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Is taxation moral?

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Lakeside
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Well, you can call anything "voluntary" by this standard. So, its good you put it within quotes to show that it isn't.

 

I'll leave a plate of cookies and a glass of milk on the mantle for your voluntary taxman, or your GR8 relative, whoever comes first.  In the mean time it does seem "more than premature" to discuss payment options for some future system of government that requires evolutionary changes in man's nature to achieve.

 

In terms of the here and now I came across this interesting POV:

 

 "It is true that the theory of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid voluntarily; that our government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily entered into by the people with each other; that each man makes a free and purely voluntary contract with all others who are parties to the Constitution, to pay so much money for so much protection, the same as he does with any other insurance company; and that he is just as free not to be protected, and not to pay tax, as he is to pay a tax, and be protected. But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: “Your money, or your life.” And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat. The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful. " ~ Lysander Spooner

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntary_taxation

 

I recommend working with the Constitution we have to produce a more practical application of the theory behind it; evolution by steps.  A flat tax seems an appropriate step, but I'm open to other solutions and hope to find some here...

 

Edit:  I would add that if a moral, voluntary tax isn't likely to occur anytime soon, it behooves us to identify and implement as moral a tax code as is possible today.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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... future system of government that requires evolutionary changes in man's nature to achieve.

No change is required to man's nature, only to what he considers the proper role of government. This might seem a pedantic point, but too many people make the case that men need to be more willing to follow a moral code before we have change. But... that's not the problem.

 

Even, with all the slips between cup-and-lip, enough men who matter do follow a moral code. The problems of the world do not come from the short-cuts they want to take around their moral code, but from the code itself. Men are not moochers by nature. Look around you at friends and family who support the idea that government should run schools and subsidize healthcare and help the poor and help during retirement... if you think the majority think these things because they want to live off someone else's money, you'd be wrong.... right?

 

I recommend working with the Constitution we have to produce a more practical application of the theory behind it; evolution by steps.  A flat tax seems an appropriate step, but I'm open to other solutions and hope to find some here...

 

Edit:  I would add that if a moral, voluntary tax isn't likely to occur anytime soon, it behooves us to identify and implement as moral a tax code as is possible today.

We've had some previous threads on flat-taxes. It is a mistake to think that schemes like that will bring real change. Though I'd prefer a flatter tax in principle, I'd probably oppose almost any actual flat-tax proposal. What we need is to reduce the scope of government, not to find a way to raise taxes more fairly or more efficiently.

I'm not arguing against incremental change, but the change ought to be on the role of government. As it is sometimes expressed: "It's the spending, stupid!" :)

 

Of all the areas where government does not belong, let it start cutting back at least in some. Heck, let it just hold its spending flat in some major area! If there is no political will to cut expenditure via cutting the role of government, the rest is just playing around the edges and any gain will disappear in a couple of election cycles.

 

If government really starts to spend less, the best approach to taxes would be to leave all the computations and rules the same, and simply tell everyone to pay (say) 95% of what the tax calc. comes out to be. Efforts around flat-taxes, or federal sales taxes are just wasted political energy.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Really? An evolutionary change in man's nature? Literally? That seems a bit of an exaggeration, especially considering that historical examples of competitive, voluntarily funded legal (and educational) systems have already existed in human history, as many libertarian scholars have pointed out in detail.

That is not to say that current public opinion is close to favoring such systems, but a market is simply one possible pattern of social behavior, violent goverments are another. No evolutionary physiological change necessary. Maybe evolution of ideas in society, sure. But that's the point of spreading libertarian ideas. I'm all for reducing taxation as much as we can, but no one's going to rush to the libertarian ramparts Les Miserables style with "marginal tax rate of 37% rather than 39%!" It's important, in terms of right or wrong, to state that, at the end of the day, waylaying a man is wrong, whether it's for a flat portion of his income or whatever else.

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Yes, an "evolutionary change in man's nature".

 

Everybody keeps talking past each other here. On one hand, there are people pointing out that unless you get 100% compliance, the voluntary system breaks down and won't work. The response is to the effect of, "but most people are good". "Most" isn't the same as "all". And we're not talking about satanic evil here, we're talking about, "a college kid that doesn't feel like sending money to a 'government thingy' they can't understand and buying more beer instead" or whatnot. Lazy people. People who are assholes. People who hear the word, "selfish" convince themselves that means that they can take advantage of others. People who evade. Common criminals. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc.

