In another letter to editor (The NYT in this case), Don Boudreaux comments on the trouble a writer has with the meaning of the word “price.” Taxes are not prices. Would this lady say that it was just part of the price of shopping if her purse were stolen?

Editor, The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

To the Editor:

Reproaching people who complain about taxes, Liane Norman insists that “taxes are really just prices” (Letters, Dec. 17).

No ma’am. Prices are terms of exchanges voluntarily agreed to by willing buyers and willing sellers. Because prices result from people spending – or not spending! – their own money, they reflect genuine consumer desires and resource scarcities.

In stark contrast, taxes are forced extractions. Even when spent with the
intent of benefitting taxpayers, taxes – unlike prices – are never the result of
bargains between buyers and sellers. Taxes, instead, are the result of commands issued by rulers to subjects.

Buyers who refuse to pay sellers’ asking prices go without the goods. Subjects who refuse to pay the sovereign’s demanded tax go to jail.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University