Every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him.
—Thomas Jefferson. Letter to Francis Gilmer, June 17. 1816.
Taxation is a necessary evil—evil because it is a seizure of private property, necessary because essential services like the police force, the law courts, the armed forces, and the border patrol must be paid for. It follows that while taxation can be morally justified for the payment of necessities, it cannot be used to justify public expenditure on superfluities. It makes no difference if a majority votes to impose crippling taxes—the majority does not have that right under the natural law, no more than it can morally vote to execute people who do not adhere to the orthodox religion. The moral basis of the political compact is to protect the person and property; taxation for purposes beyond this exceeds that mandate.
Taxes have afflicted man since the dawn of civilization. At first they took the form of naked plunder—tribute imposed by force and used to perpetuate force. Eventually, when freedom and self-rule became the moral foundation of government, they purported to be collected solely for the benefit of the governed. However, the taxes imposed by democracies have proven just as oppressive as in previous times.
In some European countries, more than 50 percent of GDP is swallowed up in taxes. In other words, more than half of all the wealth produced each year is forcibly expropriated from its rightful owners. These high-taxing socialist governments claim they are providing valuable services and enhancing the lives of the people whose property they are expropriating. However, every dollar taken from the private sector represents the removal of choice, and therefore self-determination, from the people. By spending their own money on their own choice of goods and services, people are exercising their freedom; whenever bureaucrats make the choice for them, they are being treated like cattle. Margaret Thatcher explained:
People must be free to choose what they consume in goods and services. When they choose through the market, their choice is sovereign. They alone exercise their responsibility as consumers and producers. To the extent that the fruits of their efforts are appropriated by the state, or other coercive bodies, they not only have responsibility taken away from them, but … power accrues more and more to the politician, bureaucrat, state-owned or subsidized providers of goods and services. (Ian MacLeod Memorial Lecture, July 4, 1977.)