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Is taxation moral?

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Lakeside
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So let me get this straight, if a certain group of wealthy, elite slave-owning rich white males from the 18th century never gathered together in secret and created a taxation scheme to fund a centralized law making authority backed up by force, then that would be bad because, why then Murica wouldn't exist. Bald eagles would cry, and there would be no Super Bowl. QED. Then there would be no one to stop robbers and killers, cause of course, that's the main goal of the USG.

Here's a news flash: Most libertarians, including objectivists, oppose the U.S. Goverment and constitution.

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Your voluntary presence . . . ? Determinism? WTF? Like we have a choice to which set of parents we are born? Pull - ease.

Which, as I understand it, was exactly what Lysander Spooner said in many more words.

It makes perfect sense if you think about it, though. "Involuntary taxation" is a polite term for theft and our political Luddites know that theft is wrong but don't believe that men (any man) is good enough for truly voluntary taxation, which forces them into some rather awkward positions. The backhanded references to "justice for all", for example, which are attempts to insinuate one of their points without having to make it explicit; if it were explicit then it would imply the moral outcroppings of what is, epistemologically, intrinsicism.

It makes sense for them to look at your birth as a voluntary action, though, because it allows them to have their cake and eat it too; they can call taxation 'voluntary' on the basis that you volunteered.

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“X is possible” means: in the present context of knowledge, there is some, but not much, evidence in favor of X and nothing known that contradicts X." ~ ARL

What possible voluntary taxation evidence is there? Nothing ginormous mind you, just a single case of a nation securing freedom at cost, by those who felt generous enough to extend justice to all the little people.

1: Given every alternative he is aware of, every man will choose to do what he considers "best".

Nobody sees EVERY possibility, in every choice they make, and most people have a warped concept of what is "best". They will pursue it at every available opportunity, though.

2: Men can learn from their own experience and from each other.

3: Voluntarism really is the best way; most people just don't know it yet.

Wasn't the constitution originally designed to avoid taxes altogether, before the Whiskey rebellion? Really, if I had to name the moment where it all started to slip, that would be it (and the rebels doubtlessly agreed).

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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@ Spiral Architect,
 
It's the apparent conflict between "non-aggression" and "not receiving the undeserved" that I'm having issues with; not the question of, "Why we cannot be freer".
 
No one is arguing that government services in a free society ought not be paid for, but the term voluntary suggests that very thing; that it's better to get something freely than to have to pay for it.  In truth force is only used as a consequence of not paying for public services rendered, consistent with the presumably acceptable practice of private debt collection under the same legal system.
 
Taxation is payment for the premium of providing security (as insurance or whatever).  It allows for a secure marketplace today that traders can earn their living in.  It's been suggested repeatedly that a "voluntary" method of payment for providing government services is possible in spite of any actual evidence, let alone a complete history (which you acknowlegde) contracts that premise.
 
BTW, the POV of the "religious left" would support the premise of rendering unto Caesar that which is Ceasar's, which when you think about it actually undermines their arguement for tax exemptions.

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@ 2046,
 
I think if you dig a little deeper you discover the historical roots of taxation go a little depper than you suggest.  The Muircan Founders can only be credited with some improvement over prior versions; it's still a work in progress.  Nevertheless, I get your position and appreciate your candor.  As a fellow dissident, I'll continue to allow some of my wealth to cover the expense of providing security for you to ponder additional improvements.

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Oh Harrison Danneskjold, I'm not arguing for the status quo and I doubt Franklin's lament was unfounded. 

 

Voluntaryland will arrive when self governance is sufficient to the task of avoiding criminal behavior.  Until then, taxation is moral because it's necessary for securing the right of 320,286,698 citizens (and counting - http://www.census.gov/popclock/) to live long enough to figure out a better way.
 

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You really have gone through all of the objectivist literature and somehow total missed that?

 

About the only thing I say about Rand or others hitting you over the head with it is because, as Peikoff said, the Income didn't upset her as much as philosophic errors as the later causes the former and it's root cause.

