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Is taxation moral?

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No one is dealing with my quantitative argument. If the necessary expenditures to win a war total to greater than the GDP then complete liquidation and confiscation of the assets of everyone in the country will not fund the war. Complete confiscation is not even practical, nor is complete liquidation possible.

I don't follow what this statement has to do with anything. If it is a fact that winning a war will cost more more than a nation has, then they will lose. Right.

Can you imagine this scenario? Han't history shown that freer countries create more wealth? Is a free nations likely to go to war with another free nation?

I do agree that if the ONLY options are being conquered or mandatory taxation, you take the lesser of those two evils. Objectively making that choice is simple. That those are the only options -- has not been shown.

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YOU CANNOT CLAIM TO HAVE THE MORE REASONABLE ARGUMENTS AND THE GUN TO COMPEL ME TO SUBMIT TO YOU SIMULTANEOUSLY. If I don't agree that society must be forced to pay for government services, that doe

The alternative is that -- in its most core functions -- the government protects all people in its jurisdiction, those who pay, those who don't pay, foreigners visiting the country. I think the re

Saying I can be forced to pay money by being out-voted is a collectivist bate and switch tactic.  Morality is not subject to mathematics or any form of aggregate.  It's the old two lions and a lamb vo

You didn't address the points I made in my last post.

Why are you different? Why is the federal government intelligent, but the general public so stupid,

I did address your point. If you think that I am claiming that the government is somehow more intelligent or the people too stupid to do what is necessary then you have not understood me. I am presenting as a fact that the people will be unable to do what is necessary without taxation and government debt. Force is defeated with superior force, not superior moral righteousness. Taxation makes possible the defense of life and freedom therefore it cannot be immoral. We differ on what is necessary.

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I don't follow what this statement has to do with anything. If it is a fact that winning a war will cost more more than a nation has, then they will lose. Right.

Wrong! That is when you turn to the capitalist market in money and buy even more money on credit by issuing government debt. When the market has absorbed all the government debt it will bear and the war goes on then losing is inevitable. This is the mechanism by which capitalist countries win wars, it is not that they have more cash but that they have more credit.

I do agree that if the ONLY options are being conquered or mandatory taxation, you take the lesser of those two evils. Objectively making that choice is simple. That those are the only options -- has not been shown.
The scale of the expenditures of every major war in history is what shows taxation is a necessity. Tax or die.
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That's your argument? I thought you were making some sort of "trade-off a little liberty for our overall security" argument all along. Why in the world would it come down to “tax or die”? Yes, the government, unable to strike with nuclear weapons to ensure a quick victory, may find itself in a drawn out war, and it may need to issue IOU's. We are talking here about whether or not taxation is moral, not if it is necessary to fund a war, so this argument is really off-kilter.

But nonetheless, when it gets to this point, the response is: if the society is rational enough to recognize the principle of individual rights and has implemented such a private property society, then it will be willing to pay for its defense, including to pay back the principal and interest of debt issued during the war. Those rational people, who would have to be the majority you would agree to set up this kind of society in the first place, will pay for its obligations out of unanimous consent, thus no future expropriation is necessary after the war. Those who are irrational and don't want to pay can be ostracized and removed from society as necessary. But you don't have a right to pick someone's pocket. True, it may be the lesser of two evils one must choose until the political ideas of individual rights are accepted, but you have yet to even touch upon how A can have any rational right to coercively transfer any amount of property from B for any purpose, as explained back in posts # 2, 4, and 5. That you have yet to address.

Edited by 2046
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2046 is exactly right, and he is making the arguments that I want to make. But I want to emphasis - our society is going to be one in which everyone wants to be free. Eventually mankind in general is going to figure out that Freedom Works. That is my understanding of the theory. Since we want to be free, the first thing we have to do is figure out how to stop Governments from oppressing us. That includes foreign governments. So, we are on the right track, don't you see? You're thinking about this problem, as am I, obviously. If we get enough people to believe that freedom works, we can start spending money to defeat those that don't. So, we want to be free. And to achieve that we have to spend money to defeat our oppressors. Witness the elections. The elections are the problem. Because if we lose those then everyone will be spending money on war. Lots of money. (inflation) Lots of war. But if we win, if people embrace freedom, then everyone will have a lot more money eventually and we'll have plenty to stop the people who want slaves. So, the key is freedom. Was it Salt n' Pepper? "Free your mind, and the rest will follow?"

