Taxation: Partial Slavery Is Still Slavery

By Steven Clyde

This is part 3 of a 3 part series on the Social Contract, for part 1 click here, for part 2 click here

“If everyone draws from it only the equivalent of what he has contributed to it, your law, it is true, is no plunderer, but it does nothing for me who want your money – it does not promote equality.”[1]

Robert Nozick gave us a great underused parable titled “The Tale of the Slave” in his 1974 classic “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” which he describes the state of society as it is now but from the perspective of a slave in nine stages.

In the first stage, you have no rights and more importantly no property rights (the right to oneself being the most important). In each ascending stage, you are given more and more rights (such as time off, etc) and at some point are given the right to go get a job anywhere; a portion or your rights and 3/7’s of your wages are still retained by your master. And finally at the last two stages, you are given the right to vote but only to break a tie (but there has never been a tie), and 3/7’s of your wages are still retained by your master.[2] It’s interesting to note that, if you take all the marginal tax rates adjusted for inflation for a single person filing in 1974 and take a mean average of them, you get 39.24%,[3] slightly less than 3/7.


Though marginal tax rates don’t reflect what was actually paid in but rather what was paid in as a percentage on what a person makes above a certain income level,[4] could Nozick have been onto something that yet again mimicks U.S. society whether he intended to or not? Regardless, if individuals are able to use tax breaks or a loopholes to retain more of their wealth made through personal sacrifice then this is something to be applauded, though it is often demonized in the current political climate.

How can this then be that those who recognize that they never signed a direct contract to be deprived of the full value of their employer contracted wages are the ones at fault by refusing to be extorted? What rational claim could they possibly have to justify an action that would be forbidden had it been done by another private individual?



To paraphrase Lysander Spooner on this issue, he noted that if governments are able to exercise complete power over other people and their property, then all a group of thieves would have to do is declare that they are now a government and all of their extortion and coercion would be valid and justified under dubious laws which they are able to craft at will.

Obviously, the U.S. government would respond and try to take them down, but what if the thieves increase the size of their government in the hundreds, then the thousands, then the millions? Is that not essentially what street gangs do across the continent(s)? And if we reconcile this as true, that a street gang is of the same nature, then what difference is there between that of a street gang, and a government formed street gang, versus the U.S. government we have now?

The difference is one controls streets, and maybe cities, while the other controls the whole country except with a lot less people at play. The largest gang in the U.S. has around 70,000 members; in contrast if you take all the elected officials in the U.S. it totals to approximately 520,000 officials, 537 of which are at the federal level, and 18,749 are at the state level.[5]

All others are at the small local level. This should alarm anyone. On one hand, there are over half a million represented officials in our country, but on the other hand less than 20,000 are in control of what makes up the majority of the legislative laws that actually have an effect on the citizens daily lives.

If property is gained through personal sacrifice, while simultaneously through the extortion of the same people making the sacrifices, then it can only be insinuated that a thief acting upon a benevolent person(s) is no different than a temporary slave owner as they are depriving others of property while offering little to no compensation or just reason for the logistics at hand, the same as which a slave owner does.

[1] Bastiat, The Law 1850, 21.

[2] Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia 1974 , pp. 290-292.


[4] E.g. To be subject to the highest income bracket in 1974 (70%) filing as a single individual, you would have had to make at least $455,131 and then you would be taxed 70% on anything over $455,131

[5] Jennifer Lawless, Becoming A Candidate

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