Incarnate Metaphor

I was driving home from the dentist when a campaign poster caught my eye. "Taxation is Theft" it proclaimed, along with the name of somebody whom I assume was running for something not mentioned. I could make a pretty good guess that he was affiliated with the Libertarians. They seem to have a predilection for this kind of metaphor made incarnate. Nobel economist and Libertarian icon Milton Friedman used to say that the draft was "slavery."

Others on the fringe are not immune. Communists and Anarchists are known to propound that "property is theft." Right-wing cartoons of Obama liked to portray him as a monkey, and others compared the Affordable Care Act to Hitler's genocides.

These abuses of language and thought exploit some point of resemblance to equating the phenomenon in question with the despised counterpart. If somebody steals your wallet by force or stealth, that's theft. Taxation also compels you to surrender some of your money. So does eating a donut in a donut shop or staying in a hotel. Taxation and a draft, if any, can be thought of as a fee one pays for the privilege of living in a country. As in the tale, an elephant may be a bit like a tree, but not so much. Obama's ears may stick out a bit like those of some monkeys, but that's pretty much where the resemblance stops.

I've been taxed and drafted, and I've been robbed, and even though I've never been a slave I'm quite confident that I can tell the difference. I suspect that the candidate whose sign I spied and Mr. Friedman could have too, but they preferred to exaggerate, or, as I would say with only a hint of ironic intent, lie.

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