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Is taxation moral?

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Lakeside
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Double Post

Don't let me get the better of you, Grames. You're going to humor me, aren't you. I think you should, because you gave your consent by being here. I'm going to argue until I am blue in the face. I know I can convince you that I am right. If that doesn't work, well, what can I do? Wait, I know, I'll compel you to sign a piece of paper admitting you are wrong. I know, sign a piece of paper? Not at serious of a threat as, say, expropriating your wealth against your will. But I'm reluctant talk about that sort of thing, even in jest. You can understand that, I'm sure. :P

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Is Slave Labor Moral?

My own personal opinion is no, it is not. But it is my understanding that there are some people on this board who are not entirely sure. So, let's discuss.

I have seen a few arguments made for slave labor here and there. This is a good sample.

We need good government in order to maintain our free society, correct?

Now, suppose a totalitarian regime mobilized the full force of its power, meaning maximal conscription, maximized war production, etc. Pretty scary, huh? Now, Suppose this regime attacked us. Heaven forbid, but what would we do? If our good government didn't have the power to tax us in order to fend off the invaders, we would all lose our lives, practically speaking. Most of us.. Excuse me, every rational one of us would be against letting that happen. So it wouldn't really be a tax. It'd be a tax, but since everyone would be for it, it'd be a tax in name only. Besides, if one would be against the tax, one would be, in reason and outcome, against the existence of good government, which would actually make them more like the people of the invading totalitarian regime than like us. Okay, now we've established that the government should be able to receive funding in order to maintain our freedom in times of war. Again, this is simply because a government that has no means to defend its citizens from invaders, is not a government which can justify its own existence.

I also believe the government should provide everyone with equal rights under the law in order to be objective. Therefore, one has a right to access the legal system, lawyers and all that. If one has this equal protection by right, then taxes are necessary to pay for good government. That is so not only because objective law promises to not deal differently with people who can't afford legal representation (lawyers, police, etc.), but also because taxes are the only way in which objective law and therefore good government can maintain its objectivity. Can you imagine a courtroom being payed directly for either the plaintiff or the defendant? That is absurd. Under objective law, the money has to come from the law providers themselves in order for the process to be incorruptible. Taxes, and only taxes accomplish that by laundering taxpayer money, so to speak.

Well, that's all I have to say I guess. Oh, and I suppose I also believe in the draft because if that totalitarian regime invades us, we need people to fight. We certainly need a well trained army to be established and funded in advance of the enemy. You couldn't be against this, as I explained. That's because we need good government in order to be free. I can quote Ayn Rand to support most of this.

Well, I'm no Grames, but I gave it my best shot.

Edited by brian0918
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I see my arguments are being ignored while people go on to continue discussing issues I've challenged as if I haven't. I've been accused of incoherence, and then organized my thoughts quite clearly. Next, my posts have been called walls of text, that are "unreadable". So I will make these points again, and briefly, since my other posts are more comprehensive. If I'm being redundant, it's only because I have been given evidence that people have not actually read the substance of my posts, so I'm acting as if I've not said them.

Principle 1:

There are no givens in human behavior. If a person chooses to violate your rights, your only option is to deal with it. Hopefully, you'll be in a situation where your rationality will give you an advantage over their irrationality.

So, if the population you live within (since 'society' doesn't exist, and is 'only a concept'), wants to take your money, they will. Your ability to produce better guns is what might stop them.

Principle 2:

There is a point after which you would decide to deal with other men like men, rather than like beasts. This is when the population you live within generally holds reason as the proper means of interaction between men.

If these people want to steal the gains you produce, you would have good cause to rebel against them. If they find such actions illegitimate, and agree with you that rational men should not use force against each other, then you should return the favor and not use force against them.

Principle 3:

Reason is the process by which a man judges how he should interact with other men. Reason is a process that occurs in the mind of an individual man. Free trade acknowledges that this process can and does reach different outcomes depending on the man. This includes different outcomes concerning the proper times and means of the use of legimiate retaliatory force.

If you are treating men as men, and not beasts, your judgments about the use of retaliatory force in your interactions with them must be based on a common standard that is known to all so that all may rationally plan their actions around that standard. Otherwise, you reject the rationality of man. Because men cannot think collectively, consensus as an epistemological process must be employed to determine the standard for the use of force.

A man cannot hold to his own personal standard for the use of force, if he is to treat those with whom he interacts as rational men. By personal standard, I do not mean the fudamental ethical standard of initiation vs. retaliation. By all means, if his neighbors reject that standard, a man should rebel against them. I refer to what constitutes initiation of force, and what the proper retaliation should be, and by whom. So, by no means can the consensus legimately decide that your economic gains should be their property for their needs. That misses the point.

