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I've either read or heard Rand repeatedly describe Objectivism as "the American philosophy", apparently meaning that it is the philosophy most in keeping with US founding principles. However one thing that I can't reconcile with this is the fact that the Constitution gives the government the ability to levy taxes, something that Objectivism fundamentally rejects as a violation of individual rights. How do you reconcile your claimed right not to be taxed (ie, a right to ALL your property), with the fact that you live in a country that from the beginning has permitted its government to tax individuals? How can it be called the American philosophy while such a disagreement exists?

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I've either read or heard Rand repeatedly describe Objectivism as "the American philosophy", apparently meaning that it is the philosophy most in keeping with US founding principles. However one thing that I can't reconcile with this is the fact that the Constitution gives the government the ability to levy taxes, something that Objectivism fundamentally rejects as a violation of individual rights. How do you reconcile your claimed right not to be taxed (ie, a right to ALL your property), with the fact that you live in a country that from the beginning has permitted its government to tax individuals? How can it be called the American philosophy while such a disagreement exists?

People who know Objectivism or people that have an understanding of it need to come out speak about these things. The same way you would go out against censorship and "taboos" that some people do not like, but have it enforced anyway.

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Actually, there is a lot of, or used to be, debate on the Constitutionality of at least the income tax. The tax only became permanent after the Civil War, and only after a lot of debate. (I can't remember if there was an amendment or not) There are many people today who are taken to jail because they refuse to pay federal income taxes as a form of protest.

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It did in fact require the 16th Amendment, and was by no means uncontroversial. Also, the founding principles were by no means solid and 100% - we did in fact fight a civil war over the fact that political problems prevented their full implementation from the get-go. But the point in speaking of the American Founding Philosophy is to speak of the intended theme and purpose of this country's founding, rather than any concrete flaws in its implementation. Once you've identified the principle of this country's founding - individual rights - it's not hard to see which parts of that founding were in following that principle and which were (most lamentably!) departing from it.

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It did in fact require the 16th Amendment, and was by no means uncontroversial. Also, the founding principles were by no means solid and 100% - we did in fact fight a civil war over the fact that political problems prevented their full implementation from the get-go. But the point in speaking of the American Founding Philosophy is to speak of the intended theme and purpose of this country's founding, rather than any concrete flaws in its implementation. Once you've identified the principle of this country's founding - individual rights - it's not hard to see which parts of that founding were in following that principle and which were (most lamentably!) departing from it.

So how did that bit about levying taxes get into the Constitution? Who got it put in there, and who objected to its inclusion? I know there were a lot of heated arguments among the founding fathers about certain topics, but was this one such topic?

Edited by brian0918
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So how did that bit about levying taxes get into the Constitution? Who got it put in there, and who objected to its inclusion? I know there were a lot of heated arguments among the founding fathers about certain topics, but was this one such topic?

It should be clear that any government requires funding from some source. The founding fathers believed that taxation was justified only with consent, as is evidenced by the rallying protest against "taxation without representation."

The idea that expropriation was unjustified under any circumstances evaded the founders, being used, as they were, to arbitrary expropriation, and, in fact, complete control over property "rights" by the British Crown.

Had Rand been around in 1776-1789, we might well have seen an attempt to fund the nascent government through entirely voluntary means. It is interesting to note, however, that the original Constitution mandated state contributions to the federal budget according to populations, in direct proportion to representation. This was a strict adherence to the taxation/representation formula. If you work through the logic, you see that this original scheme was voluntary by nature, forced fiscal discipline on the Congress, and prevented the appropriations free-for-all in which we now find ourselves.

The drafters of the 16th Amendment knew full well that arbitrary expropriation would require unequal taxation and unequal dispensation of funds, and seemed to understand instinctively, if not outright, the amount of power they would accumulate given the ability to redistribute funds at their whim. The 16th Amendment went directly against the founding fathers' principles and can be regarded as one of the large signposts on the way to social-fascism, a journey we continue to this day.

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I've never been to hot on the foudning father thing, but maybe thats just because im not american. Yes, clearly they had some seemingly good political views that have resulted in america being the best country in the world, but i would say they were more libertarian than objectivist. I mean, to me they just seem like people who had maybe thought a bit further than the ordinary joe, but like many libertarians, they didnt really seem to understand why the policies they advocated were good.

Also, one thing i dont like about american libertarians in particular, is that most of their policies come from the fact that "the founding fathers said that......" and they dont seem to know or care to explain why those said policies are good. Take the "right to bear arms" quote, that gets thrown around so often. Never do you hear anyone say, WHY the right to bear arms should not be infringed, and they are just content with quoting what the founding fathers said. As if the fact that "who said it" is more important than whats actually been said. "It's in the constitution", "The founding fathers never meant....." etc....

