Lysander SpoonerLysander Spooner, (1808-1887) Political theorist, activist, abolitionist

Lysander Spooner Quote

“But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: 'Your money, or your life.' And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat. The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful. The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a 'protector,' and that he takes men's money against their will, merely to enable him to 'protect' those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful 'sovereign,' on account of the 'protection' he affords you. He does not keep 'protecting' you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.”

Lysander SpoonerLysander Spooner
~ Lysander Spooner

The Constitution of No Authority (Boston: 1870);

Ratings and Comments

S. Engel, Fredericksburg

This has always been my favorite paragraph on liberty & government.

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

Taxation is not the great burdon that so many make it out to be... rather, it is a part of the social responsibility that comes part and parcel with being a good, participatory citizen... as another source says, from those according to their ability and to those according to their needs. If anything the problem with our tax system today is that the well to do are not taxed enough and the needy are overly taxed and not helped enough.

Mac, Lincoln, NE
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Mac, Lincoln, NE Anonymous, Reston, VA US 4/24/20

Nope. There is no social responsibility. The smallest minority is the individual and if you are forced to renounce your individuality for an abstract society in which you cannot be an individual then there is no social responsibility. If I am my brother's keeper when does he become my keeper? If we are equally keeping each other then why do I need him or vice versa? We are each given a finite amount of currency at birth. Time. Every moment you are physically or socially forced/coerced to spend your time doing something you do not want for someone you don't want you are enslaved. 
If you are okay with government taxes then you are ok with every citizen shot by police, you are ok with every wedding bombed by the military, you are ok with every execution, incarceration, enslavement and every horrific act by government. You cannot claim that you want more social responsibility without being responsible for the actions of your government society.
All of that fear, destruction, and death, it's on you. You want it, you own it. I am only a fearful slave. You chose the horror your society brings with it. 

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Anonymous    4/14/05

If government did it's job of protecting the citizens of this country instead of spending and handing out our hard earned tax dollars to a bunch of lazy drones and illegal aliens then it would be a different story! But as long as it wishes to send our children to foreign lands to bleed and die and leave or borders open to illegals and terrorist, I will continue to believe that it is nothing but a bunch of lying thieving sodomite perverts!

Georgia Peach, Savannah

Why Anonymous from Reston defends socialism so adamantly boggles the brain. I can only assume that Reston's abilities fall short of his/her needs -- parasitical at best. I do hope Reston knows he/she is quoting Karl Marx. Lysander Spooner is awesome!

Shooterman, Beaumont, Tx

It appears to me, Mr Spooner was pretty much on the money. I am a big believer in Uncle Sugar only spending our money for those duties laid out to it by the Constitution. Unfortunately, the voters have figured out how to milk the system in order to tap the public largess. Congresscritters, by nature, are, for the most part, scalawags. A pox upon them.

john-douglas, nassau

Why Reston thinks it a duty to pay taxes to an illegal institution (Federal Reserve) through an illegal collection agency (IRS) can only suggest he knows nothing about their history or the sneaky, conspiratorial environment under which they came into being, His words smack of Marxism and of no respect for the ideals on which America was founded. Indeed one might well think Reston is either a traitor (to American ideals) or a bureaucrat in the employ of the system which he so reveres and extols. Spooner, thankfully, had no such delusions!

Dick Trice, Fort Worth

Another noxious expression reflecting the swallowing whole of demagogic propaganda by the Nietzschean capitalists who laugh up their sleeve at the poor fools who carry out the duplicitous schemes for swindling the poor and ignorant. There is no excuse for repeating such inflammatory perniciousness in your quotations.

Chicago Blues

Few people can handle the truth.

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JBT    3/23/07

Spooner, as usual, makes a great argument concerning the nature of taxation.

DSK, Fairfax VA

Lysander Spooner once again lays out the government for what it is, a band of robbers and thieves with the carefully crafted veneer of legitimacy. Mr. Trice ought to consider any economic/political theory on how the most powerful and rich are made and kept so ludicrously affluent through the use of the governments protections and favors to benefit them at the expense of others. If he thinks that the New Deal for example was NOT the brainchild of wall street then he is sorely mistaken.

Mike, Norwalk

There is so much more depth of truth and so many exaggerated examples of this quote's correctness in today's world than when it was given. The quote brilliantly illuminates the social slavery now perpetrated on a once sovereign populous. The A's from Reston and Dicks of this world would rather live under Marxist dogma and administrations than the liberty and freedom set forth by the founders under a Constitutional Republic.

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RBESRQ    11/17/08

An irresponsible statement - it just hits the mark for those who have no answer. Complain, bitch, and and moan all you wish. Reston is not the one parasitical in this case but those who confess freedom and liberty under the guise of non-government, as you have no remedy but rancor. I too like Lysander, but in this case he has a fit of paranoia - he must have just received his tax bill. Kind and compassionate folk, prey tell me how are we to finance our schools, universities, the arts, roads, hospitals, water, energy, those who are unable to pay for healthcare, the mentally challenged, and those who have no job and are able to find work. If only this world was a kinder place and we look upon all humans as family this kind of rhetoric would be obsolete. Giving money to the poor or needy or to any other worthy cause is not that un-enforced tax. Are those just to rely on our compassion No, No, grow-up. The world will always have a contribution from our income - it is the way.

E Archer, NYC

An unpleasant truth. Robert, how did all those things you talk about ever get done without government? America was the most productive prior to income tax being introduced in 1913. As a 'progressive', RBESRQ, you should understand the power of labor, the seemingly unending power source for production. The power has always come from the people, not government -- and yes millions of slaves can be forced to build temples that will last 5000 years -- but that doesn't make it right except in the eyes of the masters. Cannot an atheist understand the charity of one's fellow man? Are the charitable ones in charge of taking from the uncharitable ones to provide for the 'needy?' The entire premise is wrong, and would lead in fact to even worse subjugation.

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

It does not surprise me that weak minded folks would mistake compassion for other people as socialism... or assume that those who have real compassion are not themselves fiscally successful rather than full of the same self interest that those opposed to that compassion preach. I don't fault those weak minded individuals as much as I do their parents & society itself for not providing them with a good moral & ethical upbringing.

Mike, Norwalk

A from Reston, forced compassion at the end of a gun has noting to do with love, caring, charity, sympathy, good morals or ethical upbringing. Forced compassion is more a kin to rape. I have yet to find a socialist that will give as much of his time, talents, and financial wherewithal as will an independently minded sovereign that loves freedom and liberty.

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Anonymous    8/19/09

Damn. Straight.

Robert Drouin, Santa Barbara, Ca.

Anonymous, Reston- No one here "would mistake compassion for other people as socialism." We don't have to. By quoting the Communist Manifesto, you explicitly define your views as communist, which isn't substantively different. I'm a proud Constitutionalist, and I happily accept that label. You, on the other hand, are plainly a socialist. Be happy with that. Celebrate it. Stand up tall, and announce it to the world. Anyone who can't proudly proclaim their own beliefs, on this or any other subject, needs to seriously re-consider those beliefs.

Aaron, St. Paul

Truly spectacular. Tu ne cede malis.

Kevin, NYC
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Kevin, NYC    1/4/12

I'll just use another quote to qualify this: "Indeed, a hellish artifice was invented there, a horse of death, clattering in the finery of divine honors. Indeed, a dying for many was invented there, which praises itself as life: verily, a great service to all preachers of death!" ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, on the state

Julio, San Antonio

Too bad there is no compassion in forcing people to pay for anyone else. Problem, socialists?


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