There are many Libertarians (myself included) that argue that taxation is theft. It's difficult to argue otherwise. If theft is defined as "taking property of another without his or her consent," it would seem most, if not all, taxation is theft.
However, to avoid such "extreme" thoughts, let's assume taxation is not theft. Let's also assume that everyone consents to government taking money from individuals to use on certain "public" endeavors.
If this is the case, and government funds must be spent, wouldn't it make the most sense to spend that money in situations where most people would agree? (Again, we are assuming that government has to spend the money). Wouldn't it also make sense to spend money in situations where the least amount of property rights are violated? And where the least amount of harm is caused as a consequence of the spending?
For example, does it make sense for the government to spend billions each year on nuclear weapons? What is the purpose of such spending? Wouldn't one or five bombs be as great of a deterrent as thousands? And think of the potential harm all of these weapons could cause if detonated - it would be mass murder on a massive scale. So, the possible negative consequences should cause us to question the use of public funds on nuclear weapons.
What about the war on drugs? Does it make sense for the government to spend money on putting people in jail for possessing an item that does no direct harm to anyone but the user? (and this is not guaranteed of course). Why spend billions on locking non-violent "criminals" up? Why spend even more trying to enforce laws that clearly don't work? Why should government funds be used to lock people up, make it difficult for offenders to get jobs when released, split families up, etc. etc.? So, the possible negative consequences should cause us to question the use of public funds on the war on drugs.
What about an issue that is as divisive as issues can be: abortion. The federal government provides over $530 million each year to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States. In one year, out of a total of about 765,000 abortions, Planned Parenthood provides almost 328,000.
In effect, "we the people" subsidize almost half of the total number of abortions in any given year (it's likely even higher due to other Title X and Medicare spending towards abortions). Regardless on where you stand on the issue of abortion - whether it is murder or a woman's choice - why should government funds be used? Again, it makes sense that government shouldn't spend money on nuclear weapons or on the drug war, yet, for some reason, we need to subsidize abortions?
And let's look at the numbers a bit more in depth. In one recent year there was a total of about 765,000 abortions. Let us remember that the United States has a population of over 330 million people. About 100 million are children and/or adults that are treated legally as children. So, that makes a population of about 230 million adult men and women. To keep with the current census, let's split that number in two. Thus, there are about 115 million adult women in the United States.
This means that about 0.7% of women have abortions in any given year. Should public funds be used to pay for the services of this small fragment of society? Especially on an issue that, on principle, is the difference between life and death?
What is even more worrisome is that people vote for politicians based solely on the issue of abortion. An issue, again, that effects, at least directly, about 0.7% of women in any given year. Does this make any sense? Is this an effective means of representation?
But maybe that is the point. Maybe the point of an issue like abortion is to cause division. Maybe the purpose of political fighting over the topic is to create a dependency on a politician who will fight to support where you stand on the issue (even though this issue effects only 0.7% of the population, which likely does not even include you).
This blog post isn't for or against abortion. It's more about thinking critically and asking questions.
For one, why should government funds be used to support an action that could be viewed as murder to a certain segment of society? I mean, if people had the "right to die" and government funds were used to help people end their lives sooner, would this be a good use of public funds? At least with government spending on roads or education there are no issues of lives directly ended as a result (though of course, this can sometimes be the indirect result).
Secondly, just what are the effects of government intervention in abortion? Not necessarily the deaths and life harm (though this is important), but of the division that a topic like abortion causes? Politicians sometimes win or lose solely on the issues of "the right to choose" or "the right to life." Is this really what we want out of a democracy?
Murder is a serious issue. After all, it is the greatest violation of the non aggression principle. When someone dies, they no longer exist (though this may depend on your religion). Should we not spend more time thinking critically about the issue of murder and how it could relate to the issue of abortion? More importantly, could we not spend more time on defining concrete property rights? For example, when do property rights begin? At fertilization? At viability? At birth? Or at eighteen years of age?
These are the questions we should be asking. These are the questions we should be discussing on TV and radio. Yet we don't. But then again, do we ever have these sort of questions in the media?