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I've never been to hot on the foudning father thing, but maybe thats just because im not american. Yes, clearly they had some seemingly good political views that have resulted in america being the best country in the world, but i would say they were more libertarian than objectivist. I mean, to me they just seem like people who had maybe thought a bit further than the ordinary joe, but like many libertarians, they didnt really seem to understand why the policies they advocated were good.

Also, one thing i dont like about american libertarians in particular, is that most of their policies come from the fact that "the founding fathers said that......" and they dont seem to know or care to explain why those said policies are good. Take the "right to bear arms" quote, that gets thrown around so often. Never do you hear anyone say, WHY the right to bear arms should not be infringed, and they are just content with quoting what the founding fathers said. As if the fact that "who said it" is more important than whats actually been said. "It's in the constitution", "The founding fathers never meant....." etc....

I suggest you read the federalist papers if you want more insight into what the Fathers wanted. The reasoning was not libertarian - they did believe government was necessary.

Regarding the right to bear arms, there are articles that openly advocate the need for the use of weapons against the government should the government ever become another tyranny.

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The Federalist Papers are generally decent, but I don't think they give insight into what the Founders wanted. The Founders wrote only one document together - the Declaration of Independence. That is the only document which displays a consistent founding intent prior to the founding.

The Constitution was written by a different group of people. Some of the same people were there, but not all of them, and there were many others. This group is called the Framers. They were not unified in intent - the Constitution was a compromise. Many of the delegates shared ideas, and they broke down roughly into the federalist and anti-federalist camps. But the Federalist Papers only represent one side of the argument. They might be the better side of the argument, but they don't speak to the intent behind the Constitution. The Framers' intent was to forge a compromise. Mixed premises. That's an unfortunate way to start a country, given what the Founders had intended.

(Most legal scholars would disagree. Either because they reject the need for consistency - mixed premises are OK - or because they think it is the People's prerogative to have a government of mixed premises, if that's what the People want.)

~Q

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I suggest you read the federalist papers if you want more insight into what the Fathers wanted. The reasoning was not libertarian - they did believe government was necessary.

I think this may be a europe/america thing, but around here in europe i would argue that when you use the word libertarian, you mean a minarchist. I've noticed that almost all objectivists mean anarcho-capitalists when they use the word libertarian, though, which surprised me somewhat.

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I think this may be a europe/america thing, but around here in europe i would argue that when you use the word libertarian, you mean a minarchist. I've noticed that almost all objectivists mean anarcho-capitalists when they use the word libertarian, though, which surprised me somewhat.

It's probably more limited to the USA and the "Libertarian" party, which has some common interests with Objectivism, but I would say lacks a moral center. They believe no person has the right to initiate force against another, but they treat that as axiomatic, not as an ethical conclusion based on man's reason, and with no epistemological or metaphysical base. This results in them being more pragmatic, range of the moment types - many of whom are hedonistic and anarchistic.

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I just read Fransico's wedding speech to the looters and IMO a lot of what makes Objectivism a uniquely American philosophy. I noticed that Rand even threw in a nod to the Second Amendment. I think Rand considered herself American and not Russian-American. I dont think that Atlas Shrugged could have been written anywhere on earth but the USA. I like to use two examples about the greatness of America. One is Don King. He listened to the first Frazier-Ali fight on a radio in prison. He promoted the third one. The second one is a story from a former instructer of mine. He was working as a lube tech at Wal-Mart when he came to work one morning and this bum was sleeping in a truck.He told the bum to move on, and the bum went back to sleep. He called the law, and when they got there and checked the bum's ID, his name happened to be Sam Walton.

Ayn Rand gives nods to characters in the course of Atlas Shrugged.

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It's probably more limited to the USA and the "Libertarian" party, which has some common interests with Objectivism, but I would say lacks a moral center. They believe no person has the right to initiate force against another, but they treat that as axiomatic, not as an ethical conclusion based on man's reason, and with no epistemological or metaphysical base. This results in them being more pragmatic, range of the moment types - many of whom are hedonistic and anarchistic.

Yes, i know all that. That's why i switched from libertarianism(minarchism) to objectivism a while ago.

The thing that made me realise that im not a libertarian, was when i just could not get my head around their notion that "most humans are basically good". Yes, everyone can be good, but it does require specific action from an individual and "simply being" without harming anyone else does not make anyone good.They seem to think that if you just let "man exercise his freedom in a way that doesnt prevent anyone else from exersising his", then all will be well.

