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Is taxation moral?

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Lakeside
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But it is you who are asking for the impossible. Man must act on the basis of his knowledge, he is not omniscient. As he gains knowledge, or in this case evidence of a rights-violating crime, then his epistemological certainty increases. But the point is, it is not either "I have no idea if this guy committed this crime, so I'm just going to kick his door in and see what happens" or "I know for absolutely sure that this man is guilty." There exists a state of "I am reasonably certain that this man probably is guilty." That is the basis for an objective probable cause for arrest. If the police do nab the wrong guy, then they can reimburse him for any damages caused.

First of all, I'm not asking for omniscience at all. I acknowledge the point that as we gain knowledge, eventually we reach the level of certainty required for punishment. This is the function of the courts. However, oftentimes police officers have to act quickly in situations where this burden of proof hasn't been reached, and we as society give them a significant amount of discretion to act in such circumstances. This is what I'm talking about; the rules we construct to govern how police officers should respond when they don't yet have enough of the facts, but need to act now... those rules are based on some attempt to minimize the potential for rights violations.

Let me probe what I see as your alternate, purely certainty-based justification for police action against others. Let's take two situations. In the first, I am a policeman who has just learned a fact which makes me think that the person I'm considering arresting kidnapped someone two years ago. This kidnapped person had subsequently been found dead long ago.

In the second situation, I am also a policeman, who has just learned a fact which makes me think that the person I'm considering arresting kidnapped someone yesterday, and the person is probably still alive somewhere.

If probable cause arrests were based solely on certainty, rather than some balancing of rights-violations in an attempt to minimize them, I should require the same standard of proof in both cases. I'm dealing with the same type of crime, after all. However, if I am trying to minimize rights violations, then I require much less proof to arrest the man in the second situation. This crime is time-sensitive, and there is a good chance that if I am arresting the right guy, I will save someone's life. I would argue that you should require less proof to arrest someone on the spot in the second case, and I would base that argument on the existence of the possibility that you could save the victim's life in the second case.

Otherwise, the reductio ad absurdum of the position that the police initiating force is just inevitable would be that trials then are pointless, then government itself would be pointless and we are in a Hobbesian state of war of all against all. The whole point of government is to establish these objective rules that make the use of retaliatory force organized as to minimize the initiation of force to the least possible amount, given human error. Certainly no justification for legalized plunder.

I'm confused. In the first sentence it sounds like you're disagreeing with me, by saying that accepting any amount of initiation of force is awful. However, in the second sentence you reference the goal of objective rules as "minimization" of initiation of force. Can you clarify?

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I'm confused. In the first sentence it sounds like you're disagreeing with me, by saying that accepting any amount of initiation of force is awful. However, in the second sentence you reference the goal of objective rules as "minimization" of initiation of force. Can you clarify?

Yes, I am saying any amount of initiation of force is awful and the point of objective law is to minimize force initiations, given we are not omniscient or having automatic or perfect knowledge. I guess I should have but a "therefore" in there, that because a police officer might violate someone's rights unfortunately, that this is not the "trade-off" between violating a little bit of rights in order to protect a lot of them, thus the supposed correlation between confiscating a little bit of property to protect a lot of property must be invalid (taxation is not a result of limited knowledge.)

Edited by 2046
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I wouldn't sign anything like that (because it doesn't sound like a contract, with specific moneys and services being exchanged, nor does it contain reasonable time limits after which I can change my mind about any kind of arrangement). Does that mean you would refrain from initiating force against me, or are you still hellbent on disregarding my rational mind, and using my life as a means to your political ends?

Also (if your answer to the first question is that my decision matters), what happens next? May I turn to someone else for a similar service, or will I be left defenseless, with your "government" denying me my right to self defense?

I am not convinced getting explicit consent is actually a good idea because it creates two classes of citizens, but here is how I imagine it could be attempted.

If you insist on boycotting the government the government will boycott you. You would not be eligible to vote, or hold office, serve on juries, be employed by the government, obtain a passport, claim patents or copyrights, register deeds of land ownership in your name, form a corporation and would have other disadvantages resulting from consistently rejecting all the benefits of government. Roads are presumably private, so driver's licenses are not up to the government. You could otherwise hold a job (if someone will hire you) and participate in the economy, but if general price level is elevated a few percentage points from sales taxes you can hardly avoid that. Criminal law would still apply to you whether perpetrator or victim. The civil court system would still be available to you, but perhaps at a higher fees.

