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I have been studying Objectivism for a while, and this is a problem I have not been able to resolve. Many Objectivists claim that unjust laws should be obeyed out of a respect for the rule of law, and that tax evasion is immoral. This sounds like intrinsicism. I claim that obedience to the law ought to only go so far as it is in your self interest. If you can get away with evading taxes, you ought to. Your only concern should be weighing the risk of your life and freedom with the sacrifice of values to an unjust law.

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I have been studying Objectivism for a while, and this is a problem I have not been able to resolve. Many Objectivists claim that unjust laws should be obeyed out of a respect for the rule of law, and that tax evasion is immoral. This sounds like intrinsicism. I claim that obedience to the law ought to only go so far as it is in your self interest. If you can get away with evading taxes, you ought to. Your only concern should be weighing the risk of your life and freedom with the sacrifice of values to an unjust law.

If it were only Objectivists who decided which were those unjust laws, I'd sleep soundly at night.

But as it stands, I'd be very nervous.

Welcome to O.Online, btw.

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Many Objectivists claim that unjust laws should be obeyed out of a respect for the rule of law, and that tax evasion is immoral. This sounds like intrinsicism. I claim that obedience to the law ought to only go so far as it is in your self interest. If you can get away with evading taxes, you ought to. Your only concern should be weighing the risk of your life and freedom with the sacrifice of values to an unjust law.

To the extent that laws or tax code are "unjust"/immoral by Objectivist standards, it is not immoral to violate them. (Similarly, if someone wants to violate your rights, you have a right to stop them.)

Re taxes, some are rational; therefore, total evasion of them would neither be right nor worth the risk.

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It's not primarily an issue of the hierarchy of one's values, but in fact of the hierarchy of Objectivist political principles. You are correct, the principle of justice precedes rule of law (laws are dependent on justice), therefor the principle "an unjust law must still be obeyed" is left entirely unfounded. It is illogical to believe in it, and it is not part of Objectivism. If anyone states otherwise, you should challenge them to source their claim to Ayn Rand's Philosophy. They won't be able to.

You mention values and deciding which specific law is in one's self interest and which isn't based on them: I don't think it's a constructive path to go down on, regarding laws which adhere or honestly attempt to adhere to the principles of Objectivist Politics. I believe those political principles are the only fully rational means of making moral decisions regarding our interactions with the State and evaluating which specific government action is or isn't in one's self interest. Choosing to instead evaluate each law and government decision independently of those principles, based on personal values, would not work (unless you have better principles to replace them).

As for what to do when these principles don't apply (because the government chose to ignore them and initiate force against the citizens), you are still faced with a primary choice: are the abusive laws bad enough to make it worth starting to evaluate each decision, the risks involved in breaking the laws, worrying when you do, etc. , or are you still better off just going along with them for the moment. I don't think there is anything in Objectivist Politics to help us with this decision, and I hate it when people claim the Objectivist choice is to just obey the laws until you are ready to "shrug", the way the characters in AS did. Ayn Rand never suggests they had a moral obligation to go along with the bad laws. At this point, your personal hierarchy of values is exactly what your decision should be based on. That doesn't mean you can become a pragmatist, your personal values should still be based on rational moral principles, but informed by your context (your life, your friends and loved ones, your ambitions and passions etc.

For me personally, some laws are repulsive or silly enough that I have an "ignore with caution" policy (immigration laws, drug laws), while with others (like tax laws, various rules and regulations on business and employment), I have made the decision to just obey them, and plan my life around them. I find that it would be far more difficult to try and plan my economic future on breaking such laws, there would just be too much uncertainty to account for.

Re taxes, some are rational; therefore, total evasion of them would neither be right nor worth the risk.

That is not the Objectivist position. Objectivism is opposed to forced taxation on principle.

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TLD, on 27 October 2010 - 11:47 AM, said:

Re taxes, some are rational; therefore, total evasion of them would neither be right nor worth the risk.

That is not the Objectivist position. Objectivism is opposed to forced taxation on principle.

There are some functions of Govt. that are rational and require taxation (for all practical purposes) to support them; e.g. courts, police, military.

Yes, in a totally free system, there could theoretically be an alternative to taxation. But in today's context, taxation is required. To evade them entirely would be to evade one's responsibility to help support those functions.

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There are some functions of Govt. that are rational and require taxation (for all practical purposes) to support them; e.g. courts, police, military.

Yes, in a totally free system, there could theoretically be an alternative to taxation. But in today's context, taxation is required. To evade them entirely would be to evade one's responsibility to help support those functions.

