by Tibor Machan
When I was a grad student at the University of California-Santa Barbara, the Vietnam crisis was in full force and many of us thought it was wrong for America to be there. No one was attacking us, and it isn’t the task of our military to rescue everyone around the globe. But some of us opposed the war on principled grounds. We found the draft to be a violation of individual rights, to start with. And we also had objections to taxation as a form of extortion that should have gone the way of serfdom once feudalism was abolished in America.
Alas, there were many fellow travelers on our quest, and they came from the American Left. These folks did consider that particular war bad, although they wouldn’t have objected had the American military invaded South Africa and liberated blacks there who were victims of oppression. The Left is very selective in its objection to oppression, you see.
Back then, one of the mantras we heard from the Left was how it is evil to pay taxes for the Vietnam war, yet they had no objection to taxes for thousands of other projects. Once again, they had no objection to the extortion that is taxation, only to certain select purposes for which the extortion is used. It is no different today.
There is a lot of bellyaching about corporations escaping taxation by moving operations abroad. Well, I say, good for them. I think it is, yes, unfair for them not to pay taxes, but then so is it unfair for some people to have escaped the military draft when that was imposed on young people across the country. Then, too, if you could escape the draft, so much the better for you, even if others were not so fortunate.
Frankly, the complaint about unfairness is entirely irrelevant. If people come around to burglarize your neighbors but not you, the neighbors would have no legitimate complaint that you were not victimized this way. Burglary is wrong, and when selectively perpetrated, it is wrong but it wouldn’t turn out right if all were made victims. The same thing with the military draft, as well as with taxation. They are unjust impositions on free men and women, and whoever is able or lucky enough to dodge them is to be applauded or wished well for that.
What, however, about fairness? Well, fairness is a chimera anyway. The whole obsession with it comes from some dubious sources. One, fairness is the province of the family, where kids dicker about it endlessly and rightly so. Parents do make an implied promise to kids to treat them fairly, impartially, even though that’s not always easy to bring off. And, of course, even thier differences in age, aptitude, opportunity and such will early enough introduce reasons for being “unfair.” Some kids get expensive music lessons, some none; some get to hang out with friends until late at night, others, because they have proved themselves unreliable, do not get this privilege. Such “unfairness” is, in fact, wise and just.
Then there is the widespread myth that government owes everyone a decent standard of living, which really means: “Other people owe it to us to take decent care of us.” This is false. No one ought to be ensnarled in such involuntary servitude. No one, even if it is true that some people should be helpful to some others, depending on many details no government could possible figure out and implement (and when trying to do so will inevitably get corrupted by special interests). Taking care is the job of family, friends, associates and such, not of everyone else, and government’s robbing Peter to “help” Paul is the great folly undermining many societies, leading them away from the just course of defending everyone’s right to liberty and property.
Once we dispense with the bugaboo of the level playing field, the idea that dodging the draft or taxes is a bad thing and should be made a crime flies squarely in the face of good sense. Sure, you will not get politicians to agree, since equalization by force is their bread and butter and a lot of voters sadly fall for this phony promise made to them. But it is worth putting out the word about the ruse anyway. Maybe it will in time take.
Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at: