The other move on property

In my prior post, I wrote about the way that the involuntary coercive violence inherent in property ownership means that those who advocate it cannot consistently oppose taxes on the grounds that taxation is involuntary coercive violence. Here I want to detail one thing libertarians can and have done, in some of my engagements, to deal with that problem.

Since it is undeniable that property is involuntary coercive violence, that point is technically conceded. Sure, they admit, when you walk out into the city, 90% of the space is excluded from you without your consent (involuntary), and should you disobey that exclusion, the police will be called to enforce it (coercive violence). But, they continue, this is not that serious. It’s not like someone is attacking you or yelling threats at you. It’s just that there are some places you can and cannot go, but you live and it’s basically fine.

So the move here is basically to say that while you can describe property as involuntary coercive violence, it’s really pretty tame in reality.

But that point whips right back on to taxes. Nobody sits there and actively puts guns to anyone’s heads. Sales taxes come at point of sale. Income taxes are withheld. You know they exist and what the rules are before you go out and do anything. We can, in a stylized fashion, describe it as involuntary coercive violence, but in reality it’s just not that serious and essentially peaceful. You live and it’s basically fine.

The actual argument here against the libertarian anti-tax silliness is not necessarily that property is this intolerable involuntary violent coercion. It is that taxes and property are procedurally similar. So you can’t object to taxes on procedural grounds without objecting to property on procedural grounds. How you actually want to describe those processes (whether some stylized aggressive violence or mundane not so serious limitation) does not ultimately matter. That description will apply equally to both and so there will be no procedural way to argue against taxes but for property.