The OP asked a question about Objectivism, in the Questions about Objectivism forum. If it is your claim that Objectivism supports taxes for the Courts, Police and military, prove it.

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In my experience, those “Objectivists” are Kantian conservatives in disguise (“obey the law for its own sake”). In my view, you are under no obligation to obey unjust laws, so long as you aren't using force on others. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with tax evasion, the only problem I see is that it is not in your self-interest to be put in jail, therefore you should probably go ahead and pay them, and consider them a product of extortion.

I have often thought that there appears to be a sort of hierarchy where the rule of law, individual rights, and justice is concerned.

At the bottom we have collectivism, where there may be a set legal code, but it is set against your life. Anarchy is an improvement, where as in the primitive state of nature, there is no set rule of law except that you can band together with others and cooperate for whatever mutual defense you can make or buy. In other words, you can bash the other guy's head in before he bashes yours in, and get a bigger gang than him, but at least you have a chance before it devolves into collectivism depending on how rational society is. Then, on the highest level so to speak, you have a government that has a set legal code that protects your rights instead of systematically violating them.

Rand, it appears, came to a similar conclusion:

When, however, a government becomes an initiator of force, the injustice and moral corruption involved are truly unspeakable.

For example: When a Collectivist government orders a man to work and attaches him to a job, under penalty of death or imprisonment, it is the government that initiates the use of force. The man has done no violence to anyone—but the government uses violence against him. There is no possible justification for such a procedure in theory. And there is no possible result in practice—except the blood and the terror which you can observe in any Collectivist country. The moral perversion involved is this: If men had no government and no social system of any kind, they might have to exist through sheer force and fight one another in any disagreement; in such a state, one man would have a fair chance against one other man: but he would have no chance against ten others. It is not against an individual that a man needs protection—but against a group. Still, in such a state of anarchy, while any majority gang would have its way, a minority could fight them by any means available. And the gang could not make its rule last

Collectivism goes a step below savage anarchy: it takes away from man even the chance to fight back. It makes violence legal—and resistance to it illegal. It gives the sanction of law to the organized brute force of a majority (or of anyone who claims to represent it)—and turns the minority into a helpless, disarmed object of extermination. If you can think of a more vicious perversion of justice, name it.

In actual practice, when a Collectivist society violates the rights of a minority (or of one single man), the result is that the majority loses its rights as well...

Society is a large number of men who live together in the same country, and who deal with one another. Unless there is a defined, objective moral code, which men understand and observe, they have no way of dealing with one another—since none can know what to expect from his neighbor. The man who recognizes no morality is a criminal; you can do nothing when dealing with a criminal, except try to crack his skull before he cracks yours. You have no other language, no terms of behavior mutually accepted. To speak of a society without moral principles is to advocate that men live together like criminals. We are still observing, by tradition, so many moral precepts that we take them for granted, and do not realize how many actions of our daily lives are made possible only by moral principles. Why is it safe for you to go into a crowded department store, make a purchase and come out again? The crowd around you needs goods, too; the crowd could easily overpower the few salesgirls, ransack the store, and grab your packages and pocketbook as well. Why don't they do it? There is nothing to stop them and nothing to protect you—except the moral principle of your individual right of life and property.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that crowds are restrained merely by fear of policemen. There could not be enough policemen in the world if men believed that it is proper and practical to loot. And if men believed this, why shouldn't the policemen believe it, too? Who, then, would be the policemen? Besides, in a Collectivist society the policeman's duty is not to protect your rights, but to violate them. It would certainly be expedient for the crowd to loot the department store—if we accept the expediency of the moment as a sound and proper rule of action. But how many department stores, how many factories, farms or homes would we have, and for how long, under this rule of expediency? If we discard morality and substitute for it the collectivist doctrine of unlimited majority rule, if we accept the idea that a majority may do anything it pleases, and that anything done by a majority is right because it's done by a majority (this being the only standard of right and wrong)—how are men to apply this in practice to their actual lives? Who is the majority? In relation to each particular man, all other men are potential members of that majority which may destroy him at its pleasure at any moment. Then each man and all men become enemies; each has to fear and suspect all; each must try to rob and murder first, before he is robbed and murdered.

If you think that this is just abstract theory, take a look at Europe for a practical demonstration. In Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, private citizens did the foulest work of the G.P.U. ...