Edited by ZSorenson
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I see my arguments are being ignored while people go on to continue discussing issues I've challenged as if I haven't. I've been accused of incoherence, and then organized my thoughts quite clearly. Next, my posts have been called walls of text, that are "unreadable". So I will make these points again, and briefly, since my other posts are more comprehensive. If I'm being redundant, it's only because I have been given evidence that people have not actually read the substance of my posts, so I'm acting as if I've not said them.

That is well said, my friend! I agree here 100%. I think this goes a long way towards explaining why we have 11 pages in this thread.

I also agreed with your principles until you got here:

If you are treating men as men, and not beasts, your judgments about the use of retaliatory force in your interactions with them must be based on a common standard that is known to all so that all may rationally plan their actions around that standard. Otherwise, you reject the rationality of man. Because men cannot think collectively, consensus as an epistemological process must be employed to determine the standard for the use of force.

A man cannot hold to his own personal standard for the use of force, if he is to treat those with whom he interacts as rational men. By personal standard, I do not mean the fudamental ethical standard of initiation vs. retaliation. By all means, if his neighbors reject that standard, a man should rebel against them. I refer to what constitutes initiation of force, and what the proper retaliation should be, and by whom. So, by no means can the consensus legimately decide that your economic gains should be their property for their needs. That misses the point.

I underlined the parts I had a problem with. I don't understand what you could possibly mean by the the first sentence I underlined, and I think that is where you go wrong. I awarded a reputation point for this well written post. Is okay if I use a ninja here? :ninja:

EDIT: Because consensus has nothing to do with anything, really. Sure, everyone should use the metric system, I will concede that point. But we're talking about forcing everyone to support an unspecified group of people who have guns. Everyone should adopt the metric system voluntarily so that we have good, objective, consensus. But no group of people should get together and say if you don't support us voluntarily, we will compel you to. That is a contradiction. I don't care if they have the best of intentions, no one has the right. Some say we can't have lawlessness. They are right. It is said that we can't have competing gangs, or warlords. That is right. The solution then, is not to have sanction for a monopolistic gang which taxes in order to maintain its existence i.e. gang that forbids any rival gangs(not a good consensus). The solution is to outlaw gangs altogether. We should encourage free, responsible people who don't use guns when words fail. We should encourage people to take responsibility for their government. Not tell them that they can't or won't be able to do it.

Edited by Brian9
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I see my arguments are being ignored while people go on to continue discussing issues I've challenged as if I haven't . . .

Because men cannot think collectively, consensus as an epistemological process must be employed to determine the standard for the use of force.

A man cannot hold to his own personal standard for the use of force, if he is to treat those with whom he interacts as rational men. By personal standard, I do not mean the fudamental ethical standard of initiation vs. retaliation. By all means, if his neighbors reject that standard, a man should rebel against them. I refer to what constitutes initiation of force, and what the proper retaliation should be, and by whom. So, by no means can the consensus legimately decide that your economic gains should be their property for their needs. That misses the point.

Your argument is bad because you pinpoint "consensus" as if that were the fundamental source of civilized behavior. It is not, objectivity is. Then after you have this idea of consensus you have the problem of reconciling it with an actual "fundamental ethical standard". You are aware of this problem and deny that consensus can legitimately reach certain conclusions, but if you explored more rigorously what can overrule consensus you would end up having to abandon consensus in favor of an "epistemological process" stronger than consensus.

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The legitimacy of consensus presupposes a proper scope for that consensus. That scope is over the standard for judging and executing retaliatory force. A system whose consensus purports to rule on issues broader than that is illegitimate. Granted, I imagine that point has been understood.

The reason why consensus is necessary is because humans cannot think collectively. Determining a standard for retaliatory force requires reason. A free market allows men with different judgements to coexist. That mechanism is called competition.

But competition cannot operate when there are disagreements over force use. Two men can rationally disagree over the use of force, with both their positions being legitimate: say to attack a foreign foe, or continue diplomacy. The legitimacy of either proposition is not in question, but rather the propriety.

Voluntary taxation is a necessary feature of civil society, the practical argument being justified by the philosophic. We're better off understanding objectively why, than rejecting it off hand.

The individual retains the right to reject an illegitimate consensus. His personal use of reason always trumps, and properly forms the basis of the societal consensus. But my use of consensus considers how a man might rationally interact with other people assuming properly that their knowledge will differ from his own.