 

But history can be a guide: can we point to a large-scale, successful society where there was absolutely no compelled taxes (as 2046 alluded to). I have never heard of such a thing, but certainly an example would be illuminating. We'd also have to weigh whatever we see there with any counter-examples we might find, wherein previously illegal activities where made legal (or lawless), and what effect that had in the looting.

 

Certainly my own anecdotal life experience tells me that, in short, lots of people are assholes, and that if we made being an asshole legal, there would be a lot more of them. But I'm willing to hear scientific evidence that contradicts my admittedly anecdotal life experience...

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Taxes should try to be roughly connected to one's net service receipt from the government's protection, for instance. . .

 

Objectivism applied to this world is powerful indeed.

 

"Objectivism."

 

You use that word so often; I do not think it means what you think it means.

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Armed robbery is wrong, DA and Crow.

 

It doesn't matter what you call it.  It doesn't matter how you divvy up the loot afterward, it doesn't matter how you choose your victims and it doesn't matter how fairly you sacrifice them; it's still wrong.

Both of you know that, already.  You can insist it's inevitable until the last of us starts decomposing; it won't make it so, whether you successfully justify it to yourselves or not.

 

The world you're talking about isn't this one; it's the world of the dark ages.  If you truly didn't believe that a better one was possible then you would not feel compelled to say so.  And the only thing that can prevent something better from becoming actual; the only thing that can pull us back into the dark ages is our submission to our own fear.

 

No, taxation is not inevitable; not so long as people like us exist.

 

That's all I have to say about it.

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Cool your jets.

 
History indicates that taxation isn't inevitable, but it's certainly a persistent form of revenue collection for government services.  A good question to pursue would be to identify those places where it occurred voluntarily, and if still viable, attempt to adopt the same practice here.  Any place/time in particular you want to look at??

 
Your previous suggestion to ditch free riders in lieu of policy holders ditches justice for all in the process.  A bit draconian don-cha thin??

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So that could happen. People could be assholes. People could choose to buy beer instead. People could choose monarchy or dictatorship, or whatever. Libertarians do not attempt to remake the very nature of man, to remove the very possibility of being an asshole. Libertarians recognize that man is a mixture of good and evil, of asshole and non-asshole, and has the capacity to choose. As long as man has free will, there is nothing to guarantee any specific political system will be successful. But the question of whether any system is compatible with man's nature is a different question than what is the current level of asshole-ness in society.

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If anyone can provide an adequate historical example of voluntary taxation, I'd like to see it.  The typical forms I come across appear to be variations on Noblesse Oblige, which I presume isn't something endorsed by Objectivism.  I did come across this article which cites both Ayn Rand (as a libertian, no less) and Stephen King (one of my favs).  The conclusion from the former is don't hold your breath, and the latter is that the generous 1%ers can't cover it...
http://www.academia.edu/3465449/Is_Voluntary_Taxation_a_Viable_Option

 

Is there an actual referent in reality supporting this premise??

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So that could happen. People could be assholes. People could choose to buy beer instead. People could choose monarchy or dictatorship, or whatever. Libertarians do not attempt to remake the very nature of man, to remove the very possibility of being an asshole. Libertarians recognize that man is a mixture of good and evil, of asshole and non-asshole, and has the capacity to choose. As long as man has free will, there is nothing to guarantee any specific political system will be successful. But the question of whether any system is compatible with man's nature is a different question than what is the current level of asshole-ness in society.

 

The Nature of Man in the context of building a society must necessary include far more than the mere existence of free will. Sure, you can leave it there and say, "people will just decide to do whatever they decide to do" (and then presumably curl up with a Kafka novel and a glass of vodka), but if we're interested in actually solving a problem in the real world then indeed, we must work to understand the full nature of man, including our estimations how they are likely to act in the future.

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@ Devil's Advocate - I think I'm gaining a better understanding how man qua man as the rational animal is pivotal as the fulcrum here. I was actually addressing CrowEpistemoligist's choice of phrasing it as "the Nature of Man" and understanding the "full nature of man". in the previous post. To reword an earlier wrap-up statement, philosophy's influence in this world is much more powerful than I currently understand it to be.

