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Heroes Community > Other Side of the Monitor > Thread: Taxes and morality
Thread: Taxes and morality This thread is 5 pages long: 1 2 3 4 5 · NEXT»
xerox
xerox


Promising
Undefeatable Hero
posted August 16, 2013 10:05 PM
Edited by xerox at 22:06, 16 Aug 2013.

Poll Question:
Taxes and morality

After having come to the conclusion that according to my ideological views there pretty much isn't a single legitimate state on Earth, I have started thinking a lot about civil disobdience. Most people would probably agree that the moral rights or wrongs on civil disobedience depend very much on the situation so let's narrow it down to taxes for starters. Is there a morally right or wrong in avoiding paying taxes?

Responses:
Morally right
Morally wrong
Neither right nor wrong
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seraphim
seraphim


Supreme Hero
Knowledge Reaper
posted August 16, 2013 10:08 PM

xerox said:
After having come to the conclusion that according to my ideological views there isn't a single legitimate state on Earth, I have started thinking a lot about civil disobdience. Most people would probably agree that the moral rights or wrongs on civil disobedience depend very much on the situation so let's narrow it down to taxes for starters. Is there a morally right or wrong in avoiding paying taxes?


There is no morally right or wrong in these cases.
The state is taking away you your earnings. Since most countries are corrupt, that money goes into the pocket of mobsters, but thats another issue.

The state is taking money away from you, and you get no benefit whatsoever. Its only natural to outdo or outsmart somebody that is a chore.

I even would go and say its morally right.

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artu
artu


Promising
Undefeatable Hero
My BS sensor is tingling again
posted August 16, 2013 10:17 PM

To question everything within taxes, it's smart, civilized. I wish so many of my citizens were like you. Not me though, it seems like a horrible way to participate.

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Celfious
Celfious


Promising
Legendary Hero
From earth
posted August 16, 2013 10:41 PM

There is definitely a better way , volumes of them most likely... But taxes while at least half may be spent by the government unwisely, it does pay for educational systems, police force, military, rural improvements, technological research, legitimate indigent assistance's, and many many other things

Of course everything i listed and others are not perfect and people exploit, but if people stop contributing to the only societal authority we have, then there will actually be nothing.

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artu
artu


Promising
Undefeatable Hero
My BS sensor is tingling again
posted August 16, 2013 10:46 PM

I am not talking about not paying taxes btw. To contemplate life in taxes just seemed logical but diminished.

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xerox
xerox


Promising
Undefeatable Hero
posted August 16, 2013 11:03 PM
Edited by xerox at 23:09, 16 Aug 2013.

Seraphim: I have a similar initial position. I base my morality around liberty. Liberty is always moral. Constraint is always immoral. As far as I can see, all states in the world today are built upon constraint. But what is a state? Essentially a public association. The difference between a public association like the state and a private one is that when I join a private association, I accept the by-laws, the rules. These do not exist in a state. Sure, we have laws but have I ever made a choice to accept those laws? No, the monopoly of violence that is the state is forced upon me. If the lowest common denominator in your morality is liberty, that is immoral.

Celfious: Taxes are certainly a good way to fund certain public services. I fully support tax-funded education alternatives, social mobility is great, but that doesn't make the concept of taxes in a state of constraint less immortal to me.

artu: I don't really understand what you're trying to say. How am I contemplating life in taxes? Obviously they're a large part of our lives though and a such, worthy to problematize in a lot of circumstances.
____________
Over himself, over his own
body and
mind, the individual is
sovereign.
- John Stuart Mill

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artu
artu


Promising
Undefeatable Hero
My BS sensor is tingling again
posted August 16, 2013 11:09 PM

I'm not trying to say anything. I had a few beers and morality within taxes is okay, it's really okay but.. I had a few beers.

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mvassilev
mvassilev


Responsible
Undefeatable Hero
posted August 16, 2013 11:29 PM

(Xerox, when did you get so radical? I approve. )

Tax resistance is a tricky issue, because whether it's moral depends on what the taxes are being spent. Taxes are a good way to solve public goods problems, for example, defense. Suppose you and your neighbors get together and determine that you would all benefit from a missile defense shield. However, each neighbor also knows that he'll be protected even if he doesn't pay, due to the nature of the shield - if there's a missile coming towards your neighborhood, it knocks it down, even if not all of your neighbors paid for it. While each of your neighbors would rather pay, say, $10 for the shield rather than not be protected by it, they would prefer to not pay for the shield at all (and still be protected by it). In short, their preferences are as follows: (shield and not paying)>(shield and paying $10)>(no shield). If everyone tries to achieve outcome (shield and not paying), they end up at (no shield) - because no one pays for it - which is worse than the intermediate of (shield and paying $10). However, if people had to pay and didn't have the option of (shield and not paying), then they'd be at (shield and paying $10), which is better than where they were before. Thus, them being forced to pay $10 makes the better off according to their own preferences.

