The “George Ought to Help” video tells a story about you and your two friends, George and Oliver. Oliver has come upon hard times and asks you and George for assistance. You give Oliver some money but George says no. You try to convince George to chip in, but he refuses. The video then asks whether you have the right to threaten George with physical violence to force him to help Oliver. Of course not! Then it asks whether you can do it if 6 out of 10 friends say its okay. Of course not! Next, it tells you a big lie. It says taxes are like the majority threatening the minority with violence to force them to hand over their money to someone else.
Now, why is this a lie?
First, it is a lie because government does not take money from one person to give it to another. It simply does not happen. Tax revenues pay for public services that include social insurance as well as roads, national defense, and law enforcement. Social insurance operates like any other insurance. Everyone contributes to a pool, and those who suffer an insured loss are reimbursed from the pool. Unemployment insurance, for example, provides temporary assistance to workers displaced due to factory closings, etc. Today this might be Oliver. Tomorrow it might be George, or even you. But there is no payment from George to Oliver, only a payment by both their employers into a common pool.
Second, it is a lie because all programs funded by the income tax distribute the program’s cost according to a citizen’s income. This is just as true for the national defense as it is for food stamps (SNAP). It would be nice if everyone could contribute an equal amount, but that is not possible due to the large variations in income. Some taxpayers earn only enough to provide the basic necessities. Basing the primary tax on income guarantees the tax can never be oppressive.
Third, it is a lie because George already has a contract with the rest of us to pay his taxes. Anyone who claims to be a citizen implicitly asserts that he is a party to the constitution. Without the constitution there is no nation or state to be a citizen of. Citizenship was granted automatically to George at birth. But once George became a man, he had a choice to be a citizen or not. Immigration is quite common and no law requires George to stay. So George’s tax obligation is no different from the rent he pays his landlord. And the landlord has an ethical right to legally compel George to pay his rent. The same is true of taxes.