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Voluntary taxation is a necessary feature of civil society, the practical argument being justified by the philosophic. We're better off understanding objectively why, than rejecting it off hand.

Go to dictionary.com and look up the words "tax" and "voluntary".

The problem is, the word tax itself almost insists on being involuntary.

The phrase "voluntary taxation" puts together two ideas that substantially contend; the only way to understand this phrase is to form a compromise where the two words contend; but as Ayn taught, compromise between the moral and immoral serves the interest of the latter at the expense of the former.

Whatever proper system is devised and implemented in the (hopefully near future) must dispense with the idea represented by the word "tax" if it is to have any chance of avoiding the same cultural malaise as has finally settled on the currently constituted United States after the "juice" of freedom ran out, ran up against the contradictions in what was, and was not, spelled out in the original constitutional documents.

Why should I pay any individual, representing themselves or as agent of a group (including the government), for nothing? On the other hand, why should I not receive that which I pay for? And who is to decide which trades I make? In other words, give me greater value than you ask in return, and you have a deal. Otherwise, catch you later alligator. And the only way to invert the trading logic is to initiate the use of force to compel another to act against their will.

The government, properly formulated, provides valuable services that cannot be provided by private individuals: military, police, courts. And those who use these services should pay for them.

But I don't like the idea of the military or the criminal justice system being revenue generators because the idea of profit accruing to those who have the legal right to use retaliatory and/or preemptive force smells like a bad concoction.

Which leaves the civil courts as the only governmental function that could be charged for as a service. In effect, this would amount to contract insurance (which would far swamp any bureaucratic fees): if the contracting parties don't pay the insurance premium, then the contract is not legally enforceable.

Since contracts are agreements about how one or both parties will act, they are credit agreements, and the insurance premium is properly seen to be credit insurance.

Instead of "voluntary taxation" how about "voluntary insurance"? Presumably the amount of the premium will be more for more complex contracts, but in any case no less than a certain fixed percentage of the contract's nominal dollar value, as determined by an independent contract auditor. The rate would be set by the revenue needs of the government, with severe prejudice against government borrowing in normal times.

This would just work if implemented; the problem is, how do we get there from here?

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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We're better off understanding objectively why, than rejecting it off hand.

I don't understand it, because it is not true. I'm rejecting it because it is not true.

Again, I appreciate your clearly written post. But I think you should look at where your 2cd paragraph ends and your 3rd begins. I'm unconvinced on this point. I was trying to argue about this with Grames what seems like several pages ago. I thought I asked him politely about this in my post #147 (around pg. 8), but he rejected me out off hand. I hasten to add that this part of the argument having to do with competition doesn't have the most weight with me. It is interesting to me, but it is not my main argument. Mostly, I'm pleased to have an excuse to return to the point where Grames said he was through talking to me because I bored him 4 or 5 pages ago.

My main argument is that taxes violate my right. As long as I don't initiate force against anyone else, no one has the right to use force against me.

If that strikes you as far too simple, even though it is perfectly true, then my second argument begins with the question, "why do we not believe that human beings are capable of providing law and order for themselves voluntarily?".

Answer any way you like. Disagree with the premise if you care to. My answer is that we don't believe it, because our track record suggests otherwise. With as much senseless crime against humanity as there has been, how could we expect that a nation of good government could exist, if the population wasn't either tricked or forced into it?

It is commonly put like this: If we allowed people to stop paying their taxes, they wouldn't. Anarchy ensues.

I have some sympathy for this view, but it is wrong. It isn't just wrong, it is terribly wrong, because it normalizes the view that people aren't good enough to be free. They just can't handle the responsibility. That's profoundly incorrect. But that is the idea behind taxes.

If there actually were such a thing as "voluntary taxes", I suppose I wouldn't have a problem with them. Except that it is confusing language. Money that you give voluntarily is either charity or the market price. Taxes are money that's exacted from you by a neighborhood law enforcement agency. And they do that when you're on "their" turf, simply because you own property near theirs.

Human beings are capable of acting like animals. But you don't prevent that by treating them like animals. The hell is when we act like animals, and you prevent it by fostering individual responsibility.

Edit: market price is really just another way of saying a sum of money that you would voluntarily part with

Edited by Brian9
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Go to dictionary.com and look up the words "tax" and "voluntary".

The problem is, the word tax itself almost insists on being involuntary.

Severe apologies. I did mean to write 'involuntary taxation' as being necessary. This error of editing (I did edit, but the same error repeated since "I knew what I meant") has wasted much of your time.

