Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Is taxation irretrievably immoral?

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

Ayn Rand wrote as much in "Government Financing in a Free Society". It's a basic Objectivist position that ALL taxation is IMPROPER. Go read and come back when you know something useful if you want to be included in the discussion.

What Rand actually writes is:

In a fully free society, taxation—or, to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary.

That is, taxation is not necessarily involuntary. A sales tax - required by law on dollar transactions - would be voluntary if the government allowed the use of alternate currencies for transactions, which would not be taxed.

The individual making the choice between U.S. dollars and Galt Dollars (to invent an alternate exchange medium) would have to decide whether the protection afforded him from fraud, etc. by the U.S. Government, was worth the extra burden of tax on top of the price of the good purchased. This would be a natural way to fund government, while pressuring the government to provide value greater than its cost to the people.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 90
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

However. Imagine that, say, for your entire adult life (and then some), your body had a circadian rhythm of about 24 and a half hours, instead of 24, a rhythm which stubbornly refused all remedies to fix it. That one night, you'd fall asleep at midnight; a week later, around four am; another week later, around 8 am; and so on, while still requiring about 8-10 hours of sleep per day. That you had to make adjustments such as keeping track of every 24-hour store, simply because much of the time, they were the only ones open when you were awake that day. That nearly all forms of employment required a certain sort of scheduling from you, a requirement so basic that it's never even mentioned... and a requirement that you are literally physically unable to comply with. And, of course, that there is no obvious physical sign that you are different from anyone else, the entire thing being able to be dismissed by others as being "all in your head", which you can obviously overcome "if you really wanted to" with "enough effort".

When I was on a 6-month deployment on a navy ship, day to day life was set by the watch schedule. Invariably there are less people than watches to stand and the schedule slips forward by about 4 hours every day. In other words, I've lived that life. It is stressful to have your sleep patterns disrupted constantly, but there are ways to cope and I could have continued like that indefinitely. Staying awake when you want to be asleep is not impossible, so I can't imagine how your real difficulties rise to complete disability.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is, taxation is not necessarily involuntary.

Typically, around here, when we speak of taxation, the implication is that force is involved, as it is today. If you want to differentiate from the current form of taxation you would really want to be explicit and say "voluntary funding" or something comparable.

A sales tax - required by law on dollar transactions - would be voluntary if the government allowed the use of alternate currencies for transactions, which would not be taxed.

I'm afraid this argument just doesn't work. It is the same argument used by those who say "taxation is not a use of force since everyone is free to leave the country". Even if there were a completely free country to flee to, that still wouldn't sanction the government using force. Just as the existence of the USA doesn't mitigate the immorality of the Soviet Union.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, you could start out by registering at the Ayn Rand Institute website: aynrand.org, and getting the Ayn Rand Sampler, which contains some of her works. Her Ford Hall lectures are also available free for your listening pleasure on the same site. I believe Anthem has also entered the public domain and is available free online.

I've registered at ARI, and will see what I can find there.

Sorry, I simply mistook all these superlatives in your previous post as sarcasm: "I'm not an uber-rational, hyper-competent Objectivist super-man, striding boldly into the future, self-sufficient in every way; never harmed by third-party externalities; able to read contracts at a glance and having every piece of information necessary to find where I'd be screwed over; able to detect building design flaws, medical fraud, contaminated food, and so on, and able to take such companies to court to hold them liable and argue my own case."

Since it isn't sarcasm, I should mention that the above is not an accurate characterization of the Objectivist view of moral perfection.

That's good to hear. Previous discussions I've had with (people claiming to be) Objectivists led me to the conclusion that that level of superlative was the ideal towards which they strove, and falling short of such an ideal was the result of a moral failing.

There's an old saying about the difficulty of filling an already-full teacup; I've come here not only to try to add to my knowledge, but to learn where my existing beliefs are mistaken and correct them, to whatever extent is possible.

So DataPacRat, why not work for yourself, set your own hours. The internet (which you have access to... for free even) is open 24/7/365 so why not examine it as a viable way of making some money? The saying goes, "Where there is a will there is a way". So where's the will?

This is, in effect, what I do. I do well enough to keep myself not only housed and well-fed, but with about a hundred dollars extra a month for whatever else comes along.

Perhaps I've drifted somewhat from my original point. I survive in what I consider comfort, including having a pet cat; I have extensive political freedoms: I can say what I want, believe what I want, I'm not subject to random imprisonment or violence. I can buy a hamburger whenever I want. I have a /credit card/ (with no annual fee, and which I'm smart enough to avoid using where possible, and to pay off immediately when I do use it for online purchases). Due to the interesting quirks of Canadian copyright law, I am able to legally download a variety of content, which effectively multiplies my income. (Due to some other interesting software, such as TrueCrypt and Tor, it is even possible for me to untraceably and deniably download content not covered by those quirks, should I choose to do so, though obviously actually admitting that I /did/ use those programs for those purposes would kind of defeat the point...). There is only one solitary area where I depend upon tax-funded government largesse for my survival, and that is certain portions of the health care system. I think my main point, to the degree I've had one in this thread, went somewhat astray when Jake Ellison asked what I would do when all taxpayers left Canada, which I tried to respond to in post #34.

When I was on a 6-month deployment on a navy ship, day to day life was set by the watch schedule. Invariably there are less people than watches to stand and the schedule slips forward by about 4 hours every day. In other words, I've lived that life. It is stressful to have your sleep patterns disrupted constantly, but there are ways to cope and I could have continued like that indefinitely. Staying awake when you want to be asleep is not impossible, so I can't imagine how your real difficulties rise to complete disability.

It seems that I chose my thought-experiment poorly. I did not mean to imply that a mis-timed circadian rhythm was my own difficulty; I was trying to come up with one that seemed of similar scope, for the sake of discussion, while still maintaining a certain level of privacy about my own life. Feel free to ignore the specifics of the problem I described, and to invent some other situation leading to a similar level of near-unemployability by any conventional business.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have extensive political freedoms: I can say what I want, believe what I want, I'm not subject to random imprisonment or violence. I can buy a hamburger whenever I want. I have a /credit card/ (with no annual fee, and which I'm smart enough to avoid using where possible, and to pay off immediately when I do use it for online purchases).

Have you ever done any rough calculations to estimate how much of the money you earn/spend ends up going to your government in the form of taxes or any other fees? (Including sales tax, income tax... any utility fees or charges, *anything* that is specified for and/or goes directly to any form of your gov't). I live in California, and I have done this calculation for myself. I find it helpful to look at specifics whenever possible.

From your description of things, it sounds like whatever that real (actual $) amount is that you are taxed is a lesser amount than the value of government provided services (possibly medical alone even) you take/receive. If so, that sounds like a good deal for you. If this is the case, how much thinking do you do about who is generating that extra wealth you accept? Do you picture it in your mind as coming from "everyone", or might you imagine that a single individual somewhere in Canada likely paid the exact $ amount more in his taxes than what he received back?

Depending on that amount, this person may be a hard working, determined young person trying to work his way up in the career of his choice, or maybe a small business owner with a business that is just reaching a nice level of success. Or maybe it is a rich banker.

I was drawn to this forum because I have always thought of people in individual terms. Hearing people speak in terms of classes of people, or groups, has always struck me as abstract and pointless. You're drawn to statistics, so I imagine you would disagree.

You said: "I do well enough to keep myself not only housed and well-fed, but with about a hundred dollars extra a month for whatever else comes along."

I get the feeling that you would find it in line with your morals to seek a statistical amount for "well enough for society" and then force through law that each individual is given the amount needed to reach that level by means of taking it (as needed) from those over that level.

I suppose the question is answered by determining whether you are philosophically an individualist or collectivist. If you hold the principle of individual rights as a primary, then forced *anything* is immoral.

__________________

It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.

-Ayn Rand “The Soul of a Collectivist,” For the New Intellectual, 73.

Edited by freestyle
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This thread had two discussions running concurrently, so if you folks who are arguing about the Objectivist stand on taxation would take it to another thread, that would be appreciated.

Interesting: I thought this thread began with the question of taxation....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Have you ever done any rough calculations to estimate how much of the money you earn/spend ends up going to your government in the form of taxes or any other fees? (Including sales tax, income tax... any utility fees or charges, *anything* that is specified for and/or goes directly to any form of your gov't). I live in California, and I have done this calculation for myself. I find it helpful to look at specifics whenever possible.

I have read most of L. Neil Smith's novels, and he suggested a similar thought exercise in at least one (though I don't recall which just now). Depending on how you go about the exercise, it could be argued that half of whatever you pay goes to the government, so without taxes you'd be twice as rich; but half of whatever the person you pay also goes to the government, so without taxes you'd be four times as rich; and, repeating the exercise, you could come to the conclusion that without taxes, you would become infinitely wealthier.

As a counterpoint, I propose another exercise: consider how much of your money ends up in the hands of Hollywood's various media and entertainment companies. It may be a smaller fraction than ends up in the hands of a government, but it is still, presumably, a significant fraction. And a fraction of the money of your grocery store's employees also ends up in the hands of Hollywood, and a fraction of the money of the people /they/ buy things from also ends up in the hands of Hollywood, and so forth, and so on; therefore, eliminating Hollywood would make everyone richer, right?

The most severe flaw in both of these thought experiments is the implicit assumption that once money is in the hands of the disparaged group, it disappears from the face of the Earth. In reality, the money that is collected, goes right back into the economy again, one way or another. Taxation isn't guilty of /erasing/ wealth; it is only guilty of the lesser crime of distorting the invisible hand of the free market, and the question then becomes whether the benefits of a tax-free economy outweigh the benefits of various government interventions.

Another flaw, and one perhaps worth discussing, is the apparent assumption that such economic transactions are a zero-sum game, without any parties increasing value or otherwise multiplying wealth, but it's been long enough since I read about such issues that I've forgotten all the appropriate jargon.

From your description of things, it sounds like whatever that real (actual $) amount is that you are taxed is a lesser amount than the value of government provided services (possibly medical alone even) you take/receive. If so, that sounds like a good deal for you.

From what I've been able to find out about American health insurance plans, even the most basic plans cost rather more than $100/month, the most I'd be able to spend on it (and even then, doing so would involve ceasing to pay for such things as clothes, bus fares, cleaning supplies, and other sundries). My tax burden is, roughly, limited to sales tax, which is around 15% - call it around $30/month. I think it's safe to say that, on a pure cash basis, the benefits I receive from the government are greater than the costs of what I pay.

If this is the case, how much thinking do you do about who is generating that extra wealth you accept? Do you picture it in your mind as coming from "everyone", or might you imagine that a single individual somewhere in Canada likely paid the exact $ amount more in his taxes than what he received back?

Depending on that amount, this person may be a hard working, determined young person trying to work his way up in the career of his choice, or maybe a small business owner with a business that is just reaching a nice level of success. Or maybe it is a rich banker.

To quote a song, "Everybody needs somebody, sometime." Or maybe, "Every town / Has its ups and downs / Sometimes ups / Outnumber the downs / But not in Nottingham". The basic idea behind any sort of insurance is distribution of risk - nobody can know ahead of time when life will kick them in the (insert favourite body part here) hard enough to wipe them out... and yes, I've seen people, good people, who did everything 'right', get kicked, and kicked hard. It's to everybody's benefit to have a social safety net in place to prevent such people from falling so far that they are forced into, say, choosing between committing crimes or dying... both to avoid others who fall from potentially robbing them, and in case they get kicked and start falling themselves. Unless one wants to take the position of social Darwinianism, where letting such people get killed off improves the gene pool, the question would then become what /form/ the social safety net should take, and what the practical pros and cons of each approach are. It could then be argued that the debate on that question has been ongoing for quite some time now, and the consensus answer has been the society we find ourselves in today.

