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Walter E Williams on What's Rule of Law

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Little Free Libraries

http://abc7.la/1BIRZUW

 

Without rehashing everything up to this point, I found this on Facebook today and realized it represents an educational premise that bridges the gap (in a small way) from where we are to where we ought to be going.  I've actually seen these around in a couple of places and never found one empty.  A good idea??

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I've watched Khan Acadamy grow from a collection of you-tube videos. Free, comprehensible math explanations presented in bite size pieces.

The Montessori project you indicated, I've heard good things about. I was not aware that it is done in some public schools.

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Another example that bridges the gap was the premise and construction of Carnegie Libraries.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_library

--

"Carnegie believed in giving to the 'industrious and ambitious; not those who need everything done for them, but those who, being most anxious and able to help themselves, deserve and will be benefited by help from others.'"

 

"Nearly all of Carnegie's libraries were built according to 'The Carnegie Formula', which required financial commitments from the town that received the donation. Carnegie required public support rather than making endowments because 'an endowed institution is liable to become the prey of a clique. The public ceases to take interest in it, or, rather, never acquires interest in it. The rule has been violated which requires the recipients to help themselves. Everything has been done for the community instead of its being only helped to help itself.'

 

Carnegie required recipients to:

  • demonstrate the need for a public library;
  • provide the building site;
  • annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library's construction to support its operation; and,
  • provide free service to all."

--

I've been looking for examples of what securing knowledge might look like in a fully free society, and this one appears to be a close fit.  It seems at least plausible that coercive taxation wasn't a critical factor in the construction of these libraries, and the end result was public access to knowledge.

 

Any objections here??

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I've been looking for examples of what securing knowledge might look like in a fully free society, ... ...

Jesuits and other orders, and various groups of nuns, educated a huge majority of the third-world elites in colonial countries right up to their independence (and continued after that too, with lower market shares as others came up). Schooling was not usually free, but it was affordable to the middle-class in those places. The discounted and free places were often for local Catholics or for families who could potentially be converted. I don't know what percentage of the funding was charity from the church, and often (indirectly) from churches in western countries, but it was some part of it.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Jesuits and other orders, and various groups of nuns, educated a huge majority of the third-world elites in colonial countries right up to their independence (and continued after that too, with lower market shares as others came up). Schooling was not usually free, but it was affordable to the middle-class in those places. The discounted and free places were often for local Catholics or for families who could potentially be converted. I don't know what percentage of the funding was charity from the church, and often (indirectly) from churches in western countries, but it was some part of it.

Through reading and participating in this thread, I've come to the conclusion that really what (the other) DA is asking is: granting that groups like the Jesuits organize free or nearly free educational charities out of altruism/duty, would an Objectivist society likewise organize free or nearly free educational charities out of self-interest?

I think he's also making an argument that Objectivists should, because having an educated populace is foundational for a society which proposes to uphold liberty.

And if that's the case -- if I'm not misrepresenting/misinterpreting -- then I think it's pretty fair. What's your take?

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I've been looking for examples of what securing knowledge might look like in a fully free society, and this one appears to be a close fit.  It seems at least plausible that coercive taxation wasn't a critical factor in the construction of these libraries, and the end result was public access to knowledge.

 

Any objections here??

So long as we eliminate coercion entirely (and not merely reduce it to some "non-critical factor"), then I don't see that there is any grounds for objection vis-a-vis the Objectivist Politics.

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... would an Objectivist society likewise organize free or nearly free educational charities out of self-interest?

Some Objectivists would surely donate to education. It's really cool that (say) a school you help with donation is turning "at risk" kids into productive people when many of them might otherwise have become marginally productive or every parasitical. 

 

However, DA's formulation has two problems. Firstly one has to be clear about what individuals do, compared to what societies do (or -- even worse -- what governments do). Secondly, I believe it is mistake to think that selfishness would lead most people to conclude that education is their top-most target for charity. 