You could turn to someone else for a similar service by leaving the country. That might be inconvenient or risky without a passport but you could still make the attempt. Choices have consequences. I suppose your ideal destination country would neither issue nor require passports.

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Without choice, there is no morality. The sacrifice is the greatest imaginable, the thing being sacrificed is your victim's spiritual independence (and with it, his rational mind):

Concepts such as value and volition are hierarchically prior to politics and law, and if it can be shown I am contradicting earlier knowledge then I would be refuted. This is a legitimate avenue of attack if you can make it stick. Your challenge will be to avoid introducing moral relativism into the law.

Consider the following example of a conflict in values between a private individual and the State. A Muslim father is outraged at his teen-aged daughter's "dishonorable activities" (such as joining the highschool cheerleading squad) and general rebelliousness, so he beats her to death in an "honor killing". The State has no obligation whatsoever to respect the conscience and spiritual independence of the murdering father and will instead impose an alien value system upon him and sentence him to prison and possibly death for his crime. But perhaps this example is too easy? We can prove murder is wrong universally and objectively.

The point is government is not value-free, it sets rights up as values and defends them. To those who do not value rights, the actions of a proper government of a free society are positively aggressive, oppressive and intolerant. Government is not engaged in mind control but behavior control, objectivity in law is based on identifying and outlawing the various forms of initiating physical force.

It is irrational to value an end but not the means to it. The Objectivist critique of anarchy and its admirers is that it is contradictory to claim to value freedom and rights but not the means that protects freedom and rights. My claim is that it is contradictory to claim to value government and what it does but not the means to provide for it, the financing. Government is a value and anyone who disagrees with that does not necessarily get to act on a different principle. A tax law sets the government up as declaring itself an objective value, which is actually true for a properly limited government.

I agree that government should be financed to the maximum degree possible by fees for services so that people can witness the direct connection between their payment and what they pay for. This financing model cannot possibly apply to war financing. An objective tax law makes war financing objective in the sense of well defined and spreads the burden across more people. In conjunction with government issued war debt, taxes spread the payments across time further diluting the total burden. Saved money is what finances the productivity of the economy, so a huge surge of cash donations motivated by emotions would do more short-term and long-term harm to the economy from a liquidity contraction than a tax. Perhaps taxes should only be a war measure, or only be used to finance the military budget. That would be fitting. Taxes should be a disincentive, war should be unpleasant lest the people not fighting become too fond of it.

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You would not be eligible to claim patents or copyrights, register deeds of land ownership in your name, form a corporation

....

You could turn to someone else for a similar service by leaving the country.

I have the right to my property. If you refuse to provide for the protection of that right (either for free or, in the case of these bureaucratic procedures, in exchange for an objectively established one-time fee), I have the right to defend my rights myself (with everything that entails, including retaliation), right here in this country, I don't need to leave.

Actively preventing me from holding all those types of property (because I chose to not submit to your scheme) would be a violation of my rights, just as simply threatening to shoot me because "choices have consequences" would be. Appealing to the notion hat the government has monopoly on force would be illogical: Ayn Rand's rationale for that was that the right to defend ourselves was delegated to the government. It's not delegated when the government is not defending some of those rights.

if general price level is elevated a few percentage points from sales taxes you can hardly avoid that

I can, by not paying them (or, in the case of stores which pay them without consulting their customers, by having a store that isn't paying them, right next door - you read about economic incentives, which business model do you think would take off, of the two?).

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Concepts such as value and volition are hierarchically prior to politics and law, and if it can be shown I am contradicting earlier knowledge then I would be refuted. This is a legitimate avenue of attack if you can make it stick. Your challenge will be to avoid introducing moral relativism into the law.

Protecting the right to be a moral relativist isn't moral relativism. In fact an objective law is one that acknowledges everyone's right to their own morality, and prevents everyone from imposing any kind of morality (objective or otherwise) on others.

Consider the following example of a conflict in values between a private individual and the State. A Muslim father is outraged at his teen-aged daughter's "dishonorable activities" (such as joining the highschool cheerleading squad) and general rebelliousness, so he beats her to death in an "honor killing". The State has no obligation whatsoever to respect the conscience and spiritual independence of the murdering father and will instead impose an alien value system upon him and sentence him to prison and possibly death for his crime.

