When the law interferes with people’s pursuit of their own values, they will try to find a way around. They will evade the law, they will break the law, or they will leave the country. Few of us believe in a moral code that justifies forcing people to give up much of what they produce to finance payments to persons they do not know for purposes they may not approve of.

—Milton Friedman. Free to Choose, 1979.

High levels of taxation spawn ever more ingenious attempts to avoid paying taxes, leading to ever more complex tax codes. To achieve their immoral ends, these tax codes become ever more vague and pedantic. This makes the law unclear, contradictory, absurd and unfair; the people never quite know where they stand. They become subject to the whims of judges and bureaucrats, rather than finding certainty, and therefore freedom, in the fixed and known written law.

Heavy taxes drive moral people to commit acts of illegality. The moral individual instinctively reasons that the law cannot be just if it takes so much of what belongs to him for consumption by others. He therefore believes that he is morally entitled to break revenue laws, even though he is not legally entitled. Adam Smith explained:

A person who, though no doubt highly blameable for violating the laws of his country, is frequently incapable of violating those of natural justice, and would have been, in every respect, an excellent citizen had not the laws of his country made that a crime which nature never meant to be so. In those corrupted governments where there is at least a general suspicion of much unnecessary expense, and great misapplication of the public revenue, the laws which guard it are little respected. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove