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Is taxation moral?

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Lakeside
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...  When the police stop you they are not rescuing the victim, they are rescuing civilized society and putting you away for their safety and for deterrence.

 

Well stated.  This is a particularly good observation that I fully agree with.  :thumbsup:

 

Would that anarchists (particularily those in this forum... I'm talking to you Jodeit) could recognize the value of this simple yet elegant justification for a free government properly tasked with securing the right to life of every one of the individuals under its protection from all threats foreign and domestic (including themselves).

 

Don't let it go.

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...

In both cases, a citizen who wishes to live free and have their rights and is a moral person protected must pay. In the case of the second, immoral people are rewarded for their immorality by reaping a windfall from not paying their share of services they use, instead foisting this burden onto others. In the case of the first, everybody is forced to be, in this context, moral.

 

Free riders are by definition non-paying beneficiaries of the efforts of others, however that definition doesn't distinguish between those who could (and therefore should) pay, from those who simply can't pay, e.g., the very young, the very old, the infirmed, volunteers who work for charitable organizations, spouses/parents left in debt by a recently departed major breadwinner, skilled workers of a failed industry who need to be retrained, etc, etc...  In short, these generally are individuals who either represent an investment in the future, or overhead from the past; they are expenses it is in your self interest to bear.

 

Beyond that, I strongly believe that a proper respect for free will prevents forcing a moral imperative on others, e.g., thou shalt pay taxes, when the actual imperative being acted on is, thou shalt not commit a crime that makes taxes necessary.  So long as you can behave yourself, you are a small expense against those who cannot.

 

My plan would be to repeal the 16th Amendment and replace the current tax code with a flat tax on sales which shares the expense of securing the marketplace for those who actually use it.

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I'm certainly not promoting that, but as we veer further from a republic towards an absolute democracy, that becomes the likely destination.  At this point in the journey I'd say the voter remains in the driver's seat, and whether or not he takes us over the edge remains to be seen.  There are at least two embedded perils to free elections that I see,

 

1) eminent domain, in which elected representation can force the sale of private property, and

 

2) that a significant number of voters are unapprehended thieves and/or murderers.

 

There may be some honor among thieves (they at least have a sense of the value of property), but I really feel uncomfortable responding to the will of murderers (e.g., giving them access to tactical nukes).  Of course this is to be taken as a response to an aside, i.e., not too seriously.

 

Ah - Well yes if we consider the current state.  I was in "ideal state" form of thinking. 

 

That is actually a very good consideration, for if either of us could intact our version of the perfect system we'd have to untangle the current mess slowly in degrees based more or less on considerations like that.  

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Free riders are by definition non-paying beneficiaries of the efforts of others, however that definition doesn't distinguish between those who could (and therefore should) pay, from those who simply can't pay, e.g., the very young, the very old, the infirmed, volunteers who work for charitable organizations, spouses/parents left in debt by a recently departed major breadwinner, skilled workers of a failed industry who need to be retrained, etc, etc...  In short, these generally are individuals who either represent an investment in the future, or overhead from the past; they are expenses it is in your self interest to bear.

 

Beyond that, I strongly believe that a proper respect for free will prevents forcing a moral imperative on others, e.g., thou shalt pay taxes, when the actual imperative being acted on is, thou shalt not commit a crime that makes taxes necessary.  So long as you can behave yourself, you are a small expense against those who cannot.

 

My plan would be to repeal the 16th Amendment and replace the current tax code with a flat tax on sales which shares the expense of securing the marketplace for those who actually use it.

 

I think we've discussed this before: it stands to reason that somebody with more money (assets, etc.) has more to protect, and therefore is using more government services. Ditto for somebody who transacts more and does so at higher dollar volumes.

 

Another idea I've heard talked about here is a poll tax. Maybe that could be the way you finance the Federal government (courts and military and infrastructure). Or maybe a combination of both: one's poll tax is established by your calculated share of the cost to our government, and non-payment means you don't vote. Another interesting idea (I just thought of) is this: allow people to buy your vote. In other words, you have a tax bill, and instead of paying it, you can delegate your vote--and your associated taxes--to a willing buyer.

 

Rich people already buy half the votes in the USA already so this won't be much of a change :-). Except that instead of TV commercials and bribes to congress, the money could go directly to the treasury. Much more efficient.

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The only way for a voluntary system to actually not violate rights en masse is for it to be fully legal to hunt non-payers down like animals for sport. Quod erat demonstrandum. Reductio ad absurdum. :-)

Here in 'Merika we call it the IRS.

But that's just it... I (the taxman) can't get to his money until he chooses to earn and spend it here under the existing terms and agreements he inherited as a citizen born in the good old USA.

An 'inherited agreement'. Really. And you really don't find that idea unusual, at all?