The state didn't impose any values on the father, it prevented him from imposing his values (through the only way it can be done, through initiation of force) on another human being. That is precisely Ayn Rand's argument against any and all initiations of force: it can only be an attempt to impose one's values on others.

You are seeking to initiate force against others, in the name of a greater good. Ayn Rand would've dismissed that because she was an individualist, who saw the independent individual as the greatest good. I'm dismissing it for the same reason. It is not true that the individual's independence and a Capitalist society cannot both exist at the same time, in the long term. But if your argument had credence, I would take the chance of losing a war against an imaginary evil superpower that can out-borrow us, before I signed away my individualism.

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Protecting the right to be a moral relativist isn't moral relativism. In fact an objective law is one that acknowledges everyone's right to their own morality, and prevents everyone from imposing any kind of morality (objective or otherwise) on others.

The state didn't impose any values on the father, it prevented him from imposing his values (through the only way it can be done, through initiation of force) on another human being. That is precisely Ayn Rand's argument against any and all initiations of force: it can only be an attempt to impose one's values on others.

Even a primitive government having a single law, for example a law that prohibits murder, imposes a morality on others.

Force does impose values, but that is not a power inherent only to those that initiate force but also equally to those who retaliate with force. Those who initiate force attempt to gain a value, those who defend or retaliate are attempting to keep a value. State action is just a subcategory of the genus human action, and all human action is directed towards values. The values protected by the principles of rational government and the particular persons who are its officers, agents and citizens are the inalienable human rights.

Within its narrow domain over physical force, the state compels compliance with the proper value system upon all who act contrary to those values. To the extent that tax laws are a necessary means to the end of a government equal to its task the state can compel compliance with tax laws. I have argued and given some evidence that tax laws have historically been necessary to meet the high costs of financing wars. The conclusion is that taxation can be moral and does have a place within the government of a free society.

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...I have not delegated the right to initiate force to the government.

Right. Taxation is not an initiation of force.

1. Defensive nature of armed forces under laissez-faire would greatly reduce costs as compared with today's nonobjective foriegn policy.

2. A country without taxation is richer and thus has much more capital accumulation and thus more wealth including credit to draw on for defending the country from an invader. (These are essentially my arguments in my post #12.)

3. Contractual program offering voluntary payment of war debt in various ways, ostracism for those who do not sign up. (This would not amount to nor require putting non-payers in jail.)

4. Selling of war bonds, not limited to just the property owners in the country under attack. Speculators would have plenty of reasons to bet on the free country to win.

5. Debt could be repaid if the proper government wins (if it loses, the whole problem is superfluous anyway) by liquidation of assets in the defeated country.

1. Ok. However, the costs of actual wars are not entirely up to us but must to some degree be dictated by the need to respond to enemy action, and so are in principle not knowable in advance.

2. A country without taxation has no means to tap that greater wealth so it is good for nought.

3. Contracts imply penalties for non-compliance. And I can't believe a purported Objectivist plans to bully people into conformity with the childish tactic of the silent treatment. Besides, people who genuinely believe they are right won't want to talk to you either.

4. Bonds by themselves are of no use for war financing, because they have to be paid off. As an example, a bond promising $10,000 in five years will be auctioned off for the highest price offered. In five years the government has to come up with $10,000 for whoever presents the bond. Where does it get the money? It could sell another bond, but that is a pyramid scheme that must end in hyperinflation. Bonds have to be paid off with real money from the people who have it whether that is raised by donations, fees or taxes.

5. In World War One every country figured the war would be short and that the enemy country would pay. Instead the war went on for years until everyone was bankrupt and no one paid much of anything. Only Finland paid its war debts in full. Bolshevik Russia repudiated its debt. Germany was only able to pay a small portion of the reparations dictated to it and all of its internal debts were wiped away by the Weimar hyper-inflation. France and Britain could not pay their debts to the U.S. in full because Germany could not pay them. Depending on the defeated opponent to have anything left worth looting is not a sound plan.

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So let me get this straight, kidnapping some and putting them in prison for not paying your tax is okay and a just retaliation for not agreeing with Grames' political views, but if I as a voluntary benefactor of objective retaliatory-only services decide I don't want to talk to people who have the means to contribute, but would rather parasitically leech off my benevolence, then I'm dumb and childish and only trying to “bully people into conformity.” But not you and your fiscal-department agents, laws backed by the initiation of force, and jails. Okay. Sorry if I fail to see what you're seeing.

