Letter published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, March 26, 2018, page 6 (not available online as of this writing):
It’s called paying back to society
To the letter writer who wants to know why he should have to pay for NJ transit upgrades when he doesn’t use mass transit (“Murphy’s taxes will eat up federal tax cuts,” March 23): All the people who do use mass transit could be in their own cars, which would make everyone’s lives more miserable because of the massive increase in traffic and pollution. And why should you pay school taxes even though you don’t have kids in school? Because the kids in school today will be the health care providers and scientists and engineers, etc., who will be running the world that you live in tomorrow. That is what a society does.
Barbara Egger, Lakewood
This is one of the most devious arguments for forced redistribution of wealth.
Society doesn’t “do” anything. “Society” is an abstraction denoting a number of individuals. Only individuals think, learn, work, and trade. The premise behind catchphrases like “paying back to society" is that some people must be forced to hand their money over to the state, so that some politically connected others can use the gun-backed machinery of government to legally force their values on unwilling individuals.
It’s true that, without mass transit, traffic would increase. But that doesn’t explain why an auto commuter should subsidize a rail commuter. I may benefit with less traffic. But he benefits through lower auto expenses, less traffic aggravation, and convenience. Mass transit is not conducive to all travelers and all occupations. Why should I, a construction tradesman, subsidize a professional who works out of the same office day after day? Why does he rate a lower fare at my expense?
The argument for school taxes is even worse. Many become health care providers, scientists, and engineers. But I don’t benefit from any of those fields without paying an actual health care provider, scientist, or engineer—not all of them, just the few that I patronize. And many people go into fields I never use, such as work for tobacco companies. Why should I pay for them? Others may go into a life of crime, or become politicians who advocate for government policies with which I disagree, such as government schools. Why should I pay for them?
Collectivism is a great moral escape hatch. It serves as a semi-plausible justification for running roughshod over others. But there is no moral justification for forcing some individual members of society to pay the expenses of other members—especially in a field like education, where school taxes in effect put government officials in charge of what is being taught, how it is being taught, and to what end. State schools are not a feature of a free society.
In a just society, parents pay for educating their own minor children. Career education is ultimately the responsibility of the adult individual. I pay for the education of the doctor, the engineer, the plumber only indirectly as and when I need a doctor’s or an engineer’s or a plumber’s service, through the fees, salaries, or wages of the doctor, engineer, or plumber, when and as I choose. I have no unchosen obligation to pay for anyone’s education, kid or adult, under the rationalization that they “will be running the world that you live in tomorrow,” when in fact they will be running their own lives and financially benefiting from their own chosen occupations. And no one has the obligation to pay for mine. To force people to pay other people’s expenses through government taxes is a moral abomination. To justify the moral abomination through collectivist sloganeering—like “paying back to society” or “That is what a society does”—just adds an unhealthy dose of dishonesty to the moral abomination.
Give Back? Yes, It's Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%—Harry Binswanger
'Give Back' Is One of the World's Most Impoverishing Commands—Yaron Brook and Don Watkins