My argument these past few pages has been to explain why involuntary taxation is moral and proper in the right context, for the same reasons that force and coercion can in other contexts be grossly immoral and improper.

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My main argument is that taxes violate my right. As long as I don't initiate force against anyone else, no one has the right to use force against me.

...

It is commonly put like this: If we allowed people to stop paying their taxes, they wouldn't. Anarchy ensues.

I will comment on the latter quote first. You are right that the common pragmatic argument is a poor justification for forced taxation. My whole argument is explaining that the practical reasons why forced taxation seems necessary are in fact explained by philosophical principles. And these principles are what justify forced taxation in the right context.

As for that argument, which you have expressed that you have not understood, I will try again.

Let me ask this question: what is force? Ayn Rand wrote a great essay about the Berkeley free speech movement explaining how twisted their view of force was. To them, the only illegitimate force was 'violence'. The only standard by which one could judge a thing as negative was whether or not it caused 'harm'. This is meant in the immediate, perceptual sense. So, a thing is only bad if it causes 'felt harm'.

Think about my oil analogy. If a valley contains oil under the ground, and two property owners live in the valley, and their land is split evenly, equally divided in the valley, who owns the oil?

Conventionally, as long as your drill is on your land, you can drill and pump until no oil is left. But what if a man purchases 90% of the land in the valley, because he knows it has oil, so he's reasoning that he's paying for that oil, and the other man buys 10%? The 10% man could theoretically build a pump on his 10% land, but pump 100% of the oil.

If the 10% man pumps 100% - or even just more than 10% - does that constitute an initiation of force against the 90% man? The Berkeley kooks would say no, of course not. However, there's a good case to be made that that pumping was in fact stealing. If that doesn't make sense, I'll ask: is pirating music stealing?

Now, imagine an alternative scenario. Oil hasn't been really prospected yet (it's 1838). The 90% man in the valley bought that land for cattle grazing. The value of his purchase, according to his exercise of reason, is tied to the return he expects for his investment in cattle. Land value in the market is tied to cattle.

Now, let's say an intrepid entrepreneur buys the 10%. He buys it from the 90% guy (who perhaps had owned the whole valley). His explicit purpose is not to graze cattle, but to erect a new invention of his to drill and pump this oil stuff he thinks is in the ground. He succeeds and strikes it rich. The 90% cattle-grazer now decides that most of the oil is under his land, and wants a cut. Should he get it? Is the 10% guy still stealing? Or would the 90% guy be stealing if he started pumping - even though he never would have ever thought to drill for oil if the first guy hadn't done it?

Yes, good contracts can handle these sort of situations. But what about more obviously criminal scenarios of law? What if you're trying to be like John Wayne and are spinning a loaded revolver through the air on Main Street? You're not explicitly threatening anyone. Are your actions an initiation of force, because of the clear and present risk you pose to the safety of those around you?

Thomas Bowden - of ARI - had a great talk suggesting that if we had more private property, and less public (i.e.: no 'Main Street'), a lot of these questions would be answered quite easily. Still, if I'm on someone else's property, that doesn't give them a right to put me in harm through their willful negligence.

This is what LAW is for. Law provides a common standard for how 'force' is defined in a society. While cattle-grazing is of high value, it would make sense for law to favor the 10% guy. Once oil drilling reaches a critical mass of importance, the law perhaps would be changed to favor the 90% guy. The goal is to maximize the ability of individuals to live according to their individual reason even while living amongst other men

What is necessary in both situations is one outcome that applies universally (particularly for criminal law). People will disagree, period. That's why there's free trade and competition: because people disagree on value all the time, so they bargain and compromise. While an individual has 100% free discretion to enter into whatever trades they choose, they do not have a right to use FORCE against others. An individual can have the rational opinion that he is not using force against an individual, when that individual rationally feels otherwise. There is no way to resolve this contradiction except through a consensus - whereby the points of agreement are retained, and the points of disagreement discarded. A majority vote, with proper limitations on its scope of power, can provide such a consensus.

****

Why does this make forced taxation okay? Because the decision over "what is force" includes a decision over what is initiatory force and what is retaliatory force. Initiatory force determines: what is the law. Retaliatory force determines: who should enforce the law and how. The 'how' is normally methods, due process, etc. But the means of enforcement - i.e.: financial resources - are also part of that how.

Consistency in obtaining the means of enforcement is as critical as it is for setting a standard of law - for the same reasons.

****

Ideally, the majority who voted for the tax would voluntarily pay it. Furthermore, the minority who subscribes to the government would also voluntarily pay even though they disagreed - they've had their fair chance to have their disagreement represented. Only the marginal few - just like with crime - would refuse to pay.

