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DonAthos

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  • Real Name Tyler
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  1. Hi Will_to_Know and welcome to the forum! I see you've already received some response. Yet I hope you won't mind if I start fresh with your OP? I'll say broadly up front that, as an Objectivist, I'm not interested in "standing up for business," as such; rather, I'm interested in standing up for individual rights. It happens that individuals do business. As for tools that individuals can use to push back against immorality (in business or otherwise), well, they can generally do as seems reasonable, so long as they do not initiate the use of force. I know that's a very generalized answer, but perhaps we can find some specifics as we go... I think this comes closest to my position (though the specifics of governmental transition to a Capitalist system are far beyond me): I believe we ought to govern differently because the initiation of the use of force is immoral and destructive. Accordingly, I would like to see these changes made as fast as possible, because people are suffering in the interim. (It is a little like wondering -- "what will the plantation families do if slavery is outlawed overnight?" Honestly, I consider such a consideration to be in distant second place.) I do not expect any radical change in our current society, however, because most of the people of the United States (and world) do not support the system I endorse; there will be no immediate reduction of government. (If there were radical change in modern America, it would almost certainly be for the worse.) The changes we're talking about would require, first, something of a philosophical revolution (or evolution). I trust that, by the time anything close to an Objectivist system were implemented politically, that a good percentage of the citizenry would have already adopted the kinds of tools that they would need to be more successful absent modern governmental oversight and support. It's the only way for such a fundamental political shift to occur in the first place. This may be me being a bad Objectivist, but I'm not completely convinced that law/regulation is inappropriate for the handling (or documentation) of certain harmful materials, etc. I regard it as similar to arms control. If we would not permit a private individual to own his own nuclear missile (as I would not... or at least, not without regulation as to approximate a governmental entity), due to the capacity for incredible and irreparable damage that it represents, then we might be equally sensitive to activities that can, say, ruin a river serving one or several communities. Further, when you ask how a group of citizens can stand up to a wealthy offender, I would say that the challenges we're discussing are similar to the challenges we experience today. Wealth, of its nature, confers advantages. Bribery of governmental officials (or those acting in such a capacity) ought to be illegal, and yes, we will need good criminal investigators to uncover hidden tracks. Yet the citizens are not powerless. If they could, in theory, unite through tax and vote and governmental action, then I would expect that they could unite without those things, too -- in a voluntary, cooperative capacity. If people do not want their rivers polluted (and generally speaking, I'd say that we don't), then that suggests to me that there would be the ability to raise funds and take appropriate action. Isn't this, again, already a bug (or feature) of the current system? I'm no expert in it, but I'm certain that the present legal system could use reform to prevent such abusive lawsuits, as already exist. I don't see how there was anything untoward in that particular situation. If Thiel funded Hogan, or Hogan funded himself, what difference does it make? Well, what's needed to make boycotts effective, or more effective, is more education. (Isn't that what's always needed?) I'm not convinced that the notion that "because dumping happened in Alabama, not here, so what do I care?" is particularly "legitimate." It reminds me of the old "first they came for the Socialists" poem. We would defend against other intrusions against liberty (free speech, property, etc.) in Alabama, because we understand the implication for liberty everywhere; I expect such a sort of reasoning might provide the impetus for Californians to take events in Alabama personally. (And if you investigate, I believe you'll find that many already do.) I don't know how to rectify the death of hundreds, either in contemporary society or any utopia we might imagine. I will say that a company that poisons people, and the individuals responsible within that company, ought to be held accountable for their actions (with reasonable distinctions made between accident and intention, as in other applications of proper law, and etc). That doesn't sound much like justice to me. Knowing that these toxins may cause these problems (if indeed we do), we would need to be extra-vigilant against them. Whether through regulation (if we can agree that any are appropriate) or economic/internal pressures (such as boycott, and the kind of industry-created groups New Buddha mentioned), if people have an interest in protecting our children -- and we do -- we will find a way to ensure that our children are protected. It remains to do so morally and rationally. But Objectivism carries with it no call for us to stand back and allow our rivers and children to be poisoned. There is no Big Objectivist Book of Answers, unfortunately. Objectivism advocates for the use of reason and logic and evidence, which I think is a good way to approach questions such as these, and morally/politically it insists that we do not violate the rights of others through the initiation of the use of force. Some of the scenarios you're presenting, where companies poison rivers and give people cancer, are, I would argue, an example of the initiation of the use of force. That is to say, they are a violation of individual rights. Per Objectivism, and if I am correct, they ought to be stopped. How best to do this, how best for people to organize, how best to administer the court system, and etc., are all worthy and difficult questions that we struggle to answer today, just as I would struggle to answer them in any theoretical future.
