Asking vs. Commanding

by Don Boudreaux on December 17, 2010

in Other People's Money, Taxes

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Reproaching people who complain about taxes, Liane Ellison Norman insists that “taxes are really just prices” (Letters, Dec. 17).

No ma’am.  Prices are terms of exchanges voluntarily agreed to by willing buyers and willing sellers.  Because prices result from people spending – or not spending! – their own money, they reflect genuine consumer desires and resource scarcities.

In stark contrast, taxes are forced extractions.  Even when spent with the intent of benefitting taxpayers, taxes – unlike prices – are never the result of bargains between buyers and sellers.  Taxes, instead, are the result of commands issued by rulers to subjects.

Buyers who refuse to pay sellers’ asking prices go without the goods.  Subjects who refuse to pay the sovereign’s demanded tax go to jail.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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