 

Like you did, some earlier posts said that -- under Objectivist politics -- individuals are free to donate to any charity... education or otherwise. If that was all that DA was after, the discussion would have ended. However, he seems to think there is something special about education, and wants to elevate it to a special status. It is almost as if he wants Objectivist Ethic to say that it is good to give to education charity; or -- more serious -- that he wants Objectivist Politics to say that charity to education is on par with volunteer funding of government services. 

Edited by softwareNerd
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The special status I'd like to see education elevated to is something on par with securing a right to life.  Not just ones own, but those one lives with and conducts business with.  The element of self interest I think is obvious is, that ignorance contributes more to crime than knowledge does, so it follows that teachers are as necessary as police in terms of performing a public service that makes crime less likely to occur.

 

DonAthos may be expressing myself better than me here, and I don't want to prattle on, so I'll leave it at that unless there are more specific clarifications I can offer.

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After having read Inside The Criminal Mind by Stanton Samenow and listened to What To Do About Crime by Leonard Peikoff, I have to say the problem with criminality has less to do with ignorance than how the criminal mind chooses to view the world and others around them. Many of them just think they're too smart to need an education.

 

Edited by dream_weaver
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Some Objectivists would surely donate to education.

Absolutely. And "donation," when understood more broadly than simple grants of money to an existing institution, would also extend to volunteer efforts, community projects, and etc.

If education is generally a good, a value (and I think it so), then we must trust rational people to evaluate it as such and act accordingly.

I expect that an Objectivist society would be well-stocked with resource in education, art, and etc.

 

It's really cool that (say) a school you help with donation is turning "at risk" kids into productive people when many of them might otherwise have become marginally productive or every parasitical.

Yes. And also there are the implications to politics, which I'd alluded to earlier as being central to (the other) DA's argument, and with which I agree. So long as a central political Constitution is amendable (as they all are, whether explicitly recognized or not), and so long as proper governance depends in part upon the education of both those who administer and those who elect (as it always surely will), then we should want the citizens of our society to have a proper education -- or at least to have access to a proper education.

I think, in part at least, that the efforts of ARI in reaching out to students and teachers and offering free novels and teaching material, speaks to this.

 

However, DA's formulation has two problems. Firstly one has to be clear about what individuals do, compared to what societies do (or -- even worse -- what governments do).

I agree. Sometimes it gets a little cloudy conceptually (and I'm guilty of this, too), when we speak in terms of "society" versus a given individual or group of individuals.

This is in part why I have tried to stress the issue of coercion, or force. Once we have eliminated coercion -- once it is "off the table" -- then I am somewhat less concerned about the specifics of phrasing, because:

Governance deals in force. If we're discussing education (as in the construction or upkeep of a library, or a school), or any other project, which is taken up, run, and participated with in a wholly voluntary, non-coercive manner, then we are outside the concerns of "government," and of Rand's Politics, which is meant to eliminate force from society (via reserving force strictly to its retaliation).

It then becomes a matter of individual, ethical decision making -- educational efforts through persuasion, and mutual cooperation. And I see nothing wrong with that. If someone doesn't see that supporting education (as in some local school or library) benefits his own existence, he is under no obligation to participate.

To extend the comparison I'd made earlier, I think that ARI does right in holding their essay contests. I wouldn't expect others to contribute to ARI's efforts, though, if they did not see it as being in their own best interest to do so. ARI solicits donations by appealing to people's self-interest -- that having children reading and thinking about Ayn Rand's writings benefits us individually by benefiting the society in which we live -- and I think that's true.

The extent to which any given individual aids in that effort, of course, further depends on his individual context. Even if someone agrees that it's generally "a good thing to do," I wouldn't expect them to forgo meals to pitch in. "Charity begins at home."

 

Secondly, I believe it is mistake to think that selfishness would lead most people to conclude that education is their top-most target for charity.

Oh, certainly not. I think that there are several strong arguments to be made for education, but there are many other great values a given person may have.