  2. Apropos of this thread, I've been thinking about this sort of thing lately, and what I've found myself wondering is: suppose it turned out that Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastián d'Anconia were adopted? Would he (or ought he) feel less connected to his family? Less concerned with proving himself worthy of the family name? Would he be rational in seeking out his "real" family, instead, the better to understand himself? Or would it make more sense for him to now draw greater inspiration from Aristotle, The Founding Fathers, et al.? Or what about a family friend to the d'Anconias -- perhaps one without so "proud" a lineage. Could such a person rightly aspire to prove himself equally worthy of a family name he does not bear? Or would this somehow be dishonest? Must he rather accept what he's been born to? Speaking personally, I don't know why I shouldn't identify with or care about or "feel proud" about the accomplishments, actions, and virtues of "perfect strangers." If family -- rationally and ideally -- is aspirational in character, then why shouldn't I aspire to the best of the human race, irrespective of their relationship to me? Why be bound by race or ethnicity or family ties, or give such happenstance associations special weight? Regarding "pride," why should I take any pride in what I have not personally accomplished? As for Francisco Sábado Wolfgang Andromeda Marigold III, I don't know why he feels the way he does. It's at least possible that he's mistaken for it, though, or that Rand was mistaken for presenting him in such a way, or etc., so I think the idea of trying to show that genealogy is a rational pursuit because d'Anconia considered it to be (if we can even draw that conclusion) is specious at best.
  3. Is there any reason why I should ever take an interest in my paternal grandfather, whom my father never met? (This is apart from such practical considerations as genetic/medical information, which I agree might be of value.) I don't begrudge people who find their own lineage interesting. But then, people invest themselves into all sorts of things I do not care about, and cannot relate to. But this idea that there is something about my paternal grandfather that matters to who I am today, I find questionable at least. Ayn Rand, who as far as I know is no more a relation to me than Adam, matters far more to who I am (in terms of my character) than 90% of the cousins, aunts, uncles and etc. of whom I am aware. I'd do at least as well to study her biography as theirs, and I have nearly no interest in Rand's biography either.
  4. I've never taken an interest in my heritage; I've never understood what those distant people have to do with me. But I don't particularly begrudge the folks who do. (The people who take some kind of "pride" in their ancestry are another matter.) "Family" is a complicated subject. Everyone has a different context for understanding what family is, and what it means, so it's hard to comment on it sensibly in general terms. I'll say that I've always believed that one's truest family are the people one selects for himself, and yet, now having a child of my own, I must admit that the meaning of "family" has changed for me over the last several years...
  5. I agree that animals have no rights and no inherent moral status. Also that an animal's suffering is not of equal worth to a human's suffering. But that does not mean that, in the treatment of animals, "the only issue is economic viability." You yourself make the case here: It should change your answer. If you like animals in general and enjoy treating them well, then your enjoyment of treating them well is another issue to take into account when deciding on how you're going to treat them. Not simply how much money you'll make based on your treatment of them.
  6. I think we've reached a stopping point, then, for neither can I explain myself at present any better than I already have. But to this formulation, I will only say this: to whatever degree one's right to life is hindered, it is moral to act in order to remove or avoid said hindrance.