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Taxation is not an initiation of force.

Where is this true?

Here, in California, I am taxed without my consent and am forced to pay not only higher amounts than my fellow citizens but higher percentages as well. Making this even worse, I consume far less of the public services than those paying less (and sometimes nothing) in taxes.

If I do not pay, I can have liens placed on my assets, wages garnisheed and even be put in prison.

Grames, there is NOT mutual consent. There is, in fact, no consent. There is no implied consent.

Is your argument something akin to, "taxation isn't initiation of force, the policeman arresting you for not paying your taxes is though".

Edited by freestyle
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Within its narrow domain over physical force, the state compels compliance with the proper value system upon all who act contrary to those values. To the extent that tax laws are a necessary means to the end of a government equal to its task the state can compel compliance with tax laws. I have argued and given some evidence that tax laws have historically been necessary to meet the high costs of financing wars. The conclusion is that taxation can be moral and does have a place within the government of a free society.

"The ends justify the means" argument is in fact a logical fallacy. (you literally cannot rely on a conclusion to deny a premise it was built on)

If you wish to prove Rand wrong in her insistence that the individual (and every single individual) is an end in itself (and that therefor the use of force is immoral, except against those who first use physical force against you), you'll have to do it from the bottom up. Saying "it's wrong because otherwise her Politics would fall apart" assumes her Politics, which was built on a premise you claim is false, is still magically a valid goal one should act to achieve.

P.S. Obviously, if you actually were right, and her Politics required taxation to survive in the real world, that would be a valid indictment of her Politics. But it would say nothing about what you are trying to attack: her claim that each individual is an end in himself, and him, his mind or his efforts may not be used by others for any other ends.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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So let me get this straight, kidnapping some and putting them in prison for not paying your tax is okay and a just retaliation for not agreeing with Grames' political views, but if I as a voluntary benefactor of objective retaliatory-only services decide I don't want to talk to people who have the means to contribute, but would rather parasitically leech off my benevolence, then I'm dumb and childish and only trying to “bully people into conformity.” But not you and your fiscal-department agents, laws backed by the initiation of force, and jails. Okay. Sorry if I fail to see what you're seeing.

Yes, I happen to think there should be a law against murder. In fact there is a law against murder. Lets say you commit a murder and are caught. I presume you would call yourself a political prisoner? A tax law can be sound law in a free society, every bit as justified as a law against murder.

In your system, how could you even know who had paid or not and why would it be any of your business to judge how much they should pay? The petty vindictiveness involved in such childish exercises in peer pressure is exactly what objective law removes from a society of adults. The snooping neighbors, gossip and personal animosities this relies on to "work" are right out of the Starnsville story in Atlas Shrugged.

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Grames, if somebody does not recognize the value of your envisioned government, he should be left free to do so. There are multiple reasons why this is so. For example, suppose I choose to live in the mountains away from most other people. Say I own a gun and can defend myself easily. Compare that with an American citizen who chooses to take his vacations at the royal palaces of foreign dictators. Should government charge us the same amount for its services? I say of course not. Who decides how much the difference is? Suppose someone makes some new innovation in warfare or diplomacy or what-have-you. How does it get funded if everyone is being forced to pay for the preexisting institutions? The business of governance has to always change with the times and so people have to be free to choose among competing ideas, is that no so? Should we go to war with this country or that? Should we help that country defend itself and so invite chaos, or are we more cautious? People have to be free in order to make these decisions. They must be able to boycott their government if they think their government is endangering their lives or doing a poor job. We need military rule, we all agree. How about a military that respects individual differences of opinion? When I get the bill, I want to be free to argue about it. You've got to haggle.

Basically, free people make better choices.

Edited by Brian9
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"The ends justify the means" argument is in fact a logical fallacy. (you literally cannot rely on a conclusion to deny a premise it was built on)

If you wish to prove Rand wrong in her insistence that the individual (and every single individual) is an end in itself (and that therefor the use of force is immoral, except against those who first use physical force against you), you'll have to do it from the bottom up. Saying "it's wrong because otherwise her Politics would fall apart" assumes her Politics, which was built on a premise you claim is false, is still magically a valid goal one should act to achieve.