Peace, security, prosperity, co-operation and good will among men, all those things considered socially desirable, are possible only under a system of Individualism, where each man is safe in the exercise of his individual rights and in the knowledge that society is there to protect his rights, not to destroy them. Then each man knows what he may or may not do to his neighbors, and what his neighbors (one or a million of them) may or may not do to him. Then he is free to deal with them as a friend and an equal. ...

Edited by 2046
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The OP asked a question about Objectivism, in the Questions about Objectivism forum. If it is your claim that Objectivism supports taxes for the Courts, Police and military, prove it.

All I am saying is that Objectivism says that people need to support those functions. In our world, taxation is the only means of doing so. In a more perfect world - and being purely theoretical (which we do not always have the luxury of being), I agree that that would not be the case.

BTW: the initial post was asking about Objectivist claims, not purely the position of Objectivism. Also, one always needs to distinguish between what Rand said and how to apply her principles in the real world.

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All I am saying is that Objectivism says that people need to support those functions. In our world, taxation is the only means of doing so. In a more perfect world - and being purely theoretical (which we do not always have the luxury of being), I agree that that would not be the case.

BTW: the initial post was asking about Objectivist claims, not purely the position of Objectivism. Also, one always needs to distinguish between what Rand said and how to apply her principles in the real world.

That is not an Objectivist position. The only way that you can support the police, army, and justice system is through taxation in "our world". Thus, your statement is clearly supporting taxation which Objectivism is obviously opposed to. The status of the current world is irrelevant.

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That is not an Objectivist position. The only way that you can support the police, army, and justice system is through taxation in "our world". Thus, your statement is clearly supporting taxation which Objectivism is obviously opposed to. The status of the current world is irrelevant.

I think he means that since the ONLY way the police, military, and courts can be funded right now is through taxation. If you don't pay taxes for those things, they will not be funded right now, because that's how the government works right now, even though it ought to be different. Although I suppose you could not pay taxes while also donating directly to those functions anyway, so it's pretty much a moot point.

Edited by Eiuol
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I think he means that since the ONLY way the police, military, and courts can be funded through taxation. If you don't pay taxes for those things, they will not be funded right now, because that's how the government works right now, even though it ought to be different. Although I suppose you could not pay taxes while also donating directly to those functions anyway, so it's pretty much a moot point.

Of course that's what I mean. OCSL's conclusions are inaccurate.

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I think he means that since the ONLY way the police, military, and courts can be funded right now is through taxation. If you don't pay taxes for those things, they will not be funded right now, because that's how the government works right now, even though it ought to be different. Although I suppose you could not pay taxes while also donating directly to those functions anyway, so it's pretty much a moot point.

It's not a moot point. Supporting those functions directly, by donating to them, is the only way to support them. Taxes cannot be earmarked for specific causes.

Taxes in a free society would be unjustified, but in our current society they are even worse, because most of the money goes to fund welfare, not to mention further violations of rights (like prisons full of drug offenders). To suggest that paying taxes is somehow more of an obligation in this world than in a free society is quite ridiculous.

The only circumstance in which collaborating with tax collectors would be a good idea is if they were collecting money for a transitional government which has a clear cut plan of establishing Laissez-faire Capitalism, and phasing out its dependence on forced taxation. That is not the case today, taxes today are aimed at exploiting our work. Paying them voluntarily would be idiotic.

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Civil contract insurance: in order for a contract to be legally enforceable, it must be recorded with the civil court and a periodic premium paid to the government treasury, with the amount of the premium based on the value and risk of the contract.

It is up to the contracting parties to decide whether or not to insure any given contract. They could just shake hands on it if they choose. But, should an uninsured contract be defaulted on, their is no recourse in law, and hence no force can be taken against the defaulter, even if only to compensate the creditor. The most that could be done would be to censure the defaulter as unworthy of credit.

If the government were right-sized, contract insurance could serve as the sole source of government revenue in normal times.

And taxation is morally wrong -- partial slavery is still slavery. But when there is no choice with a better outcome, one does the necessary and pays the legally imposed taxes ... and remembers who legislated them for the next election.

- ico

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It's not a moot point. Supporting those functions directly, by donating to them, is the only way to support them. Taxes cannot be earmarked for specific causes.

Ugh, I knew I'd be misunderstood, I probably had poor word choice. What I meant by moot is that TLD's point wasn't even important because you could STILL donate money for those things anyway without paying taxes, so those important functions would still be financed. I agree with the rest of your post.

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Ugh, I knew I'd be misunderstood, I probably had poor word choice. What I meant by moot is that TLD's point wasn't even important because you could STILL donate money for those things anyway without paying taxes, so those important functions would still be financed. I agree with the rest of your post.

