Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV.—: By J. H. LEVY. - Taxation and Anarchism: A Discussion between the Hon. Auberon Herbert and J.H. Levy
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IV.—: By J. H. LEVY. - Auberon Herbert, Taxation and Anarchism: A Discussion between the Hon. Auberon Herbert and J.H. Levy 
Taxation and Anarchism: A Discussion between the Hon. Auberon Herbert and J.H. Levy (London: The Personal Rights Association, 1912).
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By J. H. LEVY.
I am very glad Mr. Herbert has commenced to catechize me. I have no sort of objection to the process, and regret only that he did not commence it a little earlier, before he committed himself to a self-contradictory position.
Now, to his first question. This is the only one I need consider; for the others are framed on the supposition that I will answer it in the negative. But this is just what I cannot do. I am asked whether I propose to leave power in the hands of the majority, as at present, to impose what taxes they like. It is, no doubt, very flattering to be thus addressed. The implication is that I am a sort of almighty dispenser of political, and perhaps of other power; and that, if I issue my fiat, the majority of one of the most powerful nations of earth will be at once dethroned, and bereft of their sovereignty. I shall expect next to be asked whether I intend to allow the sea to toss itself about to the danger of mariners, and whether I cannot introduce some variety into the multiplication table for the benefit of people who find that only three twopenny loaves can be obtained for sixpence.
But this is not the only queer assumption made in Mr. Herbert’s question. It is also implicitly asserted that the majority can, at present, impose what taxes they like on the minority. This is exactly the reverse of the truth. An actual majority of the adult inhabitants of the United Kingdom not only cannot “impose what taxes they like” on others, but are not even consulted as to what taxes shall be levied on themselves. The whole of the women, and a large part of the men, of Great Britain and Ireland either pay, or are liable to pay, taxes, their consent to which has not even been asked, either directly or indirectly—which are levied on them by an authority, altogether external to themselves, and for ends in the choice of which they have no part.
Let me, however, assume that, by the majority, Mr. Herbert means those who have at their disposal the political force majeure—who are generally, if not always, a minority. If this is his meaning, I must say that I have no intention of making any attempt to deprive them of the power to tax the rest of the community as they like. It is impossible to do this, and I do not intend to try. I might deprive certain persons of the force majeure; but, by that very act, I should put the greater power in the hands of some other persons. The force majeure would still be there, and those who wield it would have the ability to levy compulsory contributions on the whole community.
But those who constitute this force majeure, and could, if they so chose, hold the sceptre of political dominion, may be content to forego this power, or to hold it in abeyance. They may be influenced in this direction partly by the spirit of equity, partly by the ability of the weaker section of the community to make them pay a high price for their dominancy, partly by the consideration that, on some questions, they may or do belong to the less powerful section, partly because of fear of the opportunity which internal divisions or disaffection may give to external foes. The extent of this surrender of the brute power marks the progress of civilized government; the persistent use of it indicates the quantity of the “old Adam” which still is left in us.
If, then, instead of Mr. Herbert’s question, I were asked: “Do you desire that the section of the political community which could tax their fellow-citizens ad libitum should voluntarily consent to the placing of constitutional limits on the exercise of this power?”—my answer would be an emphatic affirmative. But the way in which I hope to see this done is not by direct limitation of taxation, or the power to levy it, but by a just system of State structure and strict limitation of the sphere of government. Taxation must be, potentially at least, co-extensive with government. If we wish to place effectual limits on political expenditure, the way to do this is, not to wait till we have arrived at the stage of discussion of the pecuniary means to attain political ends on which we have already resolved. It is then too late, as we see by the futile discussions in Committee of Ways and Means in the House of Commons. The steps are—(1) Make your Government a fairly representative one and keep it within the bounds prescribed by Individualism—keep it, that is, at the point at which it is necessary for the maintenance of the greatest amount of freedom. (2) Allow no State expenditure outside of these limits. (3) Endeavour to maintain a rigid but a true economy of the means necessary for the upholding of the Government, within the aforesaid limits, in the highest state of efficiency.
Here I may stop, and await future cross-questioning. If I can make Mr. Herbert see that he is on a wrong track, and that, by confusing the issues, he is aiding Socialism, I will certainly not spare pains to do it.