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Taxes: Government Financing In A Free Society

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How would home owners' association dues figure into this? Certainly, a contractual agreement is made in buying a house under a home association whereby the collective decides upon fees to be paid into a kitty for the collective wants. Under that contract, a homeowner is objectively required to pay, and the contract may stipulate a right for the collective to call upon the services of the government to uphold the contract (throw you into a locked room). One can choose to buy in that neighborhood, or not.

I'm not all that familiar with that practice in the US. I do know that there are such things as Cooperatives (known as Strata Title holdings here), which as far as I understand it are essentially corporations owning a whole tract or block of apartments and the individual shares of the corporation being stapled to lease agreements for particular plots or apartments. Thus in economic substance (and, IMSM, in actual cooperative / strata-title law) what one pays the large sum for is actually the ownership of the stock and not ownership of the actual dwelling, which one is really holding an indefinite lease for rather than owning. The Body Corporate - would that be the HOA? - under that arrangement is elected by the resident stockholders, controls what the individual resdents can do, and which residents who also pay some sort of rent to the body corporate, which it uses to pay for general services. If that's not the sort of arrangement you had in mind, I do apologise for my ignorance.

Assuming that it is, I don't see any problem with this at all, and is in principle no different to how any corporation is run. The morality of each individual set up would depend on the history of each, eg whether someone voluntarily entered a contract to that end or was forced into it by government.

So, the question then becomes: Does one implicitly agree to any such contract when they choose to live in any particular country? Can the government be likened to the home owners' association; enforcing the contract created by the collective?

No and no.

First up, there is no contract entered without expressly and freely doing so on the basis of independent individuals who are the prime unit of concern. Collectives do and create nothing, only individuals act and create. In reference to the history of some countries (including the original colonies of the US), the original royal colony charters of yesteryear are morally void - feudalism is NOT a proper form of government and the bastard children thereof aren't worth taking seriously. The Crown had no right to assert allodial ownership of the new lands, and similarly had no right to posit that they were setting up systems of non-allodial holdings for the subject-colonists who would reside there and pay taxes to the Crown for the privilege. The colonists paid their own way to the new worlds (or, in the case of Australia, were 'transported' for minor crimes then finished their sentences) then did their own work to get the land up and running, so they morally own that previously unowned land free and clear without obligation to pay a thing to anyone for owning it, government and collective needs be damned.

Secondly, you're missing the fundamental point of what government is about. Governments exist for a strictly delimited purpose and have no business owning any property for any reason other than that purpose. In fact, governments themselves should not be owning property they don't strictly need to own where they can just as effectively lease it and get the job done. (It was once said that the rot set in for some branch of the UK public service when it moved its offices out of a rented hotel suite and into a building of its own - that's a peice of dark humour, but it has a lot of truth to it when one considers principles.) So, even if we were to posit that the original colony charters or modern equivalents are lawful, a proper examination of what is right for a government to do would see us terminating those contracts forthwith and the holdings revert to unencumbered ownership by the individual residents. Any private HOA or cooperative arrangements that people make are then their own concern.

Rounding it out, you're making the error of admixing markets and force. The body-corporate contracts are market-oriented structures that presuppose an existing legal system and cannot be means to creating them or even just backing them up - and indeed, breach of the body-corporate's laws is a civil matter rather than a criminal one, in marked contrast to non-payment of taxes, tariffs and excises. A government having legislators, courts, police and military is not a mere large-scale version of an HOA having residents' boards, arbitrators, doormen and security guards, where instead there is a world of difference in regards to the origin of their respective moral authorities to act. In part this is also a minor version of the infinite-regress problem with all variants of social-contract theory, and falls to the ground for the same reason.

JJM

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I know there's not much interest in the specific how of government funding, but it seems to me that contingent contributions might have some potential. The idea is that contributions are pledged

person A: Taxes are not theft.

A theft transaction: x has $50. y forces x to give him $15. x now has $35.

A tax transaction: x has $50. y requires x to give him $15. y provides services and security worth vastly more than $15 to x. x now has $35 and services and security.

Pretty simple.

person B: Most plantation owners in the South were not slave masters.

A master/slave relationship: y buys x from an African slave merchant. y neglects to feed x as well as he would've been able to feed himself while back with his tribe in Africa, and his chains are tight, and hurting his wrists and ankles.

A magnanimous God fearing plantation owner / grateful African-American plantation resident relationship: y buys x from Africa, gives him plenty of food, and he only has to work half a day on Sundays (except when it's harvest time), and has very loose and light chains, just enough so that the dummy doesn't do something stupid like run away from this wonderful paradise.

Pretty simple.

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In part this is also a minor version of the infinite-regress problem with all variants of social-contract theory, and falls to the ground for the same reason.

John,

Would you expand on this a bit more? I'm not familiar with that argument against social contract theory. Thanks!

Phil

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Does that mean that if the burglar stealing your TV leaves something of equal value it is no longer a crime? That's a cool concept... I didn't know about that =)

That guy's point is not even that the government doesn't force you to pay it, but that you get something in return. However, the problem with that is that you did not choose what you get in return so it cannot be seen as a trade. It's a forced exchange, at gunpoint. Just as a robber taking something that's yours but leaving something random behind. Yes, some people may even profit from that but that's not the point; you were still robbed and it is still a violation of rights.

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Assuming that it is, I don't see any problem with this at all, and is in principle no different to how any corporation is run. The morality of each individual set up would depend on the history of each, eg whether someone voluntarily entered a contract to that end or was forced into it by government.

Yes, that's basically an HOA. Simply put, you pay a fee (monthly, quarterly, or yearly) for common expenses (upkeep of common open spaces, etc.).

The colonists paid their own way to the new worlds (or, in the case of Australia, were 'transported' for minor crimes then finished their sentences) then did their own work to get the land up and running, so they morally own that previously unowned land free and clear without obligation to pay a thing to anyone for owning it, government and collective needs be damned.

Two things confuse me about this general topic: (please assume every question is asked as a request for an answer from an objective perspective)

1) Resources of others were used. For example in the case of the American colonies, British solidies, paid for by British taxpayers, were used to protect the colonies. A proper government service, and perhaps not the best example, but what delimits a proper government's sphere of control and responsibility? How would the discovery of North America have been handled objectively?

2) What constitutes ownership, objectively speaking? Can I still own land if I don't know what "owning" something means? Can I still own land if I understand what it means to own land, but choose not to do anything with the land other than enjoy the scenery?

A British citizen sails to NA. Stakes out a plot of land and begins farming. He gets attacked by the indigenous population who have used the land for their own farming and hunting.

The British citizen has a right to protection from the British government, does he not? If he does, does the sphere of the British government's control and responsibility extend throughout the Universe? What does it mean to be a citizen of a country? How does one get that distinction?

What entitled the British citizen to claim ownership of that land?

Secondly, you're missing the fundamental point of what government is about. Governments exist for a strictly delimited purpose and have no business owning any property for any reason other than that purpose.

I understand the proper functions of government, but I think my confusion could be solved with a proper understanding of ownership. I've read the argument that ownership entails some transformation of the property - i.e. working the land. If that's the case, then I think an argument could be made that the British government worked at least some of the land in this country - it, as well as the governments of France and Spain, financed the exploration of the continent. Why does that not constitute ownership?

In part this is also a minor version of the infinite-regress problem with all variants of social-contract theory, and falls to the ground for the same reason.

I too would like to read more about this.

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I'm not familiar with that argument against social contract theory. Thanks!

Sorry, I thought it would be reasonably well known, at least among Objectivists - my bad.

General social contract theory tries to create morality by positing that everyone has signed a broad contract to follow certain precepts. The problem is where does the obligation to abide by one's agrement come from? Morality, it is said, doesn't exist until the contract is in place, so in order to generate a moral obligation to abide by one's agreements and retain the social-contract idea there has to be a previous contract that generates that obligation. However, that suffers from the same problem, and so on ad infinitum.

Alternatively, if the obligation to abide by agreement exists before any contract is entered then why is there any need for a contract at all? A pre-existing obligation means there is a non-contractual moral code, whereas the point of social-contract theory is to try to generate that moral code from nothing but agreement.

It is certainly possible that agreements can create obligations - that is their reason for being! - but they rest upon a pre-existing moral code that stands independent of any agreement. Social contract theory drops that context (and is also one of the theories that asserts that morality is only a social issue).

JJM

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Two things confuse me about this general topic: (please assume every question is asked as a request for an answer from an objective perspective)

1) Resources of others were used. For example in the case of the American colonies, British solidies, paid for by British taxpayers, were used to protect the colonies.