I don't believe that a person must endeavor to "be charitable" in any event.

 

[The other DA] seems to think there is something special about education, and wants to elevate it to a special status.

The special status I'd like to see education elevated to is something on par with securing a right to life.

Beyond that which I've argued for myself, and for which I'll take up if challenged, I don't really understand what this "special status" would entail, either ethically or politically.

DA, if you think there's something I've not covered in the arguments I've made -- something about education that's even more important than what I've made it out to be -- then I'd invite you to bring it to my attention. I mean, I agree with you: a proper education is important to reducing crime, along with other goods. I'm on board with education being valuable, and I think that in an Objectivist society, education would be well-funded -- through non-coercive efforts.

If we're agreed on that, what's left to argue?

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The special status I'd like to see education elevated to is something on par with securing a right to life. Not just ones own, but those one lives with and conducts business with.

Those "rights" are obviously in contradiction. The right to life is a freedom of action and the right to education is not- it's a right to be given a product of someone else's effort. A right to be given education means that the right to life is violated. How do you square this?

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Those "rights" are obviously in contradiction. The right to life is a freedom of action and the right to education is not- it's a right to be given a product of someone else's effort. A right to be given education means that the right to life is violated. How do you square this?

 

First off, thank you for returning to this discussion.  Secondly, let me attempt to clarify what you, DonAthos, et al, are questioning about my position on education:

 

"The special status I'd like to see education elevated to is something on par with securing a right to life." ~ my original statement

 

"The status I'd like to see education elevated to is something part of securing a right to life." ~ my revised statement

 

No one, other than dream_weaver, is disputing my claim that ignorance is a significant contributing factor to criminal behavior.  And I think dream_weaver's observation has more to do with the fact that crime would continue to exist even in a fully free society of the kind envisioned by Objectivists.

 

1) The existence of a police force doesn't prevent crime; it addresses and reduces it.

2) The existence of teachers doesn't prevent ignorance; it addresses and reduces it.

 

My point has been, and remains that teachers and police are related social services that address securing a right to life.  The former reduces the level of crime the latter has to respond to.  I don't think there's any serious disagreement on this point.

 

What remains are issues related to payment for services, and education as a "gateway" to expanding the welfare state.  The payment issue has been settled by the acceptance of "voluntary" taxation as the means to prevent being coerced into paying for something you don't personally endorse.  And I address the "gateway" issue with the proverb, "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," i.e., no one is being coerced into giving up food or shelter.  What education does is work to prevent ignorance as a catalyst for stealing others food and shelter.

 

I can elaborate further if necessary, but that's the gist of my argument.  And kudos to DonAthos for working to keep my argument within the Objectivist framework.

 

Edited for spelling

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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My point has been, and remains that teachers and police are related social services that address securing a right to life.  The former reduces the level of crime the latter has to respond to.  I don't think there's any serious disagreement on this point.

 

What remains are issues related to payment for services, and education as a "gateway" to expanding the welfare state.  The payment issue has been settled by the acceptance of "voluntary" taxation as the means to prevent being coerced into paying for something you don't personally endorse.  And I address the "gateway" issue with the proverb, "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," i.e., no one is being coerced into giving up food or shelter.  What education does is work to prevent ignorance as a catalyst for stealing others food and shelter.

Through my involvement in this thread, I've been trying to discover what is at issue between us, if anything.

In the interest of trying to clarify this further, allow me to present three scenarios in a hypothetical town (perhaps "O-Town"?):

Scenario One. The O-Town government (police, courts, military) is funded voluntarily. Every month or so, the Mayor passes around a big hat to raise funds.

Devil's Advocate, a private individual, comes along and says that we should have a school in O-Town, so he also passes around a big hat to raise funds for that school.