  7. Perhaps I am mixing things up (if so, not intentionally); or perhaps your arguments are not completely clear, or some combination of the two. Like I say, I do not see the principles you're relying upon to determine when someone may (or may not) morally flout a law; so that much of your argument, at least, remains unclear to me. So can you help me to clarify your positions? Can you try to reduce your arguments a bit to the bedrock principles you mean to uphold? Compulsory taxation is the initiation of the use of force. Is that what you mean by "a violation"? If so, it is a violation for everyone. (People who wish to finance some government voluntarily may do so without compulsory taxation, after all.) Or are you agreeing with epistemologue that all taxation (here in the US, now in 2017) is consensual? Regardless, whatever it is we wish to "fight" or change, how we accomplish it is a matter of contextual tactics; there is no moral dictum that we must pay whatever tax is required of us (for example), for the sake of "rule of law," in the interim. And I'm growing frustrated that you continually resist addressing this point head on. So once again, for the sake of clarity and understanding, can you simply state your position on this point? Does your idea of "rule of law" mean that one must seek to obey every aspect of the tax code? And that to do otherwise is immoral? (For instance, working "under the table" would be immoral; not declaring every source of income would be immoral; and etc., because these things are illegal.) Is that your stance? Earlier I briefly raised the analogy of domestic abuse. Consider a marriage with a battered wife (or husband). Might there be discreet things or aspects about the marriage that the battered spouse likes? I expect so. But that does not excuse the battery, and it does not make submission to it moral. Even if the battered spouse decides to stay in the marriage for some reason (perhaps hoping to improve things over time; perhaps for the sake of children; perhaps for financial security; etc.), that does not mean that she cannot morally seek to escape from such beatings as might otherwise come her way. It does not mean that she cannot fight back. I like the ideas of constitutional protection, and checks and balances, and redress against (actual) crimes, and military security. I'd like to see those features in a government which does not provide them on the one hand, and on the other hand routinely violate the rights of its own citizens. Any group which claims the right to violate the rights of others has no legitimate authority. And once again, I'll invite you to weigh in on that directly, for the sake of clarity. Don't be shy. Does the U.S. Government have the right to violate the rights of others -- yes or no? And if it does not have the right to do what it does, then in what sense is it "legitimate"? People in the US today are "really abused," too. Did you see that I've raised actual cases earlier in the thread? (People in jail for drug offenses; anti-abortion laws; the further examples I could raise are practically limitless.) Whether taxation is "a primary issue" or not (again: seemingly ad hoc; again: seemingly unprincipled; but how do you determine what is "primary"?), it is part and parcel to an entire system which routinely disregards rights. A government is supposed to protect the rights of its citizens -- that is the very (and only) justification for government, as such -- but the U.S. Government violates the rights of its citizens, not just incidentally or accidentally, but in a thorough, widespread, and ongoing fashion. So whether one wishes to change the government "from the inside," a step at a time, or in one fell swoop (when such is judged feasible), or simply choose to flout immoral laws (depending on personal circumstances) -- this is, again, a tactical issue. Any of these responses could be moral, just as defending oneself against the initiation of the use of force presents several moral options. In fact, resisting immoral law is an act of self-defense. But no, a government which violates the rights of its citizens has no moral authority, and we owe it none.