Unfortunately, the majority of taxes aren't collected and spent in such a way that makes those who pay better off according to their own preferences. The situation described above - beneficial taxation and spending - is one extreme. The other extreme is mugging: "Give me your wallet or I'll shoot you." It's definitely not immoral to resist a mugger - if he takes your money and spends it however he wants, you're worse off than you would have been if he hadn't mugged you. Much government spending falls in this category: it benefits someone (maybe), but you'd be better off if you didn't have to pay for it. The difficulty with tax resistance is that if you're avoiding paying for the bad, you're also avoiding paying for the good. Take, for example, tax resistance in the United States. If I didn't pay my taxes, I'd be in some part reducing funding for the government's immoral activities, such as the militaristic foreign policy, corporate welfare, etc. On the other hand, I'd be getting the benefit of services such as national defense and police protection for free. If no one paid their taxes, the government wouldn't be able to do anything (unless it had non-tax incomes), neither good nor bad.

If you could organize a large enough group of tax resisters that say something like, "We won't pay our taxes until the government changes policies X, Y, and Z", where X, Y, and Z are bad policies, that would probably be moral, at least under current policies. On the other hand, if the evils of governments were relatively minor compared to the benefits, such as if it was a near-minimal government that was doing something minorly bad, and people could resist taxes with impunity, we'd essentially be back in the missile defense shield scenario, because people would have an incentive to "resist taxes" to get national defense for free.

My thoughts on this are not yet settled. This is something that's worth thinking about. My preliminary conclusion is that whether tax resistance is moral depends on a government's policies. How bad does policy have to be for tax resistance to become moral? Where is the threshold? I don't know. What I do know is that tax resistance would definitely be moral in North Korea (assuming you could do it without being noticed), and definitely immoral in a minimal state. I don't know on which side of the threshold governments like those of Sweden or the United States are.
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xerox
xerox


Promising
Undefeatable Hero
posted August 17, 2013 12:36 AM
Edited by xerox at 00:37, 17 Aug 2013.

It's the libertarian mindset of always questioning everything that is making me increasingly more radical. That nuanced perspective is challenging yet so rewarding when all the pieces seem to fit. It gets even funnier when you at some point realize that you placed the pieces all wrong and have to solve the puzzle again.

As for the missile defense scenario, I don't believe that public goods are ever morally right if they are forcefully funded. That does not mean that defense or courts or anything like that become impossible to fund through taxes. But you need a system, a kind of contract, where people choose to pay taxes that are guaranteed to go the places designated by the contract and not anywhere else. A tax system only becomes immoral when built into a institution of constraint.


____________
Over himself, over his own
body and
mind, the individual is
sovereign.
- John Stuart Mill

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mvassilev
mvassilev


Responsible
Undefeatable Hero
posted August 17, 2013 12:59 AM

If taxes are gathered by a voluntary contract, they lose the coercive element that distinguishes them from normal payment or donations, i.e. they cease to be taxes. If people don't have to pay taxes, they experience collective action problems (as above) that they wouldn't experience otherwise. If your neighbors are building a missile defense shield that'll protect you regardless of whether you pay for it or not, you shouldn't pay, but if everyone faces those incentives, there isn't any defense shield.

Why is taxation immoral? Because it forces people to give their money to an organization that usually spends much of it in ways that make the taxpayer worse off (according to his own preferences) compared to a situation in which he paid lower taxes and the government did less. But if tax money was spent in such a way that it would benefit those being taxed (compared to the alternative in which they're not taxed and it's not spent by the government), then according to their own preferences, they should want to be taxed. If it's an improvement according to the subjected individuals' own preferences, isn't it moral?
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Corribus
Corribus

Hero of Order
The Abyss Staring Back at You
posted August 17, 2013 01:08 AM

@Mvass
Not that I disagree with anything you wrote, but I'm not sure it has anything to do with morality so much as self-interest.  