I was drawn to this forum because I have always thought of people in individual terms. Hearing people speak in terms of classes of people, or groups, has always struck me as abstract and pointless. You're drawn to statistics, so I imagine you would disagree.

I have yet to find a description of classes in modern society that makes any sense to me, so I try to avoid talking about classes except in the broadest, most metaphorical sense.

You said: "I do well enough to keep myself not only housed and well-fed, but with about a hundred dollars extra a month for whatever else comes along."

I get the feeling that you would find it in line with your morals to seek a statistical amount for "well enough for society" and then force through law that each individual is given the amount needed to reach that level by means of taking it (as needed) from those over that level.

I suppose the question is answered by determining whether you are philosophically an individualist or collectivist. If you hold the principle of individual rights as a primary, then forced *anything* is immoral.

My ethical/moral system has been under development for some time now. The standard I've been poking and prodding at for the last few years is "the promotion and preservation of sentient life (especially my own life)". But I'm willing to consider others... so let's try shortening that to "my life" - not lives in general, or "one's" life, but /my/ life, and see where that leads us.

I want to be able to exercise certain political freedoms, such as the right to free speech, the right to defend myself from violent attackers, freedom from arbitrary imprisonment, and so on. It is rather infeasible to arrange for a society in which I have those rights but others don't; thus, it's in my own self-interest to promote a society in which everyone enjoys those rights.

Similarly, it seems to be in my own rational self-interest, both short-term and long-, to have access to certain aspects of a modern health system. If I had to pay for those medical thingummies out of my own pocket, I would not be able to afford them. As it happens, I live in a society in which individuals are not expected to pay enormous sums for medical conditions that could not be anticipated, but such costs are absorbed by society-as-a-whole in the form of a governmental health care system. As living in such a society allows my continued survival, while living in a society in which I would have to pay such costs myself would lead to my demise due to my lack of ability to pay for such costs, it seems to behoove me to promote such a social safety net.

I want my mental map to represent the actual facts of how the universe works as accurately as possible, so that I can consciously choose /effective/ ways to apply various forces to change the universe towards states I prefer it to be in; therefore, it is in my best rational self-interest to learn as much as I can about the universe, at a number of scales, including physics, biology, neurology, psychology, sociology, and politics. While I may disagree with what you say, I still want to hear you say it, so that I can understand /you/ better, and, by inference, other people who are similar to you (including, to a degree, myself). While trolling for lulz would certainly create a certain sort of post, such responses tend to lack the fine nuance that reveal detailed thought processes and foundational assumptions, thus, in order to learn as much as I can, I should be trying to avoid trolling and to write posts that elicit the most thoughtful and detailed responses possible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

survive in what I consider comfort, including having a pet cat; I have extensive political freedoms: I can say what I want, believe what I want, I'm not subject to random imprisonment or violence. I can buy a hamburger whenever I want. I have a /credit card/ (with no annual fee, and which I'm smart enough to avoid using where possible, and to pay off immediately when I do use it for online purchases). Due to the interesting quirks of Canadian copyright law, I am able to legally download a variety of content, which effectively multiplies my income. (Due to some other interesting software, such as TrueCrypt and Tor, it is even possible for me to untraceably and deniably download content not covered by those quirks, should I choose to do so, though obviously actually admitting that I /did/ use those programs for those purposes would kind of defeat the point...). There is only one solitary area where I depend upon tax-funded government largesse for my survival, and that is certain portions of the health care system.

Do you think your "needs" negate my rights?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you think your "needs" negate my rights?

That's a good question. I'm not sure of the answer; could you be a bit more specific about which 'needs' and which 'rights' you're referring to?

As a first approximation to one possible version of that question, I currently believe that a 'need' for staying alive is more important than a hypothetical 'right' to avoid paying taxes created by a representative government. That is, that rights are tools that allow man to exercise his reason, and staying alive is another tool that allows man to continue to exercise his reason, and negating the latter tool has somewhat more permanent and irreversible effects than negating the former, thus it seems more important to pay more attention to the latter even at the expense of the former.

But if that's not what you're asking, then I'll need a somewhat more extended question to reply to.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's a good question. I'm not sure of the answer; could you be a bit more specific about which 'needs' and which 'rights' you're referring to?

Any.

As a first approximation to one possible version of that question, I currently believe that a 'need' for staying alive is more important than a hypothetical 'right' to avoid paying taxes created by a representative government. That is, that rights are tools that allow man to exercise his reason, and staying alive is another tool that allows man to continue to exercise his reason, and negating the latter tool has somewhat more permanent and irreversible effects than negating the former, thus it seems more important to pay more attention to the latter even at the expense of the former.

But if that's not what you're asking, then I'll need a somewhat more extended question to reply to.

So you don't believe in rights. (Probably because you appear to not know what they are.)

So, if me and a bunch of my friends got together and decided that we need to have X, Y, or Z, in order to stay alive, (strictly in the interest of "exercising our reason" of course) and we decided to call ourselves "the government" and pass a law forcing you to pay for X, Y, and Z, you would agree that you have a social responsibility to pay for our needs and you wouldn't have a problem if we sent men with guns to your house to take your money and property and force you to labour for our needs? Or do you disagree?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

... it could be argued that half of whatever you pay goes to the government, so without taxes you'd be twice as rich; but half of whatever the person you pay also goes to the government, so without taxes you'd be four times as rich; and, repeating the exercise, you could come to the conclusion that without taxes, you would become infinitely wealthier.

I assume you realize that is completely incoherent.

The question is simple. Do you know the sum of the amount of money you earn that you do not get to keep specifically because it is spoken for by your government? (I'm not asking for the amount. I want to know if you've ever pondered that.)

