Written by: Nicholas Babaya
They say that two things in life are inevitable: death and taxes.
In South Africa, that’s not quite true. News24 reported that 99% of our tax is paid by a mere 6% of the population. This is a fact conveniently forgotten by people who demand free education, of course. No, to the political far-left, it seems quite within their moral right to demand that the rich get taxed more and more to provide for the poor using some kind of ‘Robin Hood’ political thinking. I am often surprised at how people have no ethical qualms about continuously increasing the rate of taxation as if the act of paying tax is some kind of moral responsibility citizens have (provided that you earn above a certain amount, of course). I recently read Frédéric Bastiat’s The Law, and it really opened my eyes to the severe immorality of taxation as a concept. I will attempt to explain why here.
At its most fundamental, Libertarianism is about the right to three things: life, liberty, and property. These three rights form the bedrock of any free society. In fact, to really be free, we need to believe that they exist over and above any kind of law or legislation. Instead, these rights exist as an inherent part of each individual, and they accrue to us by our very nature. If you don’t believe this, all I can say is that you must not believe in freedom, although I personally have not met anyone who admits that they think freedom (in any sense of the word) is a bad thing. This is not surprising as it seems very apparent to me that freedom is a part of human nature, and without it, we would still be living in caves.
That being said, the question must then be asked: how are we to protect these three rights? How are we to ensure that through our use of these rights, we do not infringe on the rights of others? The answer: Law. The most basic purpose of law is to protect our right to life, liberty, and property; and to ensure that we do not infringe on other people’s rights to the same.
If you accept this, it then logically follows that any other use of the law would be to go against the very purpose of what law is intended for. One needs to remember that the law is a source of force in society. It is the legal system that makes people do things they might otherwise not do, and punishes those who do not obey it.
So what is tax then? Where would it fit in, in a free society? Some think that taxes are good as they allow the government to function. Some even have whole ideologies based upon taxation, like socialism. The fact is that if we really look at it, taxation is literally theft. It is an act in which the people take your money by force and then spend it on other things without your consent. By any sort of definition, this is a crime known as theft. The only difference with taxation is that it is theft which the government has legalised. This, I believe, should be seen as a morally deplorable action. It is the use of the law to violate our fundamental right to property; something that the law was created to protect in the first place.
Now, at the same time, I’m not suggesting that we should do away with taxes completely. Our society has been too deeply entrenched in statism for that even to be a possibility. Rather, I write in the hope that people will realise what they are asking for when they make demands from the government. For example, when students call for ‘free education’, they are not just calling for free education. They also call for the government to literally steal money from a very small minority of people and then give their money to others without consent.
An epidemic of entitlement has caused our population to make unprecedented demands which are just unrealistic and immoral. The call for free university tuition by our students on campuses around the country is just a socialist fairy tale which (I would argue) is fiscally impossible without cruelly stripping our handful of taxpayers of most of their property. Too many people have not even bothered to consider the financial implications this would have on our country.
Next time you make huge demands for all things government funded, understand that the unseen effect is literally theft. Our tiny taxpaying population combined with a huge attitude of entitlement, scapegoating of the wealthy and irresponsible government spending makes for South Africa to be a place where socialist policy cannot work. If you are a student protesting for free education, and you decide to ignore all of this, I would at least suggest that you protest at Nkandla or some other bastion of government ineptitude before causing millions of rands worth of damage to the institution at which you are lucky enough to be studying.
Author: Nicholas Babaya matriculated from Rondebosch Boys High School in November 2015, and will be pursuing an undergraduate degree in law at Rhodes University in 2016.