The one area where libertarians and the liberty movement raise the most resistance from statists, liberals, and conservatives is the presupposition that government represents nothing but force, coercion, and theft. Conservatives, often of the “limited government” variety, believe this is beyond their rational limit while liberals will resort to nihilism by claiming that libertarians just want to watch things burn around them.
It’s hard to argue with people who have become so dependent on an over-powerful government that any criticism thereof will rub them the wrong way, but that’s exactly the reality we’re dealing with so it was with great pleasure that last week two stories surfaced which demonstrate that government is nothing but codified force, coercion and theft.
The first story is out of New Jersey, home to the darling Republican Governor Chris Christie. New Jersey is a cesspool of big government programs, political paybacks and backscratching, and favors for allies and repercussions for those who dare to stand up to him.
The state of New Jersey sent notices to thousands of people who paid estimated taxes during the 2013 tax year that they had underpaid and that they owed a balance on their estimated taxes. A few people who received this bill actually got in touch with their tax preparer and found out that they did not in fact owe more money, and upon calling the state they were told they were correct and did not owe the money. The state, however, is not going to be telling people they don’t owe anything, instead waiting for the affected populace to call and ask about it.
What’s worse, Rosen said, is that the state hasn’t sent new notices to taxpayers to tell them there was an error.
“What worries me is that some taxpayers are just going to pay this erroneous bill that they don’t owe because they just want it to go away,” she said.
The state confirmed it isn’t sending notifications to the affected taxpayers to tell them the amounts are not owed. Instead, Perone said, the state explains the problem when someone calls and asks.
“All of the accounts have been corrected. Those taxpayers do not owe anything,” he said, noting the error was fixed quickly. “It is unfortunate for those taxpayers, but it had a relatively small impact because we have 3.9 million filers.”
But without official notification from the state, Rosen, the accountant, said some may pay the amount indicated on the notice.
“Unless you call or write to New Jersey and ask, it’s possible you’ll never know if you made an overpayment,” she said.
Now, to be clear, this simply means that you’ve paid more than you need to pay and it’ll most likely be applied to your next tax cycle, meaning you’ve simply paid what you owe plus a portion of what you will probably owe. But that simply means the state is holding onto your money, with no interest, until they collect more from you later and apply this to your balance.
Have these people ever heard of opportunity cost?
Instead of being able to take your money, do what you please with it, and possibly invest it, take a vacation, or whatever else you want to do with it, it’s held up in government accounts that gain you precisely no benefit and New Jersey has essentially stolen it from you under the premise that they would just steal it from you later anyway so you really can’t complain.
Government force can’t prosper, however, without a willing and complaint population, and whenever there’s force, coercion, and theft, there’s someone bemoaning what would happen were it to stop immediately. Take for instance this recent story, emblematic of a bunch of them that made the rounds in the past few weeks, from Network World.
Shortly after the state of Washington voted to legalize recreational marijuana late last year, opponents made a very interesting, if somewhat counterintuitive, argument against legalized pot – law enforcement would miss out on the huge revenue stream of seized assets, property, and cash from pot dealers in the state.
Justice Department data shows that seizures in marijuana-related cases nationwide totaled $1 billion from 2002 to 2012, out of the $6.5 billion total seized in all drug busts over that period. This money often goes directly into the budgets of the law enforcement agencies that seized it. One drug task force in Snohomish County, Washington, reduced its budget forecast by 15% after the state voted to legalize marijuana, the Wall Street Journal reported in January. In its most fruitful years, that lone task force had seen more than $1 million in additional funding through seizures from marijuana cases alone, according to the report.
Who said crime doesn’t pay? Apparently thievery pays quite well. So what’s the latest thing that’s going to ruin the budgets of these brave first responders who fight tirelessly for our safety and freedom?
Naturally, this dynamic is something law enforcement either is or should already be preparing for as driverless cars make their way onto the roads. Just as drug cops will lose the income they had seized from pot dealers, state and local governments will need to account for a drastic reduction in fines from traffic violations as autonomous cars stick to the speed limit.
The article estimates that law enforcement budgets, which rely on tickets for revenue (wow, tickets are primarily for revenue? Shocking!) stand to lose $300,000 on speeding tickets alone (because self-driving cars will always operate within the speed limits). The argument that speeding tickets are given to promote safety goes right out the window when you consider that self-driving cars would probably be infinitely safer, but the complaints will invariably come because these “safer” things, the claim that’s always made to justify confiscation of money and property, don’t generate the revenue they’re become accustomed to.
And these two stories are in concert with a story today from News 12, The Bronx, which warned of another “crackdown” on drivers after last week’s crackdown on speeding that netted them $5,000 in speeding tickets last week. This week it’s a “crackdown” on bad behavior that will punish distracted driving, turning without signaling, and other traffic law violations. The plan, to increase safety, is of course to ticket people, not seize their car or send them to remedial driving courses, which tells me that the argument of doing this for “safety” is laughable, particularly after Mayor de Blasio’s caravan was caught running stop signs, speeding, blowing through crosswalks, and in general putting people at risk on the same day he announced zero tolerance policies for those doing the same.
No, this is purely a cash grab, as everything else is. An excuse to dip into your pockets and take what you’ve earned for the betterment of the state (the state in general; government) while holding you at gun point for tax revenue for the privilege.
This is the compliant world that statists the world over beg for: one where what you own and the money you’ve earned is only in a temporary holding place (your possession) until the benevolent dictator in a state office somewhere decides the time has come to separate you from those things.
I reflexively reject that, and so should you. Any time someone steals from you, you should reject it and fight it whether or not the person doing it is “elected” or wearing a badge.
Header Image by 401(K) 2012 on Flickr