To the extent that the services were legitimate that doesn't translate to a Mafia-style assertion of "we now own your ass and all your property!" Agreeing for one's property to be part of the same legal jurisdiction does not of itself mean that the government of that jurisdiction is the supreme owner of everything within it. A jurisdiction is only a geographcial range of monopoly on force and applicability of a single body of law, neither implying anything else generally nor in justice ought to include anything else.

what delimits a proper government's sphere of control and responsibility?

A part of morality as applied to the social context, that of defence and retaliation against the vice of initiation of the use of force. The specific means of doing that are identifying rights and upholding laws to protect them.

I'll leave the generation-of-ownership questions to separate threads.

How would the discovery of North America have been handled objectively?

Interesting topic, and I don't think there is a One Answer, but again that belongs in another thread. The principles have also (in part anyway) been covered in other threads.

(A) citizen (who has moved to a newly discovered land) has a right to protection from the government (where he came from and is citizen of), does he not?

(I'll drop the British part because it is broader than history, and the issue will come to the fore again when Mars colonisation plans start getting realistic)

Sometimes. It is not as though he can go anywhere he pleases and automatically expect the government of another land to come to his aid when he is well outside their geograhical jurisdiction. There are some cases where the expectaton is valid (including use of gunboat diplomacy, which Dr Peikoff rightly noted should have been the response to the oilfield nationalisations perpetrated by various middle-eastern governments in the 1950s), and others where it isn't (eg if I broke a law while in the US that shouldn't be on the books then while I certainly have the right to good consular help I do not have the right to expect the Australian government to break me out of a US jail or whatnot even if they had the means to do it, because US is an otherwise just country where rule of law still generally prevails - that's not a merely speculative matter, either). Once one goes outside the geographical jurisdiction of a government, ie outside the property of those who authorise that government to act on their behalf, it is a matter of what both oneself and the government has agreed to, plus what precisely one has paid for, plus other relevant matters such as international politics, and possibly plus other issues in philosophy of law I haven't mentioned.

This is going outside the scope of your original question - it's fascinating and deserves its own topic, though. Getting back to the original issue, the point is that government is a servant and only comes in to serve its clients at the request of those clients, and those clients are free to terminate the deal when they want. Your HOA idea is trying to posit the primacy of the servant over the client and to generate an unavoidable obligation to stump up cash forever.

If he does, does the sphere of the British government's control and responsibility extend throughout the Universe?

It extends however far as parties agreed it would extend to, along with due consideration for other matters of politics (eg is a foreign land governed by a properly constituted government with proper rule of law or not?).

What does it mean to be a citizen of a country? How does one get that distinction?

If citizenship were done properly, a citizen is someone who is both:

- taken by other citizens to have delegated their right to use of pro-active retaliatory force to a single professional body empowered to protect all their rights, which body is then accountable to all those citizens who in turn have full authority to control how it is constituted and run, and

- has in some way indicated to those other citizens a committment to justice in how they will make use of that ability to control that body.

I think an argument could be made that the British government worked at least some of the land in this country - it, as well as the governments of France and Spain, financed the exploration of the continent. Why does that not constitute ownership?

Wandering through and learning about a place isn't working that place. Working the land literally means that - getting one's hands or tools into the ground and actually doing something to it, such as mining or farming or clearing it or a building, etc, and physically producing the value in the land.

This is also my argument against what even many other Objectivists have said about Mars exploration. There are those - Dr Binswanger included, IIRC - who have stated that merely getting there and doing a few things should be sufficient to generate ownership of the whole of Mars. I completely disagree with that, even though they may well be pragmatically right about it being a sure-fire means of promoting space-flight research and getting there ASAP and that there's a possibility it would never get done otherwise (which I would dispute). It's as wrong as someone landing on the coast of Virginia in the 1600's and setting up a new town and claiming to have had their property rights violated because someone else landed on the coast of California a few years later and set up a new town over there. For this reason it would be absurd to say that Ferdinand Magellan, his crew and his backers owned the whole of the Earth that wasn't already owned merely because he sailed past and mapped some coastlines. Likewise for Lewis and Clark, or Burke and Wills, or a multitude of other explorers.

JJM

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John,

Thank you for the detailed reply. I recognize much of what I asked would probably be more appropriately asked in other threads, so I'll look for those. If quick answers are available, I would appreciate answers to some questions which I think are at least tangentially related to this topic.