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Then you are mistaken, as anyone who has been enslaved or imprisoned can attest.

Yep. Never had any of them run away or - you know - kill their masters to death. That's "control"?

See, when I think of 'control' I think of cars, controllers and computers; something that's almost an extension of your own hands. If you think that you can control people with whips and chains, in any similar sense, then go ahead and try it (as long as you, and not your government, can choose whether or not you will try).

While I believe we all have a moral share in providing for the common defense, individuals must be allowed to choose their own battles, which logically includes not being forced to rush towards gunfire, burning homes or even to be charitable.

Do you honestly believe that you have the right to take my belongings from me, at gunpoint, and not the right to put a gun in my hands and tell me to march (at gunpoint)? What if your government runs out of soldiers and you have to conscript more, for your own safety? Do you see that there's something inherently unstable in giving orders, at gunpoint, to someone you've armed? Or is the content of your posts simply determined by a twenty-sided die?

my brain hurts

I'm sure the little acrobat does!! Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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I can't get my head around this response (my brain hurts)... Your hypothetical surgen obtains consent to do what is necessary and is liable for damages against anything that isn't.

I'm sorry if I was talking over your head; let me simplify it.

Do I have the right to take $6.84 out of your wallet if I give you a pack of Newport Red 100's for it, regardless of whether you want to smoke them?

Does Barack Hussein Obama have the right to take your money and give you medical coverage, regardless of whether you want it?

Does the IRS have the right to take your money and use it to protect you, regardless of whether you want it?

Riddle me that, if you can.

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So in short, yes, my rights must be violated on a daily basis in that I must pay for non-payer's use of government whether I want to or not, insofar as I want any government at all, and insofar as I want my rights to be not violated on a daily basis by non-government actors.

 

Okay.

 

That was actually my point all along. Sorry for the Latin above, I'll clarify: that was reducing the argument [in favor of a volunteer government] to its logical absurdity. I'm glad you agree its absurd.

 

So I'll lay out our options once again:

 

Option 1. The government forcibly extracts taxes from everybody according to their proportional use of government services. This form of government has been in place in one form or another for about 10,000 years. The USA is a recent example that has been relatively successful at it. The right approach to taxation (and the as of yet unknown ideal as it were) is to compel all citizens to pay taxes according to their use of government services. Objectivists ought to advocate for taxes that correspond to objectively derived formulas based on people's use of government services, not based on their ability to pay as much of the system is now.

 

Option 2. We have a volunteer system, which has never been tried in any form at any kind of scale and defies mountains of evidence about what we know about how people tend to act in large numbers, and we allow anybody, through simple non-action, to violate the rights of everybody else in their society by not paying their share of the government they use.

 

In both cases, a citizen who wishes to live free and have their rights and is a moral person protected must pay. In the case of the second, immoral people are rewarded for their immorality by reaping a windfall from not paying their share of services they use, instead foisting this burden onto others. In the case of the first, everybody is forced to be, in this context, moral.

 

 

They are not reaping a windfall... far from it.  In order to choose not to get the full benefit of active gov't services ... settling only for the side effects of government's inability to accidentally benefit them... they would be living without the full benefit of a full moral political society.  Far from windfall, the only people who would likely choose not to pay are those who also would be unable to buy medical insurance, own a car, etc.  They would likely only be mentally challenged folks who could not hold any job (which would be a rarity in a society with no minimum wage), and would likely be taken care of by voluntary charity by those whose sense of generosity extends almost into the irrational.   But then ... if taken care of by charity...their gov't services would likely be paid first... along with food and shelter, by those taking care of them.

 

So ... I still cant see who exactly would be those who end up living without paying for govt services except perhaps wanted criminals on the run....

 

I think even everyday idiots would have govt services as at the same level importance of food and shelter much earlier in the budget than say life insurance, car insurance or medical insurance... and they are not exactly going out of business now are they?

 

Please tell me the kind of people who would choose not to participate in society, forego active government services in justice, police and military ... what would be their population?  do you think Doctors and Engineers would be so stupid.. or maybe its the carpenters and bakers... or grocers.... then again grocers are often the victim of hold-ups...

 

Lets try to put your worry in perspective... can you do that for me?

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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I can't get my head around this response (my brain hurts)... Your hypothetical surgen obtains consent to do what is necessary and is liable for damages against anything that isn't.

I'm sorry if I was talking over your head; let me simplify it.

Do I have the right to take $6.84 out of your wallet if I give you a pack of Newport Red 100's for it, regardless of whether you want to smoke them?

Does Barack Hussein Obama have the right to take your money and give you medical coverage, regardless of whether you want it?

Does the IRS have the right to take your money and use it to protect you, regardless of whether you want it?

Riddle me that, if you can. If not then to Hell with you.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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What if your government runs out of soldiers and you have to conscript more, for your own safety?