 

Wither way, you know the objectivist position on force as evil and the virtue of the trader principle.  

 

Yes, I know about that position. I just missed the quote where Ayn Rand summarily said that taxes were immoral (esp. when she floated the idea of "tax stamps" etc.). You aren't extrapolating what she said using your own interpretation are you?

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Rand's view opposed involuntary taxation, for more or less the reasons expressed in this thread:

"In a fully free society, taxation—or, to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary. Since the proper services of a government—the police, the armed forces, the law courts—are demonstrably needed by individual citizens and affect their interests directly, the citizens would (and should) be willing to pay for such services, as they pay for insurance.

The question of how to implement the principle of voluntary government financing—how to determine the best means of applying it in practice—is a very complex one and belongs to the field of the philosophy of law. The task of political philosophy is only to establish the nature of the principle and to demonstrate that it is practicable. The choice of a specific method of implementation is more than premature today—since the principle will be practicable only in a fully free society, a society whose government has been constitutionally reduced to its proper, basic functions."

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/taxation.html

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Here's a news flash: Most libertarians, including objectivists, oppose the U.S. Goverment and constitution.

 

Many of them I talk to are, in fact, living on another planet, yes. This philosophy like many others sometimes draws a certain kind of personality that craves perceived persecution and is chosed because its an outlier, and an isolating social force.

 

But okay, fine, I'll go play on your planet for a while. Before you eliminate the US constitution, you need an alternative. One that works. One that we're pretty darn sure will work based on everything we know about how humans have behaved over the last N centuries. I and others have repeatedly asked for some kind of evidence of a voluntary social scheme that really worked in history.

 

And I'll repeat that, insofar as we cannot come up with a clear alternative-and insofar that there's lots of evidence to the contrary--then advocating a different system is immoral. Immoral even on the epistemological level, since you are willfully throwing away reason and substituting feelings (hopes and dreams) for cognition. Your focusing your attention on issues that don't matter, and will never matter, and taking away from issues that do.

 

But here's paradox for you: everybody hates paying their taxes. Everybody. Any politician that promises them they won't have to will get votes. Any intellectual who supports that politician will gain prominence. Paul Ryan makes his staff read Ayn Rand. He'd probably also make them read, "The Anti-Tax Martian Cult Bible" if there was one.

 

So the interpretation of Ayn Rand being anti-tax is oh-so-convenient from a populist standpoint. But it's... popular! Eeek! Run away!

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1. That there exists some "voluntary" scheme which would work at scale and wouldn't violate anybody's rights.

2. We must have compelled taxes that correspond to each citizen's usage of government resources.

I haven't seen an argument for #1. I can't even start to imagine one. Nobody has ever thought of one, and it certainly has never been tried anywhere. As such, we must accept #2 as a metaphysical fact of our existence.

"It's never happened, and so it cain't" ain't much of an argument. I mean, speaking just for myself, if the government had a Paypal button, I'd use it.
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But okay, fine, I'll go play on your planet for a while.

[...]

I and others have repeatedly asked for some kind of evidence of a voluntary social scheme that really worked in history.

[...]

Your focusing your attention on issues that don't matter, and will never matter, and taking away from issues that do.

What a joke. We have *no* evidence, *anywhere*, *ever* of people getting along and agreeing?

Same old same old: "People aren't good enough to be free."

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Many of them I talk to are, in fact, living on another planet, yes. This philosophy like many others sometimes draws a certain kind of personality that craves perceived persecution and is chosed because its an outlier, and an isolating social force.

 

But okay, fine, I'll go play on your planet for a while. Before you eliminate the US constitution, you need an alternative. One that works. One that we're pretty darn sure will work based on everything we know about how humans have behaved over the last N centuries. I and others have repeatedly asked for some kind of evidence of a voluntary social scheme that really worked in history.

 

And I'll repeat that, insofar as we cannot come up with a clear alternative-and insofar that there's lots of evidence to the contrary--then advocating a different system is immoral. Immoral even on the epistemological level, since you are willfully throwing away reason and substituting feelings (hopes and dreams) for cognition. Your focusing your attention on issues that don't matter, and will never matter, and taking away from issues that do.