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That's your argument? I thought you were making some sort of "trade-off a little liberty for our overall security" argument all along. Why in the world would it come down to “tax or die”? Yes, the government, unable to strike with nuclear weapons to ensure a quick victory, may find itself in a drawn out war, and it may need to issue IOU's. We are talking here about whether or not taxation is moral, not if it is necessary to fund a war, so this argument is really off-kilter.

A giant stack of government issued IOU's is not equal in value to the match that sets them on fire if there is no power of taxation to objectively link their face value to the value of the country being protected. So the chain so far is this: War requires funding. The amount of funding required can be beyond the limits of everyone's current cash accounts leading to deficit financing by means of government issued debt. For government issued debt to retain anything close to its face value it must be secured, and the collateral is the portion of the entirety of the country tapped by the power of taxation.

It is unfortunate to be involved in a war, and it is bad to be taxed. There is an initiation of force involved, but if this society is moral and the scope of government is properly restricted then it is not the government doing the initiating of force. If you must find someone to blame for the taxes then blame those making war on your country and not your fellow citizens.

But nonetheless, when it gets to this point, the response is: if the society is rational enough to recognize the principle of individual rights and has implemented such a private property society, then it will be willing to pay for its defense, including to pay back the principal and interest of debt issued during the war. Those rational people, who would have to be the majority you would agree to set up this kind of society in the first place, will pay for its obligations out of unanimous consent, thus no future expropriation is necessary after the war. Those who are irrational and don't want to pay can be ostracized and removed from society as necessary. But you don't have a right to pick someone's pocket.
I actually I agree with this. The particular form in which the people will be willing to pay for its defense will be laws enacting taxes. Irrational people who violate the law will be ostracized and removed from society by being sent to prison. Unanimous consent should not be necessary to pass legislation if the government is to be functional and not a mere mock-up having only the appearance of a government.

True, it may be the lesser of two evils one must choose until the political ideas of individual rights are accepted, but you have yet to even touch upon how A can have any rational right to coercively transfer any amount of property from B for any purpose, as explained back in posts # 2, 4, and 5. That you have yet to address.
The justification of government force is that it is a delegation of your right to retaliate. However, no one ever asked you for your own personal permission for that delegation so why should your own personal permission be required for the taxes to fund it?
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It is unfortunate to be involved in a war, and it is bad to be taxed. There is an initiation of force involved, but if this society is moral and the scope of government is properly restricted then it is not the government doing the initiating of force. If you must find someone to blame for the taxes then blame those making war on your country and not your fellow citizens.

...

The justification of government force is that it is a delegation of your right to retaliate. However, no one ever asked you for your own personal permission for that delegation so why should your own personal permission be required for the taxes to fund it?

And if there are not enough volunteers to fight in the military, then of course, unfortunate as it is to be involved in a war, the government is justified, even though a draft is bad, in instituting a draft. After all, the blame for the draft would be with those making war on one's country, not one's fellow citizens, and given that none of us were ever asked for our permission to delegate our right to retalitate, why should our own personal permission be required in order to man the military. Involuntary compliance with tax laws and military conscription are the price one pays for living in a free, moral country, at least when it is at war or in some other national emergency.

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Wrong! That is when you turn to the capitalist market in money and buy even more money on credit by issuing government debt. When the market has absorbed all the government debt it will bear and the war goes on then losing is inevitable. This is the mechanism by which capitalist countries win wars, it is not that they have more cash but that they have more credit.

The scale of the expenditures of every major war in history is what shows taxation is a necessity. Tax or die.

Grames, I was assuming it was understood that "costs more" included all a nations wealth and available lines of credit.

I think our disconnect is pretty fundamental.

First, I think you're conflating the importance of forced taxation in winning these historical wars. If forced taxation was all that was needed, why didn't the USSR just tax their citizens more and build a "Star Wars Killer"?

Second, the producers of wealth in a society are the ones who should control what is done with that wealth. And they will in a fully free society. Credit is not accepted as valid payment from any entity one believes cannot pay it back. In war, you're betting on the winners and losers. Those who control any substantial amounts of wealth, are going to "invest" it in the safest place. You might think they'd put under their mattress. Well, maybe. But that mattress is going to be in the country that they believe will win the war AND they'll spend any amount of it required to make sure that they're right about that.

The wealth is not the property of the government in the first place. Taxing citizens more does not equate to a larger treasury. It suppresses private activity... pushes it OUT of that country and results in less returns.

I'm simply not sold on the statement that taxation wins wars.