As a counterpoint, I propose another exercise: consider how much of your money ends up in the hands of Hollywood's various media and entertainment companies. It may be a smaller fraction than ends up in the hands of a government, but it is still, presumably, a significant fraction. And a fraction of the money of your grocery store's employees also ends up in the hands of Hollywood, and a fraction of the money of the people /they/ buy things from also ends up in the hands of Hollywood, and so forth, and so on; therefore, eliminating Hollywood would make everyone richer, right?

That is not a valid counterpoint to anything.

Your point is irrelevant because we are talking about money being taken from you. The money ending up in Hollywood is money you VOLUNTARILY put into that economy. You have the option to contribute nothing if you so desire.

Further, we are not talking about "eliminating" government, so the idea of eliminating Hollywood equates to nothing. We are talking about eliminating mandatory taxes not because it "makes everyone richer", but because it preserves individual rights.

Finally on this, ironically, I own a media and entertainment company in Hollywood which I started independently in 2001. I can tell you as fact that if (for whatever reason) no more money was spent on such companies, "everyone" would most definitely not be richer... starting with yours truly.

(for an economic counter-point to your ideas of where money goes, you should take a look at this short little story: The Glass Window

The most severe flaw in both of these thought experiments is the implicit assumption that once money is in the hands of the disparaged group, it disappears from the face of the Earth.

That is the flaw in your example, but not mine. I specifically asked you to calculate your money. Exactly what goes to the government from you and exactly what comes to you from government. The whole point is for you to have something more concrete in mind. There is no assumption that the money disappears from the earth. With your calculation of what you put in and what you take out, you figure out how much disappeared from (or appeared to) you.

In reality, the money that is collected, goes right back into the economy again, one way or another. Taxation isn't guilty of /erasing/ wealth; it is only guilty of the lesser crime of distorting the invisible hand of the free market, and the question then becomes whether the benefits of a tax-free economy outweigh the benefits of various government interventions.

Ok, I'll ignore the unproductive nature of government and any costs incurred in the development and planning of the correct ways to redistribute that wealth back into the economy. Sure he's a public official hired only to plan, but he's still part of the economy right?

But the "lesser crime" you describe is not the crime at all. The crime is the violation of the right of a man to be free to choose how HE redistributes into the economy the results of HIS labor. The crime has nothing to do with an invisible hand, it is the use of an iron fist.

From what I've been able to find out about American health insurance plans, even the most basic plans cost rather more than $100/month, the most I'd be able to spend on it (and even then, doing so would involve ceasing to pay for such things as clothes, bus fares, cleaning supplies, and other sundries). My tax burden is, roughly, limited to sales tax, which is around 15% - call it around $30/month. I think it's safe to say that, on a pure cash basis, the benefits I receive from the government are greater than the costs of what I pay.

I'm not advocating the American mixed economy or our partially socialized health care system. Depending on your age, $100 per month is enough to get a number of different plans. Even without that, the US has government Medicaid which is available to people with limited incomes who meet eligibility requirements. Consequently, Medicaid and Medicare (for Seniors) sets reimbursement prices and ends up causing the non-government costs to rise. In a truly free health care market though, the prices would be set by the market and you'd have as much as $130 to shop against an array of presumably lower price options.

I have found (at least here in America) that most people I've asked severely underestimate the dollar amount that goes to the government. You are estimating that less than 1 dollar a day goes to your government.

Unless one wants to take the position of social Darwinianism, where letting such people get killed off improves the gene pool, the question would then become what /form/ the social safety net should take, and what the practical pros and cons of each approach are. It could then be argued that the debate on that question has been ongoing for quite some time now, and the consensus answer has been the society we find ourselves in today.

No one here argues that people would (or should) get killed off.

It isn't rational to think that anyone benefits by living in a society where people are dying in the streets. This should be a discussion about the principle of not violating *ANY* individual's rights and how best a society will do that when it philosophically rejects the initiation of force.

1. Man's Rights

2. The Nature of Government

If you read those two essays you should have a good grasp on the Objectivist's position on what is a "right" and what the proper roll of government ought to be.

My ethical/moral system has been under development for some time now. The standard I've been poking and prodding at for the last few years is "the promotion and preservation of sentient life (especially my own life)". But I'm willing to consider others...

It seems like you are working backwards and looking to establish a perimeter around a yet to be determined core. If you refuse to identify a fundamental principle which you will hold without contradiction, then your moral and ethical system will be, at best, arbitrary.

Edited by freestyle
Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, if me and a bunch of my friends got together and decided that we need to have X, Y, or Z, in order to stay alive, (strictly in the interest of "exercising our reason" of course) and we decided to call ourselves "the government" and pass a law forcing you to pay for X, Y, and Z, you would agree that you have a social responsibility to pay for our needs and you wouldn't have a problem if we sent men with guns to your house to take your money and property and force you to labour for our needs? Or do you disagree?

And here I thought /I/ was the one being accused of using hyperbolism in this thread. :thumbsup:

Before I answer your question, I would like to ask you one of my own. Could you tell me what significant differences, if any, you see between a liberal democratic republic whose government votes to implement a tax; and a tyrannical kleptocracy run by a junta who rob their country's residents of whatever they please?

I /suspect/ (but could be quite mistaken) that you do not see any real differences between the two - that since both involve the removal of the citizen's property by a government with the threat of force applied to would-be non-payers, then that's all that matters, and all supposed differences between the two are largely irrelevant. If that's the case, then it will be quite difficult for me to write an answer you would not completely disregard due to conflicts with your basic assumptions. However, if I'm wrong, I'll cheerfully admit so, and will do my best to answer your question (that is, if you don't feel that the question I asked contained my answer).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I assume you realize that is completely incoherent.

I regret that, despite the accusations of eloquence that have been levelled at me, I was unable to present my point in a way that you would understand. Unfortunately, I cannot think of any way to express it better to you, so I am simply going to shrug my metaphorical shoulders and not give trying to explain that point much more thought or effort.

