David Rogers, also known as floppytilleyhat, recently wrote a most interesting article on Strike the Root, about the ethics of accepting government money.
At first sight to do so is clearly wrong, because all government money is stolen, so to accept it when offered is to participate in theft after the fact. All government benefits, in kind or cash, are stolen property. That's undeniable; and Carl Watner, for example, in his superb chapter in I Must Speak Out on the subject ("I Don't Want Nothing from Him") is emphatic: don't touch it with a ten foot pole.
David took the opposite view, on the grounds that the vast majority of taxpayers, who owned the property in the first place, do not regard taxation as theft; and since they are the ones controlling it, they ought to know. They may not like it and they may try to minimize the payment or campaign to get rates reduced, but ultimately they believe that the state does have a right to take part of what they earn; hence, it's not theft.
And hence to accept offered benefits, David reasons, is not to participate in theft.
It's an intriguing view, but mistaken. Quite right, the ordinary taxpayer believes he owes something to government. No argument, his belief is genuine. But it's wrong. He does not, in factual reality, owe government or anyone else a single red penny. Faith and fact, not for the first time, are in head-on conflict.
How so - how can I contradict the victim, when he voices no complaint? I know it's a fact because he, like every other human, is a self-owner. The premise of self ownership is undeniable, and since everyone owns himself he also owns his labor and everything for which he may choose to exchange it. Therefore, 100% of his salary is his, exclusively. He owes none of it to anyone else. He may choose to give some of it (even to government!) but only as a voluntary donation, not as an obligation or in fulfillment of a debt.
Therefore, if he says that taxation is not theft, he is factually wrong.
David Rogers is highly perceptive when he writes "the point where [a person] sees his taxation as intrinsically criminal is exactly the point he becomes an anarchist" and that's beautifully expressed. But notice: at that instant of conversion, what changes is not the factual status of the person or his property, but his understanding of that status. He has a change of mind. His faith is abandoned, in favor of reason. He never did have any obligation to the state, but now he sees that for the truth that it is and always was.
The foregoing is but one example of the principle that while belief, or faith, is so important as to affect behavior mightily, it is quite separate from reality and may even oppose it.
Take for another example the belief that government is needed, in any slight degree. This is an opinion unsupportable by reason (there is not one single thing in demand that government does, that an unfettered market could not perform just as well or better) yet is so widely held that even now, 300 years after the Age of Reason supposedly began, it is the non-believer who gets the ridicule! A corresponding belief is that the State even exists. There are people, with uniforms, titles, guns and prisons, but in reality it does not; it's a myth. Yet some are held by it in such awe that they fight for it and die.
Another memorable example is Heaven's Gate. Thirty nine otherwise quite normal people believed that upon death they would be transported to paradise beyond the Moon, and so committed suicide together. The facts were otherwise.
Religious faith doesn't always produce negative results, mind. It seems to me absurd that large numbers of people seriously believe that there is a creator of the universe who cannot be defined, or detected by any of our senses or by reason. They further hold that "his son" took human form by means of a virgin birth, and after "dying for our sins" rose from the dead to live invisibly until his much-postponed return. These core beliefs have the very clear form of an elaborate myth, yet many millions adhere to them and most become nicer people as a result. Their real conduct results from the beliefs, regardless of whether or not they have the slightest basis in fact. The beliefs are bizarre but the niceness is real.
Antebellum slavery is another good example of the great divide between belief and reality. Today we have no difficulty recognizing the institution for the massive injustice it was, a total violation of the self-ownership rights of millions of human beings; but what did they think and believe at the time? Some realized the outrage and acted on it, by escaping and rebelling, but the great majority saw it as "the way things are" and believed they had no rights other than those white "owners" bestowed. Faith and fact, in conflict again - in a case very comparable to the taxpayer above, who supposes he owes money (exchanged for just part of his labor) to the state.
A final example is the government employee. Apart from the (currently) few who are now having second thoughts after encountering something like the QuitGov site, they believe they are doing good and beneficial work, holding society together or making it work well, smoothly and peacefully. Once, I even encountered an IRS agent who proudly pointed me to a copy on her office wall of the etching of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. She clearly and genuinely believed her job was a continuation of what those signers stood for! Fact and reason, versus faith. An incredible contrast.
I may of course have been deceived; it occurred to me later that the etching had been stolen from some brave tax resister whose home had been raided by IRS thugs at her bidding, and that she had appropriated this as a trophy. But anyway, she believed it. And that's what has to change, before a free society can happen.
De-programming cultists is no walk in the park, as anyone who tried it knows well; for they have already short-circuited their reasoning capacity. That has to be re-wired. The good news is that for everyone, there occasionally comes - once every several years - a moment when he says to himself, Hang on a bit. Is my life heading the right way? - have I made the right choices? And if the answer is no, a sea change may result. That's the moment to reach him, with the news that he is, in the universe, able and entitled to own and operate his own destiny.
You, his friend, probably don't know when that moment arrives. Therefore, you and I have to use a shotgun approach; to invite many of them, repeatedly, to consider ideas of liberty in the Freedom Academy or whatever in due course improves on it. That way, one out of a hundred or two is at that critical moment and responds with a "yes."