It never struck me before now, but this is a sharp and incisive argument! Excellent, Harrison!

A free nation needs people to defend it. Insofar as we believe in a voluntary military, we have to ask the question -- what if no one wants to serve? Therefore, we need a draft, don't we?

Or if we believe that there will be sufficient people willing to volunteer for the military (putting their very lives on the line) to protect us, why can't we believe that there would be sufficient people willing to pay to support the (proper functions of) government, for the same reason, and on an equally voluntary basis?

Edited by DonAthos
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...

An 'inherited agreement'. Really. And you really don't find that idea unusual, at all?

 

A contract is only enforceable when both parties agree.  Hanging around to enjoy a security provided by others, some with their lives, without any consideration of sharing the cost would be the unusual part.

 

edit:  This post will serve in response to your posts #481, #483 & #485.  If you need a more detailed recap, refer to my post #454 - I know you read at least the top half of that one.  And thanks for the invitation, but been there done that.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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They are not reaping a windfall... far from it.  In order to choose not to get the full benefit of active gov't services ... settling only for the side effects of government's inability to accidentally benefit them... they would be living without the full benefit of a full moral political society.  Far from windfall, the only people who would likely choose not to pay are those who also would be unable to buy medical insurance, own a car, etc.  They would likely only be mentally challenged folks who could not hold any job (which would be a rarity in a society with no minimum wage), and would likely be taken care of by voluntary charity by those whose sense of generosity extends almost into the irrational.   But then ... if taken care of by charity...their gov't services would likely be paid first... along with food and shelter, by those taking care of them.

 

So ... I still cant see who exactly would be those who end up living without paying for govt services except perhaps wanted criminals on the run....

 

So in this scenario you are envisioning the government doesn't directly compel taxes from you, but if you don't pay your taxes they can make it so you can't buy insurance, a car, etc. and generally make your life such a living hell that only a crazy person would try it.

 

Sounds much more draconian than the IRS is today :-).

 

For that matter, in practicality, that's basically the system we currently do have in place. Lots of people live outside the law and don't pay taxes. Lots of people live entirely on cash (on a small scale of course).

 

Since I've come to the conclusion here (depressing as it has been) that Franklin was right about taxes, I guess I'd be fine with what you are talking about since in all practicality its the same as a tax--all you've done is rearrange the penalty for not paying...

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To clarify (a lot):

Without integrity there cannot be a morality and without morality there can be no politics. Hence any political theory premised on the bromide that 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' contradicts itself

By 'integrity' I mean the very possibility of integrity; that it is actually possible to be consistently good, regardless of any range-of-the-moment circumstances.

At first glance it seems like a fact too obvious to ever need to be pointed out. I mean, all we're really saying here is that you control your own actions, which is self-evident. However, 'power' is one such circumstance; if it corrupts everyone it touches then your goodness or badness DOES depend on things you can't control.

It's a 'sin without volition', by which I mean that it's a sin without mental causation. And because it's a sin without volition it contradicts every moral principle that is thinkable (because they all assume volition of SOME sort) and consequently every political principle, as well.

I could go further but I don't think I need to. That's why DA can't grasp what I mean about trading by choice.

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So in this scenario you are envisioning the government doesn't directly compel taxes from you, but if you don't pay your taxes they can make it so you can't buy insurance, a car, etc. and generally make your life such a living hell that only a crazy person would try it.

 

Sounds much more draconian than the IRS is today :-).

 

For that matter, in practicality, that's basically the system we currently do have in place. Lots of people live outside the law and don't pay taxes. Lots of people live entirely on cash (on a small scale of course).

 

Since I've come to the conclusion here (depressing as it has been) that Franklin was right about taxes, I guess I'd be fine with what you are talking about since in all practicality its the same as a tax--all you've done is rearrange the penalty for not paying...

 

This is an interesting development but I have to disagree.  Taxation is the initiation of force. It is actively violating the rights of non-society members.  This is not so much cost but a situation where crime is condoned by society.

 

To differentiate, the costs of not participating in government services is reality outside of society (to the degree govt can avoid accidentally benefiting freeriders)  These costs are due to crime and criminals but the criminals are your usual deviants, evil psychopaths etc.  not society itself.  far from government forcing you to live a horrible life it is merely demonstrating that you cant get something for nothing (or not much for nothing since some freeloading will occur) and that EVEN GOVT SERVICE is a TRADE of VALUE (people actually have to do things FOR YOU) for VALUE. 

 

The penalty on the citizen in the first scenario is being damned to live in an evil society, whereas the "penalty" in the second scenario is merely that they are damned to pay the consequences of stupid decisions. 

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To clarify (a lot):

By 'integrity' I mean the very possibility of integrity....

I could go further but I don't think I need to. That's why DA can't grasp what I mean about trading by choice.