In other words, while I think forced taxation can be proper, I suspect that if a government was properly responsive to its people and respected ALL their rights, that an IRS would simply not be necessary. People have to be threatened to pay taxes when they are generally paying much more than to which they agree.

Year to year, collection might vary, but there would generally be enough. Still, the law is a good incentive to remind people that "yes, I did agree to that".

I hope you now at least understand.

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Well, thanks again; I appreciate your effort to try to convince me. However, I can't get around the fact that I disagree with most of what you wrote. And I'm not saying this to attack you, but I'm not sure that you addressed anything I wrote. You singled out a line I wrote that was meant to express a shoddy idea in a commonplace way. You agreed that it was shoddy, then said your arguments were better, and proceeded to make them. That's fine, but I have no reaction from you on any of the arguments I was making. Perhaps I just can't read between the lines well enough in this instance.

Here's some of what I think about what you wrote:

Re drilling for oil: The guy who buys 90% of the land hoping to get at the oil can't reason that he owns 90% or any other portion of the oil. You have to be clear about what you mean when you think he bought 90% of the "land". It is my position that you can't buy something that you don't have yet and that no one has ever had. No one made that oil. It has just been sitting there for a long time. How can anyone claim they own it? At most, they own the property rights to the cattle farm above the oil. But that's it. In the same way, you don't own the stuff in the atmosphere above you. You'd have to make some use of it to "own it" and then what we would mean by owning "it", is owning the thing you made and the natural things that are inseparable from it.

Re Pirating music: Yes, it is stealing. Obviously if Tom Cruise makes a movie, turns around and sells it to someone, but asks that they not make copies to sell themselves, because he wants to be the one to sell the movie he made...Well, the artist has earned the right make that a condition under which he sells his good.

I understand you're talking about this because you think property rights are unclear and maybe, just maybe, the way to decide who owns what is by taking a poll and looking for a consensus. What most people agree on is probably correct.

Perhaps that is a mischaracterization? What am I missing? You'll certainly acknowledge that property rights are objective to at least some extent. Regardless of what people say, I own the rights to my own mind and brain activity, correct? There couldn't be any disagreement about that because it is obviously "my" mind and not the public's. If the public says otherwise, the public is just wrong. I think all rights aren't too hard to define. Sure, it isn't tic-tac-toe. There are some complications, because people don't always understand the consequences of their actions. Take second hand smoke for example. I think it is a myth that second-hand smoke is harmful, but if someone thought differently I wouldn't think them irrational. I just think they've gotten hold on some bad propaganda. So, certainly everything cannot be obvious to all people all the time.

This is what I don't understand. Why do you think consensus determines what qualifies as the initiation of force? Rights are more than clear enough. I own myself and all that I make. Violence is wrong because it destroys man's life. Destroys it because man needs to think, and political violence is the antithesis of thought. You can refer to facts and they will tell you what is right and what is wrong. Who could the public even have a good idea if they weren't doing that themselves?

As far as consistency goes, consistent taxes are bad. Not really because they're consistent, but because they are taxes. Even if you could force everyone to pay an equal amount in an equal manner for equal governmental services, why would you want to? Equality is not really a good thing. Unless you are talking about being considered equally free men before the law. Then I'm for it. But anyway, why shouldn't people pay more or less for what they want, and desire more or less depending on their circumstances? The law and the government doesn't need to fit some rigid model like that. It simply should keep men free. That is the point of having government in the first place.

"Ideally, the majority who voted for the tax would voluntarily pay it. Furthermore, the minority who subscribes to the government would also voluntarily pay even though they disagreed - they've had their fair chance to have their disagreement represented. Only the marginal few - just like with crime - would refuse to pay."

And as far as that, you're back to saying that the tax would be voluntary, if only people would do the right thing. That it would only be the criminals who would refuse to pay. That's a bogus contradiction. You can't say you're going to force a group of people to do something, but then say that ideally, you wouldn't have them being forced to do anything they didn't want to, even though they disagreed. The idea that were discussing is forcing them to do something - pay the tax. That is the idea. It has consequences. You seem to resist embracing those consequences and that is a good thing. We've been told so many big lies throughout history. They suffocate the truth. The world is so extremely upside down in some ways, it is almost incomprehensible.

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An individual can have the rational opinion that he is not using force against an individual, when that individual rationally feels otherwise. There is no way to resolve this contradiction except through a consensus - whereby the points of agreement are retained, and the points of disagreement discarded. A majority vote, with proper limitations on its scope of power, can provide such a consensus.

