Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Matt Bruenig on “Taxation is Theft”

Matt Bruenig on “Taxation is Theft” - George J. Dance, Nolan Chart:

June 25, 2017 - "The other day, while searching for new writing by my favorite progressive troll, Washington lawyer and online pundit Matt Bruenig, I stumbled across this blog headline: “Matthew Bruenig Dismantles the ‘Taxation Is Theft’ Slogan.” Always intrigued by a new Bruenig argument, I clicked on the link, and then on a second link to Bruenig’s original article.

"The argument of this article, 'Violence, Property, Theft and Entitlement,' is, like most Bruenig arguments, one by definition.

"Bruenig starts by giving his own definition of theft, which he calls “a straightforward definition of theft as a forceful taking: Theft occurs when (1) you threaten or use force against someone (2) to exclude them from scarce material resources (3) without their consent.”

"Despite the misleading headline on the fanblog, this definition does not ‘Dismantle the “Taxation Is Theft” Slogan.’ On the contrary, as Bruenig cheerfully acknowledges, “Under this definition of theft, clearly taxes qualify.'

"Like most Bruenig definitions, though, this one is not ‘straightforward.’ Condition (1) is one both libertarians and Bruenig-style progressives would deny: libertarians because by that definition both forcibly stopping a thief and forcibly recovering stolen property would be theft; progressives, because they deny that pure property crimes are uses of force: 'The scenario he described involves no force (strictly defined) because no body has been attacked.'

"Nor is this definition of Bruenig’s one ‘of theft as a forceful taking.’ In condition (2) he does not even use the word ‘take,’ opting for the much weaker  and over-broad ‘exclude’ instead; under this condition, not only taking property, but forcibly preventing it from being taken would be labelled ‘theft’, which is simply inaccurate. Armed soldiers guarding a military arsenal are not stealing the weapons, even though they are excluding intruders by military force. Property owners who post 'Trespassers will be prosecuted' signs are not acting as thieves, even though they are excluding trespassers by threatening legal force.

"Indeed, since Bruenig claims that all property ownership is implicitly based on exclusion by state violence, his definition implies that all property ownership is theft. Unsurprisingly, this is the very implication that he teases out: that, given his definition, 'A principled stand against force, coercion, aggression, and so on thus requires the conclusion that property is theft in the same sense as taxes are theft.'"

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