 

But here's paradox for you: everybody hates paying their taxes. Everybody. Any politician that promises them they won't have to will get votes. Any intellectual who supports that politician will gain prominence. Paul Ryan makes his staff read Ayn Rand. He'd probably also make them read, "The Anti-Tax Martian Cult Bible" if there was one.

 

So the interpretation of Ayn Rand being anti-tax is oh-so-convenient from a populist standpoint. But it's... popular! Eeek! Run away!

I mean, I don't know man. Sounds like a lot of argument from intimidation to me. Telling people they're on another planet and so forth, trying to psychologize their mental states. I don't think that to be a very ethical way of debating, but this thread is far from making any sense that I can see. In any event, simply telling someone they're on another planet and that what they are saying doesn't matter and then talking about Paul Ryan (?) isn't a valid argument. Objectivists oppose taxation. And their alternative is limited government, which they argue is based on natural rights, which, as I'm sure you are aware, rests on observations about the nature of man. It doesn't really have anything to do with predicting how any given specific person will act, for that is impossible. It opposes the Hobbesian view of human nature as "homo lupus homini est." It doesn't argue that rights somehow automatically protect themselves (why would anything think that)? Maybe one reason it sounds like people are on another planet is that you aren't very familiar with background philosophic arguments. Why don't you try to distill your argument or objections down into basic syllogistic form?

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Well, certainly discussion of historical decentralized political systems and their voluntary methods of funding would be welcome indeed! There are many numerous such cases to provide. Medieval Ireland, fuedal German and Swiss cantons, the University of Bologna, customary law systems in various countries, international law systems, such as the Law Merchant (lex mercantoria) But this can be quite overwhelming, so we can just focus on one example, the Icelandic Free State. Here's just a short bibliography of scholarly papers written on the topic, I'm sure you will study carefully the body of work and have a scholarly and totally non-anecdotal response (I believe in you!):

 

Bruce Benson. The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State. Pacific Research Institute, San Francisco, 1990.

Tom W. Bell. "Polycentric Law." Humane Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1991/92.

Jesse L. Byock. Feud in the Icelandic Saga. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1982.

—–. Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas, and Power. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1988.

—–. Viking Age Iceland. Penguin, London, 2001.

David Friedman. "Private Creation and Enforcement of Law: A Historical Case." Journal of Legal Studies 8, 1979.

—–. The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism. Second Edition. Open Court, La Salle, 1989. Chapter 44.

—–. "Viking Iceland: Anarchy that Worked," Liberty 2, no. 6 (July 1989), pp. 37-40.

Albert Loan. "Institutional Bases of the Spontaneous Order: Surety and Assurance." Humane Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1992.

Roderick T. Long. "The Decline and Fall of Private Law in Iceland." Formulations 1, no. 3 (Spring 1994).

William I. Miller. Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland.University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1990.

Birgir T. Runolfsson Solvason. Ordered Anarchy, State, and Rent-Seeking: The Icelandic Commonwealth, 930-1264. Ph.D. Dissertation in Economics, George Mason University, 1991.

—–. "Ordered Anarchy: Evolution of the Decentralized Legal Order in the IcelandicCommonwealth," Icelandic Economic Papers 17 (1992).

—–. 1993. "Institutional Evolution in the Icelandic Commonwealth." Constitutional Political Economy 4, no. 1, pp. 97-125.

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Many of them I talk to are, in fact, living on another planet, yes. This philosophy like many others sometimes draws a certain kind of personality that craves perceived persecution and is chosed because its an outlier, and an isolating social force.

 

But okay, fine, I'll go play on your planet for a while. Before you eliminate the US constitution, you need an alternative. One that works. One that we're pretty darn sure will work based on everything we know about how humans have behaved over the last N centuries. I and others have repeatedly asked for some kind of evidence of a voluntary social scheme that really worked in history.