Edited by dream_weaver
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@ Devil's Advocate - I think I'm gaining a better understanding how man qua man as the rational animal is pivotal as the fulcrum here. I was actually addressing CrowEpistemoligist's choice of phrasing it as "the Nature of Man" and understanding the "full nature of man". in the previous post. To reword an earlier wrap-up statement, philosophy's influence in this world is much more powerful than I currently understand it to be.

 

Understanding the full nature of Man--and thus making predictions of how a society of men will interact--is the basis of applied politics.

 

That science must be approached scientifically, rationally, and with a solid metaphysical foundation. Stronger than any science, for it's the unique realm of politics and power that corrupts men partially and absolutely, and wills them to corruption begat by unreason begat by every mystical philosophy from the dawn of history (and the begetting and the begat are often reversed and the two are intertwined in an endless twisted pair).

 

I think Ayn Rand and the preponderance of Objectivsts got it wrong when they predicted how this would play out in reality (insofar as they actually imagined such a reality), but I think the consequences of reason and reality will be better than they imagined.

 

The real enemy of men is corruption, and the weapon against that enemy is reason.

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The real enemy of man is altruism, which itself is the result of a corruption in the application of reason to the realm of morality. It implicitly counts on man as a moral being, while it arises from a bastardized moral code which it uses as a weapon to try to control and manipulate men. Yes, reason is the weapon against that enemy. It gains its effectiveness by discovering the proper sire of a proper code of morality, against which altruism is ineffectual, unless and until it becomes embodied in the group.

Edited by dream_weaver
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Altruism is a phantom menace derived from the corruption of goodwill.  You must take great pains not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

 

Political corruption is an easier target to identify and impeach.  Repeal the 16th Amendment, that cancerous corruption of individual freedoms, the latest symptom of which manifests as individual mandates, and you will have gone a great measure towards returning to the kind of voluntary society that once was.

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The real enemy of man is altruism, which itself is the result of a corruption in the application of reason to the realm of morality. It implicitly counts on man as a moral being, while it arises from a bastardized moral code which it uses as a weapon to try to control and manipulate men. Yes, reason is the weapon against that enemy. It gains its effectiveness by discovering the proper sire of a proper code of morality, against which altruism is ineffectual, unless and until it becomes embodied in the group.

 

? It? - The 16th Amendment?

I was tying this back into altruism more broadly. (I can see I have much more work ahead of me - learning to state myself more clearly.) How do you square "throwing the baby out with the bath water" with "the 16th Amendment being a concrete example of altruism as being at the root of the moral code of the group that enacted it." Or am I missing something else here?

Edited by dream_weaver
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Mea culpa dream_weaver,

 

The shorthand for what I posted is, it's easier to address a corruption that is political than one that is moral.  I think you are correct that the root of the problem is altruism but I also agree, as has been suggested, that it will take generations (evolution) to bring a majority of recognition to that flaw of human nature.  The 16th amendment can be repealed as an affront to individual freedom without battling the feel good nature of voting altruistically.

 

Choose your battles so your children don't have to fight the same ones over again.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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The 16th amendment can be repealed as an affront to individual freedom without battling the feel good nature of voting altruistically.

But, all it would take is for someone to point out the truth: that the 16th amendment is about taking from the rich to give to the poor. When I look around me, the number of people who think the rich should pay a little more tax is higher than the number who think the rich pay too much already. If anything, post great-recession, the "1%" are now demonized more, not less. (And, of course, when it comes to implementation, "1%" really means at least the top 10% or more. For instance, when Obama goes after 529 plans.) 

 

If a certain concrete law (or constitutional amendment) is based on an important moral premise held by a majority of the population, you cannot get rid of it for long before it will be replaced by an alternative. Not just your children; but, you would be fighting the same battle in 3 election cycles.

 

I would prefer pushing for an end to prohibition, with a consequent reduction in the millions that governments (federal, state and local) spend on the "war on drugs", and a consequent lack of excuses for cops violating people's rights: like storming into homes and taking away cash that people are carrying.

Edited by softwareNerd
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