by Jon Wolfenbarger, Chapter Leader, Lisbon, Portugal
Considerations Using the Live and Let Live Principle
The “Live & Let Live” moral principle encourages everyone to “be a good human”, which includes helping those in need when we can. The “Live & Let Live” legal principle is “don’t be an aggressor”, which means that any initiation of aggression (murder, slavery, theft, etc.) should be illegal and punished accordingly.
The legal principle upholds that every individual in the world should be free of any aggression that violates their rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.
A key violation of individual property rights in virtually every country in the world is government imposed taxes. Taxes are not voluntary. If an individual does not pay taxes, they will be threatened with fines and/or imprisonment by government officials. If they resist such punishments, they may ultimately be killed for their failure to pay taxes.
Clearly such a drastic violation of individual rights is the opposite of “live and let live”! And for many people in the world, income taxes can consume up to 50% or more of their annual income, which is far more than any common criminal could seize by extortion or theft.
What About Voluntary Acts of Kindness
But if all income taxes were eliminated tomorrow, how would certain basic government services, as well as various forms of help for the poor, be voluntarily paid for?
This is obviously a complicated topic that requires many creative new ideas. In this article, we propose one such new idea: provide tax credits to people who voluntarily spend or donate their hard-earned money on goods or services that are typically provided by the government.
For example, if someone spends their money on a private school or private healthcare or private security — or donates to a charity that provides private schooling or private healthcare or private security for the poor — then they can receive a tax credit for some or all of that money to reduce their taxes. Most people would much rather spend their money on themselves or donate directly to helping people in need, rather than being forced to hand over their money to the government to be spent however politicians and bureaucrats would like, including on initiatives that violate their individual rights, such as imprisoning them for victimless crimes or starting World War III.
This proposal would provide two very powerful benefits in the transition to a freer and more peaceful society:
1. It would immediately reduce violations of property rights and the live and live legal principle, since it would lower taxes which are imposed at the point of a gun and;
2. It would help fund and grow private alternatives to government goods and services
Economists estimate that it usually costs the government at least twice as much to provide a service as it does for a private entity. This is largely because governments get their money from taxes, so they have no incentive to provide good services at a low cost, since their revenues do not change no matter what they do. In contrast, a private entity only gets money from people voluntarily, so they must be efficient at providing a good service or else no one would give them any money.
Spending Cut Advantages
As tax revenues fall, spending can be cut in two major ways:
1. Cut clearly unnecessary spending; there is a lot of “pork barrel” (wasteful) government spending every year; one area to start with, in order to reduce the risks of war and increase the prospects for peace, is to cut military spending that is not for purely defensive purposes; for example, the US government spends more on the military than the next nine countries combined, partly due to buying countless weapons of mass destruction and operating about 600 military bases overseas…surely, some of that spending can be cut, which would likely make the US more safe, since it would be antagonizing and threatening fewer people around the world and
2. Government services and benefits could be cut or eliminated for high income individuals; people who earn high incomes do not need to send their children to “free” (taxpayer funded) schools or use taxpayer funded healthcare, particularly when they will have extra after-tax income from the tax credits they get for spending on private alternatives
The details of this proposal — such as the amounts or percentages of the tax credits, the income levels at which various government services could be cut, the services and charities that are eligible for the voluntary spending, etc. — would need to be worked out to meet the general desires of the people and balance the budget.
But that should not stop us from advocating for this proposal, which has the potential to initiate a major change towards a much freer, more peaceful and more prosperous world. If governments politicians and bureaucrats really care about people getting education, healthcare, security, etc., then they have no reason to object to people voluntarily helping themselves and others obtain the goods and services they desire to live full and happy lives.