One of my favourite books which is truly instructive regarding libertarian thought is Auberon Herbert’s, “The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State.” To my mind, the most eye-catching word in that title is ‘compulsion’ because that word implies enforced cooperation, a concept which is anathema to all libertarians.
Another of my favourite books is “Free to Choose” by Milton and Rose Friedman. That title would seem to embody the heart and soul of libertarianism. When we are “Free to Choose” our own path, we enjoy control of our minds and our actions. To the degree that coercion replaces freedom, we are under compulsion – and most libertarians appear to believe that it is governments which are the most frequent – and ominous – and powerful – practitioners of compulsion Ergo, the title of Mr. Herbert’s book.
Herbert was an advocate of the writings of another historic libertarian author, Herbert Spencer, whose best-known title is “The Man Versus the State.” In that book, Spencer offers a concise definition of the anti-liberty restrictions commonly imposed against freedom by virtually all government rules, laws and regulations. These are:
1 – Something we may wish to perform, we may no longer be able to do so.
2 – Something we may wish NOT to perform, we are now COMPELLED to do so.
3 – In order to create and impose these regulations, some portion of or income must be turned over to the government via coercive taxation to be spent as bureaucrats decide and not as we would FREELY decide for ourselves.
While there is much to discuss regarding rules, laws and regulations it is the actions of governments to impose taxation on the general public that is my present focus – and for early examples, I turn back to ancient times – as described in both the Old Testament and the New Testament of our bibles.
I am well aware that many libertarians are not overly concerned with biblical teachings as instructions regarding how to live our lives, but there are two verses I came across through which the Bible points out just how historic has been the nature of taxation and how it has been used to control behaviours through the ages.
The first example comes from the Book of “Exodus”, Chapter 1, Verse 11 which describes the various bondages Egypt’s Pharaoh decided to impose on the Children of Israel. It reads, “…Therefore they set over them tax gatherers (some say ‘taskmasters’) to afflict them with their burdens and they built for pharaoh treasure cities…”
Let’s fast forward about 1,200 years to the time of the birth of Jesus. Luke 2, verses 1-3 reads, “…And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed…and all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.”
These two quotes – if they are indeed accurate representations of ancient government methods – show us just how endemic was the practise of rulers ruthlessly taxing general populations in those times and any cursory examination of the subject would suggest that the practise has never ceased to be a major consideration of political actions, regardless of the manner in which we are governed.
In fact, a strong argument can be made that the politicians of today, particularly of the left, tell us how grateful we should be since it is massive taxation (although they seldom use the world ‘enforced’) which allows them to provide all the wonderful services of government.
To my freedom-loving mind, the acceptance of this doctrine by many among the public is one of the greatest struggles facing our international libertarian community.