To the original post, again I think asking whether it's moral or not is asking the wrong question. The appropriate question is whether it is efficient. Given points that others, including mvass, have pointed out, the correct answer seems to be 'no'. At best you accomplish nothing. At worst you go to prison. The only hope of changing government behavior is to get a large enough portion of the population to act in a singular way that motivates government to change. True, if a large enough portion of the population decided simultaneously not to pay taxes, the gov't would probably be forced to change policies. However the same can be said if a large enough portion of the population voted for policies to be changed. In a democratic society where - let's be honest - life is pretty damn good, regardless of perceived government abuses, the chances of getting a sizeable portion of the population to engage in political activism (a legal activity) far exceeds the likelihood of getting a sizeable portion of the population to engage in refusing to pay taxes (a criminal activity). In the minds of most people, the real risk of going to jail far exceeds any slight chance of a benefit.

Changing government through illegal activity - no matter whether it's justified or moral - really only works in environments where the standard of living is low and the level of (real) dissatisfaction is high (probably over 50%). And this is all neglecting the difficulty of success due to the power of government to put down such revolutions.

Trust me, I think about 90% of the things we spend taxes on are bullsnow. That said, I'm not about to stop paying taxes because of this belief.
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I'm sick of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they're goin', and hook up with them later. -Mitch Hedberg

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Elodin
Elodin


Promising
Legendary Hero
Free Thinker
posted August 17, 2013 01:33 AM
Edited by Elodin at 01:39, 17 Aug 2013.

Refusing to pay taxes means you are choosing to disobey laws and choosing to freeload off everyone who is paying taxes. I'd call that morally wrong.

Edit:

Quote:

But you need a system, a kind of contract, where people choose to pay taxes that are guaranteed to go the places designated by the contract and not anywhere else.



The US Constitution designates specific powers to the federal government and those are to be the only powers it has. These are called "enumerated powers," specifically stated in the Constitution and all other powers are to fall to the states and/or people.

Unfortunately the federal government goes well beyond what the Constitution authorizes it to do, which is why there is a need for high taxes. If the US federal government returned to the small and limited government spelled out in the Constitution taxes could be dramatically lowered. But the democrats will never be in favor of that because they buy votes with tax payer dollars. About half of the citizens in the US draw money from the federal tax revenues but do not pay into the federal tax fund. Those folks typically vote democrat. They are voting themselves other people's money.
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Revelation

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xerox
xerox


Promising
Undefeatable Hero
posted August 17, 2013 01:52 AM
Edited by xerox at 01:57, 17 Aug 2013.

Mvass. Collective action problem: Let's imagine a state where these voluntary contracts I mentioned exist. In order to attain citizenship, a person must sign such a contract with the state. The contract, which has robust constitutional protection, says that citizens must pay X taxes to finance courts and defense, but nothing else. But what about non-citizens, who are not required to pay taxes but get missile defense anyway? That's a dilemma in the contract. Likely, the pros will outweigh the cons in that case.

Corribus: Even though you may perceive the state as illegitimate (like I do), you can still come to the realization that the best way to change a state with high living standards is through democracy. I agree that self-interest is at the top of the hierarchy. As much as I hate funding a system I find atrocious, it is my self-interest to continue doing so untill better alternatives arise.

Elodin said:
Refusing to pay taxes means you are choosing to disobey laws and choosing to freeload off everyone who is paying taxes. I'd call that morally wrong.


Is it morally wrong that we're forced to be part of a state with a monopoly of violence that we never have approved of?
____________
Over himself, over his own
body and
mind, the individual is
sovereign.
- John Stuart Mill

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mvassilev
mvassilev


Responsible
Undefeatable Hero
posted August 17, 2013 04:06 AM

Corribus:
Morality and self-interest are the same thing, if you take my view.

Xerox:
Would citizens be able to resign citizenship as well? I assume they would, but if not, the next example still holds with slight modifications.
Suppose there is a state that, at a certain point, operates as you suggest: there are citizens, who voluntarily agree to pay taxes, and non-citizens, who don't pay taxes. The government proposes a new missile defense system, the cost of which, for simplicity, is spread equally among the taxpayers. Since there are many taxpayers, the tax per person is relatively low - low enough so that everyone who is being taxed thinks they're getting a good deal for missile defense at that price. Still, each of them thinks they could get a better deal - if you resign your citizenship, you still get the benefits of missile defense. You resign from citizenship, and so does your neighbor. The government recalculates taxes per person, and since there are fewer citizens now, each has to pay a higher tax. There is now a higher incentive to resign one's citizenship, since a citizen's taxes are higher. So more people resign their citizenship, taxes rise even more, so even more resign... The process may or may not reach an equilibrium at which point no more citizens are resigning, but it's realistic to suggest that this would be at the point at which funding the missile defense system is no longer possible. So, even though at the beginning, everyone valued it more highly than what it cost in taxes, it wasn't built, making everyone worse off.
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Elodin
Elodin


Promising
Legendary Hero
Free Thinker
posted August 17, 2013 04:43 AM

xerox said:

Elodin said:
Refusing to pay taxes means you are choosing to disobey laws and choosing to freeload off everyone who is paying taxes. I'd call that morally wrong.