P.S. Obviously, if you actually were right, and her Politics required taxation to survive in the real world, that would be a valid indictment of her Politics. But it would say nothing about what you are trying to attack: her claim that each individual is an end in himself, and him, his mind or his efforts may not be used by others for any other ends.

"The ends justify the means" argument is NOT in fact a logical fallacy. The mere appearance of the form of the argument is no demonstration that it is invalid, which is the requirement to be a fallacy. Sometimes the end does justify the means, sometimes not. Any means that is justified is justified because of some end. What is necessary is to keep multiple ends properly ordered and subordinated. A means toward a first end is not rationally justified when it contradicts some other end which is a greater and more important end. Taxes cannot be ruled out on the grounds of rights when an adequate defense is necessary for the defense of all rights and the lives of those possessing them.

{Tara Smith covers the ground of justification, rational action and the relationship of means to ends in Viable Values pages 40-50.}

I have argued that if you want the effect you must enact the cause. I also argue that the principle of objectivity should be applied to the government's finances. I have argued that the government's laws compel one to be rational within the realm of force, to value at least in action the principle of rights and the government that guards them.

I have not argued against the principle that the individual an end in himself. My primary argument has been from consent, not a greater good argument. Only an end in himself has the power to consent. You are an end in yourself and have a contractual relationship with your government. You are still consenting even if you explicitly disavow your country, your government, and all of your neighbors. The only way to accomplish the withdrawal of consent is to either leave the country or take up arms in rebellion. Ayn Rand uses this principle to answer questions about war at the Ford Hall Forum in three different years {see Ayn Rand Answers pages 94-95}. She explicitly attacks the premise that only individuals exist, not countries and governments.

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suppose I choose to live in the mountains away from most other people.

An objective tax law would not demand money from those who had none. Also, since government is only necessary and has jurisdiction only within the social sphere of life, taxes would not be on property but transactions. Taxes could only be levied on cash transactions which include sales, rents, leases, loan payments and incomes. If you want to live the life of a 'Grizzly Adams' style mountain hermit that would be entirely within the law. Bartering would be tax free because there is no money in it.

edit: There is a provision in the U.S. constitution that "all duties, posts, and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United States." I would extend that to "uniform with respect to each other". In other words there should be no attempt to micromanage the economy or pick winners or losers with taxes that discriminate against certain commodities or services.

Suppose someone makes some new innovation in warfare or diplomacy or what-have-you. How does it get funded if everyone is being forced to pay for the preexisting institutions?
Are you claiming that in the entire history of tax-funded government from Hammurabi on there have never been any innovations in warfare or diplomacy?

They must be able to boycott their government if they think their government is endangering their lives or doing a poor job.
No, that would grant a sanction to lawlessness. You can emigrate or rebel. Withholding taxes is more than an argument. You can be a hermit or live on barter if you insist, but those are law-abiding measures.

From "Collectivized Rights" in The Virtue of Selfishness:

The citizens of a free nation may disagree about the specific legal procedures or methods of implementing their rights (which is a complex problem, the province of political science and of the philosophy of law), but they agree on the basic principle to be implemented: the principle of individual rights. When a country's Constitution places individual rights outside the reach of public authorities, the sphere of political power is severely delimited—and thus the citizens may, safely and properly, agree to abide by the decisions of a majority vote in this delimited sphere. The lives and property of minorities or dissenters are not at stake, are not subject to vote and are not endangered by any majority decision; no man or group holds a blank check on power over others.

Such a nation has a right to its sovereignty (derived from the rights of its citizens) and a right to demand that its sovereignty be respected by all other nations.

Edited by Grames
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Grames, you did not understand what I meant. Please, let me try to be more clear about what I was trying to communicate.

For example, I meant for you to compare two different American citizens and the (difference in) services each requires from a government. Like people who live in areas prone to natural disasters should logically pay more for home insurance, people who live in areas easily attacked by foreign invaders should logically pay more. But who determines this difference or differences like it? The free market must set the prices. The government services that free individuals require varies from person-to-person and therefore the price must also vary. The free market should set the price as a matter of principle. Free people, left alone to spend their energy as they see fit, is the best way to create goods and services.

