When Does Theft Turn into Taxation?

The Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Portland crowds are demanding that “rich people” pay their “fair share” of taxes. While it’s arguable that high-income taxpayers are paying well beyond their “fair share” already, perhaps we should take a step back and look at taxation in a different light.

I recently noted that a Portland City Hall staffer lists as his favorite quote a statement made by Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand:

“Everyone has the right to make his own decisions, but none has the right to force his decisions on others.”

So, do you have the right to take your neighbor’s car just because you decide that you want to drive it? No, most of us would call that theft.

What if you and three of your friends decide to take your neighbor’s car and drive it? Is that OK?

What if you and those same three friends decide to take your neighbor’s car and give it to a poor person who has no transportation? Does your noble intent make your actions OK?

What if you and three thousand people decide to take the car and give it to that poor person? How about thirty thousand people voting to making that decision?

So, at what point does the immoral act of theft become the moral act of taxation?

The occupiers, and all of us, might want to think about such questions before demanding that anyone give up something they own without their consent.

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.