War Reparations: A Choice for Taxpayers
Opinion by Phil Jacobson
Libertarianism opposes war conscription of all types. But it also advocates for freedom of choice.
In Part 1 of this discussion, which focused on the Ukraine War, I asserted that no conscripted government funds should be allocated to a war. I specifically called for an end to USA funding in support of Ukraine in its war with Russia without the consent of the taxpayers, voting with their tax dollars. If this were policy, the only taxed funds which could go to that war effort would be funds which had been deliberately allocated by individual taxpayers from their tax assessment. Tax payments from taxpayers who did not choose that option would no longer be available to fund the war.
While this policy would prevent any war funding from automatically coming from opponents of the war, it would not allow war opponents to reallocate their own taxes. War supporters would be able to send some or even all of their tax money to fund the war. I ended the first part of this discussion by asking if the idea of giving options to taxpayers be appropriate in other contexts.
In this, Part 2, I explore a policy proposal which grants an option, a choice, to taxpayers who oppose a war that the USA government has funded. Again, the proposal is very narrow, but in principle could be applied in other specific examples.
The rhetoric of many, if not most, who support the Ukrainian side in this war has included a demand that Russia withdraw completely from internationally recognized Ukrainian territory. There has also been a call by some for reparations. It is not clear that, given the stresses placed by the war on the Russian economy, a Russia which has ceased fighting and withdrawn from Ukraine could provide a lot of material or financial aid to a recovering Ukraine. But whether or not any effective aid program from Russia is established, there is no question that the USA government has assigned to Russia blame for the economic damage to Ukraine caused by the war.
Yet a similar claim might be made against the USA government itself with regard to the need for aid to Afghanistan to address the damage caused by USA military operations there, only recently ended. Similar claims against the USA government might also be made in other parts of the world.
Many USA taxpayers believe that such reparations claims against the USA government should be honored. Yet any program to provide such aid is currently entirely at the discretion of government officials. No citizen can demand that any of their tax money be used for this purpose.
If it becomes USA tax policy to allow individual taxpayers the right to choose to financially support Ukraine in its war, it should also be possible for citizens who recognize USA culpability for war damage to channel their own tax money towards war reparations. This would create a program comparable to the choice I proposed offering to taxpayers in Part 1. Now, I am advocating that each taxpayer should be able to choose to allocate any or all taxes assessed by the government to reparations for damages caused by USA military actions overseas, such as in Afghanistan. Further stipulation could require that an amount equivalent to these taxpayer allocations to reparations be deducted from the overall military budget. As with the proposal in Part 1, a taxpayer who made a contribution to reparations funding would receive a receipt which would allow an identical amount to be subtracted from the taxpayer’s tax assessment.
An immediate question that should be addressed at this point is the certification of receipts for donations. In Part 1, I suggested that the USA government should authorize the government of Ukraine to certify USA taxpayer donations. Who would certify taxpayer donations towards reparations to Afghanistan? Perhaps the International Red Crescent society? Doctors Without Borders? This topic needs additional specifics, but will not be explored here.
I am not claiming here that a reparations program composed exclusively of voluntary contributions would adequately address the rebuilding needs in any location impacted by USA military spending. But if taxpayers were allowed to divert military funding to reparations funding, this objective measure of taxpayer sentiment could significantly impact foreign policy. And even if inadequate, aid provided through responsible agencies could be, and to a large extent probably would be, lifesaving where it was provided.