 

DA gets what is meant by trading by choice.  We are all here by choice.

 

DA doesn't get what you mean by choosing not to pay for that which you "would and should" pay for when asking others to provide it for you.  That's how the Trader Principle works.  The fictional gun you keep using to argue against a highwayman is actually the law.  And no one has been shot for not paying taxes or challenging the law in court.

 

It might be intersting to question the morality of paying dues, e.g., having your membership contingent on making a known payment and being fined if you are deliquent, or asked to leave if you refuse to pay.

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http://www.irs.gov/uac/Nonfiler-Investigations-Criminal-Investigation-(CI)

Do I have the right to take $6.84 out of your pocket in exchange for a pack of cigarettes, with or without your consent?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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DA doesn't get what you mean by choosing not to pay for that which you "would and should" pay for when asking others to provide it for you.

That's a straw man. I never asked for a government; I don't want one.

The argument that my feet gave consent by failing to leave, well; that would apply to the Jews in Nazi Germany, too.

By that logic, Hitler never hurt anybody. The Jews all just started committing suicide (which they volunteered for by failing to run away).

That same idea of "consent" would also apply to rape; you ask for it whenever you fail to run away.

:thumbsup:

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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An 'inherited agreement'. Really. And you really don't find that idea unusual, at all?

Can you inherit your ancestors' sexual consent?

---

A right is a right to choice. Whenever you try to prevent someone else from making their own choices (which is ultimately futile) you are initiating force and making it moral for them to take you out.

And that is an unacceptable state to be in.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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http://www.irs.gov/uac/Nonfiler-Investigations-Criminal-Investigation-(CI)

Do I have the right to take $6.84 out of your pocket in exchange for a pack of cigarettes, with or without your consent?

 

No, but then your hypothetical surgeon was a misrepresentation of taxation too, along with your most recent comments.

 

You say you don't want a government, but I'm begining to wonder if you understand the kind of government Objectivism promotes; at least Ayn Rand's version.  Claiming that taxation is immoral because government is immoral simply doesn't respond to the OP or even agree with a fundamental tenet within Objectivism defining a morally legitimate role for government.

 

Despite your personal anarchistic POV, would you agree that the role of government defined by AR is that of a 3rd party arbiter of disputes, agreed to and paid for in advance by the community it serves?  My understanding of Objectivism may be in error on this point, so I welcome any corrections by other more knowledgeable sources.

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Despite your personal anarchistic POV, would you agree that the role of government defined by AR is that of a 3rd party arbiter of disputes, agreed to and paid for in advance by the community it serves?

Yes, that was Rand's description of it. No, I don't think it's a moral notion and I don't believe that her own advocacy of it was a consistent extension of her own epistemology.

I call myself an "Objectivist" because of her work on morality, epistemology and metaphysics (which are much more important than politics) but I think that the Objectivist political ideal, as she herself explicitly presented it in nonfiction, is just wrong. I also specify nonfiction because I think that erroneous ideal contradicts the one implied by (but not made explicit within) her fiction.

No, but then your hypothetical surgeon was a misrepresentation of taxation too, along with your most recent comments.

I don't see how; please elaborate.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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...

I don't see how; please elaborate.

 

Taxation simply reflects the reality that there is always a cost associated with the preservation of freedom and the only relevant moral question is, who would you have pay for it?

 

The cost of living in the Icelandic Free State was following the Chieftain (of your choice) into battles (of his choice).  Yep, the draft was used there too.

 

The cost of living by Merchant Law was paying rent and observing whatever trade restrictions the local lords and kings had in place.  And yep, they collected taxes too.

 

So whether you ransom your freedom from Vikings or more contemporary agents of security, someone will always be there to collect.  The only real potential for voluntary action is having an ability to negotiate over the terms of payment.  I think free elections are an improvement over more traditional means seen throughout history, but it remains a work in progress.

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Taxation simply reflects the reality that there is always a cost associated with the preservation of freedom and the only relevant moral question is, who would you have pay for it?

So I do have the right to foot you with the bill for my cigarettes and contraceptives. :thumbsup:

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As a member in good standing within a society of taxpayers, you have the right to access whatever goods and services are currently being provided for under the premise of justice for all.  You also have the right to participate in the process of adding to or subtracting from an objective list of goods and services paid for by taxation, and to renegotiate methods of collecting payment.  However, the Trader Principle morally prevents you from accepting cigarettes and contraceptives from any society without consideration of providing something in return, and historical reality confirms that principle in spades.

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That is a slippery slope - He could counter the trader principle also prevents societies from forcing cigarettes and contraceptives on him then demand payment.  That is a dead end argument - I'd steer clear of market based "goods and services" examples for a non-market issue. 

 

~ Spiral "Helping Both Sides" Architect.  

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