is immoral, 2) forcing others to provide necessities of life for you is morally objectionable, while forcing you to provide for your own necessities is not, 3) being related to the “forcer” does not mitigate the wrongness, 4) receiving benefits does not mitigate the wrongness of forcing, 5) majority voting does not mitigate the wrongness of forcing, 6) and the reply that forced taxation doesn’t really require any forcing – workers could choose to watch sunsets or go on assistance – fails to mitigate the wrongness of forced taxation.
Keywords: taxation, forced labor, theft
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation