(Anderson 2005) How not to complain about taxes (1)

Anderson, Elizabeth. How not to complain about taxes (1). Left2Right. 2005 Jan 6. Available from: http://left2right.typepad.com/main/2005/01/how_not_to_comp.html. Accessed 2012 Dec 5. Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6ChQq6a1f.

Anderson expounds John Locke’s classic theory of a natural right of private property, set forth in his Treatises of Government, to refute libertarian claims that taxation is theft, or that taxation can only be justified by assuming that the government owns all property to begin with. She notes first that property ownership does not exclude legitimate obligations to others, which can require the owner to part with private property in order to satisfy such claims. The rest of Anderson’s argument is addressed to minarchist libertarians (those who believe that a minimal state is needed), excluding “bomb-throwing anarchist[s]”. She points out that Locke’s theory of natural property rights was embedded within, and subordinate to, his liberal theory of the public good and of human welfare. Locke was no minarchist; his state’s charter provided for the protection not only of private property, but principally of the lives and welfare of individuals, and recognized that such preeminent goals would require restrictions on property ownership and the making of contracts:

Locke’s point is not just that some kind of entitlement-based welfare system is required by morality and built into the structure of natural property rights (the poor have a title to what they need).  It’s also that, to prevent a free property system from degenerating into feudalism, constraints on freedom of contract are required.  Just as contracts into slavery are invalid, contracts into vassalage are.  People are not entitled to use their superior bargaining power to drive others to the wall, or into subjection.

Anderson notes that she herself rejects Locke’s theory, and all theories of natural property rights, but insists that even those who accept such theories are not justified in rejecting taxation as immoral.



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