  8. Yes, you have given several ad hoc or "just so" justifications. Something strikes you as being "not so bad as the gulag," so that something isn't sufficient to "take to the streets" about (or flout a particular law); but taxes on tea in the late 18th century were ample justification for organized civil disobedience, leading into outright revolution. Your justifications are not principled*; they appear designed to reach the specific conclusions you have already fashioned for yourself, and to the best of my understanding cannot be extended (by anyone not named Eiuol, at least) to examples you have not already commented upon. ________________________ * Or if they are principled, you have not yet articulated the principles involved. If we were talking about governments that were characterized by the sort of politics Ayn Rand wrote about, albeit with some minor flaws (and presumably institutional systems designed to address these flaws), then it might be sensible to say that the government was, on the whole, legitimate. (Even then, there would be moral recourse to flout a law in the event of some particular gross injustice; Edmond Dantes has no moral obligation to remain in the Chateau d'If, not even to satisfy "the rule of law," no matter how good the government is otherwise.) But all current governments operate under fundamentally statist theories (and the results are about what you'd expect). They are funded almost completely by compulsory taxation, which is to say theft (and also deficit spending/inflation, which is another kind of theft). They give themselves leave to nationalize property, and to regulate business, and to conscript -- which is a wholesale and direct violation of the right to life. The laws they enforce violate liberty in any number of ways (you did not respond to it, but did you read my partial list earlier? must I reprint it?) and will continue to do so into the far future, unless something drastically changes; "liberty," as such, is paid only lip-service, and sometimes not even that. Our current President stands to do away with any number of liberties that we yet retain, and he is mostly held in check by an opposition party which wants to do away with most of the rest of our liberties. We are caught between Scylla and Charybdis, and our only salvation lies in the ineffectual cross-purpose nature of their maneuvering. If there exists in theory a government which is not quite "ideal," yet still roundly legitimate (because by and large it does the only thing that proper governments do -- protect our rights), this is not it. It isn't even close. This government violates rights as a matter of routine, in widespread and deep and growing fashion. There's plenty to like about the US system, especially in historical context. It is an improvement on much of which came before, and much of which exists elsewhere. It serves to prosecute/protect against certain (actual) crimes, such as murder and theft. It offers some necessary military protection (though there are many problems regarding the military). And there are vestiges, at least, of ideas which are consonant with liberty, such as a general respect for "freedom of speech" (even if this is not always upheld as it ought to be). I also like much of how the government is organized, in terms of checks and balances, and especially explicit constitutional protections (though both of these systems are under heavy fire, and I believe are weakening). The creation of the federal system was a masterwork of political science. Along with this praise -- all heartfelt -- can I make an observation? There was plenty to like, too, about the British system as it developed -- even up to 1776. But when superior principles were realized and articulated, by Locke, Jefferson, and others, the British system became "intolerable" in the comparison. If this were 1776, I expect (as I've said before) that you would be calling for respect for the established authority of the British monarchy in the name of the "rule of law." I would be fighting for the principles of the new republic, however, as the best governmental system yet devised (meaning: that which best promotes liberty). But today, we know even more. We know better. In light of the philosophy of Ayn Rand (among other thinkers and writing), we can better understand and articulate the principles of liberty, and compare them against the reality of present-day governments. And in the light of that comparison, we can understand that the present American system, which was an improvement upon what came before it, must yet give way -- just as we once needed to throw off the British monarchy -- to create something new, something better. Now, no "revolution" is currently possible. (And the ways of achieving such a "revolution" are multitudinous, and can involve New Buddha's "incremental change," or your "taking to the streets," or other approaches, alone or in combination. They may be bloody; they may all be completely peaceful.) There is no revolutionary spirit -- or actually, that revolutionary spirit which currently exists would take us in the wrong direction if actualized. Reason has not yet taken hold of the American psyche in the way that it must, in order to establish a better government. That's why I think that the future revolution is best served, at present, by promoting reason, critical thinking, egoism (especially through art); and then, one day, political theory. But in the meantime -- again -- a moral man owes the government nothing. He owes "the rule of law" nothing. He has no moral responsibility to obey immoral law, or to sanction or submit to those who would dispossess him or violate his rights. He does not need to recognize the (non-existent) "authority" or the (non-existent) "legitimacy" of any person or group which asserts the (equally non-existent) right to violate the rights of others. And if it serves him to flout an immoral law, any immoral law, he morally may do so.
  9. Apparently one must either cast bones -- or consult Eiuol -- to determine when one is "justified to break the law." How about this? One is justified in breaking the law when the law is immoral. The U.S. Government declares that it has the right to violate the rights of its citizens. That's the very thing we're talking about, with respect to "unjust" law, "immoral" law, and whether to "flout" it or not. It is illegitimate because no individual and no group has the right to violate the right of its citizens. If you say that it is legitimate, in opposition, I take that to mean that you believe the U.S. Government does have the right to violate the rights of others. Because this is a case of "either/or," Eiuol. Either it has the right to do what it does, or it does not. And if it does things without having the right to do them -- well, that's the very nature of illegitimacy.
