In this post, I asked myself (and anyone else who wanted to answer) whether the absence of tax was the presence of subsidy. This was in relation to private schools, who, as part of their designation as charities, are not taxed in the manner of profit-making institutions.
My half-hearted answer was that, in a polity where nearly every activity or transaction is taxed, the absence of taxation is de facto a subsidy (even if not de jure).
I realise now that this answer did not go deep enough. For in viewing the absence of taxation as subsidy, whether as intention or simply unintended effect, one is making a deeper underlying assumption, and that is that the state owns all wealth.
If the state owns all wealth, then in choosing not to appropriate some of it from a particular body, the state is in essence making a gift of it – which would in fact be a subsidy.
This assumption is gigantically invidious, as it underpins every argument redistributionists and opponents of ‘privilege’ make about the state’s choice to reduce or remove taxation on particular bodies or transactions. And I speculate that most people do not, as I did not, even notice the presence of that assumption. We are letting them get away with it. And before long, it will no longer be an assumption that nobody notices; it will be a general principle that is taken for granted. Perhaps it already is.
Why, oh why, do we libertarians continue to allow our opponents to dictate the terms of debate in this way?