Scenario Two. The government (police, courts, military) is funded voluntarily. Devil's Advocate is elected Mayor of O-Town. Every month or so, he passes around two big hats to raise funds: one hat, in his capacity as a governmental official, for "governmental services" (police, courts, military); one hat, in his capacity as a private individual, for his pet project -- the local school.

Scenario Three. The government (police, courts, military) is funded voluntarily. Devil's Advocate remains Mayor. Every month or so, in his capacity as a government official, he passes around one gigantic hat to raise funds for "governmental services," which includes police, courts, military, and the local school.

***

It seems like you're suggesting that Scenario Three is to be preferred over Scenarios One or Two?

If so, I don't understand what -- if anything -- you consider to be lacking in the first two scenarios. What do you think Scenario Three addresses, or what advantage do you think it conveys, over the first two?

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Since all 3 scenarios involve passing a hat(s) to raise funds, the only distinction being who is asking for them, I prefer the 3rd scenario because of having a single source of revenue collection and distribution to services.  Philosophically it recognizes...

 

1) that policemen, lawyers, judges, soldiers and teachers, all contribute to the service of securing a right to life, and...

 

2) that the pooling of "voluntary" funds to provide justice for all doesn't require earmarking who gets what.

 

Recognizing that I'm being challenged on why teachers ought to be included in the mix of security personnel, presuming there are those who will object to paying for them, it occurs to me that there will also be those who will object to "voluntarily" paying for the military and/or police when all they care about is the courts, or any other combination of preference for a particular service they are willing to pay for.

 

Further, it occurs to me that pressing the term "voluntary" too far with regards to selecting who gets your money will logically imply who gets your service.  IMO this returns us to a more private form of security where both the funding and the service respond exclusively to the person taking out the policy.

 

The address and advantage I'm looking for is consistency of payment for every part of the solution to providing security for a right to life.

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The following premises have to some degree impeded my ability to further my argument by understanding objections to it.  It would be helpful to me to construct a common platform to work from.  Please have a look and respond as you see fit...

 
In a fully free society (that practices justice for all):

 
1) I should only pay for services I endorse,

 
2) others will not be able to, or not want to, pay for anything,

 
3) therefore I will pay some share of services to others.

 
I believe the 2nd point is given and that the 1st and 3rd points are in conflict.  I looked briefly into other  topics addressing voluntary taxation but didn't find a resolution to the issue of only paying for services you endorse while at the same time necessarily paying for anothers service you might not endorse as a result of providing justice for all.

 

Can anyone point me to a resolution previously posted, or briefly describe the resolution here?

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Since all 3 scenarios involve passing a hat(s) to raise funds, the only distinction being who is asking for them, I prefer the 3rd scenario because of having a single source of revenue collection and distribution to services.

Here's what I think. Philosophically, the central question of Politics is that of "force." Ayn Rand's answer to that question is that force must be reserved solely for retaliation; that we cannot permit the initiation of the use of force. I agree with that.

Now, there are many other further questions which have to do with implementation -- what I'll call "political science" (as opposed to capital-p Politics). With respect to the organization/implementation of government, Rand held that a proper government must be funded voluntarily -- because coercive taxation is itself the initiation of the use of force. Beyond that, though, she largely left it up to the future (and to political scientists) to determine how best to structure any given government, so far as I can tell/remember. (Though there is also the dramatized Constitution in AS, and I'm sure she also remarked on some specifics elsewhere.)

The questions here aren't just about taxation, but they include the form of government, the election process, checks and balances, and so on. How do we best structure a government so that we do not initiate force, but only use force in retaliation -- but do that in as effective a manner possible -- simultaneously guarding against the potential for occasional irrationality or mistake in an individual, or a group of individuals, or even the majority? (The Federalist Papers, if you've never read it, is a good example of political science inquiry/debate/argument, and I recommend it.) I think that there is a lot of room for debate on these questions, all fully within Objectivism, and furthermore I don't expect, with respect to political science, that there is some "one size fits all" answer to be found. I think that the solutions are more likely to be "site specific."