To the extent that the services were legitimate that doesn't translate to a Mafia-style assertion of "we now own your ass and all your property!" Agreeing for one's property to be part of the same legal jurisdiction does not of itself mean that the government of that jurisdiction is the supreme owner of everything within it. A jurisdiction is only a geographcial range of monopoly on force and applicability of a single body of law, neither implying anything else generally nor in justice ought to include anything else.

I guess I'm wondering where we break the chain.

The kings and queens of Europe take money from the citizens of their respective countries. They then pay for explorers to travel to NA and set up colonies - people put shovel to dirt in service of those kings and queens. (I understand this doesn't account for all the colonies, but certainly some tracts of land were handled in this way.) Don't those kings and queens then own that land? If they do, when those colonies rise up and kick those kings and queens out are they not stealing that property? And given they did it in the name of a collective (first the Articles of Confederation, then the US), does the land they stole now belong to the collective? And given that some of that land was actually purchased from foreign governments using money taken from US citizens and purchased by that government, or ceded through war waged on behalf of that collective, doesn't that land belong to the collective? (I think the most evident examples of what I'm writing about are The Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican-American War.)

I understand this is not how such territorial expansion of a government's authority would objectively occur, but it is how it happened. So we're left with a situation where the US government quite literally did own vast tracts of property. How do we break that connection? Was it broken when the land was sold to the first individual? Or does the government maintain a lien, of sorts, against the land it sold allowing it to charge a fee? (The you-pay-to-live-in-this-society argument.)

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...How do we break that connection?

"We" don't. I think you are pointing the finger at the wrong party. The Declaration of Independence recounts the long string of abuses which were held to justify a separation.

The colonial powers break their moral right to govern by violating human rights, the colonies break their actual power to govern by rebelling. Lots and lots of guns, deaths, and general expenses are involved.

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  • 4 months later...

I have a question about user fees and contract enforcement fees.

The government wouldn't be allowed to deny you services, I get that. But what would they do about the pay? What would the deadline be?

I also have a question about our current constitution.

The Preamble says that Congress has a right to "promote the general welfare". Is this consistent with Objectivism? Liberals make the false assumption that "promote the general welfare" is LBJ-type welfare, and it's not. But liberals insist that "you can't actually prove that that's what they meant".

Edited by Black Wolf
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The Preamble says that Congress has a right to "promote the general welfare". Is this consistent with Objectivism? Liberals make the false assumption that "promote the general welfare" is LBJ-type welfare, and it's not. But liberals insist that "you can't actually prove that that's what they meant".

it is quite plain to see that the general welfare clause was a restriction on government making policy in favour of special interests. the idea that the general welfare clause refers to handouts is as stupid as the idea that the Constitutional guarantee of "republican government" means perpetual GOP rule.

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I've read all available literature on Objectivism and I have a very specific question. I've read in one of the topics that in an objectivist system the government would be set up in a way that it pays for itself and there is no need for taxes. How would this work? Or if it's too complicated to explain in this thread, where can I read about it? Thanks a lot!

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Read "Government Financing in a Free Society" Pg 116 - 120 in "The Virtue of Selfishness" for Ayn Rand's own thoughts on the subject.

or search for it on this board, there are numerous discussions about it here.

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Found it: http://www.objectivistcenter.org/cth--1222...ee_Society.aspx

Thanks!

Basically Ayn didn't provide a specific method, because she thought it's a technical issue. And provided one example. Contractors could pay the government a contract enforcement fee if they wanted to.

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Found it: http://www.objectivistcenter.org/cth--1222...ee_Society.aspx

Thanks!

Basically Ayn didn't provide a specific method, because she thought it's a technical issue. And provided one example. Contractors could pay the government a contract enforcement fee if they wanted to.

I'm still learning and "developing" however another concept is that of voluntary contribution to the Gov't. For example without taxes a rational man would likely contribute to his local police station to ensure his neighborhoods safety. Something similar occurs in wealthy areas currently in our society. For example public schools in high income areas receive large donations throughout the year which have a profound difference on the quality of education in an otherwise bankrupt public educational system. It is only logical that man would opt to contribute to the U.S. Military, police, judicial system, etc.

*I only provide this as an example and it should not be taken as advocating for public education.*

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