I have recently learnt that taxation is opposed by libertarians and that they the cite the principle of self - possession to justify this, an interesting argument along these lines equated taxation to slavery.

My question is this: If taxation is thought of as society taking it's due from an individual for maintaining order and thereby preserving the rights of an individual, then surely taxes should be paid as they in a sense help preserve an individuals rights. So, shouldn't then taxation be supported?

An illustration to show how the rights of an individual are preserved: each person has the right to drive on the road provided he does not obstruct his fellow men, so now assuming no taxes are collected then a government may not be able to provide good roads for the citizens wherein their right to move on the road would be hampered.

Thus, one can in this rather crude example how taxation may help in the preserving of rights of the people.

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    Can you give us a citation for the claim that libertarians do not support any taxation whatsoever... this seems to disagree with a cursory google search. Also, where is the philosophical question in this?
    – virmaior
    Commented May 24, 2014 at 15:45
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    See here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_as_theft
    – prash
    Commented May 24, 2014 at 16:36
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    @prash that actually doesn't succeed in answering what I'm saying. The question should probably be reworded to ask about anarcho-capitalists. According to most libertarians, minimal taxes will be a necessary evil...
    – virmaior
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 1:59
  • @prash That link has some intersection with some libertarians but it doesn't seem to be a core principle of libertarianism. Do you know anything about libertarianism?
    – user4894
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 3:18
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    Walter Block wrote a 500 page book, The Privatization of Roads and Highways, on how the roads could be transitioned to private management. Also, you seem to assume government = society. From some libertarian views (ancap), the government is viewed as a leach on society rather than a representative. For more on this perspective, see Rothbard's Anatomy of the State, an essay that I strongly recommend for anyone even slightly interested in liberalism even if just to argue against it.
    – Tyler
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 23:36

5 Answers 5


Robert Nozick, I believe, was the first to propose an argument for something like this, in his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia, pg. 169-172. I quote from pg. 169:

Taxation of earnings from labor is on a par with forced labor. Some persons find this claim obviously true: taking the earnings of n hours labor is like taking n hours from the person; it is like forcing the person to work n hours for another’s purpose. Others find the claim absurd. But even these, if they object to forced labor, would oppose forcing unemployed hippies to work for the benefit of the needy. And they would also object to forcing each person to work five extra hours each week for the benefit of the needy.

To address a question asked in one of the comments, the core principle of libertarianism is non-initiation of violence. The various factions differ in whether and when they would choose to make exceptions to this principle.

I'll answer some of the questions more directly.

If taxation is thought of as society taking it's due from an individual for maintaining order and thereby preserving the rights of an individual, then surely taxes should be paid as they in a sense help preserve an individuals rights. So, shouldn't then taxation be supported?

I have come across two different points of view on this. The minarchist view, roughly, is that the government's sole role is protection from internal and external aggressors and threats, and to maintain courts for arbitration between citizens. The minarchist view is that charitable donations from the rich and willing is enough to support such a government, as was the case in the past, in quite a few societies. The Ancap view is that even such security should be subscription based. For example, Rothbard argues in For a New Liberty:

... there is no absolute commodity called “police protection” any more than there is an absolute single commodity called “food” or “shelter.” It is true that everyone pays taxes for a seemingly fixed quantity of protection, but this is a myth. In actual fact, there are almost infinite degrees of all sorts of protection. For any given person or business, the police can provide everything from a policeman on the beat who patrols once a night, to two policemen patrolling constantly on each block, to cruising patrol cars, to one or even several round-the-clock personal bodyguards. Furthermore, there are many other decisions the police must make, the complexity of which becomes evident as soon as we look beneath the veil of the myth...

If you look around for more literature on the matter, other books and other authors show examples of where and when such a setup has worked, albeit for some aspects of society.

An illustration to show how the rights of an individual are preserved: each person has the right to drive on the road provided he does not obstruct his fellow men, so now assuming no taxes are collected then a government may not be able to provide good roads for the citizens wherein their right to move on the road would be hampered.

Generally, both minarchists and Ancaps are opposed to the government running roads, infrastructure, etc. They envision a scenario where such infrastructure would be privately owned, and fee- or subscription-based. The owners of these infrastructures would come up with their own rules of behaviour for use of their facilities. We see this all around us, in a limited way already. For example, if you work on the shop-floor of a reputed company, the safety training and regulations that the company has in place are usually far more stringent and sensible than what a government official would envision. If you're going to be using multi-million dollar equipment, the company ensures that you have been trained to utilize it safely and effectively. Speaking of infrastructure, toll-roads are quite common in many countries. Speaking from an Indian perspective, I see that private (toll) roads are generally better maintained and better run than government roads.