Of the three scenarios I presented you, I am happiest with scenarios one and two. Does scenario three run afoul of Objectivism, per its Politics? I think it's an interesting question, and I'd like to see it explored further -- especially by others who have spent far more time thinking about these matters than I; I don't quite feel settled about it yet, and I suspect that to explore it in depth would take us into some interesting, and possibly controversial, territory. But since I don't see that anyone is forced to participate in scenario three -- and since that is the crucial test -- I don't think I can yet disqualify it on those grounds.

As political science, however, I suspect that scenario three is probably a poorer approach than either scenarios one or two. Part of my thinking about this is due to analogies that I'm drawing (perhaps unfairly?) to other sorts of scenarios. Consider, for instance, that some business *could* offer both pizza delivery and car washes. You could simply pay up one fee and have access to both services -- "a single source of revenue collection and distribution."

We could continue to tack on business services in this manner for the sake of the same supposed convenience. But I think that businesses generally differentiate the services that they provide because that allows them to be more responsive to individual customers, among other reasons.

I think that scenario three would likely result in decreased funding overall for those services, a less efficient use of funds (and subsequently a worse police force, worse schools, etc.), and perhaps a change in mayor, according to how elections are managed. It might inspire some people to move. I think that the constitution of the town probably would best be served by outlining the role of the mayor, and town government more generally, as to avoid these kinds of projects.

But, not being a political scientist (or having any particular expertise in the field), I wouldn't greatly commit to arguing one way or the other.

 

Recognizing that I'm being challenged on why teachers ought to be included in the mix of security personnel, presuming there are those who will object to paying for them, it occurs to me that there will also be those who will object to "voluntarily" paying for the military and/or police when all they care about is the courts, or any other combination of preference for a particular service they are willing to pay for.

This continues along the "political science" line, but with respect to Politics, I do not know that there is any particular requirement that the military or police need to be funded from the same general fund. I don't know that it would run afoul of Objectivism to propose that some individual could opt to fund one and not the other, if the government was itself designed to allow for such a thing, or to set up a government that would allow for it.

Again -- is that the set up we would want? What would the pros, the cons, be? Good questions, imo.

 

Further, it occurs to me that pressing the term "voluntary" too far with regards to selecting who gets your money will logically imply who gets your service.  IMO this returns us to a more private form of security where both the funding and the service respond exclusively to the person taking out the policy.

I can only tell you that, again, this is not what Rand proposed. The police serve without respect to "who paid." Justice for all.

 

The address and advantage I'm looking for is consistency of payment for every part of the solution to providing security for a right to life.

If you're asking how a fully free society would operate in terms of specifics -- what would the actual organization be? how would the specific funding work? how would the Constitution read, verbatim? and so forth -- then I don't honestly believe that anyone knows for sure. I don't think Rand knew, and I don't think she pretended to know.

Eventually these specifics will have to be hammered out, and there's bound to be a lot of wrangling over them when that time comes, but we're still a ways away from that point, I think.

That said, if you feel called to it, I don't want to discourage you from working on these problems now. All to the better.

Edited by DonAthos
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Through my involvement in this thread, I've been trying to discover what is at issue between us, if anything.

In the interest of trying to clarify this further, allow me to present three scenarios in a hypothetical town (perhaps "O-Town"?):

Scenario One. The O-Town government (police, courts, military) is funded voluntarily. Every month or so, the Mayor passes around a big hat to raise funds.

Devil's Advocate, a private individual, comes along and says that we should have a school in O-Town, so he also passes around a big hat to raise funds for that school.

Scenario Two. The government (police, courts, military) is funded voluntarily. Devil's Advocate is elected Mayor of O-Town. Every month or so, he passes around two big hats to raise funds: one hat, in his capacity as a governmental official, for "governmental services" (police, courts, military); one hat, in his capacity as a private individual, for his pet project -- the local school.