You wrote:

"Are you claiming that in the entire history of tax-funded government from Hammurabi on there have never been any innovations in warfare or diplomacy?

No, I'd be a fool to claim that. I suppose you are making the point that historically governments that have taxed have allowed for innovation to take place. But I don't know exactly how you would elaborate this argument and I'm loathe to try to expand upon this idea which I consider fallacious merely in order to try to knock it down. Suffice to say, I'm sure you are aware that advances in the business of governance

have been made without the help of government taxes. Oftentimes, governments resist advances in their business because the people in power prefer the status quo. Out of ignorance, stupidity, or malice, or for whatever reason the people given the moral and legal sanction to tax have used that power to stifle progress. Casually, the power to tax prevents improvement more often than not. Logically, it is because people free to support their government of choice tend to support governments which do a good job as opposed to a bad one.

I said that people should be free to boycott their government, and you wrote:

"No, that would grant a sanction to lawlessness. You can emigrate or rebel. Withholding taxes is more than an argument. You can be a hermit or live on barter if you insist, but those are law-abiding measures."

Withholding taxes is more than an argument, but rebelling or moving to another country to support a competing government is not??? Consider what you are saying. It does not hold water. If I oppose your envisioned ideal of government, do you want a boycotter, or a rebel, or do you insist that I pick up and leave or go off the grid? If you can't convince me (I like to think I am smart and educated) to support your government voluntarily - if you have no place for me in your system, what will you do with the uneducated masses? It is an interesting problem, is it not? Let me remind you at this point that if you could instead share the knowledge you allegedly have with me, then I would agree with you. You have read some history books. What books? Let us go to the source, that way it will be easier to get me on the same page as you. But I don't believe you can convince me. Indeed you acknowledge that you can't convince most people about how much money is required to finance good government - which is why, you argue, that we must take it from them by force. Right at the foundation of your argument, you are claiming that I cannot understand what government I must support. You are claiming most people are sheep. They can't understand what they must pay for and the are therefore unwilling to pay for it. Well, I am no ram or buck. I have a mind. So I suggest you start a different thread wherein you explore how much money needs to spent in order to preserve our freedoms, and abandon this one where you explore why it is necessary that we can't be trusted to preserve at all.

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For example, I meant for you to compare two different American citizens and the (difference in) services each requires from a government. Like people who live in areas prone to natural disasters should logically pay more for home insurance, people who live in areas easily attacked by foreign invaders should logically pay more. But who determines this difference or differences like it? The free market must set the prices. The government services that free individuals require varies from person-to-person and therefore the price must also vary. The free market should set the price as a matter of principle. Free people, left alone to spend their energy as they see fit, is the best way to create goods and services.
This is a version of the anarchist premise that governments are just another market. I do not feel the need to recapitulate here Ayn Rand's many devastating critiques of that notion, but will reaffirm that there is no such thing as a market in force and all should be equal before the law. Border states should not have to pay more for the army, port cities should not pay more for the navy.

Logically, it is because people free to support their government of choice tend to support governments which do a good job as opposed to a bad one.
Again with the competing governments nonsense. Look, I'm interested in what Objectivists have to say against taxes, not the opinions of anarcho-capitalists such as yourself.

Withholding taxes is more than an argument, but rebelling or moving to another country to support a competing government is not???
If you understand that these have an essential similarity in being actions not arguments, then you have understood my point.

Consider what you are saying. It does not hold water. If I oppose your envisioned ideal of government, do you want a boycotter, or a rebel, or do you insist that I pick up and leave or go off the grid?
Your choice, but don't expect to defy the law as a boycotter or rebel in peace.

What books? Let us go to the source, that way it will be easier to get me on the same page as you. But I don't believe you can convince me.

Way to be objective. Start with The Federalist which can be read in bite size chunks for free over the internet. The authors of The Federalist take for granted a familiarity with then current events which no one today has, so you should get a history book about that era covering the facts of the founding era. I learned what I have from coursework so I have no particular recommendations.

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution cannot possibly be too strongly recommended or too highly praised for its tracing the inductive roots of the American conceptions of government: representation, consent, constitutions, rights, sovereignty.