  10. That's not my meaning at all. Eiuol argues (in a nutshell) that because government is the defender of rights, we ought to obey the law. But this is an idealistic way of looking at "government" that does not take into account the reality of the situation, which is that actual governments (including ours) sometimes defend rights, and sometimes violate them. This reality means that there is no moral obligation to obey the law, as such; where the law violates man's rights, there is a moral option to disobey the law. As far as "incremental changes" are concerned, that's a possible tactic for political change, but there's also no moral obligation to seek change incrementally. Because currently that would be a dumb thing to do. What benefits would it bring? Not freedom from taxation. Not freedom from immoral law. At "best," it would make me more susceptible to immoral law -- and for what? So that I could pay into Social Security for the rest of my life, but never see any of it back? So that I could have technical difficulties securing a job, or crossing a border? What exactly is the supposed benefit again? Would it score me chicks? (And would my wife be okay with that?) But when Galt's Gulch is available and secure (in whatever far-off future we imagine that to be, and assuming we cannot right the U.S. ship in the meantime), this will become a meaningful option. But I already know that the US Government is illegitimate; I don't need some badge reading "stateless" to know what's what. That it is illegitimate doesn't change much for me: the laws which are moral I would obey equally here, in Canada, in Galt's Gulch, or etc. The immoral ones, including much of taxation, I generally obey because there is typically no safe way not to. Some laws I flout, when they are immoral and it is safe to do so. If you look around you, I think you'll find that this describes most citizens' essential approach to the law. The government is illegitimate because it does not protect man's rights but violates them -- and that makes it illegitimate for all of us; unless you'd like to declare that a government may legitimately violate rights? After all, that is the subtext to your arguments... so why not make it text? In the first place, no one is talking about "going to the streets." (Although that seems to be fashionable of late; and who knows, perhaps Donald Trump will bring us to the point where that sort of thing strikes us both as reasonable, or even necessary.) Anyways, you can "be a citizen" without arguing that individuals have a moral obligation to obey immoral law. Arguing that they have this moral obligation is an apology for rights violations, even if you don't want that to be so. You give qualifications for the times and places where a person may resist, but they aren't principled, and they do not help me to understand why some people, in some circumstances, are morally obligated to submit to the initiation of the use of force, as such -- but others are not. You do not explain why, if someone has the (safe) opportunity to lessen the damage done to him by flouting an immoral law, he shouldn't take it. I believe that this is because your arguments are ad hoc and have no underlying principle, except some things strike you as "bad enough" to warrant resistance and other things do not. (And I believe you defend the American Revolution because it would look bad for you to argue that it was immoral, or it would be otherwise untenable for you psychologically; but I do not believe that your arguments would allow for that to have been a moral rebellion, yet disallow the same sort of action today.) We could look at practical examples, if you'd like, to try to suss this out. Hiring undocumented workers, perhaps? Or engaging in prostitution/gambling? (March Madness is coming up; what's the law on office pools again?) People who work jobs "under the table." People who use drugs for recreational purposes -- let's say those who smoke marijuana in states that have not yet legalized it. People who had sodomy in states where such was outlawed (I don't know whether any of these sorts of laws are still on the books; but I know there are plenty of wacky and out-of-date laws out there, some periodically/haphazardly enforced). People who speed on the freeway when there is no traffic around, or jaywalk when the streets are clear. I mean, there are a bajillion possible examples of law flouting, because there are a bajillion-and-one laws/rules/regulations everyone is supposed to be following, all the time. Are all of those examples of immoral action, because they violate "the rule of law" (and do not throw a man into the Gulag; and do not affect the price of tea)? Where do you draw your line, and on what principled basis? Edited to add: It's "funny." When I was done writing up this response, I went to the Yahoo! page and found this article staring at me. What an absolute clusterfuck of stupidity it is... but you should write these doctors, Eiuol, and let them know about their moral obligations to follow the law. I'm sure they'd appreciate it.