That's ridiculous. The problem of honest disagreements is solved through objective laws, written and applied by an objective government. That is very different from a democracy. A majority vote or any other type of "consensus" does not make laws or rulings objective, rational thought on the part of impartial legal specialists, applying objective, publicly available laws based in the principle of individual rights does.

What you are suggesting is the straight forward application of Ethical Subjectivism in Politics.

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Yeah, the subjectivism of the majority, right? Just to come at this issue from another direction, though I'm not sure it will convince you. The question occurs to me, "What if the majority decided on having no taxes?" Would that mean that one would be wrong in arguing for taxes? No, right? Or yes? Neither answer works because you're thinking about the way the world works, and what people (like myself) believe doesn't necessarily enter into it. There just is not any way to justify an argument by referring to what people believe. It begs the question. What do they know? What do they know - what can they prove? You can prove that the use of force against other people is far less ethical than the use of brain cells. As a means to create goods and services. Government is one example.

There is no reason to have taxes other than the belief that a large portion of the governed human population is hostile to free society. If they weren't, why would they need to be treated like convicts that should pay for their own prison? If, say, we knew we would always have a population that required suppression, because at the first chance, they'd throw us into despotism, then tax the hell out of them. Whatever it would take to keep the rest of us free. But that is of course a silly idea. Even if humanity somehow worked that way, you'd never know which people made up the guilty. Then I suppose you'd have to tax everyone, unfortunately. That is what this means. It is a general presumption of evil. It is preposterous for a good many reasons.

Edit: As I said before, I have some sympathy for this view. How can one not at least entertain the thought that enough of mankind is basically evil, or at best, like sheep. That they should be kept and forced to support a class of rulers, lest they run wild, and revert back to savages. But eventually you realize that man was a savage, but he is learning to be civilized and free.

Edited by Brian9
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What you are suggesting is the straight forward application of Ethical Subjectivism in Politics.

Quite the contrary.

The ethical principles behind government would be objective. Also, as I have frequently stated, the form of government in using a neutral and objective process in forming and judging the law is critical.

I am defending consensus as one factor in that process.

Government decision, no matter how neutral, studied, or objective, is not equal to full knowledge of reality. There is a point after which the outcome of rational thinking will vary.

I cannot subsume all facts of reality into my knowledge base in order to judge what ideas are/are not objective. I can identify the nature of objective facts, and use the concept of objectivity to judge a given situation.

Men can be objective and yet disagree. They can follow objective processes, but the scope and context of knowledge available to each man can nonetheless differ. That way, two men can BOTH be ethically objective, yet disagree.

Government is an institution, an entity, which itself has a knowledge base. That base is comprised of the knowledge of the men who take part in it (although, even if the government was a computer, even that computer would have a finite, expandable, knowledge base). If government is to provide the objectivity you call for - which I have argued repeatedly that it must - it will of course apply an objective standard of ethics, but it still must rely on a defined scope and context of knowledge.

Men rely on government to objectively settle their subjective disputes - who does government rely on?

My point has been: using an objective standard of ethics, government should base its standard on the use of moral force on the common scope and context of knowledge of those of whom it is comprised**. Epistemologically, that's a consensus.

It's not an ethical consensus - if the government strongly oversteps its objective moral bounds because of the ignorance of its voters - an individual has a moral imperative to rebel, reject, or abstain from that government.

Naturally, each individual must rationally decide when that point is for himself.

**(I'll give a very concrete example: a famer's fertilizing agent poisons his neighbor's water supply. The neighbor develops a statistically rigorous method for proving the negative health consequences. The farmer doesn't understand the method properly, and rejects its validity, but is otherwise and objectively moral individual. Now, extrapolate the situation to a population under a government, with some farmers, and others who are their neighbors. Should the law uphold that the fertilizer causes harm, or not? An expert should decide? Who is an expert? How do you tell who's an expert? Why should a subject of the government trust a given expert? Every last person could be objectively moral, but that doesn't make them equally specialized in knowledge. At the end of the day, this disparity in knowledge requires deference to subjectivity.

By the way, if subjectivity based on knowledge disparity is so wrong, then the government should ban free trade. An objective government, with objective laws should identify the most capable in any given field who choose to pursue activity in that field, and grant them a monopoly. This of course would be absurd. For the same reasons why consensus forms an integral, if limited, part of a moral government.)

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The cause of our debate at the moment is we don't agree on the meaning of objective and subjective.