I'm not here to try to convert you to my way of thinking, or to necessarily be converted to yours; what I'm here for is to try to /understand/ you better, and, perhaps, to try to answer your questions so that you understand me better, as well.

The question is simple. Do you know the sum of the amount of money you earn that you do not get to keep specifically because it is spoken for by your government? (I'm not asking for the amount. I want to know if you've ever pondered that.)

The answer is simple. Yes.

I can even offer an amount, though it's a back-of-the-envelope approximation: about $160 per year. That number is derived from the fact that I can only think of two direct sources of taxation - income taxes and sales taxes. For income tax, I pay the government around negative two hundred dollars per year. For sales taxes, after some fiddling with BOTE numbers, I figure I pay about 15% on about $200 of my monthly expenditures, or about $30/month, or about $360/year. $360 + -$200 = $160 annually. I am specifically ignoring money which I pay to someone else, and which they, then, in turn, pay to the government, not only because that number is effectively incalculable, but also because it is no longer money that /I/ am paying to the government.

(for an economic counter-point to your ideas of where money goes, you should take a look at this short little story: The Glass Window

I am well aware of that economic parable. In fact, I once rather enjoyed explaining the flaws in the version of it that was presented by the villain in "The Fifth Element".

No one here argues that people would (or should) get killed off.

It isn't rational to think that anyone benefits by living in a society where people are dying in the streets. This should be a discussion about the principle of not violating *ANY* individual's rights and how best a society will do that when it philosophically rejects the initiation of force.

1. Man's Rights

2. The Nature of Government

If you read those two essays you should have a good grasp on the Objectivist's position on what is a "right" and what the proper roll of government ought to be.

I've been using the summaries from Importance of Philosophy to provide me with a basic understanding of the Objectivist position.

It seems like you are working backwards and looking to establish a perimeter around a yet to be determined core. If you refuse to identify a fundamental principle which you will hold without contradiction, then your moral and ethical system will be, at best, arbitrary.

<cracks knuckles>

At present, and after spending a significant amount of thought on the matter, the philosophical system I work with is based on a single axiom. If you know of someone else who came up with it first and named it, I'd love to hear it, but for now, we can call it DataPacRat's Axiom. The English language is about as far from symbolic logic as it's possible to get, so I'm not especially worried about the precise phrasing, but it runs something like: "Applying reason to the evidence of my senses can lead to useful conclusions."

From that axiom arise a number of propositions. Some of the most basic are that solipsism is useless, that logic is useful, and that other minds exist. You will note that these premises are similar, though not necessarily identical, to the three Objectivist axioms that Existence Exists, the Law of Identity, and Consciousness. Given the similarities, that has led to a structure of metaphysics and epistemology that is highly similar, though not necessarily identical, to Objectivism's metaphysics and epistemology. As ethics and politics are based on metaphysics and epistemology, once again, once again, I have arrived at a system that is similar, though not always identical, to Objectivism's structure.

As a system under development, I am quite comfortable with trying out entirely arbitrary propositions, to see if they are compatible with my existing philosophy, and - and here's the important bit - with the actual evidence presented to me by my senses about the universe. The equation 1/((1 - (v^2 / c^2))^0.5) was, in the 1890's, quite arbitrary, its only virtue being that it didn't conflict with what was observed about the universe; and, in 1905, a theory was finally proposed in which that equation was no longer arbitrary, but arose as the result of certain other arbitrary principles... which had the two virtue of not conflicting with the evidence, and deriving greater explanatory power from simpler premises. Arbitrariness is no vice, as long as there is sufficient feedback that it can, at least potentially, be falsified; and, if falsified, discarded.

You might find the essay, Twelve Virtues of Rationality to be worth perusing, as, at the moment, I agree with most of the points raised there, and some of them are non-obvious.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Two things jump out at me in your last post.

The axiom of the existence of consciousness concerns the existence of your own consciousness, and you implicitly rely on that in your base statement "Applying reason to the evidence of my senses can lead to useful conclusions." (Else what does the "my" refer to?) Far from deriving the axiom of consciousness (as Objectivists understand it) from your basic statement you are relying on it--as you must; that's the whole point.

You are correct that you need the evidence of your senses to determine that there are other consciousnesses out there, and that doing so will lead to that conclusion. But that's not what the axiom is about.

You are using arbitrary in a different sense, I believe, than do Objectivists. An arbitrary assertion is merely one for which there is (or more strictly, can be) no evidence for or against. Such as the assertion that we are all brains in a vat, a la The Matrix, or any other form of "this world is just a hallucination" The theory of special relativity is not "arbitrary" in that sense, there is plenty of evidence to support it. Now what might look "arbitrary" in the common sense of the word (as in, God could have pulled anything out of his ass and chose to pull this) is what form the Lorentz equation happened to take, or for that matter going back to something a bit older, the inverse square law for gravitation and electromagnetism. But again that's not what Objectivists mean by that word. (And BTW the inverse square law actually makes logical sense given geometry, but that's another issue.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And here I thought /I/ was the one being accused of using hyperbolism in this thread. :P

Does it seem hyperbolic? Does it seem a little bit absurd? Well, it definitely is, but it's your position in reductio ad absurdum form. Me and my friends have been voted in, we call ourselves a democracy. We are the majority. We were voted in by "the majority." We represent "the majority." Now do your social duty and do what I say, give me your money, or I will come to your house and take it. Do you disagree, yes or no? Do my "needs" negate your rights, yes or no?

Before I answer your question, I would like to ask you one of my own. Could you tell me what significant differences, if any, you see between a liberal democratic republic whose government votes to implement a tax; and a tyrannical kleptocracy run by a junta who rob their country's residents of whatever they please?

I /suspect/ (but could be quite mistaken) that you do not see any real differences between the two - that since both involve the removal of the citizen's property by a government with the threat of force applied to would-be non-payers, then that's all that matters, and all supposed differences between the two are largely irrelevant. If that's the case, then it will be quite difficult for me to write an answer you would not completely disregard due to conflicts with your basic assumptions. However, if I'm wrong, I'll cheerfully admit so, and will do my best to answer your question (that is, if you don't feel that the question I asked contained my answer).

