Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Income Tax, Military, and the Voluntary Society

Brian Duffy over at The Miami Valley Conservative Alliance shows off his fundamental love of All-Things Government. In a recent post, he comments on the idea that military people should be exempt from paying income tax, as an incentive to join the Armed Services.

Of course, he contradicts himself when he says:

The bottom-line is that we need men and women to serve in our armed forces. We all know that the work is not very appealing, and is usually arduous. For instance, Ohioans have built roads in Honduras, patrolled the streets of Baghdad, and waded through polluted water saving lives on the Gulf Coast. Yet its not incentives they join for; it’s the service and comradeship, which is most often missing from the civilian sector.

So, people don’t join the military because of incentives…but we should throw out more incentives to get people to join?

But I think there are a couple of bigger points to be made here that show more insidious aspects to the Conservative thought-process. The first, is the assumption only people employed by the State are providing a “service” to American society. Presumably, those working in the private sector are just concerned with fulfilling their selfish desires, building wealth for themselves, and only themselves. There is no "comraderie" in the private sector. There are no mutually beneficial, supportive, cooperative relationships, and corresponding social institutions which cultivate such relationships, formed by civilians. No. The private sector is merely a dog-eat-dog world, a war of all-against-all where individuals exploit each other, lying, cheating, and stealing their way to riches and glory. This is an argument Collectivists have long used when criticizing the voluntarist society.

Of course, this view is fundamentally flawed in the sense that, in the private sector, one only is able to secure wealth through service to others; others who voluntarilyy desire to trade for one’s creative energies. When a plumber, a doctor, a taxi-cab driver, or an actor goes to work, he or she is expending his/her energies in ways that the rest of society values and desires. In the private sector, one only “gets rich” if one first serves the needs of others. It matters not what one thinks of the particular service being rendered; society, as a whole, through the sum total of individual buying and selling activities, freely expresses what it desires to have on any given day. And it’s everyday, and everyone in society, when these votes are being cast.

Duffy’s view is completely backwards. The State, because it operates via coercion, does not provide any service to society; not in any meaningful sense, anyway, because what the political authorities decide to give you has no fundamental connection to whether or not you want said service. If there is one lesson to be learned from Social Security, it would be that. Anything "provided" by the State is done so at gun point. You will have this good or service whether you like it, or value it, or not. And you will pay for it, too. In a political system, you get rich by plundering others, not by providing a service of value.

Which brings me to a second point. Duffy says, we “need men and women to serve in our armed forces”. In fact, he even makes the point that we “need” the police, as well. Sure, one might agree that the generic provision of “protection” is a service most people value to some degree or another. But Duffy assumes that such services can only be provided by the State. In keeping with his general distaste for the workings of the private sector (or, at the very least, his fundamental misunderstanding), the idea that the private sector can provide “security” falls outside of his imagination.

Furthermore, in light of the history of American foreign policy over the past 100 years, there is a circular logic that invades his reasoning. The American government meddles in places around the globe, propping up foreign dictators who brutalize their people, and a whole slew of other not-so-nice actions that are the direct cause for so much enmity toward Americans, leading to events like 9-11-01. And yet, we need these same politicians, with their military enforcers, to protect us from the enemies they’ve created?

But the bottom line is… if we truly “need” police and military, why are they funded by compulsory taxes, and not through voluntary contract? If its so clearly obvious that the police and the military are providing an invaluable service, without which, our entire country would up and disappear in a cloud of smoke tomorrow, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that most individuals would recognize this clear fact, and pony up to voluntarily buy something that it is in their interest, and desires, to have? After all, that’s what those greedy civilian sector people are doing when they work to enrich themselves, instead of selflessly “serving” American society, right? Or do these hyper-greedy private sector brigands possess a flawed sense of calculus, to which our heroic Duffy and his politicians will come to the rescue and provide us something we all were too stupid to recOgnize was "for our own good".

The last point regards the use of the income as a tool for social engineering. He implicitly acknowledges that the income tax is, and ought to BE, a power the State retains in order to engage in the act of organizing society to harmonize with the desires of the political class. Need more bodies for the War Machine? Abolishing taxes for military personnel is just the solution. Of course, he doesn’t take any issue with the income tax, per se. Presumably, he’s ok with this Marxist carrot-on-a-stick, as the rest of his post extols the virtues of the outcome of such a policy, which he so obviously supports, and which would only work providing the rest of us working schmucks were to still be kept under the boot of such a tax (otherwise, there’s not relative benefit to joining the military). My view, however, is the income tax is immoral, and should be abolished - for everyone. That a so-called “Conservative” fully and implicitly embraces it as an effective tool speaks volumes for the priorities Conservatives have, and their view of liberty itself.

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