In a recent article, AfriForum aptly asked why taxpayers should pay when the government isn’t fulfilling its obligations. It is a pertinent question, and more appropriate than many might think. While it is deemed normal to unquestionably pay tax in a democracy, it is not the case elsewhere. In the real world, if a contractor fails to fulfil his/her obligations, they are punished. They are either not paid or they are sued in order for the employer to regain paid funds. The state should be no different.
The government has two obligations. First, its natural obligation as a defender of its citizens and second, its respective promises. Our government fails to achieve both.
Our tax money goes to the state mainly to pay for the means to defend us from internal and external threats. Our crime rate is a good indication that the former has failed, and the fact that our military is underfunded and incompetent shows the failure of the latter. The crime rate is directly correlated with the failure of government to formulate a competent police force and an unemployment stat which could easily be remedied by a liberalised labour market. The army, while not an obviously pressing issue at the moment, is still important and a legitimate function of government. It needs more attention in terms of funding and competency.
South African politics is characterised by populists who promise a lot without ever providing any of it. Service delivery and mass protests are good indicators to show the displeasure of an electorate who feels deceived by what can only be described as lies. There is no accountability for these politicians as they continue their cushy political careers without ever having to face the unruly mobs they helped create.
John Locke argued that when a government oversteps its authority, or violates its obligations to its country, then the country is given carte blanche to oppose it. In this manner, AfriForum is perfectly correct in suggesting that we owe the South African government nothing.
It has proven time and time again that it cannot fulfil these simple obligations, with or without taxes. Effectively, a tax revolt would do little as the vast majority of South Africans receive no help from police, and have to rely on themselves or private security. In addition, most of the promises the state makes are illegitimate uses of tax money, as they go past the legitimate boundaries of government. Even if we make concessions and allow spending on these functions, we can still see that the state is failing to fulfil even these obligations, as evidenced by service delivery protests complaining due to the lack of said promises being kept.
Thus, a tax revolt is legitimate. The cashier is refusing to process our groceries. The plumber has broken the toilet. The state makes things worse without even trying to make them better. If there is any time to stick it to SARS, this is now – and if enough people do it, then the state may actually do something decent about it.