Any differences would be superficial and/or would be non sequitur to this discussion. Do you recognize individual rights or not?

What difference does it make to me whether I am robbed or enslaved by a random thug or highwayman or an armed tax-feeder in government costume? If I have 10 apples and am deprived of 3, I am still worse off, and the principle of my rights is no question.

The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber, and neither does the tyrannical junta gangster. His position is simply a matter of "might makes right" and he does as he desires.

Furthermore, having taken your money, the individual criminal or thug leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful "leader" or "your representative in government," on account of the "services" he "provides" you. He does not keep "serving" you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or sufficiently resist his demands. He does not attempt to make me his "subject" or his "constituent" or his slave.

The difference is, I would much rather have less of my rights violated than more, and have them violated less often, and preferably not at all. So how much worse is it if the highwayman who victimizes me claims sole right to rule over me and take what he wants does so more frequently, claiming to do it under the color of law and morality, claiming it is right because everyone agrees it is the right thing to do, and does it on the principle that your needs negate my rights?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does it seem hyperbolic? Does it seem a little bit absurd? Well, it definitely is, but it's your position in reductio ad absurdum form. Me and my friends have been voted in, we call ourselves a democracy. We are the majority. We were voted in by "the majority." We represent "the majority."

Which is why there is a difference between a mobocracy-style democracy, for which the term 'tyranny of the majority' was termed, and a constitutional republic that follows the principles of classical liberal democracy, in which various provisions are put into place to try to prevent a majority from violating the rights of a minority. Or, put another way, the difference between the Rule of Men and the Rule of Law.

Now do your social duty and do what I say, give me your money, or I will come to your house and take it. Do you disagree, yes or no? Do my "needs" negate your rights, yes or no?

"Mister Smith, have you stopped beating your wife yet, yes or no?"

'Yes or no' answers are often impossible to supply to a question which is based on incorrect assumptions. Such questions are what the word mu was created as the answer for.

Any differences would be superficial and/or would be non sequitur to this discussion.

As I said in my previous post to you, that is the answer I suspected you would give. I am afraid that I am simply far too ill-equipped to try to teach you enough about the rule of law, constitutions, separation of powers, checks and balances, and similar foundations of political science to give you enough understanding of the topic for us to have enough common ground to have a decent discussion on the topic. Without that common ground, we would, at best, be talking past each other, and, at worst, would be trying to use the conversation to try to indicate to third-parties our affiliations with particular social groups - conversation as membership-signalling rather than an attempt for enlightenment, as noise rather than signal.

If you express an indication that you would /like/ to learn more on the topic, then I will be willing to do my best to help you find decent resources to educate yourself; or, if you are interested in learning what my actual opinions are, rather than demanding yes-or-no answers to questions for which no yes-or-no answer exists, then I will be happy to explain myself to the best of my ability. But if you are interested in neither of these, then I will simply learn all that I can from your post - both from what you say directly, as well as how you choose to say it - and then move on to learning as much as I can from other posters.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Which is why there is a difference between a mobocracy-style democracy, for which the term 'tyranny of the majority' was termed, and a constitutional republic that follows the principles of classical liberal democracy, in which various provisions are put into place to try to prevent a majority from violating the rights of a minority. Or, put another way, the difference between the Rule of Men and the Rule of Law.

Okay, so making laws which violate rights is bad now? Why is that? I thought if you needed something, that was more important that such "hypothetical" things like rights? According to you, you feel like a majority of the people can decide to take any amount of my income which they decide upon. But now you say a majority cannot vote to violate the rights of a minority? Which is it?

"Mister Smith, have you stopped beating your wife yet, yes or no?"

Yeah except that's not the question that was asked of you. The question was: Do your needs negate my rights? Thus far you haven't indicated your willingness to answer it directly, it can only be positive or negatory. You cannot say such a thing as "yes you have inalienable rights, but only on every second Tuesday, or when I decide I need something from you." So which is it? You've stated two inconsistent answers in this thread: maybe if you think you can vote to take away my rights you can, but then maybe you can't? I don't know which one your going with at any given moment, and what criteria do you use to decide when you like stealing from people and when you like the rule of law based on individual rights?

'Yes or no' answers are often impossible to supply to a question which is based on incorrect assumptions.

Which incorrect assumption is the concept of individual rights based on?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do your needs negate my rights?

Given that you have previously demonstrated a lack of understanding of a point I raised, I do not expect that you will understand my reply to this question, let alone agree with it. However, I've found it quite useful to re-examine my beliefs every so often, and have gained the occasional new insight from doing so, so I'm writing this post more for myself than for you. And, who knows, maybe I'll manage to communicate something to you - it's said that you don't truly understand an idea unless you can describe it to your grandmother.

I'm going to make a differentiation between "needs", that which is necessary to survive, and "wants", which may be useful but won't lead to death if not met. If your question is about the latter, then my answer would be completely different.

Rephrasing your question slightly, it becomes the classic philosophical dilemma, if you had to choose between stealing a loaf of bread or starving (with no wiggling about for third choices), is theft moral? That Gordian knot of a puzzle was solved by somebody who said that survival is a /pre-/moral choice. That is, that issues of survival are not questions of morality or ethics, but of how to define what one's moral/ethical system is in the first place.

... and there's that insight I was hoping for. Most Objectivists I've talked to treat health care as an issue about government funding, and thus about taxation, and thus about rights, and thus about politics, and thus about a subset of ethics... while I treat it as a survival issue, of making the difference between life and death, and thus a pre-moral issue.

I would be willing to steal a loaf of bread from you, violating your right to property, to survive; just as, if our positions were reversed, I would expect you to try to steal such a loaf from me in order to survive. Similarly, I am willing to live in a society where you are forced to pay taxes, again violating your right to property, for health care that make the difference between me living and dying. (Of course, once I /do/ survive, whether via bread or a hospital, it then becomes both of our rational self-interest to try to arrange for a society where such life-or-death choices never have to be made in the first place, but that heads off into a whole other topic...)

