top of page

Taxes or Theft? The experiment that will make you think

For the past 1,500 years, thinkers such as Augustine of Hippo, John Locke, Lysander Spooner, Frédéric Bastiat, and more recently, Murray Rothbard, have argued that taxes are equivalent to theft. This challenges the common idea that taxes are necessary to fund the government and its services.

How Many Men? The experiment that will make you think

Among the proponents of the idea that taxes are a form of theft, we find anarcho-capitalists, objectivists, minarchists, right-wing libertarians, and voluntarists. They argue that taxes violate the non-aggression principle, as the government uses force to collect taxes infringing upon property rights.

Today, we introduce you to the thought experiment known as "How Many Men?"

The goal is to determine when theft becomes legitimate, supported by a democratic majority, which justifies its actions as redistribution. If we take the last question in isolation, theft not only seems legitimate but also an action for the common good. However, when we associate the last question directly with the first, we face a dilemma.

The questions are generally structured as follows:

  1. Is it theft if one man steals a car?

  2. What if a gang of five men steal the car?

  3. What if a gang of ten men take a vote (allowing the victim to vote as well) on whether to steal the car before stealing it?

  4. What if one hundred men take the car and give the victim back a bicycle?

  5. What if two hundred men not only give the victim back a bicycle but buy a poor person a bicycle, as well?

Why is the owner of the car a victim in the first question, but not so much in the last one? Did his property rights not get violated in the same way in each of the questions? Does this not generate the need to rethink how we organize as a society instead of blindly accepting it?

In summary, the debate about whether taxes are a form of theft involves moral, legal, and philosophical considerations. While some argue that taxes violate property rights, others defend them as necessary to fund public services and the common good. Opinions vary widely, and we believe this discussion deserves more attention.

What do you think? Don't forget to follow us on X (Twitter)!


bottom of page