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We are talking here about whether or not taxation is moral, not if it is necessary to fund a war, so this argument is really off-kilter.

I disagree strongly with this sentiment as stated. If situations exist where taxation is absolutely necessary for survival, then it would follow directly that, under the Objectivist understanding of morality, taxation is moral. Moral statements arise from our discovery of what courses are required to sustain our lives. So long as the rest of the world is composed of organized nations with formidable militaries, national defense is an objective necessity, and it is an open question whether or not there is a feasible method of providing for it without some form of coercive taxation. If it truly is the most practical course, all things considered, then it is also automatically the most moral course.

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And if there are not enough volunteers to fight in the military,

This fails because only a small portion of your rights are delegated to government and only a small portion of your money is required to fund it. Conscription is the ultimate confiscatory tax and could only be justified by delegating additional rights to the government, rights which an objectively defined limited government cannot accept.

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I disagree strongly with this sentiment as stated. If situations exist where taxation is absolutely necessary for survival, then it would follow directly that, under the Objectivist understanding of morality, taxation is moral. Moral statements arise from our discovery of what courses are required to sustain our lives. So long as the rest of the world is composed of organized nations with formidable militaries, national defense is an objective necessity, and it is an open question whether or not there is a feasible method of providing for it without some form of coercive taxation. If it truly is the most practical course, all things considered, then it is also automatically the most moral course.

I'm gonna have to disagree with that. It would not follow that taxation is moral because of the assumption that if you are under the threat of invasion by an aggressor and taxation were absolutely necessary for survival any more than it would follow that stealing my neighbor's car to chase down someone for something absolutely necessary for survival would be moral. It might be the least bad and therefore the proper course of action given life as the standard of value, but morality ended at the barrel of a gun. In this case, your enemies brought the course of action upon you by initiating force, but that does not make taxing or stealing cars any less an initiation of force. I don't think we can call any of these emergency actions moral, and in both situations, returning confiscated property and paying damages is necessary.

Edited by 2046
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This fails because only a small portion of your rights are delegated to government and only a small portion of your money is required to fund it. Conscription is the ultimate confiscatory tax and could only be justified by delegating additional rights to the government, rights which an objectively defined limited government cannot accept.

To delegate does not mean to surrender or give up, not even a "small portion of your rights." Delegate means to entrust.

The individual does not surrender a "small portion of [his] rights" to the government. The individual delegates or entrusts to the government his right to or of self-defense (in order for the use of retaliatory force to be under objective control). The individual retains his right to self-defense in full.

If it is right for the government to take even a dime from an individual by force, then it is right for the government to take everything including "the ultimate confiscatory tax," forcing citizens to become cannon fodder.

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First, I think you're conflating the importance of forced taxation in winning these historical wars. If forced taxation was all that was needed, why didn't the USSR just tax their citizens more and build a "Star Wars Killer"?

Because taxation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for winning a long war. It certainly did not help France against Germany in 1940.

Second, the producers of wealth in a society are the ones who should control what is done with that wealth. And they will in a fully free society. Credit is not accepted as valid payment from any entity one believes cannot pay it back.
They might buy a bond with a sufficiently attractive rate to outweigh the risk. But it would be bad to have to spend two dollars in interest on the debt for every dollar spent during the war. Taxation makes a government bond more credible, enables lower rates and more efficiently converts the available credit into actual war effort. All of that aids victory and the increases the likelihood the bond will be paid on schedule, which makes the bond attractive. It is a virtuous circle.

The wealth is not the property of the government in the first place. Taxing citizens more does not equate to a larger treasury. It suppresses private activity... pushes it OUT of that country and results in less returns.
The chief aim of war is victory, not optimizing the size of the economy. The principle of delayed gratification is also applicable here, there is no sacrifice when short term expenses lead to long term gains. If you are invoking the Laffer Curve theory then so long as the tax rate starts at the far left side of the tax scale around 5% when a war starts then there is substantial room to increase rates before diminished returns occur.

I'm simply not sold on the statement that taxation wins wars.
I came to be sold on it by reading history books not a single neat little argument. I cannot reproduce them and the cumulative weight of evidence here, so I can understand why you may not be persuaded by the sketch I present here. Fortunately the issue is so remote that no urgency attaches to it today.
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The individual does not surrender a "small portion of [his] rights" to the government. The individual delegates or entrusts to the government his right to or of self-defense (in order for the use of retaliatory force to be under objective control). The individual retains his right to self-defense in full.