So, responding directly to your question: yes, I believe that, to me, my life is more important than your rights. And that, to you, your life is more important than my rights. As long as the issue is of survival vs rights, survival trumps rights. (Things get a lot stickier when it's a question of one person's survival vs another's, or one's rights vs another's, but, again, that's a whole nother topic.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, responding directly to your question: yes, I believe that, to me, my life is more important than your rights. And that, to you, your life is more important than my rights. As long as the issue is of survival vs rights, survival trumps rights.

Actually to me, my rights are more important than your survival. In fact it appears that my rights are more important to me than your survival is to you, since you're willing to waste your time arguing about how it's okay to violate my rights in order to survive rather than working to ensure you never have to do that. I guess it's just easier that way, huh? If there's no one else around for you to steal from in order to survive, do you just fold your hands and give up? Or then would you discover that you're actually capable of keeping yourself alive?

The thing is, 99.9% of human beings who manage to survive infancy (and live in free or relatively free countries) are totally capable of continuing to keep themselves alive afterwards. The other 0.01% that is so disabled that they can't possibly produce any value, either physically or mentally, can easily be provided for through private charity. Without ever having met you I can say with total certainty: you're not one of them.

Of course, if people are constantly told that they aren't capable and anyway have a right to expect someone else to earn the money they need to survive for them, they turn into whiney little leeches who think "moral" is defined by whatever is easier for them. They don't get that there's no room or cause for pity among rational, living human beings.

I know, I know ... I "misunderstood" your posts and just don't "get" what you're saying, right? Sure. If you want to understand the actual Objectivist position, I'd suggest reading first "The Virtue of Selfishness" and then "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal". You could try the library. You could probably also get both books, including shipping, from ARI for under $30. If you can't swing that then I guess you don't get to understand, since hashing it out on the forum isn't going to help you much without reading the original materials. Oh well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually to me, my rights are more important than your survival. In fact it appears that my rights are more important to me than your survival is to you, since you're willing to waste your time arguing about how it's okay to violate my rights in order to survive rather than working to ensure you never have to do that. I guess it's just easier that way, huh? If there's no one else around for you to steal from in order to survive, do you just fold your hands and give up? Or then would you discover that you're actually capable of keeping yourself alive?

Responding directly to your questions: Were I to be without modern Western medicine, I would die. With it, I would live. If I had to pay any significant amount of cash for insurance or individual treatments, I would not be able to afford it, and thus would not receive the health care, and thus I would die.

Responding to your non-questions, I plan to live forever, or die trying. Reason is one of the greatest tools for helping me survive, and the better I can hone my reasoning abilities, the more likely I will be to survive. I am hear to learn what I can; and thus, even if I'm not persuaded to share your beliefs, and you're not persuaded to share mine, my learning what your beliefs are is far from a waste of my time. Should you gain any understanding of my beliefs, that's a happy bonus.

The thing is, 99.9% of human beings who manage to survive infancy (and live in free or relatively free countries) are totally capable of continuing to keep themselves alive afterwards. The other 0.01% that is so disabled that they can't possibly produce any value, either physically or mentally, can easily be provided for through private charity. Without ever having met you I can say with total certainty: you're not one of them.

You seem to be applying the fallacy of the excluded middle - that someone is either able to completely take care of themself, or they are completely incapable of doing so. Naturally, I do not fall into the category of people completely incapable of taking care of themselves - as I said before, I manage to keep a roof over my head, my larder stocked, and about a hundred dollars more each month. However, due to my particular circumstances, my survival needs require somewhat more than that, and thus I do not fall into the former category, either. Thus, your two categories are insufficient to describe the entire range of human experience, making your point moot.

Of course, if people are constantly told that they aren't capable and anyway have a right to expect someone else to earn the money they need to survive for them, they turn into whiney little leeches who think "moral" is defined by whatever is easier for them. They don't get that there's no room or cause for pity among rational, living human beings.

I know, I know ... I "misunderstood" your posts and just don't "get" what you're saying, right?

Actually, my comments about that were directed to the poster 2046 in particular, whose question was what I was responding to in my previous post.

Sure. If you want to understand the actual Objectivist position, I'd suggest reading first "The Virtue of Selfishness" and then "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal". You could try the library. You could probably also get both books, including shipping, from ARI for under $30. If you can't swing that then I guess you don't get to understand, since hashing it out on the forum isn't going to help you much without reading the original materials. Oh well.

Given my experience in other topics, if someone claims that the only way to understand a topic is by reading one particular reference, and nothing can be learned on that topic without reading that particular work; that it is impossible for anyone else, such as forum posters, or other reference works, to provide a reasonable grounding in that topic; then they are mistaken. I have already learned a good deal about Objectivists from this forum, and even gained a few insights into my own beliefs, so I'm quite happy to remain here for a while, continuing to learn what I can, at least until I find somewhere else online where the cost/benefit ratio of time spent to insights gained is even better.

As for $30, I would like you to consider these numbers: Take your own monthly income, and subtract your own rent/room and groceries/board. Whatever the remainder is, multiply it by 30%. Whatever this amount is, it is in some senses, for you, the same relative value as that $30 would be for me. Imagine that someone suggested that you should purchase a couple of books for that 30% of your monthly discretionary income; do you think that that is the best value you can receive for your money? Or, as I suspect, are there other things that you can spend that much money on which you would value more than those particular books?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Given that you have previously demonstrated a lack of understanding of a point I raised, I do not expect that you will understand my reply to this question, let alone agree with it. However, I've found it quite useful to re-examine my beliefs every so often, and have gained the occasional new insight from doing so, so I'm writing this post more for myself than for you. And, who knows, maybe I'll manage to communicate something to you - it's said that you don't truly understand an idea unless you can describe it to your grandmother.

