When you read Spooner’s arguments, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that he seems to be in the right. We are at the point now where Spooner investigates whether, by, paying taxes, if any man commits himself to support the Constitution.
Spooner makes four points. Number one is about taxes, the nature of government, and people’s perception of what government actually is. Let me take a quote from his first argument:
“It is true that the theory of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid voluntarily; that our government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily entered into by the people with each other; that each man makes a free and purely voluntary contract with all others who are parties to the Constitution, to pay so much money for so much protection, the same as he does with any other insurance company; and that he is just as free not to be protected, and not to pay any tax, as he is to pay a tax, and be protected.
But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a high-wayman, says to a man: your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat” (pp. 19).
Before I address directly Spooner’s argument, is this not the norm for what society thinks that government is? that “we” all, at some point (whenever that was) sat around a table and said, “we as a collective think that this is the best way to structure society.” for those who are not acquainted with the nature of the government and where government came from, please read a book by Franz Oppenheimer called The State. It is free at mises.org.
And as Spooner points out later in the chapter, this is nonsense. The government does not, like the highway robber, waylay a man in a lonely place and then leave. The government and its agents pretend that they have a rightful claim to your money and claim that they intend to use it for your benefit. furthermore, the robber has not, “acquired imprudence enough to profess to be merely a ‘protector,’ and that he takes money against their will, merely to enable him to ‘protect’ those infatuated travelers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of perfection” (pp. 19).
Spooner makes several points about the difference between the workings of the robber and the government, but in brevity this is it- the government not only robs you against your will, but then follows you around for the rest of your life and professes to be your protector.
Also, the robber takes upon himself the sole responsibility of the robbery that takes place. He makes himself known to his victims and accepts full responsibility for his acts. Governments on the contrary, “secretly designate some of their number to commit the robbery on their behalf” (pp.20).
So, not only is the government and its policies economically destructive, (which we can deduce through study of Austrian economics) but it is cowardly at well. Does any member of congress come to your door personally and say, “The US government requires 40% of your income. Pay up.”? No, of course not. They hire a corporation called the IRS and the IRS sends its goons to your door to collect your property if you resist.
I would have liked to see Spooner as a libertarian comedian. As you will see in the next quote, you will see that the folly of the concept of “voluntary” government is evil, yes- but to really analyze and break it down to its simplest terms it is hilariously absurd. Again, I’m really sorry to have to put down such a long quote, but it is short and well worth the read.
“They [the government] say to the person thus designated: go to a— b—, and say to him that ‘the government’ has need of money to meet the expenses of protecting him and his property. if he presumes to say that he has never contracted with us to protect him, and that he wants none of our protection, say to him that that is our business, and not his; that we choose to protect him, whether he desires us to do so or not; and that we demand pay, too, for protecting him.
If he dares to inquire who the individuals are, who have thus taken upon themselves the title of ‘the government,’ and who assume to protect him, and demand payment of him, without his having ever made any contract with them, say to him that that, too, is our business, and not his; that we do not choose to make ourselves individually known to him; that we have secretly (by secret ballot) appointed you our agent to give him notice of our demands, and, if he complies with them, to give him, in our name, a receipt that will protect him against any similar demand for the present year. If he refuses to comply, seize and sell enough of his property to pay not only our demands, but all your own expenses and trouble beside.
If he resists the seizure of his property, call upon the bystanders to help you (doubtless some of them will prove to be members of our band). If, in defending his property, he should kill any of our band who are assisting you, capture him at all hazards; charge him (in one of our courts) with murder, convict him, and hang him. If he should call upon his neighbors, or any others who, like him, may be disposed to resist our demands, and they should come in large numbers to his assistance, cry out that they are all rebels and traitors; that ‘our country’ is in danger; call upon the commander of our hired murderers; tell him to quell the rebellion and ‘save the country,’ cost what it may.
Tell him to kill all who resist, though they should be hundreds of thousands; and thus strike terror into all others similarly disposed. See that the work of murder is thoroughly done, that we may have no further trouble of this kind hereafter. When these traitors shall have thus been taught our strength and our determination, they will be good loyal citizens for many years, and pay their taxes without a why or a wherefore” (pp. 20).
It occurred to me as it never had before when Spooner writes that the agent of the government says “we’re going to protect you and we need your money”, and if you resist, the response is more or less, “we’re going to protect you whether you like it or not. And you’re going to pay us for it, whether you like it or not. That’s our business.”
an honest reading and investigation into the nature of government can only lead to an acceptance of this truth, whether uncomfortable or not, and then hopefully to a bit of laughter at how absurd it is to call a system of this nature a “free republic”, “the last bastion of freedom”, etc.
The most disturbing part of this passage is this, and I’m going to repost it because it is conerning to me, not just in theory, but because this is exactly what has happened so many times in history during tax rebellions, civil wars (rightly called or not), actual wars, etc. “If he should call upon his neighbors, or any others who, like him, may be disposed to resist our demands, and they should come in large numbers to his assistance, cry out that they are all rebels and traitors; that ‘our country’ is in danger; call upon the commander of our hired murderers; tell him to quell the rebellion and ‘save the country,’ cost what it may. Tell him to kill all who resist, though they should be hundreds of thousands; and thus strike terror into all others similarly disposed. See that the work of murder is thoroughly done, that we may have no further trouble of this kind hereafter. When these traitors shall have thus been taught our strength and our determination, they will be good loyal citizens for many years, and pay their taxes without a why or a wherefore” (pp. 20-21).
This chapter puts forth an argument against taxation as evidence of support to the government and its Constitution, and ends up being a scorching account of the true nature of government. If you have not read The Real Lincoln by Thomas Dilorenzo, I highly recommend it. After you read that book, come back and read this one quote. This quote from Spooner perfectly reflects what happened during the “Civil War” in the late 19th century. It was not about slavery; it was about Lincoln and the mercantilist northern political machine’s quest for an overarching and powerful central government. In essence, this is exactly what the north said to justify its invasion of the peaceful southern states, which, as the union was a voluntary one, had as much right to leave the union as they had to enter.
“Kill all who resist, though they should be hundreds of thousands…see that the work of murder is thoroughly done; that we may have no further trouble of this kind hereafter. When these traitors shall have thus been taught our strength and determination, they will be good loyal citizens for many years, and pay their taxes without a why or wherefore (italics mine)” (pp. 20-21).
The War of Northern Aggression was not fought over slavery- it was fought over the tariffs that were being forced by the mercantilist North on the South, crippling the Southern economy. The “Civil War” was not fought over slavery- it was fought over taxes and in which part of the country they would be collected. Has any state in the union since ever thought of attempting to secede? No. The work of murder was thoroughly done and all those in the future who thought to attempt secession were met with the brutal history of the war, replete with stories of vicious suppression of anti-war protesters, massacring of southern civilians, the shutting down of newspapers, etc.