Retaliatory force is distinct from the force used in self defense and goes beyond it. The right to use retaliatory force inheres in individuals in anarchy (that is a good candidate for the essential feature of anarchy) and is fully surrendered to the government with no part of it remaining as a right of private citizens. The need to make retaliatory force objective entails a need to pay for it but will not justify enslaving entire persons in violation of their many remaining rights.

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Let people be free. You say you came to your conclusions after reading history. Well, after you share that history with everyone, everyone will voluntarily adopt whatever scheme you've concluded is necessary, correct. If you can figure it out, then we all can. Therefore, there is no need to confiscate what you need for your scheme by force, correct?

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Retaliatory force is distinct from the force used in self defense and goes beyond it. The right to use retaliatory force inheres in individuals in anarchy (that is a good candidate for the essential feature of anarchy) and is fully surrendered to the government with no part of it remaining as a right of private citizens. The need to make retaliatory force objective entails a need to pay for it but will not justify enslaving entire persons in violation of their many remaining rights.

Retaliatory force is not distinct from the force used in self defense, nor does it go beyond it.

Retaliatory force is force used in retaliation towards those who have initiated force, violating the rights of their victims. Retaliatory force is contrasted with initated force, force used in the violation of rights. It's either one or the other; they are mutually exclusive, and they exhaust the possibilities.

Force used in self-defense against an immediate and deadly force initiated by another individual is a form of retaliatory force, so too is war declared and fought against an agressor nation. The standard is the principle of individual rights, the principle that guides the proper implementation of the use of retaliatory force.

One cannot delegate what one has surrendered.

Again, one doesn't surrender one's right of self-defense (one's right to use retaliatory force) to the government, not in part, not in full. One delegates to the government one's right of self-defense, and the government then acts as one's agent of self-defense by acting to protect individual rights, using retaliatory force against those who initiate force.

If, as you claim, individuals surrender their right to use retaliatory force in full to the government, then the government has no obligation to protect their rights. What rights? They surrendered them. One cannot delegate what one has surrendered.

If an individual hires a guard to protect them or their property, they have not surrendered their right of self-defense or property to the guard; they've delegated their right of self-defense or property to the guard, the agent who they have hired to help them in defense of their rights, rights fully retained.

Same applies to the government one "hires" or institutes to protect individual rights.

Edited for clarity

Edited by Trebor
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Retaliatory force is distinct from the force used in self defense and goes beyond it. The right to use retaliatory force inheres in individuals in anarchy (that is a good candidate for the essential feature of anarchy) and is fully surrendered to the government with no part of it remaining as a right of private citizens. The need to make retaliatory force objective entails a need to pay for it but will not justify enslaving entire persons in violation of their many remaining rights.

Ayn Rand is very clear on what she means by retaliatory force: "The principle of using force only in retaliation against those who initiate its use, is the principle of subordinating might to right."

Retaliatory force is force used against those who initiate it. Taxing me by force is not retaliatory force. Presenting the concept of retaliatory force as if it entails "paying for it" is misleading to those who may not be very familiar with Objectivism.

Another thing Ayn Rand is very clear on is when the use of force is permitted (only in retaliation, against someone who is initiating the use of force):

"The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. No man—or group or society or government—has the right to assume the role of a criminal and initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man. Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use."

Claiming otherwise is contrary to Objectivism. You are of course free to believe whatever you wish, but for the sake of not misleading people, you should make the Objectivist position, and your departure from it, clear.

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Retaliatory force is not distinct from the force used in self defense, nor does it go beyond it.

Retaliatory force is force used in retaliation towards those who have initiated force, violating the rights of their victims. Retaliatory force is contrasted with initated force, force used in the violation of rights. It's either one or the other; they are mutually exclusive, and they exhaust the possibilities.

Force used in self-defense against an immediate and deadly force initiated by another individual is a form of retaliatory force, so too is war declared and fought against an agressor nation. The standard is the principle of individual rights, the principle that guides the proper implementation of the use of retaliatory force.

When a thread comes down to finding the proper referents of key concepts that is real progress.

Retaliatory force is a concept that refers to a broader set of actions than does self defense. Self defense is limited to the actions that are immediately necessary to keep the material values you already have: your life, health and property. Retaliatory force is the basis of law and refers to those actions necessary to achieve justice: returning stolen property, pursuing and punishing criminals, and the actions of the military. Retaliatory force includes the force used in self defense as a defined and regulated sub-category because it is justice to defend yourself from assault and robbery. It is not self defense but is retaliation to cruise around your neighborhood trying to figure out who vandalized your car so you can beat him up. No private citizen has the right to enact his own private vengeance, but the law can and must mete out punishments.