 

And I'll repeat that, insofar as we cannot come up with a clear alternative-and insofar that there's lots of evidence to the contrary--then advocating a different system is immoral. Immoral even on the epistemological level, since you are willfully throwing away reason and substituting feelings (hopes and dreams) for cognition. Your focusing your attention on issues that don't matter, and will never matter, and taking away from issues that do.

 

But here's paradox for you: everybody hates paying their taxes. Everybody. Any politician that promises them they won't have to will get votes. Any intellectual who supports that politician will gain prominence. Paul Ryan makes his staff read Ayn Rand. He'd probably also make them read, "The Anti-Tax Martian Cult Bible" if there was one.

 

So the interpretation of Ayn Rand being anti-tax is oh-so-convenient from a populist standpoint. But it's... popular! Eeek! Run away!

 

 

Crow, as a starting point, what do you see as the main difference between voluntarily deciding to pay for:

 

Life Insurance

A video Alarm system

A security guard to guard my factory

A bouncer to guard my Drinking Establishment

 

(all very successfully "funded")

 

and deciding to voluntarily pay for a police, legal, and military system?

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What a joke. We have *no* evidence, *anywhere*, *ever* of people getting along and agreeing?

Same old same old: "People aren't good enough to be free."

 

You put quotes around that but I didn't actually say that. Nor did I imply it.

 

As a matter of fact, that statement is nonsensical if you try to actually interpret it at face value...

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Well, certainly discussion of historical decentralized political systems and their voluntary methods of funding would be welcome indeed! There are many numerous such cases to provide. Medieval Ireland, fuedal German and Swiss cantons, the University of Bologna, customary law systems in various countries, international law systems, such as the Law Merchant (lex mercantoria) But this can be quite overwhelming, so we can just focus on one example, the Icelandic Free State. Here's just a short bibliography of scholarly papers written on the topic, I'm sure you will study carefully the body of work and have a scholarly and totally non-anecdotal response (I believe in you!):

 

Bruce Benson. The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State. [...........]

 

 

From the Wikipedia article on the Iceland-anarchy argument:

 

"No military was necessary in Iceland due to the geographic isolation...".

 

and

 

"In the medieval Icelandic justice system, criminals were not incarcerated. The Icelandish anarchists instead fined criminals, with reparations going to the victim of the crime instead of the government.[citation needed] When the victim of the crime was uncertain, the court would decide who the fine was paid to. If the criminal was unable to pay the fine, she would be able to pay off her sentence with slavery. If she refused to pay and work, she was outlawed. Even those who killed during war had to pay fines, and as such wars were limited to family feuds or battles, usually lasting only a few days."

 

So yeah, the anarcho-capitalism stuff. They point to ancient Iceland among other "free" societies which by medieval standards were very "free".

 

Whatever you do don't read the fine print. Don't allow yourself to integrate your knowledge of these ancient isolated societies with everything we know about the  modern world and, oh I don't know, every single other historical society that's ever existed. Don't integrate your knowledge of how tribal leaderships were not exactly transparent organizations subject to disclosure laws, but rather power tends to corrupt and its virtually certain we don't have historical records of every injustice perpetrated by the local warlords.

 

In the system above the courts were private (owned by whom?). Enough said. There are plenty of threads here about anarchy/"anarcho-capitalism" and I doubt its worth re-hashing it all here, so I'll stipulate this: if you firmly believe that anarcho-capitalism could work, well, that's certainly an argument against compelled taxation...

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Crow, as a starting point, what do you see as the main difference between voluntarily deciding to pay for:

 

Life Insurance

A video Alarm system

A security guard to guard my factory

A bouncer to guard my Drinking Establishment

 

(all very successfully "funded")

 

and deciding to voluntarily pay for a police, legal, and military system?

 

If I don't pay for guards, they don't come, and they don't give me protection.

 

I don't force others to pay for my private guards, and my private guards don't protect anybody else (unless they pay as well, etc.).

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OK Crow:

 

we'll come back to Guards... or security of the person and property.. later.