The costs of war can be learned from almost any history taking an overview of a war or an era including a war. Economic histories are particularly good. I have already mentioned in this thread God and Gold and Lords of Finance to which I can add The Ascent of Money and To Rule the Waves. These are just the recent works of note. Classics are still applicable: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (6 volumes), The Second World War (6 volumes), The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, On War. Nothing I have mentioned covers the American Civil War which is an immensely instructive episode, or dozens of other topic areas in Greek, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance histories, so don't confine yourself to the works mentioned.

Indeed you acknowledge that you can't convince most people about how much money is required to finance good government
No, most people have a common sense grasp of the need for taxes for expensive projects. It is only the people who argue from first principles without bothering to reconcile their theories with facts and history that are difficult to convince.
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No, most people have a common sense grasp of the need for taxes for expensive projects. It is only the people who argue from first principles without bothering to reconcile their theories with facts and history that are difficult to convince.

For any who are looking for an antidote to such nonsense, listen to Dr. Peikoff's one-hour lecture, "Why Should One Act on Principle?" You can find it on your "Registered User" page at the Ayn Rand Institute. (Along with that one-hour lecture, there's a second audio, 30 minutes, of the Q&A that followed his lecture.)

Edited by Trebor
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I have not argued against the principle that the individual an end in himself. My primary argument has been from consent, not a greater good argument. Only an end in himself has the power to consent. You are an end in yourself and have a contractual relationship with your government. You are still consenting even if you explicitly disavow your country, your government, and all of your neighbors. The only way to accomplish the withdrawal of consent is to either leave the country or take up arms in rebellion. Ayn Rand uses this principle to answer questions about war at the Ford Hall Forum in three different years {see Ayn Rand Answers pages 94-95}. She explicitly attacks the premise that only individuals exist, not countries and governments.

Do you have a direct quote of Ayn Rand stating that we have a contractual agreement with our government?

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It seems there is another point right underneath the surface ready to be made, regarding the so-called “economic link” in funding. You (Grames) bring up in your post # 103 and back in several posts, to post #68 that a. failure to pay taxes in a (what you consider to be) limited government is a breach of contract and b. getting unanimous consent to finance the government is not a good idea because it creates two classes of people.

I don't want to derail the debate on whether or not most of the things you listed would be part of a proper government in the fully free society. It is my position that there would be no (or little to no, or inconsequential) voting, holding office, central legislature, or passports, etc. But nonetheless, the big issue is in regards to justice and national defense.

There is an important question to be answered when talking about a proper government (that is I define as a government that does not initiate force and only uses objectively limited retaliatory force) and the source of its revenues, is to the “economic link” between services rendered and payments received.

No one would deny that in a free market, e.g. a shoe company, should maintain a link between service and support and receive its financial profit through voluntary trade. Support of the shoemaker should follow from services rendered, and it must only get what it morally deserves, that is, what it has earned. But, as you already pointed out, there is no free market in force, force is not a commodity to be traded under capitalism, it must be limited to retaliation under rationally-derived principles (objective law) and its initiation must be banned. Therefore, I am not convinced that the economic link between services and support ought to be preserved totally under a proper government.

You are proposing some sort of contract that an individual must agree to or you are revoking his right to self-defense. As Jake pointed out, and I agree, that is an initiation of force. Thus, Jake's “What then?” And as you say, this creates a second class. (You point out that the justice system would still apply, but higher fees are charged, so I'm assuming the economic link is still in place.)

If it to be maintained that the services of government, justice and national defense, are to follow from financial support, then non-payers have two alternatives: they can either remain defenseless, or they can delegate their right of self-defense to a different agency of protection (or presumable start their own, or just DIY.) The second therefore reduces back to anarchy. You get around this by saying, no, they will have to leave the country because the Grames government retains its territorial monopoly. But I agree that this is a violation of that individual's right to self-defense and reduces to “do what I say, or get the fuck out.”

Therefore, a proper government, cannot fully maintain the link. I agree that they have no moral obligation to provide protection to those who don't pay, but I they should because it is in their self-interest to avoid anarchy. Thus I can only come to the conclusion that a proper government in the fully free society does not initiate force, is voluntarily funded, and its services apply to all within its territorial jurisdiction regardless of support. And I further maintain that boycotting of certain non-payers is morally legitimate because they are seeking the unearned. This maintains the status of government as an agent that must be paid, but an agent that does not initate force. The only objections that remain for breaking this proper government's non-initiation of force status is a. from your side, that not enough rational people will fund it or that voluntarily funding will be necessary for war debt (which I disagree with) and b. from the anarchist side that not allowing competing agencies of protection to offer services alongside the proper government is per se an initiation of force (which I also disagree with.)