I totally agree. That is what I was trying to say but after re-reading my post it doesn't get the point across. Sorry.

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Ugh, I knew I'd be misunderstood, I probably had poor word choice. What I meant by moot is that TLD's point wasn't even important because you could STILL donate money for those things anyway without paying taxes, so those important functions would still be financed. I agree with the rest of your post.

You went from "you could still donate" - without any evidence that that would happen today - to "so those important functions would still be financed", as if an unreasonable assumption can lead to such a conclusion; and you suggest that that is an argument that makes my assertion false.

Look: there has been no disagreement in principle. But taxation is necessary in today's society to fund those services - that is a fact. Take a poll and see how many would voluntariy pay a "fair share" to fund them and you'll agree; how many of you are doing so?

What we should strive to do is get govt. to eliminate unnecessary funding of all other services. That would get us closer to a Capitalist system, at which time we could talk about an alternative to taxation altogether.

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You went from "you could still donate" - without any evidence that that would happen today - to "so those important functions would still be financed", as if an unreasonable assumption can lead to such a conclusion; and you suggest that that is an argument that makes my assertion false.

I wasn't even considering what other people would do because it's not important. An action being right or wrong has nothing to do with "what if everyone did the same thing?". It's especially relevant to the context here that there is no indication even that taxation will be abolished anytime soon, or if things are on the right track. Having money taken from you is quite an injustice, so if you can avoid paying taxes, it's probably a good thing to do. Of course, considering force is involved and the IRS certainly can find you easily, it's probably a bad idea to attempt to evade taxes. Still, if you got around that, you could still pay for proper functions of government. Please note that this line of reasoning only pertains to functions that the government ought to have anyway. I would actually be interested to see a poll asking if people would pay for courts, police, military voluntarily if there was no taxation.

Edited by Eiuol
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I have been studying Objectivism for a while, and this is a problem I have not been able to resolve. Many Objectivists claim that unjust laws should be obeyed out of a respect for the rule of law, and that tax evasion is immoral. This sounds like intrinsicism. I claim that obedience to the law ought to only go so far as it is in your self interest. If you can get away with evading taxes, you ought to. Your only concern should be weighing the risk of your life and freedom with the sacrifice of values to an unjust law.

Returning to the OP question: The subtopic is "Greater than that of justice?"

So the basic question is, "Is the rule of law of greater value than justice?"

No.

Man's life is his standard of value.

To [probably mis]quote OPAR: Justice is the granting to man exactly what he deserves for his actions.

When a man is given that which he does not deserve, that acts contra Man Qua Man, thus harming his life and corrupting his standard of value.

Therefore, the rule of law is only of value respectively with how well the rule of law respects man's life. The Rule of Law is only of value if it is Just.

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I was trying to ask a broader question of principle, which many early replies addressed well. I don't know how this turned into a discussion of how government should be funded. Tax evasion is just one relevant context that the principle of abiding by the rule of law can be applied. What about vigilantism? Or exploiting invalid laws to fight an enemy?

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Tax evasion is just one relevant context that the principle of abiding by the rule of law can be applied. What about vigilantism? Or exploiting invalid laws to fight an enemy?

Vigilantism is improper because that is using personal standards - albeit ones that may even be entirely rational and objective - in order to administer justice. Law is supposed to be the standard of what is proper and making it consistent across the board in a society. To better focus on the thread here, WHEN is it morally okay to ignore laws, or administering justice yourself if justice is absent? The former should be clear from the previous posts. I would say vigilantism is proper if injustices committed are extremely severe and nothing is done about it. Also, it would only be proper if you decide to reject the entire system of law where you live. The best example I can give of this is Ragnar with regards to vigilantism. He rejected everything about the existing government and took justice into his own hands when no one else would by returning stolen money to their rightful owners. The system of law in place in the world of Atlas Shrugged was simply not functioning well at all. To use the justice system for some crimes and to take other crimes into your own hands is to acknowledge a system is bad or not serving its purpose. Exploiting invalid laws, I believe, is a form of vigilantism, since there is an attempt to administer justice by applying laws that knowingly shouldn't be used in a certain way. It is taking the law into one's own hands literally! To use a legal system in ways the system was never intended to be used in order to force a particular result is really declaring that the legal system is so screwed up that no one's rights are being protected anymore. I unfortunately can't think of any concrete examples, although I imagine some example of exploiting zoning laws is an example of this. For vigilantism to be proper in some context, the existing legal system ought to be rejected wholeheartedly.

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