Is it morally wrong that we're forced to be part of a state with a monopoly of violence that we never have approved of?


If you marry or live with a significant other you learn you can't always get what you want. My wife sometimes spends money on things that I don't agree with and I spend money on things she does not agree with.

So unless you live by yourself on a remote desert isle away from everyone else you are not going to have complete control of the purse.

Freeloading off everyone else is immoral. If you don't like some of the things the government is spending money on then become more politically active. But realize no matter what, even if the party you love is in power there will be money spent on things you don't like.
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Revelation

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mvassilev
mvassilev


Responsible
Undefeatable Hero
posted August 17, 2013 04:47 AM

Elodin:
You agreed to marry your wife, and she agreed to marry you. I assume no one held a gun to either of your heads. The same is not true of the state - someone could refuse to to make any agreements with it, but would still be subject to its laws.
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blizzardboy
blizzardboy


Honorable
Undefeatable Hero
Nerf Herder
posted August 17, 2013 06:26 AM
Edited by blizzardboy at 06:53, 17 Aug 2013.

It takes A LOT for a corrupt state to be a worse evil than an anarchy, so tax avoidance seems like a rather extraordinary scenario. More often than not it's a self-deceiving strawman that people erect in order to feel comfortable with tax avoidance (i.e. my country is corrupt anyway, boo hoo hoo), and they make the state - and everybody - even worse off as a result. 21st century Greece.

It's probably more likely that some kind of political upheaval or even revolution would take place before you get would ever get to such a point.

So as I see it, the answer is more-or-less no. Tax avoidance is not okay. If its reached the point of desperation where tax avoidance sounds prudent, and not just a strawman justification to pocket the money, you should probably be either participating in a coup or fleeing the country as a refugee. I'm not an expert on international politics, but I do know a thing or two, and based on my current understanding of the world, North Korea is the only country that I believe would meet these standards. The government is literally slowly killing them. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and even the African quasi-dictatorships are all functional enough that tax avoidance seems ungrounded.
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"Folks, I don't trust children. They're here to replace us."

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Elodin
Elodin


Promising
Legendary Hero
Free Thinker
posted August 17, 2013 07:36 AM

mvassilev said:
Elodin:
You agreed to marry your wife, and she agreed to marry you. I assume no one held a gun to either of your heads. The same is not true of the state - someone could refuse to to make any agreements with it, but would still be subject to its laws.


If you think your nation is so evil that you should not pay taxes I'd advising fleeing your nation.

A person who does not pay taxes is stealing from the citizens who do. Taxes support the roads and bridges that you drive on. You don't drive?  They support the roads that the buses you ride drive on and support the buses as well. They support the police who protect you and the military that protects your nation, and thus you. Ect.

You'll never live with another person or be a part of any community or nation that is in 100% agreement about everything.
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Revelation

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mvassilev
mvassilev


Responsible
Undefeatable Hero
posted August 17, 2013 07:55 AM

If my plumber does things I don't like, I don't have to flee my house to escape him. But if my government does things I don't like, why do I have to flee?
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Zenofex
Zenofex


Responsible
Legendary Hero
Kreegan-atheist
posted August 17, 2013 09:37 AM

There is nothing wrong with taxation ideally as the taxes are supposed to be returned back to you and the community in some form. The execution of this idea is where all the things get flawed, as with the execution of any idea. The main problem is usually that the taxpayers have little to no say about what their money are being spent on - the state makes this decision largely independently and not necessarily efficiently in regard to the results. There's also the issue - quite a serious one by the way - with the corruption and the sinking of public tax money into private pockets and the inflating of certain public goods/services which almost always follow such practices. That said, public funding ultimately requires public supervision in order to be kept at least somewhat society-orientated.

On the other hand, tax avoidance can be morally excused only if you simply can't afford to pay your taxes and still be able to feed yourself/your family. The attempts to avoid taxation just to keep your 50 million $ from becoming 40 million $, maintain an artificially large percent of profit or gain a competitive advantage due to lower prices is immoral and should be chased with much greater consistence than it is now.

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