Conniff borrows from Lakoff (which we’ve covered here). Here’s Professor Boudreaux’s response:
Richard Conniff proposes that the money we pay to government be called "dues" rather than "taxes" ("Abolish All ‘Taxes’,: April 15). He argues that "we need language to remind us that this is our government, and that we thrive because of the schools and transit systems and 10,000 other services that exist only because we have joined together."
A celebrated intellectual tradition – represented by the likes of Adam Smith, F.A. Hayek, and Ronald Coase – holds that most of what government does, if worthwhile, can be done better by free markets and civil society. A related intellectual tradition – represented by scholars such as James Madison, James Buchanan, and Gordon Tullock – implores us to understand that government is predatory unless tightly constrained by constitutional rules. Uncle Sam long ago escaped his constitutional fetters. The predictable result is that he is now far too predatory – witness, for example, his agricultural subsidies and his Patriot Act snooping – for anyone seriously to regard taxes as anything other than protection money paid to brutes in suits.
I’d add that if we’re paying dues, it’s to a club we’re not allowed to leave (remember the auditors and the men with the guns.)