IndyTruth Blog
Should Libertarians Compromise on Property Taxes? 
Wednesday, February 4, 2009, 01:42 AM - Opinion, Policy
Posted by Administrator
A post by Liberty Pile at Bureaucrash posed the question of whether libertarians should make compromises. He starts with a quote from Murray Rothbard, "the day-to-day compromises of supposedly ‘practical’ politics get pulled inexorably in the collectivist direction." The key for us to approach compromise is to not sacrifice any freedom in exchange for another. An action is not compromise if it grants a segment of liberty and does nothing to remove any segment of liberty.

The matter of compromise was a sort of the theme of our last Indianapolis Libertarian Meetup (or maybe it's always the theme for libertarians). We discussed whether libertarians should support Governor Mitch Daniels' property tax caps. Most people seemed to be in agreement that these caps would not guarantee lower taxes in any way, and that reducing spending is the only way to accomplish that. By supporting these caps we would give nothing up in exchange for the caps. However, the caps do not offer any actual tax relief, so we would gain nothing either. Shifting taxes around only sustains the system we are trying to fight. I would interpret this as a compromise because we would reinforce a system of unfair taxation.

An idea we discussed was making property taxes fair and consistent, by setting a permanent assessment at the sale of a property. This would prevent the assessor from coming in and saying that you owe $1,000 more this year (I know people who had this happen last year). It would also let the market determine the value of the property, rather than the assessor's opinion.

Is making property taxes fair and consistent a compromise? If our ultimate desire is to eliminate property taxes, then one could argue that it is. I have heard many anarchist-leaning libertarians argue that authorizing any level of government is a compromise of liberty and permission of enslavement. While I agree with an anarchist society as the ideal, I do not see it as a compromise to move government in the direction of liberty even though it is not the ideal final solution. Assessing property value exclusively at the sale would reduce the government's ability to come and take my property away. While not granting me total rights to the property as I feel is the moral and constitutional solution, this is a restoration of a segment of my property rights. It does nothing to remove any amount of liberty from me. This is not a compromise because I make no new sacrifice, but I do gain something from it.

As long as we are moving in the direction of liberty and reducing the size of government, we are on the right path. As soon as we exchange a piece of liberty for a piece of authority, we are compromising our principles; we are compromising our liberty.
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