  11. What I'm about to say doesn't apply to just you, Eiuol -- it is a problem endemic among many Objectivists -- but you're conflating government in some ideal fashion with what we actually have. There is no moral obligation to fund a government which violates rights. Any entity which violates rights in an ongoing fashion isn't even properly a government; for what seems like the eighty-second billionth time, there is no such thing as a right to violate rights -- yet you continue to treat the U.S. Government as though it has such a right. As though it has some legitimate power to tax in a coercive fashion, pass laws limiting liberty, and in general initiate the use of force. It doesn't have that right, Eiuol. But for some blasted reason you want to give it to them. And there is no call to "respect" laws which are unjust, invalid, and ought not exist at all. I don't respect them. They are immoral. They ruin peoples' lives. In calling for them to be "respected," you are quite literally siding with evil. If we were living in some state that actually serves the purpose of a proper government, then we could have a different conversation as to what "citizenship properly implies." But we cannot take that ideal vision and try to transplant parts of it to the current reality of a government which does not protect rights, and thereby reach moral attitudes or actions. To be moral, we must first be able to look at things as they actually are -- not as we wish them to be.
  12. All right, epistemologue. You may need to walk me through this, because I'm not an expert on the legal status of "statelessness" in the United States -- but the impression I've gathered over the years is that the sort of thing you're talking about would not work, in reality. But say that I renounced my citizenship. If I own a home, would I no longer have to pay property taxes on it? If I am employed by some business, would I no longer be responsible for paying tax on my income (or contributing to SSI, etc.)? If I sell goods, would I no longer be responsible for sales taxes? Is that how things would work? I recognize that you'd linked earlier to a government site about renouncing citizenship. I did look at it, and wondered what you make of the following: What is the basis for your belief that renouncing citizenship relieves one of tax obligations?
  13. I think it's funny that you continue to try to drag epistemologue along with you, lol. I'm pretty sure he can speak for himself. And this is what's bullshit. In what way am I blowing out of proportion the experience of someone, like the example I'd raised, who potentially could spend her life in prison for something which ought not even be criminal? I described that as "deeply, darkly unjust"; do you consider that hyperbolic? The damage that we do to people is not not oppressive because there are "substantially worse injustices" in the world. The fact of someone else's suffering doesn't diminish the suffering I experience, or change it into something other than suffering, or make it more tolerable. Or if you're simply chaffing at my use of the word "oppression," Merriam-Webster has it as "unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power," and yeah, I think that accurately describes much of what the U.S. Government (as every extant government) does to its citizens. Incidentally, the 1b definition ("something that oppresses especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power") has as its provided example "unfair taxes and other oppressions." I also think it funny -- perhaps in a Pythonesque manner -- that while you're trying to make the case that things aren't all that bad right now on the one hand, you'd also like to continue to defend a revolution over a tax on tea. Eiuol, you may not have the perspective to see this, but I would bet all of my money (and all of epistemologue's, too, since that is the fashion) that if you'd lived at the time of the Revolution, you would have been making the very same arguments there as here: you would have been preaching fidelity to the crown in the name of the "rule of law." LOL You are doing a bit, aren't you!? I know you said "don't read into it," but that's the real meaning of including the Python clip, right? That was the tip-off. This is a gag! (Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more!) Or do you honestly mean to tell me that, if we ignore today's most offending taxes, then today's taxes don't seem quite as offensive? Have I accidentally walked into the Argument Clinic? Well, so long as the taxes on tea aren't too strenuous, I suppose we can "smooth over" all of the other taxation schemes, and the war on drugs, and Patriot Act and surveillance, and Obamacare, and draft and eminent domain, and on and on and on. Well argued, Eiuol! Here's where we go from Python to Orwell. No, sir, the law is theoretically the means by which we protect life and property. That's what it could be. But when the law actually confiscates our property and endangers our lives, in reality, then it becomes the means by which we destroy life and property. Cases like Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany are extreme examples of this, but the underlying nature of unjust governance (and its consequences for the individuals affected) -- as, for instance, the destructive power of taxation -- remains true even in relatively free, relatively good, "mixed" western democracies. That's why we argue against it. This is all mere assertion; you make no argument as to why we "don't break the law piecemeal as it suits us." After all, and generally speaking, why not do that which suits us? But I argue that we may morally break the law as it suits us, specifically, because where the law is unjust, it initiates the use of force; and we have no moral obligation to allow that, or to obey it, or to sanction it (as you are doing right now). Calling "unjust law" law, itself, is mere convention; in truth, no "government" has the right to violate rights, or impose its rules onto anyone. So the rules you're saying we ought to obey (because they aren't so bad as the ones in the Soviet Union) are not representative of the "rule of law." They are instead the dictates of thugs with guns. Are you kidding? How is taxation law not at the "stage" of "failing to tend towards protecting rights"? Compulsory taxation is the violation of rights. The entire U.S. system is run on taxation. These are rights violations on a major scale. If we were to try to catalogue all of the remaining rights violations (all of the unjust laws; all of the regulations; all of the military adventurism; all of the corruption), we'd be here forever.
  14. I was expecting a fuller explanation as to how "flouting taxation laws isn't proper generally." Because if we are actually agreed that "there is no moral obligation to obey any unjust law," and if taxation laws (as presently constituted) are unjust, then I don't see where you're finding a moral obligation to follow them at any point. (Apart from what we can all agree on, presumably, like not wanting to go to prison. It typically makes sense to comply with tax laws, if the alternative is jail.) Earlier, I thought you were making the claim that it's important to obey tax laws because that... shows respect for "the rule of law" or something. But I cannot make that consistent with "there is no moral obligation to obey any unjust law." Can you? It seems to me that either we are morally obligated to "the rule of law" or we are not. I say that we are not, because we have no moral obligation to obey unjust laws. What say you? Eh, let's not get too bogged down in the fine details of history and geography, but I have it on good authority that the Berlin Wall was in Berlin. And a few people did manage to leave Soviet Russia, including a certain philosopher you may be familiar with. But yes, certainly, it is better to be able to leave a country freely (or enter it) than be denied that right. The United States has many more freedoms than the Soviet Union allowed; the United States is a far superior country, in any number of respects (including moral); that doesn't make the United States' abuses any less heinous. It's funny. So, in preparation to write this response, I decided to look up the most famous case of tax evasion I'm aware of -- that of Al Capone. It turns out he was sentenced to (though didn't serve in full) eleven years in prison. One more than many prisoners in the Gulag who (early on) routinely received ten-year sentences. (Though Stalin would later bump that standard sentence up to twenty-five.) Anyways, I'm not saying that all unjust acts are equally bad, or that there is any equivalence between (for instance) U.S. tax policy and the Soviet legal system. But I am saying that the good in the United States (which is substantial) does not make the bad that it does any less bad, any less immoral, any less tolerable. And how good the United States itself looks might depend in part upon how much oppression you personally suffer. Here's an article from a couple years back about a woman sentenced to life in prison on drug charges. It is awash in complicating detail, naturally, and I don't mean to defend her actions -- but I would still maintain that the punishment she received is deeply, darkly unjust. She might not have done well in the Soviet Union, although some did, but it is hard to say that she would have done worse. (Stalin's government, at its most draconian, would have given her a max of 25 years.) How much oppression is a man expected to bear? And why should we consider it moral for him to do so, if he can relieve himself of some measure of that oppression by casting off the idea that he has any moral duty to obey those laws which serve to oppress him? I'm well aware of the old "taxation without representation" chestnut. It might be fun to discuss the moral claims of men who wanted greater "benefits of citizenship" (though let us not kid ourselves that Great Britain provided nothing to the colonists; they were relatively rights-respecting, too), and cheaper tea, and initiated a war to secure it, while... keeping their own slaves. But leave that aside for now. I'm certain