  • so, in a sense libertarianism is for privitazation of the country? Commented May 25, 2014 at 5:32
  • @user3660112: only some kinds of libertarianism. Ancaps don't even want "countries".
    – prash
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 5:42

As a libertarian, let me clarify some things here. There are several different political philosophies that can be placed under the libertarian banner. These include classical liberalism, minarchism, anarcho-capitalism, and several others. The scope of government preferred in each philosophy ranges from a small regulatory state with a minimal social safety net all the way to no government at all.

Generally, libertarians who oppose the idea of taxation oppose it because taxation violates the non-aggression principle (or NAP). Not all libertarians buy into the NAP. Some choose to be libertarian for more pragmatic reason (like David Friedman). There's significant debate between these libertarian factions.

One thing to keep in mind in regards to libertarians supporting taxation is the fact that there are ways to fund a government that do not require the initiation of force (ie. Taxes). Examples include lotteries, user fees, and private donations.

So to more directly answer your question:

Libertarians who dislike taxes don't believe taxation is necessary to preserve social order. Some groups prefer voluntary funding of a minimalist state and others prefer the hiring of private police or insurance companies to protect their rights. A common misconception with libertarians is that we don't support socially beneficial goods like roads, education, charity, order, etc... because we don't like to use force (taxes) to obtain them. We take issue with the means, not the ends.

  • if taxes are seen as society taking its due from an individual for providing him with necessities, is it fine with libertarians? Another question, what is meant by user fees? Commented May 25, 2014 at 5:21
  • A user fee is a voluntary payment for a government service. For example, in many states, you pay a fee to access the state park system. A more common example is the fee you pay to register your car. This approach is often used for companies that access government data, like MVR records or other vital records.
    – Dustin E
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 12:39
  • Libertarians generally reject the idea that taxes are "society taking it's due from an individual". Either taxes represent a necessary evil, which should be minimized, or taxes are a violation of basic human liberty, and are immoral. To a libertarian, terms like "society" (or even "corporation") have no real meaning. A society is merely a group of individuals.
    – Dustin E
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 12:44
  • I just would like to know what is the rationale behind libertarians rejecting the idea of society taking its due from an individual. Nobody better than a libertarian to explain this. Commented May 27, 2014 at 8:22
  • I touched upon it in my last comment. The basic idea is that there is no single entity known as "society", therefore there is no reason for "society to take it's due". There are only individuals and aggregates of those individuals. Rights can only be assigned to individual people. If you really want to understand libertarian philosophy, you should check out libertarianism.org
    – Dustin E
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 12:16

This question misses the point of libertarianism, hence the example is misconstrued.

  1. In a libertarian society there is no government that is building roads.

  2. Lets suppose there is a minimal state, consisting of some kind of court-system and a police. Then libertarians would agree that its ok to pay taxes for maintaining that government. They just don't like the taxes our governments impose upon us.

  • could you please be clear as to what do you mean by the 'taxes the goverment imposes on us'. I also would like to know who would then maintain such necessities as roads etc. if there is no government to maintain them. Commented May 24, 2014 at 17:10
  • @Lukas, Libertarians oppose having the government build roads? And they oppose the existence of government altogether? Perhaps you could share authoritative references for those claims.
    – user4894
    Commented May 24, 2014 at 17:52
  • This article backs up my claims. Note that it is only one branch of libertarianism. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minarchist
    – Lukas
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 9:36

People forget that libertarianism - similar to belief systems like capitalism and communism - is a vague system with various different versions and types generally based around having a less oppressive government. Some forms of libertarianism - like geolibertarianism - are based around having some form of taxation to fund a nightwatchman state or government with a horizontal hierarchy an organizational structure with few or no levels of middle management between the average person and those in charge). For libertarians like this, the issue is more of a hatred of having taxes where you have little to no direct say in the revenue & how it is spent. Libertarian L.K. Samuels - for example - wrote about the "Rulers' Paradox" and argued not against the very concept of taxation, but the idea that certain governments and representatives can implement a tax & essentially spend it on whatever they want with little input from the people.


I think the real point for libertarians, and something they probably haven't taken the time to voice, is simple: they simply don't feel part of the government, so they don't feel they should be taxed by it.

Now that's a weak position, on their part in my opinion, but nearly every American has the same fault: very few people understand the purpose and potential of the U.S. Constitution and very few people have lived up to either their own responsibility for maintaining these principles, or have simply have not understood it enough to attain competency.

So in the absence of any competency, a person rightly will feel resistance to paying taxes. But then, it's philosophically lame for them to proceed to pay taxes, when they shouldn't be afraid of their own government.

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    Wow. How condescending.
    – Preston
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 23:50

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