I'm going to make a differentiation between "needs", that which is necessary to survive, and "wants", which may be useful but won't lead to death if not met. If your question is about the latter, then my answer would be completely different.

Rephrasing your question slightly, it becomes the classic philosophical dilemma, if you had to choose between stealing a loaf of bread or starving (with no wiggling about for third choices), is theft moral? That Gordian knot of a puzzle was solved by somebody who said that survival is a /pre-/moral choice. That is, that issues of survival are not questions of morality or ethics, but of how to define what one's moral/ethical system is in the first place.

... and there's that insight I was hoping for. Most Objectivists I've talked to treat health care as an issue about government funding, and thus about taxation, and thus about rights, and thus about politics, and thus about a subset of ethics... while I treat it as a survival issue, of making the difference between life and death, and thus a pre-moral issue.

I would be willing to steal a loaf of bread from you, violating your right to property, to survive; just as, if our positions were reversed, I would expect you to try to steal such a loaf from me in order to survive. Similarly, I am willing to live in a society where you are forced to pay taxes, again violating your right to property, for health care that make the difference between me living and dying. (Of course, once I /do/ survive, whether via bread or a hospital, it then becomes both of our rational self-interest to try to arrange for a society where such life-or-death choices never have to be made in the first place, but that heads off into a whole other topic...)

So, responding directly to your question: yes, I believe that, to me, my life is more important than your rights. And that, to you, your life is more important than my rights. As long as the issue is of survival vs rights, survival trumps rights. (Things get a lot stickier when it's a question of one person's survival vs another's, or one's rights vs another's, but, again, that's a whole nother topic.)

Why create an unecessary breach between morality and survival? Morality doesn't exist so that you can serve it and be obidient to it, it exists so that men can survive on planet earth. Survival is not a "pre-moral" question, else how would you know how to survive in the first place? Man has no automatic knowledge and no automatic code of survival. Do you think on a deserted island you would not need morality? It is the attempt to survive and live that makes morality necessary.

Since it is impossible to seperate the two, you don't succeed in pre-empting morality, you succeed in creating an evil one, and try to blank out or evade the evil it leads to. Your attempt to seperate the two has resulted in your desire to make property out of others, it means you demand the right to turn other people into productive cattle for you. Your need to survive does not mean you have a right to force another man at gunpoint to fulfill your needs at his expense. Your right to life means mean this and only this: that it would be immoral for another man to stop you from living by the use of physical force or the threat thereof. It does not mean you have a right to take from another by the use of aggresive violence, some unearned resource or value which you feel you deserve simply because you have a pulse.

There is no conflict between my rights and your survival, or my rights and your rights. The rational interests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned. If they did, then the entire concept of rights would be impossible because the only option open to us would be to rob or be robbed, destroy or be destroyed, which is exactly what you suggest:

I would be willing to steal a loaf of bread from you, violating your right to property, to survive; just as, if our positions were reversed, I would expect you to try to steal such a loaf from me in order to survive.

-if I have bread, you steal it from me; if you have bread, I steal it from you; and life is not possible as whichever one of us tries to survive will be punished for the act of succeeding at it. There are no rights in your world, only "need" and he who needs is master, he whole achieves is slave.

The question of your survival does not demand that you steal from me, that is a fallacy of false alternative, and it is certainly not in your interest to live in such a society, as that would require living in contradiction to your own nature as a man, where you attempt to survive not by your mind, but by your ability to induce guilt into and overpower by force those who are virtuous enough to produce values, for no other reason than they were able to produce them. Whatever the value involved, it is your lack of it that gives you a claim upon those who don’t lack it. If you succeed at gaining values, any man who fails is your master; if you fail, any man who succeeds is your serf.

It's definitely not in my interest to live in such a society either, since I as a competent, productive individual have absolutely nothing to gain from you as an incompetent parasite. I am not your brother nor your keeper. So then the question remaining for you is: what are you going to do when your hosts decide to stop feeding you?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

-if I have bread, you steal it from me; if you have bread, I steal it from you; and life is not possible as whichever one of us tries to survive will be punished for the act of succeeding at it. There are no rights in your world, only "need" and he who needs is master, he whole achieves is slave.

I am not disagreeing with anything you said, but I think it is important to point out if the person were in a truly emergency situation (say if we're in Soviet Russia), it would not necessarily be immoral to steal. Morality would not really apply in such a situation. http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/emergencies.html in case the OP hasn't read this before.

Edited by Eiuol
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am hear to learn what I can; and thus, even if I'm not persuaded to share your beliefs, and you're not persuaded to share mine, my learning what your beliefs are is far from a waste of my time. Should you gain any understanding of my beliefs, that's a happy bonus.

Objectivism is not a system of "beliefs". From what I've read of your posts so far, I doubt that understanding your "beliefs" is going to give me a whole lot of insight into anything.

Given my experience in other topics, if someone claims that the only way to understand a topic is by reading one particular reference, and nothing can be learned on that topic without reading that particular work; that it is impossible for anyone else, such as forum posters, or other reference works, to provide a reasonable grounding in that topic; then they are mistaken.

Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Its literature consists of writings by or approved by Ayn Rand. If you read 5% of what she wrote, then you'll have (at best) a 5% understanding of what she wrote. I don't know what "a reasonable grounding in [Objectivism's position on taxation]" would be, but your best bet is to look at the actual literature where Ayn Rand presented and defended her position. If you don't do that and just ask some questions on a forum, you should not feel at all comfortable that you have gained a reasonable understanding of the topic. There are a wide variety of people here and a wide range in levels of understanding and agreement. All you're going to get is a bunch of opinions, some of which will align with Ayn Rand's opinions, and you'll have no way of verifying which are which.

As for $30, I would like you to consider these numbers [... blah blah blah poor DataPacRat].

Ok, so it's not worth it to you. I didn't think it would be.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...