 

 

Let's talk insurance.

 

Why would a rational person pay for any kind of insurance (not just life... theft, fire, etc.) if they do not know whether they will incur a loss?

 

 

Specifically what about Fire insurance?

 

If I buy fire insurance (at an appropriate rate according to my risk factors) for 20 years and never had a fire did I receive any value for my payment?

Suppose in that same time someone else with higher or lower risk but paying their appropriate amount, actually had a fire ... the amount they paid into the system of course no where near the amount of the loss or the compensation they received. 

Would you say I "paid" for their loss?

 

Is fire insurance a valid choice (in fact a moral choice) that a rationally self-interested Objectivist should adopt (short of being certain that loss due to fire is not possible)?  Why?

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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... Before you eliminate the US constitution, you need an alternative. One that works. One that we're pretty darn sure will work based on everything we know about how humans have behaved over the last N centuries. I and others have repeatedly asked for some kind of evidence of a voluntary social scheme that really worked in history.

 

And I'll repeat that, insofar as we cannot come up with a clear alternative-and insofar that there's lots of evidence to the contrary--then advocating a different system is immoral. Immoral even on the epistemological level, since you are willfully throwing away reason and substituting feelings (hopes and dreams) for cognition. Your focusing your attention on issues that don't matter, and will never matter, and taking away from issues that do.

...

 

The counter argument, as I understand it, is that voluntary taxation gets a pass because there aren't any historical examples; certainly nothing that approaches the scale and complexity of the world we live in today.  Never mind that even the weakest evidence of a viably sustainable method of funding national defense based on donations has invariably been replaced by stronger ones funded by taxes. 

 

Ergo Peikoff's test for what is possible doesn't apply in this case... no matter how important it is that we get it right...  Capitalism is, after all, an unknown ideal.  How convenient.

 

Buy hey, we know that making someone pay taxes is EVIL!!!!!!!!

 

So let's just go with that and see what happens... again...

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Don't integrate your knowledge of how tribal leaderships were not exactly transparent organizations subject to disclosure laws, but rather power tends to corrupt and its virtually certain we don't have historical records of every injustice perpetrated by the local warlords.

Would you like to elaborate on that point?

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Ergo Peikoff's test for what is possible doesn't apply in this case... no matter how important it is that we get it right... Capitalism is, after all, an unknown ideal. How convenient.

This is a lie.

1: Given every alternative he is aware of, every man will choose to do what he considers "best".

Nobody sees EVERY possibility, in every choice they make, and most people have a warped concept of what is "best". They will pursue it at every available opportunity, though.

2: Men can learn from their own experience and from each other.

3: Voluntarism really is the best way; most people just don't know it yet.

These three points, taken together, constitute evidence of possibility. Furthermore, 2046 has gone out of his way to provide historical examples.

Please do not pose questions that you do not want answers to because I consider that a form of deceit, as well. Thank you.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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This is a lie.

These three points, taken together, constitute evidence of possibility. Furthermore, 2046 has gone out of his way to provide historical examples.

Please do not pose questions that you do not want answers to because I consider that a form of deceit, as well. Thank you.

 

Then answer them.  If voluntarism really is the best way and most people don't know it, then present some persuasive examples of it holding a nation together.  Yes, 2046 has finally provided some examples, which I appreciate and will look into.  I'm somewhat familiar with the Law Merchant and that might bear some fruit.  But an Icelandic Free State that descends into civil war and surrenders itself back to a more powerful centralized government??

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Prior to the computer being conceived of, built and marketed, it was unknown. Is that just convenient too?

 

I'll assume, based on your prior comments, that wasn't intended to diminish the validity of Peikoff's test.  Cuz you know what I could do with a concession that anything's possible :devil:

 

Prior to computers there were numerous examples of calculating devices progressing from IIII II, to abacuses, to slide rulers, etc.  Each advancement provided evidence of improved calculating devices, and nothing in the history of calculating devices contradicted the possibility that something like an electric abacus was possible.  Then voila, computer.

 

convenient

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