that a duty on tea was important at the time, both for what it was and what it signified. I'm equally certain that scores of people today suffer as much or more from current US policy. And are they all adequately "represented"? Is everyone taxed today benefited by US citizenship? Are those even the right questions? Speaking of slaves, they were accounted "represented" in Congress through the "three-fifths compromise." I am accounted "represented" today by politicians who have no interest in my rights, or even what "rights" are, and that includes our charming new Commander-in-Chief. (He "represents" you, too.) What precisely does "representation" get us, if we cannot agree on the ground rules as to what government is and is not allowed to do? It is akin to saying that you're "represented" when the robber asks of you "your money or your life" -- because you get a "choice." This idea that because we might one day convince the mob not to continue to tyrannize us in the fashion that they currently do -- and that there are technical legal provisions to accommodate such a change -- I know, is supposed to convince me to bear the tyranny in the meanwhile, and perhaps even endorse it. But I think I'm of the opinion that tyranny ought not be borne. Or if it must be borne temporarily, because it cannot successfully be resisted, that any measure of resistance that can be safely undertaken in the meanwhile is moral. "Government" is not magic -- not even so-called "representative" government -- and no man has the right to violate the rights of any other, not even by vote.
  15. When we talk about the US having a "degree of freedom" -- and it certainly does -- I fear that we sometimes lose the importance of the ongoing injustices in the system, or even apologize for them. But let's be clear: injustice ought not be stood for, or apologized for, or minimized. And if this isn't Soviet Russia, what does that matter to the people who suffer real injustices in the United States? The family that's broken because the breadwinner has been sent to prison, for years, for some drug offense that ought not be a crime -- what do they care that this "isn't Soviet Russia"? (And in fact, Soviet Russia wasn't Soviet Russia, in the way that you mean, for plenty of people; injustice was more widely spread there, and ran deeper, but not all people were equally impacted by it, and some even thrived. Just like here.) The innocent man condemned to death due to corruption is not buoyed by the fact that Eiuol considers himself "mostly free." The rancher who (foolishly? heroically?) decides to make a stand for his rights, and is shot dead by federal agents for it, is no less dead than his Ukrainian counterpart. The mass of regulations and taxes that strangle enterprise and abort dreams and stifle research are not lightened because those regulations are written in English. In my own immediate family, I have a relative who had his house taken via eminent domain. And I've had family members drafted. And arrested for things which ought not be crimes. I'm sure they still preferred the U.S. to Soviet Russia, but when the government is taking away peoples' homes, sending them to war against their will, imprisoning people for things which are not actually criminal... well, it makes me wonder what you're driving at by saying that this isn't Soviet Russia. I continue to believe that the comparison is apt. There are people who are being abused (some gravely) in this country. Yes. And if anyone raised a stink over taxes commensurate to what the colonists did (and I haven't run the numbers, but I'd bet you that our current tax burdens are more onerous than theirs were; what do you think?), I'd expect that the US Government would ramp up its response, just as the British Crown did. Taxation, being coercive, is backed by the gun -- in Britain in the 18th Century and in the United States, today. Just because the system is streamlined for most, and because the gun is hidden under paperwork, don't mistake the underlying nature. And if you push back against the system, you can expect the gun to reveal itself eventually. That's what happened for the colonists, and it's what would happen today. So were the colonists better justified (per some principle you can identify) to travel down that road than someone would be today? This is thoroughly confused. First of all, it's not a choice between flouting the law or changing it from within; a person can do both, if both are warranted in his personal context. Second, the extent of our "moral obligation" to fix injustice is similarly limited by personal context. No one has any duty to crusade, except that he may do so and benefit his own life in the process. No one is called to martyrdom; in fact, the call is to reject martyrdom (including in the name of "the rule of law"). Third, I've never argued that "ALL unjust laws must be broken." Only that there is no moral obligation to obey any unjust law. I'd ask you to spend some time reflecting on this, because I think that until you understand the distinction here, we are bound to remain at loggerheads.