Why I Refuse to Register (To Vote or Pay Taxes)
Number 100 - Oct 1999
To the Editor of The Voluntaryist, I am anonymously sending this
letter to you after looking at The Voluntaryist website while surfing
the internet. It appears that my ideas might fit somehow with what you call voluntaryism.
I am one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't file tax returns or
voluntarily pay taxes. I'm writing this letter to explain something that you
and your readers may not be aware of. The reasons for not filing tax returns
or voluntarily paying taxes, and not voting, are similar.
They are similar in that both taxes and voting are activities that demand involvement
with that coercive institution known as government. Government exercises a monopoly
of legal control over a certain geographic area. This encompasses coercive monopolization
of the major services that it provides us. To fund these services, the government
unilaterally imposes a compulsory levy upon us. These "taxes" are not
based on the amount of service the government provides us, nor upon our request
for them. (The government does not offer us the opportunity to do without a particular
service, or shop elsewhere for it, or to negotiate the price.) It doesn't care
if we didn't want the service, didn't use all that was offered, or simply refused
it altogether. The government declares it a crime if we refuse to pay all or
part of "our share." It attempts to punish this refusal by making us
serve time in jail or confiscating some of our property, or both.
The main reason, however, why I refuse to pay taxes is that I don't want to
give my sanction to the government. I, for one, do not consent to our particular
government, nor do I want to support any coercive institution. I object, on principle,
to the forced collection of taxes because taxes are a euphemism for stealing.
(By stealing, I mean taking another person's property without his voluntary consent.)
Stealing is not an activity that leads to social harmony or prosperity. Stealing
is anti-life. It is not an activity that can be universalized. If it were, it
would result in death and destruction for all. Furthermore, "stealing"
or "taxation" is wasteful. Everyone agrees that government money is
spent unwisely, wastefully, and on at least some project(s) which would not be
voluntarily supported by some taxpayers. But, even if the spending were not wasteful
or for some improper purpose, I would still object strenuously because taxes
are theft. In other words, I object to the means (the compulsion used by government)
- regardless of how efficiently the money is spent or what it is spent on. I
do not want it said about me that I cooperated with the government.
Similarly, I refuse to participate in the electoral process (I simply refuse
to register to vote) because I do not want it ever said that I supported the
state. When you play a game, you agree to abide by the rules and accept the outcome.
Well, I simply refuse to play, and in clear conscience can say that I am not
bound by the outcome. Furthermore, there [are] many reprehensible activities
taken by the government (you choose your own example) which I do not wish to
support. Governments need legitimacy, and one of the major means of establishing
legitimacy is to claim that the voters support the government. Just imagine if
everyone refused to vote and pay taxes. Government would shrivel up. But, before
that happened legislators at every level would probably pass laws that would
make voting compulsory. This has already happened in some countries.
I recently read an article by Charles Reich (from his column, "Reflections,"
on "The Limits of Duty") that appeared in the June 19, 1971 issue of
The New Yorker. It was written during the Vietnam era, when many draft-age
college students were resisting conscription into the United States military
forces. Reich wrote:
Perhaps the best way to understand those who have resisted the draft - by
seeking conscientious-objector status, by going to jail, by fleeing to Canada
- is to acknowledge that they are demanding to live and to be judged by the old
standards as fully responsible moral beings. They are seeking law, not evading
it. Finding no acceptable standard of conduct available in today's organizational
society, they have gone to standards that are not their own personal fiat but
the old, traditional standards of religion, ethics, and common law. They are
saying that they refuse to act in a way that common experience tells them will
produce evil - evil that we know about or should know about. (emphasis added,
In other words, in refusing to "register" to pay taxes, I am going
back to "the old, traditional standards of religion, ethics, common law,"
and common sense. I am refusing to act in a way that produces or contributes
to evil. I rest my case.