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Taxation is not an initiation of force.

This is really the crux of the entire thread.

IF you are arguing for a form of "taxation" that is not forced, then there should not be any disagrement from Objectivists. With consent, we have voluntary trade - That is the ideal. It appears that the first step in designing a political system free of forced taxation is to establish the method of consent for accepting those services that a government must provide (Defense/Police/Law).

Otherwise, Grames, we're at a stand still. The old man in my example is not being irrational in any way. In any tax system I can imagine that requires progressively more from people simply on the basis that they are greater producers of wealth or income violates the trader principle. In addition, a system based on your production requires you to disclose information about your private trading with other people that is of no business of the government. I can imagine a system where there is a set fee for the government services provided and the identities of those delinquent in payment are made to be public information. An objective society may properly scorn the freeloaders to a degree where they might find it more difficult (and expensive) to operate within the private markets.

Nevertheless, I cannot concede that people cannot be trusted to choose the good freely and that a government (required to protect the good) can, for all times, only be sustained by evil (i.e. force). I have no doubt that it all hinges on the philosophy and character of the people who organize and live in the society. And, in our present state, I do conceded that we're not in a position to jump to that final step in an objectively defined free society.

Edited by freestyle
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Do you have a direct quote of Ayn Rand stating that we have a contractual agreement with our government?

From "The Nature of Government"

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.

There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society: the principle of renouncing the use of physical force and delegating to the government his right of physical self-defense, for the purpose of an orderly, objective, legally defined enforcement. Or, to put it another way, he must accept the separation of force and whim (any whim, including his own.)

Now what happens in case of a disagreement between two men about an undertaking in which both are involved?

In a free society, men are not forced to deal with one another. They do so only by voluntary agreement and, when a time element is involved, by contract. If a contract is broken by the arbitrary decision of one man, it may cause a disastrous financial injury to the other—and the victim would have no recourse except to seize the offender's property as compensation. But here again, the use of force cannot be left to the decision of private individuals. And this leads to one of the most important and most complex functions of the government: <cui_333> to the function of an arbiter who settles disputes among men according to objective laws.

There is an exchange here. A citizen "must consent" or "must accept" if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society and then the government is a servant or agent. There is a time element involved. Terms are specified in writing objectively in the form of a constitution. This is a contract because it has every feature of a contract.

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Grames, most people do have a "common sense" idea about the necessity to fund expensive government programs. We agree on that. How else can one explain world wars? Yes, we agree that it is people who argue from first principles who lack this "common sense" grasp of how the real world works. You may wish to deny that there is a market in force, but facts are facts. People pay other people to do their dirty work. That is a fact. It is the right, also. I call it "division of labor". Each man is not a policeman, a judge, a prison guard, or a solider. We pay other people to do our dirty work for us. It is more efficient that way. Good thing too, because I don't want to get my hands dirty. I'd rather wear a tie to work.

The "taxpayer" controls the government. He writes the check. He pays for the pyramids to be built. He pays for slaughterhouses. Of the two of us, I'm not the one with the pie in the sky. I know all about how the real world works, and how most people have a "common sense" idea about the necessity of coercion on a grand scale. The "taxpayer" controls the government only insofar as he is able to withhold his "taxes" If he must rebel, then he has previously lost control. Rebelling is a last desperate attempt to regain lost freedoms. You want to reduce the people to pawns. You demand a blank check. You say the government will fill out the sum and you will pay or you will leave the country - Disappear if you disagree. But where will I go? I will seek more freedom. The freedom to use my mind independently from those who not allow it. To freer country. To a land that competes by offering more freedom. And there we are, back to the idea that there really can be no such thing as a monopoly on force. Because every man, true man, knows he should be free and will oppose anyone who denies him his freedom, by force if necessary.

At any rate, thanks for the book recommendations. After I read those books, I will probably agree with you, do you think? Or is there some reason I just can't be convinced, do you think?

P.S. Who "owns" the government? I mean, if the taxpayer can't withhold payment, presumably he is not in charge. How does one land one of those cushy jobs?

P.P.S. What is your opinion on the draft, Grames. Can you refresh my memory?

Edited by Brian9
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