Taxation for redistribution is at par with forced labor

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15 November 2015

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Taxation for redistribution is at par with forced labor


       There are various definitions given to taxation. The first definition of this term refers to it as the process by which the sovereign authority through its legislature uses to defray expenses of the government. Taxation is as well deemed as a way through which the government increases its revenue under the authority of the law with the intention of promoting welfare and protecting its citizens. There are various theories that have been developed to explain the concept of taxation. Some of the established principles include the benefit principle, the ability to pay principle and the Equal-distribution principle. Taxation to some scholars is deemed as a way of redistributing wealth from where it is concentrated in few people to the entire community. This essay analyses the relationship that exists between taxation for redistributive purpose in relation to forced labor. The essay is based on Robert Nozick argument in support of capitalism and Cohen’s argument against capitalism. An argument between the two scholars underlies the concept of liberty. Nozick criticizes socialism on grounds that it is incompatible with liberty. This argument is strongly refuted by Cohen. According to him a socialized community does not experience the loss of liberty. From this essay it is evident that taxation for redistribution is at par with forced labor.

Argument against taxation for redistribution

       Nozick argues that there is no state that can offer protection to her citizens from force, fraud, and theft and that enforces contracts but does little that can be morally justified. The scholar as well argues that the describe state can be justified. From this argument it is evident that his rejection of taxation is not absolute. Nozick arguments shows that to him taxation of someone’s earnings from labor for other purpose that are beyond funding the minimal state taxation to fund welfare programs, social insurance, arts, scientific research is morally legitimate. However he dismisses the concept of taxation of the purpose of redistribution (Nielsen, 1985). His dismissal on the concept of taxation is evident from his popular argument that taxation of someone earnings from labor is similar to forced labor (Duncan & Machan, 2005). According to this argument when people are forced to pay tax as a percentage of what they have earned from laboring is like forcing them to work for another person against their will for someone else purposes. Taxation may appear different from forced labor because with taxation a person is allowed to do whatever they enjoy, however this turns out to be forced labor because someone is forced to do a task where another person will benefit (Duncan & Machan, 2005).

       According to Nozick (2013), when a slave is given various opportunities by his masters to choose from them and is forced to choose one task he is not less than a slave. If an individual works at all, or at least or beyond the point required to meet their basic needs part of the time that an individual work for involves working for someone else (Nielsen 1985). The percentage of payment that is deducted as tax is generated from the labor that someone would not have performed voluntarily. for instance if taxes on eight hours of labor amount to three hours’ worth wages than those three hours a person worked involuntarily for another purpose. By working for only five hours someone would not have avoided paying the taxes and thus have avoided working for the purpose of others, when this happens the state will instead take the same percentage of the earnings from the five hours labor. Important in his argument is how different they are with other libertarian argument against taxation. In general the libertarian arguments against taxation are based on the concept that taxation interferes with individuals’ liberty insofar as its enforcement is intrusive and it prevents one from doing with their portion of their income. Nozick argument also differs from the objection that taxation amounts to theft in that forcing people to labor and stealing from them are different offenses. However taking the argument that taxation involves stealing labor the difference between these objections may be generally similar. Nozick argument is concerned with the violation of property rights or with theft rather than forced labor this is from the fact Nozick presupposes that one has property right in the portion of one’s earnings that the state takes in taxes. However, critics to Nozick argue that Nozick fails to establish the right that he has mentioned in his argument (Nielsen, 1985).

       Critical analysis of his argument shows that there is nowhere that he explicitly appeals to any claim concerning property rights. The argument on property right is a violation of some practices that are taking place on the ground of earth. Otsuka points out that a slave may own no portion of his masters land or tools and arguably a slaves cannot own whatever they produced using them(Cohen, n.d). However, slaves might be allowed to use whatever they have produced using those tools thus they have worked partly for themselves, even though this happens the fact that they are slave does not change. Otsuka argument indicates that a master always have a portion of slaves production. According to the slave and master analogous is not applicable to the modern liberal societies because the citizens are allowed to leave the state in which they find themselves and thus may avoid taxation imposed to them in their nation unlike the analogous where a slave is not allowed to leave one master for another. According to Nozick argument his critics would have considered supporting taxation on the grounds that the products of a laborer are mad from elements that a state owns and that is the reason why the state should have a portion of someone’s labor (Otsuka, 2003).