Ayn Rand comes to this conclusion in the essay "The Nature of Government".

The use of physical force—even its retaliatory use—cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens. Peaceful coexistence is impossible if a man has to live under the constant threat of force to be unleashed against him by any of his neighbors at any moment. Whether his neighbors' intentions are good or bad, whether their judgment is rational or irrational, whether they are motivated by a sense of justice or by ignorance or by prejudice or by malice—the use of force against one man cannot be left to the arbitrary decision of another.

Visualize, for example, what would happen if a man missed his wallet, concluded that he had been robbed, broke into every house in the neighborhood to search it, and shot the first man who gave him a dirty look, taking the look to be a proof of guilt.

Now consider this series of Rand quotes (also from "The Nature of Government", block quotes omitted for readability).

A unilateral breach of contract involves an indirect use of physical force: it consists, in essence, of one man receiving the material values, goods or services of another, then refusing to pay for them and thus keeping them by force (by mere physical possession), not by right—i.e., keeping them without the consent of their owner.

... unilateral breach of contract, may not be criminally motivated, but may be caused by irresponsibility and irrationality.

Observe the basic principle governing justice in all these cases: it is the principle that no man may obtain any values from others without the owners' consent—and, as a corollary, <cui_334> that a man's rights may not be left at the mercy of the decision, the arbitrary choice, the irrationality, the whim of another man.

The source of the government's authority is "the consent of the governed." This means that the government is not the ruler,
but the servant or agent of the citizens
; it means that the government as such has no rights except the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific purpose.

Law enforcement and military defense are services provided by paid agents under contract. Failure to pay policemen, soldiers and their suppliers would be a unilateral breach of contract and an indirect use of force. Therefore: Pay your taxes.

When a government is not restricted to its proper functions it is beyond the bounds of its contract and is then in fact the initiator of force when it tries to collect taxes for services never agreed to.

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I have lost my wallet. I didn't break into every house around and start shooting, but I did go back to where I thought I left it and started asking people if they knew anything about it. I didn't call the police either because I expected they would not even do that much, but rather cause a lot of embarrassment for everyone, possibly brandish a weapon and file a report. But I'm prejudiced against cops, because my only direct experience with them have been when they write me outrageously expensive fines for petty traffic infractions at 4 in the morning.

Anyway, I hope people are a little more rational than you give them credit for, Grames. Like I said before, if you can figure out that we need to spend more on national defense, and if you are correct, then surely you can convince everyone else. Perhaps I'm mistaken. Perhaps we will forever be sheep in need of a shepherd willing to shear us from time to time against our protestations, for our own good of course. No, there is the mistake. We are not sheep. We are people with minds and if you want something from me, you have to convince me to give it to you.

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The governed have already taken receipt of services rendered and have thereby consented.

So then, no limit to what can be charged (err, required by law at the threat of imprisonment)? The contract is vague, at best, on limits.

IN our future and more philosophically enlightened civilization, that consent may be restricted from the start. I submit that this will not lead to imminent conquering of that society. I will grant that if Hamilton didn't get his way, we might not be having this discussion now. As I've stated previously, there were (and still are) more immediate freedom issue than the advocacy of a completely voluntarily funded government.

Edited by freestyle
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So then, no limit to what can be charged (err, required by law at the threat of imprisonment)? The contract is vague, at best, on limits.

The limits would be set by the budget process in the legislature. There would be elections and perhaps more direct voting on explicit tax limits to settle the policy.

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You're proposing forced expropriation of my wealth. I've pleaded that you stop that and instead appeal to my faculty of reason. And I've declared that I will defend what I've earned from you if you try to bypass my reason. You simply ignore me? That is astonishing to me. That this thread has gone on as long as it has without someone becoming visibly upset as I am, I regard that as an embarrassment. I'm sorry if that is harsh, or you think I'm not treating your arguments with enough respect. It is only because you are declaring that mankind in general should not be allowed to reason independently from you. You, who have read some history books, and think you have learned from them that I can not be trusted to provide for my own security. That you and anyone else who has read the same books must provide it for me against my will. Why can't I provide for my own security? I haven't read those books, so I don't understand and I'm not prepared to spend what it takes to keep my freedom? Nonsense.

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