Last Wednesday, I received my first paycheck in nearly two years. As it is with each paycheck that I receive, there was a mixed sense of accomplishment and indignation for the numbers on that tiny slip of paper – accomplishment for the pay I was receiving for my labor and indignation for the pay I would not be getting due to taxes.
However, unlike when I was 17, something caught my eye that caused me to first smirk, and then to laugh in utter contempt at the accidental honesty regarding how my pay and taxes were labeled – “Earnings” and “Withholdings.” After seeing that, it is no wonder that most employees at the mill I work at simply opt to have their pay directly deposited into the bank. I certainly would not want to see the unobscured truth about taxes on regular basis either if I was not first armed with the knowledge that it is something that can be changed.
You see, there was never a more appropriate way to label one’s paychecks because the language is so precisely correct and completely unambiguous. The words represent exactly what they mean: our earnings are every penny that we have achieved, i.e., earned, through our productive labor and trades in values between employee and employer; our withholdings are everything that we have earned but are still being kept, i.e., withheld, from us. Existentially, all of it is ours – we earned it and we are entitled to it, yet, through government force, we are being kept from enjoying it as we please.
This is the moral flaw in every kind of tax – it is obtained through initiated force, the metaphysical opponent to reason, liberty, and the requirements for man’s survival. Force inhibits man’s rational value judgments and prohibits him from pursuing them. Not only that, but in the case of our Progressive income tax and welfare system, it entirely distorts his perceptions of what ought to be good (high productivity) and what ought to be bad (depravity). Since man’s ability to weigh costs and benefits based on the consequences of a given action is inhibited through government intervention, so too are his abilities to make rational, productive decisions that even the government relies on to survive. In essence, this kind of doctrine is self-defeating because it punishes that which is necessary for its continuance.
Ethically, man should be able to keep 100% of that which he produces. No, I do not mean that in the socialistic sense – that an employee at a car plant should be able to keep the cars he helps build – but I do mean it in the sense that two producers should be free to reach a trade of values between one another without any outside interference through force: the employee produces the labor and the employer produces the conditions necessary for that job, or the seller produces a product and the customer produces payment to purchase that product. Money, in turn, is the representation of a produced value and can be exchanged for any other product provided that the value of that product matches the amount of value inherent in the money (by definition, the U.S. Dollar is not money because it has almost no store of value under our current system).
To date, there has been no entirely moral government to exist on the face of the earth – they have all survived through some sort of compulsive taxation. However, just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that it should continue to be done a certain way. Instead, a push for pure capitalism, i.e., a system in which the government is totally divorced from the economy should be pursued. Funding for moral governments, i.e., governments that respect individual rights, could be acquired through government lotteries (which are volitional) or other means such as businessmen choosing to pay a certain, objective percentage of the exchanges in their contracts if they want them to be upheld in court in case any issues arise (which serves the dual purpose of volitional government funding and rewarding businessmen that are continually honest so that they would not require that extra protection). However the funding is achieved, it should be remembered that it is socialism, not capitalism, that is the system of the past – capitalism is the system of the future.
But until capitalism can be fully realized, our earnings will not be truly ours. So long as a portion of them is involuntarily withheld by the government, we do not work for ourselves – we work for them.