It is obvious, that i requires specific action, in reality, to achieve values, and "just being" doesnt guarantee anything "good". You can sit down on your floor, and die of starvation in 2 weeks cringing with pain as you take your last breaths, and according to the libertarian theory, this should all be good, as it didnt prevent anyone from exersising their freedom. It's just "a different kind of lifestyle" :confused:

Yes, obviously if someone does this, it shouldnt be forcefully prevented by anyone else, but still, every sane and rational person should be able to understand, that sitting down without seeking nutrition and dying from starvation as the result, is bad, and quite objectively so. Its not "another kind of lifestyle". It's "one kind of death"

Edited by JJJJ
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  • 11 months later...
I've either read or heard Rand repeatedly describe Objectivism as "the American philosophy", apparently meaning that it is the philosophy most in keeping with US founding principles. However one thing that I can't reconcile with this is the fact that the Constitution gives the government the ability to levy taxes, something that Objectivism fundamentally rejects as a violation of individual rights. How do you reconcile your claimed right not to be taxed (ie, a right to ALL your property), with the fact that you live in a country that from the beginning has permitted its government to tax individuals? How can it be called the American philosophy while such a disagreement exists?

America Reverses Direction, or, A Republic to Keep

It hasn't been written yet, but I submit that it needs to be written.

Leonard Peikoff addressed the philosophical errors, via Kant, that led to Weimar Germany and consequently, Hitler and the Nazis. He then identified philosophical trends in America that revealed The Ominous Parallels. While an important work (and one that certainly is bearing strange fruit), it is incomplete.

Chapter 14, "America Reverses Direction"

"America, as conceived by the Founding Fathers, lasted about a century. There were contradictions-government controls of various kinds-from the beginning; but for a century the controls were a marginal element. The dominant policy, endorsed by most of the country's thinkers, was individualism and economic laissez-faire. The turning point was the massive importation of German philosophy in the period after the Civil War."

Peikoff goes on to describe the influence of outside ideas that began to undermine the work of the Founding Fathers, like the German economists, Hegelians, Henry George, Edward Bellamy, Mill, Comte, Dewey, and, of course, our good friend Kant. Now, this is all well and good, but what's incomplete is the presentation of those "contradictions" from the founding. My theory is that a more in-depth look at those "contradictions" from the beginning were NOT merely a marginal element, but were, in microcosm, a portent of the "shapes of things to come." For example, the financial situation of post-Revolution America drove the colonies to impose taxes, which led to rebellions, which led to the government to get involved with printing money...all these factors are just as important as the ideals espoused by the Founding Fathers in the creation of the Constitution, and these matters are having repercussions today. To my knowledge, there hasn't been a systematic study of this from an Objectivist, but it's a project who's time has come...

...if it's not too late.

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I think the idea that Objectivism is the American philosophy doesn't arise so much from the politics of early America, but rather the fact that Americans are individualistic, for the most part, and do adhere to reason, for the most part. In other words, while Objectivism can, in principle, become established as the predominant philosophy anywhere in the world (for whoever accepts it), most likely it will be embraced by Americans, rather than say, the former Soviet Union or Russia, because of cultural differences. Americans still want to succeed at living, and still want production, and still want their freedoms --it's just that they haven't had a consistent philosophical voice proclaiming that these things are good. Look at how Atlas Shrugged is very widely read and sympathized with by many Americans; whereas I don't see that happening even in European countries like The United Kingdom or France which have a history of freedom more so than other European countries.

Americans, because of their cultural background and the pursuit of freedom and prosperity, are much more in a position to understand the personal motivations of the main characters of both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. One could argue that the past freedoms of Americans and a country that uphold individual rights (for the most part) has a head start on grasping Objectivism. However, I think it will be quite a while (upwards of at least fifty years), provided we keep most of our freedoms, before Objectivism becomes the explicitly held philosophy of Americans in general on the cultural level. Mostly because I think it will be a while before Christianity Ethics gives way to Objectivist Ethics in the culture.

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If the government followed the constitution strictly, we would barely be complaining about anything. "They can regulate commerce and establish a post office and postal roads?!"

The U.S. Constitution has its flaws, but it's a damn sight better than what we have now.

I've also heard people say that we should have given our Constitution to Iraq, since we're not using it any more.

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If the government followed the constitution strictly, we would barely be complaining about anything. "They can regulate commerce and establish a post office and postal roads?!"

Actually that "commerce" bit caused quite a lot of the mischief we are in today. Supposedly that was put in to avoid having states erect tariff barriers against each other, but if that was the intent, I'd have to wonder why they didn't simply put in a clause forbidding states from doing so, instead of giving the Federal Government a power which has mushroomed horribly.

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