Scenario Three. The government (police, courts, military) is funded voluntarily. Devil's Advocate remains Mayor. Every month or so, in his capacity as a government official, he passes around one gigantic hat to raise funds for "governmental services," which includes police, courts, military, and the local school.

***

It seems like you're suggesting that Scenario Three is to be preferred over Scenarios One or Two?

If so, I don't understand what -- if anything -- you consider to be lacking in the first two scenarios. What do you think Scenario Three addresses, or what advantage do you think it conveys, over the first two?

 

These are not the only alternatives. How about, "When I use a road, I pay for it at the time"? This could be through gasoline taxes or tolls. Those who do not directly use the roads should not pay for them. The same is true for just about everything else the government does, such as parks, schools and the like. Should I require the services of a court in a civil case, I pay for it. Should I require the court for a criminal matter and am convicted, then I should pay for my trial and incarceration (loser pays). Fire services should be through voluntary contract, but lenders should require such a contract as part a home loan. The service can be changed to any number of providers at any time. The same could be true for police services. Parents should pay directly for the education of their own children. They may take out loans at their own discretion. Those without children should not be compelled to pay. Ports should pay for themselves. Military service is the one exception. This should be by a flat fee charged to all citizens. The size of this fee will largely determine the lowest wage each individual can live on. Why do I have to accept the premise that I must accept responsibility for paying for others?

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... Military service is the one exception. This should be by a flat fee charged to all citizens. The size of this fee will largely determine the lowest wage each individual can live on. Why do I have to accept the premise that I must accept responsibility for paying for others?

 

You make good to this point (and I'm inclined to agree with you), however you end up by proposing a flat tax that still requires covering services for others.  So it appears you're stuck with accepting the premise of covering free riders (for perhaps the most important service of all) as a final solution.

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Probably the fairest imposed tax, that would also do away with the free-rider you keep re-injecting here would be a flat consumption tax. However, it too, would be riddled with issues.

 

Another thought on voluntary tax, a government limited financially with the charge to delimit itself to upholding and protecting individual rights, would, as it should, have to examine every expenditure to ensure that is to what it is going.

 

Back to the baseball game analogy for this:

The whole baseball industry is supported by those who want it, right down the umpires and referees. If no one supported it, the game would presumably go away.

 

If no one supported government, presumably, it too, would go away. But today, thru the current taxing structure, with everyone arguing for it, that is not going to happen. The current trends are going to continue as the beast continues to gorge itself at the public trough..

In the voluntary system, if no one supported it, would give rise to the anarchy description Rand used to express why anarchy would not work. If the level of government dropped far enough to where these issues began to manifest themselves, do you not think a free market solution would arise?

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These are not the only alternatives.

No, they certainly aren't.

Those without children should not be compelled to pay.

Apart from what they've agreed to, or when facing retaliatory force for their own crimes, people should not be compelled -- not even to pay for the military.

Why do I have to accept the premise that I must accept responsibility for paying for others?

You don't have to do anything. If Devil's Advocate opened a school in some free society, you would never have to pay for it. (But you would have to live with the consequences of your decisions, as always.)

 

No; but this will continue to go in circles unless we agree that force is a key factor.

This is it in a nutshell. In a free society, individuals are free to do as they like, so long as they do not initiate the use of force. A man may open and run a school in whatever manner he wishes, within that confine. No one else has to participate, donate, or attend, but that's not to say that they won't.

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No; but this will continue to go in circles unless we agree that force is a key factor.

 

I agree, but what I'm having difficulty coming to terms with is the "voluntary" nature of paying for a necessity.

 

Ayn Rand apparently recognized pubic servants as deserving of their paycheck, which then makes working as a government employee a unique form of employment given that your employers can "voluntarily" choose not to pay for the service you provide, n'est-ce pas?

 

The whole force issue, i.e., coercive taxation vs voluntary taxation, appears to be somewhat of a smoke screen if one "would and should" voluntarily pay for what one otherwise would be coerced to pay for.

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