Re the farmer: You're implying that because we don't always know whether or not a new method of fertilization results in an unintended, harmful, polluting, effect, that we have a problem which consensus helps solve. How? So, Farmer A claims Farmer B's methods are causing him damages. What does taking a poll do? To be sure, we aren't interested in how many people believe in one thing or another. We're interested in the facts. Can farmer A prove his case? And what has this got to do with taxes? You're saying that someone can claim the chemicals a farmer puts into the ground are doing him harm, that the majority of people haven't the expertise to know one way or the other, therefore it is important that governments find consensus and tax me to support certain government institutions? It isn't just that I don't believe that claims about pollution require government polls, it is also that I don't follow that counting people's opinions about some chemical means that we should count them about my right to my own life and to not have it infringed upon less someone can prove that I am causing damages to them.

Furthermore, no, "subjectivity on knowledge disparity" isn't so wrong. Not if you mean, as you seem to, one person knowing something another person doesn't. I don't think I agree that even if we thought that it was, we would want government to completely run our lives, or that that could even somehow mean that people would then all have the same knowledge.

If on the other hand, by "subjectivity of knowledge disparity", you mean people 'knowing' contradicting things, yes, that is wrong. Of course, it means one person is wrong and not one of us likes to be wrong. How do we resolve this difference? The person that is wrong will eventually learn why. We don't count opinions and decide that the majority of people are right, right?

Edit: I also think you're wrong when you say government is an entity. Government is too abstract. It is like saying World Peace is an entity. Government people, government buildings are entities. Individuals exercising their right to self defense are government entities. But there government is being used as an adjective. "government" is like saying " the economy". They are things, but not entities. I'm okay with organizations.

Edited by Brian9
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**(I'll give a very concrete example: a famer's fertilizing agent poisons his neighbor's water supply. The neighbor develops a statistically rigorous method for proving the negative health consequences. The farmer doesn't understand the method properly, and rejects its validity, but is otherwise and objectively moral individual. Now, extrapolate the situation to a population under a government, with some farmers, and others who are their neighbors. Should the law uphold that the fertilizer causes harm, or not? An expert should decide? Who is an expert? How do you tell who's an expert? Why should a subject of the government trust a given expert? Every last person could be objectively moral, but that doesn't make them equally specialized in knowledge. At the end of the day, this disparity in knowledge requires deference to subjectivity.

By the way, if subjectivity based on knowledge disparity is so wrong, then the government should ban free trade. An objective government, with objective laws should identify the most capable in any given field who choose to pursue activity in that field, and grant them a monopoly. This of course would be absurd. For the same reasons why consensus forms an integral, if limited, part of a moral government.)

You are finally starting to approach a coherent statement. But consider Rand's answer to "Who is the final authority in ethics?" and then see if you can address "Who is the final authority in government" without resorting to "deference to subjectivity".

Several subjects differing over what is objective is not a subjectivity that is resolved by consensus, it is a debate resolved by argumentation and evidence that results in a decision by the one deciding. How such decisions get made is specified in writing and in advance of a particular dispute, which is part of what makes it objective. If a matter is decided by one judge that is not an example of subjectivity unless the judge is being subjective in failing to justify his decision. A majority vote in a legislature is not subjective unless it is an attempt to extend government force and authority into a realm where it has no right to be.

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Here's what I don't get: why does anyone assume that there is only one way to accomplish any particular goal? After all, different languages can analogously represent the same phenomena, such that reliable translation is feasible as a means for communicating ideas. Since a language contains all the concepts known to be communicated among it users to any substantial degree, is subsumes, conceptually, all ideas including those of government and taxation. If there is more than one good means to concretizing ideas, then the same must be true of the products of ideas. Popularly said, there is more than one way to skin a cat (and we can debate the relative merits of the available means without enforcing a one-size-fits-all that biases against the consideration of alternatives).

For example in the current context, there is more than one means for the government to obtain the necessary revenue. Taxation is one way. There are others. Are any of these moral? Is taxation moral? Only if the answer is the same to both questions does the issue of relative merit come into play -- and if the answer is "no" to both, we may as well just be bad ...

- ico

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The alternative to taxing everyone is to let everyone make up their own mind. The rule that out because they think most, or just enough (how many?), are not smart enough to come to a result that compares with what they could supposedly accomplish with taxes.

I can't remember much evidence that has been give in support of that claim. It has mostly been a lot of trying to word the argument in such a way as to conceal the fact that we're talking about initiating force against anyone who doesn't "voluntarily" give us however much money we need.