Argument for taxation for redistribution

       Cohen idea are based on his beliefs on Marxism he supports the idea of taxation for the purpose of redistribution. Cohen encountered Nozick arguments during the 1970s and felt the need to divert his attention and focus on Nozick arguments. Cohen’s Marxists ideas inspired his criticism on Nozick arguments for capitalism. Cohen arguments are based on the idea that the relationship between capitalist and worker is explosive because it involves the theft of another person’s labor time. The argument against Nozick idea of capitalism by Cohen is presented in a classical paper called Robert Nozick and wilt chamberlain. Cohen dismisses Nozick arguments on the grounds that Nozick has overlooked the fact that distribution of property is already distribution of liberty that Nozick greatly advocates for. According to Cohen, Nozick arguments is more pure compared to the one that currently exits(Cohen, n.d).His argument lack taxation for social welfare and allows some degrees of inequality in the society. Cohen as well develops the concept of socialism and strongly supports it. According to him socialist society upholds some principles of equality that are not considered by capitalism. Cohen main criticism to the socialism idea is that Nozick never gave an argument that people can rely on and his arguments only applies to some rules of justice to govern a specified situation. He claims that Nozick does not try to legitimize the outcome D2 (Cohen, n.d). From will Kymicka, Cohen’s student we get to note that Nozick illustration defends no specific moral principle. It is evident that Nozick applies property rights in his explanation without explaining it to the targeted audience. Even if he would have done that the kind of property rights are inconsistence with the equal society supported by Cohen particularly on the legitimacy of those rights. Additionally Nozick neglects possible negative developments by not mentioning or reflecting about them. Furthermore, he does not offer a comparison of his model with other alternatives that may give good or better outcomes.

       The second argument from Cohen is based from Nozick statement. The statement states that anything that arises from a situation that is just thorough just steps is by itself just. Cohen investigates if the condition of ‘voluntary’ is conclusive as suggested by Nozick to legitimate everything that results from it. Cohen asks what will result if a product is changed in the basketball parable to selling bread. He argues that people will voluntarily buy it to prevent them from starving. Another example provided by Cohen is the slavery example, according to him, slavery is unjust and voluntary self-enslavement is possible and that the condition is false. According to Cohen in most capitalist countries people work up to death while the employers claim that they do that voluntarily. Cohen refutes this argument stating that people should be aware of all their action and possible alternatives, including for the next generation and this is the only justification of voluntary decision. The situation in the capitalists society is illustrated by Cohen’s concern for the third parties, he argues that whenever person A and person B voluntarily agree on an aspect, the implications of their decision needs not to be realized on person C. The third party concept makes Cohen to dismiss capitalism concept of libertarian because it seems to erode the liberty of a big population of people (Cohen, n.d).

       The idea of taxation as theft is dismissed from the fact that people are aware of the percentage that the government is taking from their labor thus differently to theft which is not predictable. The concept of taxation for redistribution is applicable process this is because the amount of cash collected from the general community is used in services that are needed by the entire community. GDP of countries that collect tax for the purpose of redistribution have been constantly increasing. Furthermore, the method is essential in reducing the gap between the wealthy individual and the poor. On the other hand capitalism increases criminal activities such as money laundry and corruption. The system encourages to take from the poor by the wealthy thus increasing the gap between these group of people (Cohen, n.d).


       From this essay it is evident that taxation for redistribution is at par with forced labor. This is evident from the Nozick arguments regarding how taxation forces people to work. The main argument provided by this scholar is that people will be forced to work extra hours so that they can earn what is enough for them even after the government has deducted their percentage in terms of taxation. If funds collected from taxation are channeled in conducting activity such as medical research taxation is legitimate. However taxing citizens for the purpose of distributing to the poor is illegitimate. According to Nozick charity should be used to establish care and equality rather than collecting tax with the intention of redistributing wealth in the society. The author of this essay is in support of this idea because in most instances this cash is not redistributed but they are mostly spent by the government. This concept is associated with capitalism which encourages the development of the country’s economy since everyone is playing a role in benefitting themselves thus benefitting the entire country. On contrary capitalism that is supported by Cohen encourages laziness among the members of the society thus increasing the number of people depending on others and this hinders economic development. However the criticism by Cohen on the capitalism concept should be put into consideration. One of the important arguments is on how capitalism has resulted to death of many people on the grounds that they have voluntarily agreed to work to death. This is evident in the real life situation particularly in countries where capitalism is embraced, and it can be evident in the escalation of sweatshops in such countries.


Cohen, GA (n.d). Robert Nozick and wilt chamberlain: how patterns preserve liberty. Retrieved from

Duncan, C., & Machan, T. R. (2005). Libertarianism: For and against. Lanham, Md: Wileys.

Nielsen, K. (1985). Equality and liberty: A defense of radical egalitarianism. Totowa, N.J: Rowman and Allanheld.

Otsuka, M. (2003). Libertarianism without inequality. London: Clarendon Press.

Rowman & Littlefield.Nozick, R. (2013). Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.

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