The only coherent challenge I can recall at the moment is the question of how a completely free society would fend off a completely unfree society. The argument is made that a completely unfree society could have a lot more resources for war because they're willing to sacrifice irrationally, while the free society has gone all swords to plowshares or can't find anyone willing to defend freedom.

I also remember the claim that any government freely paid for would be corrupt. Because we all know that money in politics is bad. I don't think this argument is coherent. It reminds me of how Kant supposedly thought that everything people do willingly is at best amoral, but everything that is their duty is righteous.

edit: Yes, just how many people need to be forced to pay the tax, and how many would pay it "voluntarily"? That is a really interesting question. We have some idea, don't we? Something like 70 percent of our imagined ideal country would give the money up voluntarily, but the other 30 percent would have to be taxed? Do you suppose we could make a study of what distinguished the 30 percent from... OH, yeah, I remember. Grames already told me that I belong in the 30% because I argue from first principles while not examining the way the world works. How silly of me.

Edited by Brian9
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Remind me again, why is it okay to initiate force against me?

The idea I guess is that government is a public good. It doesn't exist in free markets. Of course, it does. It is obvious that people do in fact have choices about where to spend their money on security. We vote on defense bills, we decide where and how to go to war, we pay for private security, hire policemen, and appoint or elect every government official. All of that because we, the people, find it necessary to form a government of, for, and by the people. Not in a collective sense, but in a common good sense. Because everyone needs freedom, we can work together on it.

But it is a jump from, we can work together on it because we have common interests, to we must force each other to work for us, because we judge that we aren't capable of doing it any other way.

The idea I guess is that if you spend your money to secure your freedom in a way that is different in any dimension, then that means that you're violating my right to be free. So, if you want to support a different police station, or a different judge, or spend less, or spend more, than you're not being equal in the eyes of the law. You're being different, and that is upsetting things. I don't think this is coherent, so that is the best I can do at explaining it.

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Yes.

People tax one another to fund specific government projects. They don't do it because the taxpayer has done anything wrong. They do it because they need/want the money to fund their government projects. That is the initiation of force. If I were to do something wrong, and you took from me for justice's sake, we wouldn't call it a tax, would we? Taxes are different. Taxes are, very very simply, the redistribution of wealth as means to fund government projects. It's socialism, pure and simple. We don't need to collectivize the production of any good or service. If I own property on the continent of North America, the government(s) of the U.S.A. or some other will reason that I'm a U.S. citizen. That means I'll be involuntarily co-opted, have to pay tribute, and yes, receive services. The point is that taxes are not based upon consent, but rather how easily the I.R.S. can get at you, so taxes are the initiation of force. It is based in the collectivist premise - that "we" need to provide government or else it won't happen. But that doesn't make sense to me. Why does totalitarian planning and coercive enforcement work for the production of government goods and services, when it fails dismally everywhere else? Freedom should be absolute, unless free people don't function as well as taxed people. That isn't true though, because the mind is the source of value, and the mind needs to be free.

If a government did have my consent, again, we wouldn't call it a tax, would we? The I.R.S., or whoever, would simply be collecting a contractual debt just as anyone else would have to. It's been said that force isn't bought and sold in the marketplace or that border people don't have more of a responsibility to secure freedom from external invaders. Why? It is obvious to me that force is bought and sold. That people living nearer to violence, or are more vulnerable don't have more responsibility. It is a fact. It isn't unfair. Facts are not unfair. There are tradeoffs. If a city has a harbor, or access to more trade, then obviously they're more vulnerable for the same reason. They pass whatever costs they have on to the the people living inland. The only question is, do they do it by government force, totalitarian planning, or do they do it by contractual agreement, voluntary free trade.

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Why does totalitarian planning and coercive enforcement work for the production of government goods and services, when it fails dismally everywhere else?

Because there is no such thing as market in force short of open warfare. Taxes take the place of the price mechanism found in other markets.

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You just conceded the point I have been arguing that taxation ultimately is, or can be, by consent.

No, a "mass" cannot consent. Only an individual can consent. What do you do to the individual who disagrees? Force him to pay? Then your government is criminal.

Consent of the majority does not make taxes right for the minority that does not consent.

Exactly.

This is why a legitimate government is funded by donation - those who consent to fund the government pay for it, those who do not, don't. Yes, people receive protection without paying for it (which seems unjust at first), but when you realize that it is in everyone's interest (including, and most importantly, to the rational government funding citizen) to protect everyone's rights, it makes perfect sense.

It is not in my interest to allow my neighbor (who is a leech and does not fund the government) to live with his rights unprotected. Shun him I will. Leave him as free prey for a real criminal I will not.

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